Where to shop: A GearBest Review

I’ve done dozens of different reviews, but I’ve never done a review on a store before. With so many choices, how do you know which store is best? It’s time to learn a bit more about one of them with my GearBest Review. 🙂

We read reviews for everything these days. Back in the day, you’d find reviews for big things like televisions and cars, but now you can get a review on the best place to get a taco. Seriously.

I wanted to do a write up on at least some of the major stores where you can find Android boxes for sale, and show what it’s like for a new customer to shop there. I’m going to walk you through how I set up an account and made a purchase. Then, I’ll follow the shipping process to show just how long it took to receive my product. Finally, I’ll also share a customer service story from one of my readers, Tom G. and his experience with GearBest’s warranty and return policy.

1-gearbest-homepageAbout GearBest

GearBest was founded in Spetember 2013. Headquartered in Shenzen, China, they sell a wide variety of products ranging from electronics to men’s and women’s apparel, toys, sporting goods, home & garden, beauty supplies, mobile phones, watches and office supplies. They’ve got over two-million followers on Facebook.

But chances are that you’ve heard about them because of their huge selection of gadgets, drones and, yes, Android TV boxes.

What I like about GearBest is the sheer number of things that they have available for sale. It’s like the Chinese version of Amazon, selling just about anything that you’re looking for.

If you can find it, that is.

GearBest Review: How to find stuff

If I had one major complaint about shopping at GearBest, its that it’s really difficult to browse for stuff.

It actually took me a while to even get to the TV boxes to see what they had.

2-gearbest-menuCategories

Take a look at the menu system in this image. My first thought was the Consumer Electronics section, but that was wrong. Even though Android boxes hook up to your TV and stereo system, they fall under “Computers and Networking.”

Occasionally, you’ll find that the categories just don’t make sense, and it wasn’t just TV boxes not being with the rest of Consumer Electronics. Smart watches are listed under Consumer Electronics, but not under Watches & Jewelry. The Mobile Phones category has a Samsung Accessories section, but the Apple Accessories gets its own heading, much farther down the main list.

It may be a little frustrating at first, but be prepared to do some digging to find what you’re looking for.

3-gearbest-android-tv-boxesFilters

I like to browse when I’m shopping. That way I might discover something that I didn’t even realized existed before.

But its frustrating when you know generally what you want and you can’t find it.

In my case, I was looking for an AmLogic S912 box running Android 6.0. Easy, right? Not so much.

Neither of those features had filters that I could pick. I could still select RK3066 CPU’s if I wanted to. Maybe there’s a high demand in China for four year old technology?

Creating an Account

11-gearbest-create-account

You’ll need to create a GearBest account before you can make a purchase. and you can do it at any point in the process. Obviously GearBest would like you to create an account as soon as you go to the site for the first time, but I don’t see a reason to do it that early, unless you like getting more email. They’ll send you sale offers and coupons to incentivize you to shop with them.

One thing I’ll never understand is why companies make it so damned hard to actually create the account. I guess, “hard” isn’t the right word. Let’s just call it “time consuming and annoying.” When I want to buy something, I want to buy it and get on with my day. Again, I can’t help comparing an online shopping experience to Amazon, but they did set the gold standard for online shopping experiences.

12-gearbest-account-createdGearBest will give you a few options for how you want to create your account. You can enter in all of your information manually, or take a shortcut and link your Facebook or Google account information. I opted for going the long route. I’m OK with sharing my personal information like my Google account, as long as I can see value in it. I just don’t see any in this case.

Once you enter your personal details, GearBest sends an account activation email. This is the annoying part. I know they’re trying to cut down on spam accounts, but the more time that goes by between the time I decide to make the purchase and the time that I actually get to click the “Complete Purchase” button is more time that I get to re-think my decision. From a retailer point of view, they need to make this more streamlined.

13-gearbest-account-confirmationThe confirmation email is pretty standard automatic responder email. Anytime you join a mailing list, you’ll see a similar “click on this link to prove your a human” type of process.

In reality, this is just a sales email touting GearBest’s huge selection of products, some of the name brands that they sell, their 45-day return policy, and their customer service department. Or, put another way, this is basically a bullet-pointed version of their FAQ page.

