Recently, I was part of an online forum conversation about ordering clothes from China through eBay. I mentioned that I buy lots of things from foreign countries and have never had an issue. Then someone asked me to explain further, so I decided to write a whole post about it.

First off, no matter from which country you order, buying through eBay is one of the safest choices you can make. You have excellent buyer protection from both eBay and PayPal. If the item never arrives, or arrives broken or not as described, you can contact the seller through eBay to avoid giving away your email address. EBay also has an easy-to-use resolution center. After receiving the item, if you encounter a problem, simply navigate to your purchase history, find the item, and select “Resolve a Problem.”

If you’re ordering from overseas through another website, just be sure to use PayPal. Most online stores offer the service and it’s a lot easier to resolve issues or get a refund through PayPal rather than your credit card company. If you need to open a case through PayPal, select “Resolution Center” under “My Account” and click the button that says “Dispute a Transaction.”

Fortunately for buyers (though not so great for sellers), eBay and PayPal pretty much always side with the buyer. Even when an item gets damaged in transit, which is really no fault of the seller, the buyer can get a refund.

The one thing you need to consider, though, is whether it’s worth it to pay the return shipping and risk the item not getting there. If you require a refund, you will have to mail the item back, and you can’t get a refund until it arrives with the seller. I’ve never had a returned item not make it to its home in Europe, but Asia is a little trickier, especially since the US Postal Service doesn’t offer tracking unless you pay significantly more for Priority Mail and an additional fee for Registered Mail service.

Along those lines, I only purchase things from Asia if I know I’ll be okay with it fitting either a little big or a little small, simply because I don’t want to deal with return shipping. Some examples of “safe” clothing I’ve purchased from China and Hong Kong include hoodies, leggings, tights, and jackets. I rarely consider more structured items.

Some Chinese sellers do list sizing charts, and in my experience they’re usually pretty accurate. If there isn’t a size chart, I’d recommend ordering up one size from your usual. Many of the sellers instruct buyers to do this as well. Apparently Asian sizes run smaller than US and European ones.

Now, once you find an item you like from an Asian seller, don’t buy it yet! There are usually tons of sellers all offering the same garments. So you should do a search for it and find the cheapest seller. Try searching for the exact same item name, and try searching for a simpler descriptive phrase. Due to the language barrier, sometimes an item will have a rather nonsensical description so you need to try both methods.

Aside from clothes, I also have to note that Asian sellers on eBay are the best resource for accessories. I have a massive collection of colorful watches that I bought from just one seller (I keep going back for more! The seller is “caleen6″ in case anyone’s interested). I also never buy belts in stores unless I want real leather. You can get bright skinny belts, stretchy waist cinchers, and funky belt buckles for just a few dollars from Asian sellers on eBay. You can also find the cutest purses if you’re looking for something playful and not necessarily professional or high quality.

Here are some things I bought from China and Hong Kong in recent years:

Any questions? Leave them in the comments!