Here's how shopping on Wish, the $8.7 billion site that sells Chinese goods at rock-bottom prices, compares to Amazon

ScreenshotThe homepages for Wish (left) and Amazon (right).
  • Wish is a platform that nearly exclusively sells goods produced in China for rock-bottom prices.
  • The company’s CEO told Forbes this month that he rebuffed possible acquisition interest from Amazon in 2016.
  • Wish and Amazon are on different ends of the online-shopping experience spectrum. Here’s what it’s like to shop with both.

For those used to purchasing on large online shopping websites, Wish can be a bit of an adjustment.

None of the merchandise looks particularly attractive, and the prices are rock-bottom. Some items are literally free and only require paying for shipping. It’s like an online dollar store for buying things from online merchants in China.

Started in 2010 by CEO Peter Szulczewski, a former Google engineer, the site has grown to pull in $US1.9 billion in sales, as of 2018, and was valued at $US8.7 billion in its latest round of funding, according to Forbes.

Competitors have taken notice of that success. Szulczewski told Forbes earlier this month that he rebuffed possible acquisition interest from Amazon in 2016. An Amazon spokesperson told the magazine that the company does not comment on speculation.

There are, of course, problems with this model. Wish doesn’t sell anything directly, and some third-party merchants will end up switching out products with a cheaper model, or even send an empty package. Quality assurance is difficult, and wait times from order to receipt can be lengthy for customers. Negative reviews of Wish are spread far and wide across the internet.

I shopped for similar products from Wish and Amazon and saw just how different the experience can be:


Navigating to Wish.com, the experience started off like any other.

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While signing up or logging in, Wish treats you to a preview of the deals in store.

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Upon creating my account, I was assaulted by several pop-ups. The first told me there was an extra 10% off today for new members.

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The second informed me of a program that encouraged me to log on every day and collect a “stamp.” If I get seven by April 21, I can earn up to 50% off.

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Finally we got to the goods, and I was … unimpressed. It’s a mix of gaudy sweatshirts, ugly shoes, and thematic sunglasses.

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Everything was absurdly ugly and absurdly cheap.

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Some steampunk-looking glasses caught my eye. They were only $US8 and even promised UV protection.

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There’s an element of gamification in everything with Wish. If I added these sunglasses to my cart before this timer ran out, I could get an EVEN lower price!

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I checked the reviews first. They seemed really good. Suspiciously good, in fact. I noticed a lot reviews using the same phrases and words.

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I added the sunglasses to my cart anyway. They’re only $US8 after all. I was immediately faced with a 60-minute timer to check out. If I didn’t do it by then, the price would rise.

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I decided to humour this. I went to my cart to see the final price before checking out. Wish had added $US2 for shipping, but with my extra discount of 40 cents, I was still under $US10.

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I decided I’m not ready to check out yet. I wanted to see what else is out there.

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Yeah, it was still not much. Some stretchy jeans, a flower-shaped mould for fried eggs, some more sunglasses, and an Apple Watch knockoff.

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I also decided to check out the other tabs on the site. One was “Blitz Buy,” where I could spin a wheel to see an assortment of extra discounted items.

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I won! I think. I had “unlocked” 20 products.

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There’s a timer here, too. I only had 10 minutes to choose from these 20 items. The pressure!

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But there’s nothing here I want. This stuff looked exactly the same as the other page. It also didn’t appear to be any cheaper.

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The next tab offered a selection of products that offered what the site billed as faster shipping: five to seven days. This Lenovo laptop was one of the only name-brand products I found on the site.

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I also saw an iPad on the site, which looked like it might be one of the first models Apple ever released. Something tells me Wish is not an authorised Apple seller.

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Navigating back to the main page, I saw the sunglasses I still had in my cart. “Almost gone!” it said.

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Wish does have a Buyer Guarantee, but it remains to be seen how they honour it.

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The rest of the checkout process was pretty simple.

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Finally, I was finished.

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One surprise, though. My order may not arrive until April 28 — more than a full month from the time I ordered.

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In fact, the glasses came on April 11, ahead of schedule. The quality seemed decent, as well.

Dennis Green/Business Insider

Logging on to Amazon.com to compare was a breath of fresh air. There were no products listed on the page.

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So to get somewhere, I needed to search. I searched “sunglasses” and was served with a ton of options. They were all priced higher, but similarly from unknown brands.

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The first thing that was noticeable, however, was that Amazon serves ads before you even get to the results. Some are obvious, but some are embedded to look like normal search results.

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Regardless, I found a pair I liked. They cost $US16.99. There were fewer ads on this page, but there was still one for Amazon’s new upscale skincare brand. I ignored it, though. Amazon also told me when exactly my new sunglasses would arrive — and it’s way sooner than Wish’s estimate.

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Adding to my cart was easy, but I was then served additional ads related to what I intended to purchase.

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I went to check out, and I was served with another ad, this time for Amazon Prime. Since I’m not a Prime member and this item did not meet the threshold for free shipping, I would be charged $US5.99 for standard shipping.

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Amazon’s order review page — the one before you confirm — is the clearest in the business. Sales tax was also applied, as it is for all Amazon orders shipped out of their own warehouses.

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The verdict:

Wish is far from the everything store. It takes a gimmicky approach to commerce, trying to make consumers feel special through psychological tricks. The products it sells also seem untested and suspect. Cheap, but potentially not even worth the low prices they’re being sold for.

On the other hand, it’s clear to see why Amazon has grown to own more than half of the online shopping market with its massive selection and sleek interface. However, there were problems there, too. It’s clear the ads experience on Amazon.com has gotten out of control between sellers vying for sales and Amazon putting its private labels in front of customers.

For my money, Amazon is the one I’m willing to bet on.

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