If you click on the link, you’ll be sent back to Gearbest.com and will be (finally) able to actually shop and buy something.

Item Detail

Once you choose an item, GearBest goes back to looking like a normal eCommerce site. But, before you just skip back to the items to the filters screen, there’s a couple of special sections that I want to point out if you scroll down a bit.

9-gearbest-add-to-cart

Description and Customer Reviews tabs

These are the two most typical tabs, and are pretty self-explanatory. The Description tab is where you’ll find item specs, videos, and marketing images that GearBest will use as a sales pitch for the item. Customer Reviews has the feedback that they’ve received from customers about the item. As a word of caution, it’s fairly common to see “fake reviews” from people who either work for the manufacturer or are paid by them to give a good review. GearBest tries to stop this as much as possible, but always look at anything with a skeptical eye.

Come to think of it, that’s pretty good advice in general. 🙂

6-gearbest-product-faqProduct FAQ

The Product FAQ section is where you’ll see some of the more common questions and answers about that particular product. What I like is that you can see exactly when the question was asked and answered. You can also ask one of your own right from this page, without going to a Contact Page.

I asked a question about one of the products I was looking at. I got an email that my question had been answered within 24 hours, which was nice. But I did have to go back to GearBest.com and log in to my account to actually read the answer. On one hand, this makes sense because it gets the customers back on the site with another opportunity to buy the product. Still, it’s annoying not to be able to see the answer directly from the email – especially if you’re on your mobile device.

8-gearbest-shipping-and-paymentShipping & Payment

This tab is more like a general information section about all of the shipping and handling options, without having to to a separate page. I like that it’s listed on every single product, but I’d like to see more specific information on this item’s prices and options, without having to go through the trouble of adding it to your shopping cart. Still, it’s useful to see how long it’ll take to receive the item with each shipping method, even if the ranges are much less specific than I’d like.

To illustrate what I mean, take a look at this image. The flat-rate shipping time to the United States is anywhere between 10 days and 30 days. What kind of range is that?

Wholesale Inquiry

The Wholesale Inquiry tab is basically just a contact form to get you in touch with one of GearBest’s wholesale agents. If you’re looking to start a re-sale business, this is one way to source your products.

Buying an Item

Because GearBest is a global company that ships all over the world, so there’s a couple of things that you need to be aware of when purchasing from them.

4-gearbest-warehouse-options

First: Choose your Warehouse

This isn’t available with every item, obviously. But many of the items are available in several different warehouses throughout the world. The most common ones you’ll see are China, European Union and two separate warehouses for the United States – East and West Coasts.

It won’t affect your shipping costs, at least not that I could see, but choosing the warehouse closest to you will definitely help you get your item faster.

Second: Choose your plug

Depending on what item you select, you may be given another set of options: the electrical plug.

Now, if you live anyplace else in the world than the United States, you probably let out an audible “duh…” right now. If this’s you, feel free to skip to the next section.

For those of you that are still with me, not everyone uses the same electrical plugs that we do here. The US and Canada use 120 volt socket. Europe and the United Kingdom use a 230 volt socket, and each of those has different plug designs.

The bottom line is that you should double-check that you’re buying the right plug type for where you live. If you get this wrong, not only will your device not work at all, but you’ll be forced to pay for return shipping back to GearBest to get the right device.

GearBest Shipping Options

5-gearbest-shipping-optionsThe item I decided to purchase was a Sunvell T95Z Plus Android box. It was only available from a Chinese warehouse, so I knew right away that my shipping time would be considerably longer than buying the same box from Amazon.

There were four shipping options available, based on a Chinese warehouse. Two were free and two were available as an additional upgrade.

My options were:

  • Unregistered Air Mail
    • 15-35 business days
  • Registered Air Mail
    • 15-32 business days
  • Priority Line
    • 7-10 business days
  • Expedited Shipping
    • 3-7 day business days

I’ve said this earlier in this GearBest review, but the shipping times are just…long. If you’re used to Amazon Prime and free 2-day shipping, this will seem like an eternity. There’s just no way to get around that.

