- Wish is a platform that nearly exclusively sells goods produced in China for rock-bottom prices.
- The company’s CEO told Forbes in March that he rebuffed possible acquisition interest from Amazon in 2016.
- I shopped on Wish to see how it differs from its rivals.
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 places like 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 note 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 on Wish to see what it’s really like:
Navigating to Wish.com, the experience started off like any other.
While signing up or logging in, Wish treats you to a preview of the deals in store.
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.
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.
Finally we got to the goods, and I was … unimpressed. It’s a mix of gaudy sweatshirts, ugly shoes, and thematic sunglasses.
Everything was absurdly ugly and absurdly cheap.
Some steampunk-looking glasses caught my eye. They were only $US8 and even promised UV protection.
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!
I checked the reviews first. They seemed really good. Suspiciously good, in fact. I noticed a lot reviews using the same phrases and words.
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.
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.
I decided I’m not ready to check out yet. I wanted to see what else is out there.
Yeah, it was still not much. Some stretchy jeans, a flower-shaped mould for fried eggs, some more sunglasses, and an Apple Watch knockoff.
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.
I won! I think. I had “unlocked” 20 products.
There’s a timer here, too. I only had 10 minutes to choose from these 20 items. The pressure!
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.
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.
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.
Navigating back to the main page, I saw the sunglasses I still had in my cart. “Almost gone!” it said.
Wish does have a buyer guarantee, but it remains to be seen how it honours it.
The rest of the checkout process was pretty simple.
Finally, I was finished.
One surprise, though. My order may not arrive until April 28 — more than a full month from the time I ordered it. Two-day shipping, it is not.
The next day, I got an email that my order had been shipped, and it started bouncing around China. My order’s arrival date did not change.
Much to my surprise, the glasses arrived on April 11 — weeks ahead of schedule.
The box looked like it had been through hell.
The glasses were well packed, though, with some protective plastics. It even came with a lens cloth.
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.
To shop on the site is to experience a strangely persistent gamification, involving sifting through mountains of stuff to find something that may or may not appear as good as it did in the photos when it arrives in a month.
Still, the low prices and low shipping fees are a major draw. Shoppers do love low prices.
The item I ordered also showed up, if not in a speedy manner, then at least much more quickly than the month-plus I was originally quoted. The glasses also seem to be of an acceptable quality, though I don’t think I’ll be sporting them this summer. They’re not really my style.
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