We’ve all seen the ads for online clothing store Shein and at some point may have gotten curious. I came across them last year, browsed a bit, saw unique pieces that I liked but closed the tab down and didn’t bother looking again because of skepticism. Also, the clothes are cheap.
Last month Fehmz posted that she ordered off Shein and her order arrived earlier than intended. She ordered for delivery directly to South Africa. It was only at this point I decided to re-consider and try them out.
I also happen to have an account with Aramex Global Shopper (AGS) and used my Hong Kong address for the order, which I intentionally kept to around R500 for the purpose of testing it out. Shipping to Hong Kong was free. I paid a fee to AGS to bring my shipment to SA. They also cover customs on your behalf and then you just pay them directly.
26 Jan – order placed
27 Jan – order shipped to HK address
1 Feb – delivered in HK
5 Feb – AGS says my package arrived. I upload my invoice and pay fees
8 Feb – package travels via Dubai
11 Feb – package arrives in Jhb
12 Feb – package sent to Sandton hub
15 Feb – I take delivery of my order at home
I downloaded the Shein app and ordered directly on it. When it came to choosing clothing items, I was fully aware of the possible risks of getting a size too small or quality of material being less than desirable. I read reviews for the items I wanted – all 3 tops – and looked at numerous photos uploaded by previous customers.
Aside from looking at the ratings, where it was stated, I took note of the height and weight of the individuals who posted this info. I chose to go with all three sizes in small. When I added them to my cart, I realised how risky it sounded, cos typically I’m a medium and some small items do fit me. And my previous shopping experience in the East due to my height/longer limbs meant I was considered larger than the typical sizes that side.
The selection of clothes and products on Shein is extensive. You can search for the most obscure items and will likely find it. Especially if you are fussy about prints etc. You can easily spend more time than intended while browsing.
I was billed in Hong Kong dollars because my local address given was in HK. However, when it came to making payment, I used my PayPal account, and paid in ZAR. It was HKD 247, and on the day of purchase, went off as R503,04. My fee to AGS was R248 based on my package being 0.48kgs. Packages are priced based on weight/dimensions if I’m not mistaken.
When my order arrived in SA, I was waiting to be updated on possible customs because AGS asked for my ID, if I had an importers code or not, and how much I paid; due to new rules with SARS. I provided all this info but didn’t get a notification of customs. The next thing I know, I got an SMS to say my package is out for delivery (15 Feb). I am almost certain this is because you are allowed 3 imports a year and my order was around R500. I don’t know all the rules about importing. My total for 3 tops using AGS came to roughly R750.
My order took a total of 3 weeks. I completely understand in a Covid world that packages take longer than usual. AGS updated us about this last year. My previous experience from shopping internationally took a week to 10 days on various occasions (pre-Covid days). The Shein app has updates all the time even for minor things. It is the most detailed tracking system I’ve experienced. I also received an update that the first delivery attempt to my HK address wasn’t successful. It was delivered on the second attempt.
AGS also tracks it once it reaches their warehouse. Under the package in your account, you can access all info relating to it. Like your invoices sent and they also uploaded a picture of my package when it arrived there. It was the first time I’ve seen my own package during transit. Perhaps it’s new, perhaps I’ve never noticed it before.
Each of my items came wrapped individually in a transparent zip-locked bag. I liked that it was individually wrapped. The quality seems okay, it is decent to wear out of the house, and all my items fit me properly, luckily. I have not worn them yet, so it hasn’t been washed to test further quality. It is decent enough for me to purchase again, should something catch my eye.
My 2c is that don’t buy it solely cos it’s cheap at its listed price. You’re still likely to pay customs, so factor that into your total and don’t get a shock when it gets here. For me personally, it makes sense for items that I can’t find in SA. I wear black and white a lot, so everything I bought *cough* is just in those different prints. I needed some variety!
My personal shopping experience could be very different to yours, if you try Shein. I used AGS and PayPal, and intentionally kept my order around R500. However, if you are buying to ship directly to SA, you may experience something similar to Fehmz.
This is what Fehmz shared with me:
“After seeing numerous adverts about SHEIN I wanted to check out what’s the hype. I love that they had a plus size range that I could order from. I ordered for just over R2000 paid a delivery fee of R380 and when it landed I paid a customs fee of R430 as well. It set me back around R800.
All in all the quality of the goods were not bad but considering both the delivery fee and customs fee it would have been easier to purchase locally. I would purchase again purely based on the variety and the available sizes if I could get free delivery and a lower customs fee.”
Fehmz ordered on 3 Jan, paid customs by 21 Jan and took delivery a few days later (she cannot remember the exact delivery date). But it seems that both methods of ordering to ship directly to SA and using AGS takes roughly 3 weeks and prices are not a “scam”.
As I always say, you get what you pay for.
Welcome to Wired to the Web. My name is Nafisa Akabor and I’m a technology journalist covering business and consumer tech for the last 13 years. I’m passionate about start-ups, smartphones, mobile payments, travel tech and electric cars. ✉️ email@example.com