Processing Time

One other thing that’s not going to help is that GearBest has a 2-3 days processing time attached to every order by default.

This isn’t too surprising and actually was pretty common in the early days of eCommerce. Most stores in the US and Canada have done away with a processing time because their customers absolutely hated the extra wait time.

There is something you can do about GearBest’s processing time, though. After you make your order, you can go back into your My Orders screen and select the Dispatch Faster option. More on how and where to do this later, but I was able to cut that processing time from 2-3 days down to one day.

A word about Shipping Insurance

You might be considering opting not to spring for the shipping insurance, but I’m here to tell you that it’s worth the two or three dollars.

More than likely, whatever you order is going to have to travel a long, long way before it gets to you. There’s a lot of ground (and water) between GearBest’s warehouses and your house. Too put it mildly…stuff happens. With shipping insurance, you’ll be covered if your package gets lost or damaged along the way.

Hopefully you’ll never need it. But it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Checkout

Let’s recap:

You’ve found the perfect item…

created your account…

waited for the email and clicked on the link to prove you’re a real human being…

gone back to GearBest to log in…

entered a Captcha to prove (yet again) that you’re a human being and…

now you’re finally ready to buy something.

OK, so maybe I’m being a overly dramatic here. But as I’ve said before, the more time that goes by between my decision to buy something and when I can actually complete the purchase, the less likely I am to buy it. Nothing so far has been difficult. It’s just been longer than I’m used to, and longer than my patience allows sometimes.

14-gearbest-shopping-cart-logged-in

Important Stuff

Even though you’ve probably seen a few online shopping carts, there’s a couple of things that I want to point out in this one.

  • Promotion Code: Here’s where you’ll enter any GearBest coupon codes that you may have for your item. This is free money, so make sure you check to see if there’s any special deals and grab them while they last.
  • This item ships to 263 country(s): This is in red text right underneath each item. If you hover over the number of countries, it will pop up a scrolling list. Make sure your country is on the list before you click “Buy”.
  • Return Policy and Warranty sections: This is generic and won’t change depending on the items in your cart, but it’s a good reminder that you are still getting a warranty with your purchase.

How to Pay

GearBest offers the usual payment options, so there aren’t any surprises here. I get the odd question here and there about retailers that take Bitcoin. That’s about the only “major” form of payment (using the term loosely) that I didn’t see listed. You can choose to pay with PayPal, which is their preferred payment method, as well as major credit cards from Visa, MasterCard, Discover and even Diner’s Club. Side note: who even has Diner’s Club anymore? I don’t think I’ve ever actually seen one of those cards.

GearBest payment methods

One of the other nice benefits of buying from GearBest regularly is that you earn GB Points for every purchase, and even a little bit for just creating a GearBest account?

What are GB Points?

Think of GB Points as a “cash back” incentive when you make a purchase. It’s similar to the credit I get when I use my Discover card. A certain percentage of my purchase, which can vary between items, will appear as a credit that I can use at a later date. If you choose to make a return or exchange, you can also choose to take that in the form of GB Points. It’s pretty handy if you know you’re going to making purchases from GearBest on a regular basis.

GB Points are, not surprisingly, kept in your GB Wallet, which you can find on your profile page once you log in. In my case, I ended up getting about $1.20 off my purchase for using the GB Points that I received for signing up. The order I placed earned me another $1.63 in GB points. It’s not a lot, but every little bit helps.

Return policy: A reader’s story

I don’t normally return a lot of items that I purchase. Frankly, it’s just not worth the hassle to me. But, I always look to see what a company’s return policy is because I think you can tell a lot about a company from how they handle problems. Everybody has great customer service when things go well. When there’s a problem, that’s when you’ll be glad you bought from a good store.

One of my readers, Tom G., from Arizona, agreed to let me share his customer service story with you, so I have to say “Thank you again!” This article wouldn’t be as good without a real customer service story to tell. I appreciate it.

Please note: wherever possible, I’ll be using Tom’s words, so you’ll see a lot of quotations.

