Business, Economics and Jobs

Alibaba is big in China. Just ask this shopper


SoftBank Corp Chief Executive Masayoshi Son attends a news conference in Tokyo May 7, 2014. Son said on Wednesday that his company has no plans to sell part of its stake in Alibaba in the initial public offering of the Chinese online retailer.


Toru Hanai/Reuters

If you shop online, you might have heard the name Alibaba. That would certainly be the case if you live in China.

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The Internet giant announced this week that it would conduct an initial public offering in the US. It could raise more than $15 billion, which would make it even larger than Facebook's IPO.

Danna Zhang knows Alibaba well. She's from China and has done a lot of shopping on the site. She began buying products online from a site called Taobao, which is also owned by Alibaba, six years ago, when she was living in China.

She loved it.

"I realized I don't have to go to the shopping mall any more," she says, adding that it was also nice to purchase clothes that were not widely available at the stores.

Zhang says she purchased anything on the site, from clothes, to plane tickets, even hotel rooms.

"Chinese call it omnipotent Taobao, meaning you can buy anything there," she says.

After moving to Canada and later to the US, Zhang continued shopping online, but not as much as before.

She says she still orders products that are harder to find in the US, things like "authentic silk" or "seasonal green tea." Taobao is more convenient for Zhang, she says, in part because of the competitive prices and quality of service.

For example, she says, a vendor will not receive payment until the customer has received the item and is happy with it.

As much as Zhang likes shopping on Alibaba and Taobao, she says, now that she's expecting a child, she won't be shopping for kids products there.

She worries about the quality and safety of the products.

"Lots of my friends in China ask me to help them buy milk powder from US or Canada," she says. "They don't trust the Chinese products and don't want to take the risk," she adds.