With thousands upon thousands of items and sellers, Aliexpress is, unfortunately, a "crap shoot" at best. This is no Amazon nor even at the level of eBay when it comes to genuine business ethics.
I have used AliExpress many times, but in doing so I fully expect each and every time, to possibly lose my money should a dispute occur. The reason for this is that Alibaba (the parent company) and Aliexpress do not focus upon full customer satisfaction and protection.
The escrow feature where, as a customer, payment to the seller is withheld until delivery and product inspection has near zero credibility. In searching for positive reviews of this buyer protection, I was unable to find any instance where Alibaba/Aliexpress sided with the buyer. In other words, this "buyer protection" is basically worthless; a complete sham.
Site the fact that Alibaba has refused to use PayPal as a purchase payment method likely because they (Alibaba) realizes they'd lose most disputes if PayPal began really protecting buyers. This leaves the buyer with having to file a consumer claim with their credit card issuer. This leaves debit card users, unless your debit card issuer offers protection, with no real recourse to recover their money.
So why do I use Aliexpress to make purchases?
I do so but only for small price items. Basically, for me, that's up to $50. The amount I am willing to lose outright from Alibaba/Aliexpress' useless customer protection via the escrow/dispute system.
Is it all bad?
No. In fact, not unlike many many small business owners and single proprietorships on eBay, Amazon and many other sites, the sellers and small manufacturers who use Aliexpress (and Alibaba) are decent, forthright business people. They're trying to make an honest living and their reputations are very important to themselves. I have a few great examples of this.
I ordered a $2 USD set of earplugs for my lady who is currently living overseas. I was ordering a dress for her and while doing so, saw the ear buds and told myself that for $2 the loss would be immaterial.
16 days later the ear buds arrived but, unfortunately, on of the earpieces wasn't working. Instead of posting a poor review and instead of using the worthless dispute system, I simply sent a message to the seller letting them know that the ear buds arrived in a non-working state.
The seller apologized, told me to discard the broken item and they shipped out a replacement via EMS so she'd get them as quickly as possible. The replacement ear buds arrived in 10 days and worked just fine. Even though I wasn't concerned about the $2 item, the seller didn't want a poor review and made sure their customer (me) was satisfied.
Prior to any aliexpress purchase, I attempt to perform my due diligence by reviewing the sellers offering the products I seek. I also look for buyer reviews as well although, unfortunately, on Aliexpress, the reviews hold less credibility than reviews on places like Amazon or Walmart.
It's unfortunate that Alibaba/Aliexpress has failed to institute strict moderated review policies backed by actual logistics proving reliability. Then again, any customer review database has to be taken with a certain amount of skepticism. Caveat Emptor works in all directions. There are too many instances of false or faked positive feedback reviews without the website or facilitating company (Amazon, eBay, etc) strictly moderating such reviews.
One has to realize that a $5 dress or $0.50 thong is not going to be of premium quality. You can find decent quality items on Aliexpress for much less cost than elsewhere. Especially if the shipping is free and you don't end up having to pay tariff, customs or Vat on the items (the plus side of having few tariffs in the USA).
The difficulty is with purchasing electronics via Aliexpress because if you receive a defective item the burden of return shipping is going to be on the buyer and add to that the time delay. Making electronics purchases from Aliexpress, without credible protection from Alibaba/Aliexpress, is a total crap shoot at best. You're better off using eBay since almost 100% of China based sellers use, and even require, PayPal.
The other caveat being warranties in that, very often, international products don't carry manufacturer warranties. Meaning you have to ship any defective items back to China for repair or replacement. There are exceptions but then again customer service within the USA for many electronic items is poor as well.
Overall, I have had "OK" experience with textile purchases via Aliexpress. I have purchased higher quality (more expensive) clothing and had good luck with my purchases.
When I buy inexpensive clothing items I keep my expectations very low and usually end up nicely surprised. Or I get what I paid for, cheap clothing items. Then again, cheap clothing at Walmart isn't of much better quality either. The only plus being I can count on Walmart to make and keep me satisfied by refunding or replacing items that fail my expectations.
As for Alibaba itself, I can only imagine the experiences small business owners in the USA (or anywhere) must endure in finding reputable manufacturers and wholesalers.
When not a Walmart or Apple, Inc you haven't the ability to ensure what you want is what you get. It's unfortunate Alibaba and Aliexpress aren't more ethical as compared to the small business owners I have gladly done business with located in China.
On a scale from 1 to 10 (10 being perfect), Aliexpress gets a solid 2 from me. I can't give them anymore until the buyer protection becomes "real" and not merely a marketing gimmick. I shall continue to do small expense item purchases at Aliexpress but that's all.