Overview

Tom purchased a new ASUS dual band RT-AC1200 router from GearBest. Just outside the 45-day return policy, the unit started to have problems. The router stopped broadcasting the SSID name, which can make it extremely difficult to connect to the router. “So after some troubleshooting, re-initialization, rebooting and updating the firmware it still did not work so I decided the best approach would be to sent it to ASUS in California for repair.”

Keep in mind that shipping the unit to California from Arizona is much cheaper than returning it to China, so this is completely understandable.

ASUS Service Center

“That is when the trouble started. I emailed them, provided all of the information they requested including where I purchased the router [Gearbest] and they authorized an RMA. I packed the router and shipped it to the repair facility in Newark, CA. After about 10 days I received a notification that my router was being returned.”

There was a communication breakdown at this point. ASUS initially insisted that they tried to contact Tom, both my phone and email. It turns out that didn’t happen for whatever reason, so the router was being sent back. When Tom called the service center and asked for a supervisor.

“Finally after about 20 minutes on the phone I finally spoke with the Repair Facility Supervisor [3rd level] who indicated that ASUS products purchased from China can not be repaired in a U.S. repair facility.”

From ASUS’ point of view, I can understand this policy. It’s not customer friendly, and it certainly won’t win them any service awards. But, it is an easy way for them to regulate what products their customers have access to. As you know, the Asian market gets a lot of cooler stuff than we have here in the US. While this router was identical to it’s US version (as far as we can tell), this blanket policy would also cover them for other products which may have significant differences.

GearBest Service Ticket

Tom learned a very important lesson about service tickets in Asia, that I want to share with you.

When you create a trouble ticket the process in China seems somewhat different than most U.S. companies. In the U.S. you create a ticket and then wait for a resolution email or in some cases a phone call.  I received an email response to my ticket that said they needed to contact the “product department” and that the process would take about 2 or 3 days. I did not believe there was any need to respond to that type of informational ticket email so I just waited for several days before going into my account and looking for a response. That is when I discovered that they were waiting for me to evaluate their email response.

It now appears to me that EVERY email response MUST be responded to, even those that seem to be for information purposes only and if you do NOT respond, they apparently take no further action on your ticket. The review process of EVERY ticket response seems to includes an evaluation of the COMPLETE purchasing experience from beginning to the end. In addition there does not appear to be any way to bypass many question which are not applicable to the included information.

In short, every email must have a response AND an evaluation of the PRODUCT and SERVICES rendered even though SOME may or may not be applicable to the subject matter of your ticket.

I’ll be honest. The first time I read that, I couldn’t understand how that process survives in this age of lightning-fast customer service. If I had to manually say “OK” to every interaction that I had, I’d get nothing done. It just seems like a lot of work.

But, we need to keep in mind that we are dealing with another culture. What’s commonplace in Western cultures (US, Canada or the UK) could be completely foreign to companies in China. Pun intended there.

If you’re returning an item to GearBest, or trying to get service, make sure you stay on top of it, or you could end up wasting a couple of days for nothing.

Resolution

Haggling is common in China, and customer service departments are evidently no exception.

GearBest originally proposed this solution:

1)Keep the item and accept partial refund on GB Wallet (credit).
We can offer refund 20 USD on your wallet within 1 business day.
This amount can be used for your future orders.

2)Resend the item with partial price and shipping fee.

We kindly ask you pay 25 USD for reshipping and handling fee.
In that case, you will receive the item 10 to 25 working days after dispatch date.

I wouldn’t be very happy with this solution, personally. But, Tom had a really good idea of proposing a different solution which worked out well for both GearBest and him.

Finally resolved and Gearbest I believe did the right thing for its customer.

I proposed that Gearbest send me an alternative dual band router from D-Link instead of another ASUS router I had originally purchased. They agreed to send me the D-Link router I had selected for no charge.

Of course I now understand that products purchased from China must be sent back to China for repairs if needed. In my specific case the shipping cost to return the router to China by USPS [First Class] was $22.75 for 1# 8oz including the box.

I believe Gearbest has been more than fair by accepting my offer and agreeing to send me a new router for no cost. The D-Link router was a few dollars less than the ASUS router but considering they are shipping it for no charge seems to say they really do try to satisfy their customers.

