Is Dropshipping Unethical?

Is dropshipping ethical or unethical? 

Some paint dropshippers as greedy opportunists, capitalizing on cheap products from AliExpress, jacking up prices, and ripping off customers.

But wait, consider this: Dropshippers provide a service by offering access to AliExpress products in a safer, more trustworthy manner, albeit with a small markup. 

In fact, dropshipping itself is a legitimate business model. 

The problem lies with certain bad actors who prioritize profit over customer satisfaction.

These shady players sell low-quality items, have slow shipping times, and partner with unreliable suppliers. They have tarnished the reputation of dropshipping as a whole.

In this article, let’s take a closer look at the business model of dropshipping to see if it’s still ethical. 

Why Does Dropshipping Get a Bad Reputation?

Dropshipping isn’t exactly winning any popularity contests, huh? That’s why many stores are keeping it low-key, trying not to seem like they’re dropshipping. It’s all about maintaining a good image, you know?

Though dropshipping is a legitimate business model, it’s got a bad name because some dropshippers are selling cheap products using shady marketing tactics.

They don’t care about customer satisfaction. In fact, I know some of them don’t even bother shipping authentic products. They use Photoshop to create beautiful product images with unique logos. Some of them even steal promotional videos of branded products to promote their knock-offs on TikTok.

As their TikTok videos go viral, they lure some victims into their sales funnels. Turns out, customers only receive generic products in bubble bags, not even well-packaged!

This is especially true for those sourcing from China, and it’s putting legit dropshippers in a tough spot. Most Chinese factories churn out poor-quality products. Try to get a neck massager from AliExpress. It can’t even be charged.

These dropshippers usually use Shopify to keep building new stores because their brands quickly get lots of bad reviews on Trustpilot or Reddit. They end up with a bunch of angry customers. In the worst scenario, payment processors shut down their accounts due to a flood of chargebacks.

Is AliExpress Dropshipping Ethical?

No, AliExpress dropshipping isn’t ethical.

While it’s not the worst business model, it essentially involves selling something at a significantly inflated price.

Dropshipping with AliExpress is a way to get products for your online store without keeping them in stock. Here’s how it works: You find a product you want to sell on AliExpress. Then, you list it on a marketplace like Amazon or eBay, or even on your own website.

With AliExpress dropshipping, you list products from the platform and mark them up 1000% on your site. You then run Facebook or Instagram ads to promote the marked-up products. These ads are often flashy and emotional, exaggerating the benefits of the product, like how a $40 nose clip can completely stop snoring. This aims to convince customers that they can’t live without the item they’re selling.

Yes, pricing can be subjective, but it’s exploitative to buy something for a dollar and sell it for $20. Often, the products aren’t of high quality and aren’t worth the price tag.

Moreover, these sales tactics rely on playing on people’s emotions. Flashy ads and influencers make buyers believe they need the product, but they may end up with something they don’t like or that breaks easily.

Worse still, many overseas suppliers aren’t reliable, leading to products not arriving or arriving damaged.

Also, consider the target audience for these sales. They often include the elderly who may not be tech-savvy or younger kids who don’t understand they’re being overcharged for a product they could easily buy themselves.

And even if they did understand, they could just purchase the product from AliExpress or the original site.

This doesn’t mean everyone who sells products at a markup is unethical. However, the issue with this type of dropshipping is that it hides the fact that consumers could buy the product cheaper elsewhere.

Is It Unethical To Dropship Products You’ve Never Tried?

Some people get upset about dropshippers selling products they’ve never tried. Is it unethical to create a website, write product descriptions, and advertise products you’ve never actually used?

It makes sense why this bothers some people. But here’s what I think: whether it’s okay or not depends on what you’re selling. If you’re promoting products that need to work a certain way or solve a particular problem, then selling them without testing can seem questionable.

For instance, I wouldn’t sell a high-tech blender from a supplier without trying it first. You need to make sure it actually works well, right? But something like basic kitchen utensils? I’d probably sell those without trying them out first.

Now, what if you’re dropshipping those same high-tech blenders from a trusted domestic supplier without seeing them? I might take a chance on that. So, it’s really up to you.

And a piece of advice: be really careful about selling anything from suppliers that could be iffy or unsafe, especially if you haven’t tested it yourself. You don’t want to deal with that kind of trouble.

Ethical vs. Unethical Dropshipping Practices

Here’s a quick overview, of the comparison between ethical and unethical dropshippers.

Product QualityChecking product samples to make sure they’re good before selling them. For example, test a phone charger to ensure it works properly.Selling cheap knock-offs without making sure they actually function. For example, offer counterfeit headphones that break easily.
ShippingUsing reliable shipping methods and inform customers if there will be delays e.g. due to holidays.Lying to customers about when their orders will arrive and using slow or unreliable shipping services that take more than a month to arrive.
Customer ServiceResponding quickly and helping customers with any problems they have. Offer a refund or replacement for a damaged item.Failing to respond to customer enquiries or complaints and not solving their issues.
PackagingUsing strong packaging to protect products during shipping and being mindful of the environment. Using flimsy packaging e.g. thin plastic bags that leads to products arriving damaged and not caring about sustainability. 

The Ethical Way to Dropship!

If you’re providing your customers with good products, reasonable shipping times, and great service, you’re doing dropshipping ethically, according to me.

Many dropshipping pros start with AliExpress but move on to bulk buys from China. It’s a more legit way to do things, but let’s be real – it’s about making money and keeping the business running smoothly.

By going this route, you’re giving your customers:

  1. Faster shipping, like getting their orders within a week instead of waiting for months.
  2. Better product quality, such as selling smartphones that actually work well and last.
  3. Fair prices, offering deals that won’t make them feel ripped off.
  4. Easier returns and refunds, ensuring hassle-free processes if something goes wrong, such as with defective headphones.
  5. Reliable suppliers, like those who consistently deliver on time with no surprises.
  6. Nice packaging, because presentation matters, whether it’s for jewelry or kitchen gadgets.

If you’re thinking of dropshipping from AliExpress and worried about going to the dark side for a quick profit, you should be concerned. Ethical dropshipping isn’t just about staying out of trouble; it’s about doing right by yourself and others.

So, how can you stay ethical with AliExpress?

  1. Test the products yourself before selling to make sure they’re not junk, such as trying out a phone case or a makeup palette.
  2. Stick with reputable suppliers who have good feedback and fast processing, like those with positive reviews for selling reliable electronics or clothing.
  3. Choose quicker shipping options, such as ePacket, to avoid long waits for customers.
  4. Be prepared to offer returns and refunds if needed, especially for items like shoes or home decor that might not meet expectations.
  5. Keep your customer service top-notch, responding promptly and courteously to any inquiries or issues.
  6. Make sure your supplier allows blind dropshipping so customers don’t know the source, ensuring privacy when shipping items like intimate apparel or sensitive electronics.


The ethics of dropshipping can vary depending on individual perspectives. What I consider unethical, others may view as acceptable, and vice versa. However, it’s essential to set boundaries and decide what aligns with your values.

From my own experiences, I’ve come across a dropshipping store with a sleek website and products advertised as premium quality. However, after purchasing from them, customers discover hidden subscription fees that weren’t clearly disclosed during the buying process.

Such practices tarnish the reputation of dropshipping. Yet, creating an ethical dropshipping business is achievable; it simply requires providing genuine value to customers. 

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