Moral of this story – Don’t expect your warranty to be honored in a U. S. repair facility if the product was purchased in China. ASUS and probably many other manufacturers do not seem to have international repair agreements in place with everyone who sells their products.

My Shopping Experience

20-gearbest-confirmation-emailSo how did my purchase turn out?

Immediately after I clicked the “Place Your Order” button, GearBest sent me a confirmation email.

There’s nothing inherently different or special about the confirmation email, and I’ll admit no not reading it completely. If you’ve seen one of these, you’ve seen them all.

Still, this is your record for your purchase, so don’t lose it.

Upgraded Shipping

I chose one of the upgraded shipping methods because I’m not a patient person.

I had two available to me: Priority Line and Expedited Shipping. Priority Line promised a 7-10 business day shipping time for a cost of 77 cents. Expedited Shipping promised a 3-7 day shipping time for $4.58.

I chose the Priority Line shipping option, mostly because I was curious what kind of improvement I could really get for only 77 cents.

18-gearbest-dispatch-fasterDispatch Faster

I mentioned earlier that there is a “Dispatch Faster” option which lets you expedite the processing time, at least a little bit. This won’t do anything to your chosen shipping method, though. If you selected the basic, ground shipping then you’ll still have to wait the 10-30 days for your package to arrive.

On the far right hand side of your My Orders tab, you’ll see a small orange and white button. Everything else on the page screams for your attention and this button certainly doesn’t stand out.

But, it’s worth finding and clicking on because what this did was trim about a day and a half off my processing time. Not to shabby for a simple click.

How long did it take?

21-gearbest-tracking-info

On your My Orders tab, you can click on the tracking information to get a detailed view of where your package is in the process.

Here is my tracking information for this order:

  • 2016-10-16 07:40:23 received data
  • 2016-10-16 07:40:23 order information received
  • 2016-10-17 22:19:35 departed warehouse
  • 2016-10-18 02:03:00 awaiting international flight-airline inspection
  • 2016-10-19 23:50:00 arrived into the us
  • 2016-10-20 09:52:01 received at warehouse
  • 2016-10-25 19:20:00 scanned at:
  • 2016-10-25 20:19:00 scanned at:
  • 2016-10-26 21:22:00 scanned at:
  • 2016-10-27 08:30:00 scanned at:
  • 2016-10-27 08:40:00 out for delivery
  • 2016-10-27 15:11:00 delivered

Again, I chose the Priority Line shipping method which promised a 7-10 business day shipping time. Since my order was placed on a Sunday, that clock didn’t start until Monday, October 17th, which was the day my package departed the warehouse.

gearbest-packagingThe biggest delay was a five-day wait in the warehouse, which I can only assume is for custom’s inspection. I’m not really upset at GearBest for this, but the government officials who seem stuck in the stone age. Seriously, let’s move a little faster people.

One other thing to point out: I didn’t trim off any information on the lines on October 25th-27th. There really was no “Scanned at” information, so I couldn’t tell if my package was in California or Cleveland.

The final leg of the journey was handled by the US Postal Service – an organization not necessarily known for it’s timely service. The TV box was in a lightly padded envelope. The box did show some minor dents from shipping, but the contents were safe and sound.

My package arrived after a total time of nine business days from the time I placed the order.

Mission accomplished.

The Verdict

I’m pretty hard on retailers. I can’t help it. It comes from working in the industry for over a decade and being that front-line manager who had to deal with all of the problems and screw-ups on a daily basis.

Still, there’s nothing I can really complain about with GearBest, except some minor user-interface issues with the product filters and categories. The processing time and shipping times aren’t the best, but they do set those expectations up front. I knew what to expect and that expectation turned out to be spot-on.

In other words, GearBest met my expectations for how an online company should do business. The customer service story that I got from Tom shows a willingness to work with a customer who’s having a bad experience and to try to turn that into a positive.

All in all, I’ll keep buying from GearBest in the future, and they’re on my short-list of recommended sellers.

Head on over to GearBest.com and grab the best electronics gear and men’s clothing!

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