Buying products in Vietnam can be very tricky and surprising. One general rule is that when the price is too good to be true, it often is.
For most mundane purchase needs, everything is often priced below 500,000 vnd, which is roughly 20 euros.
Especially if you know how to order from e-commerce giants such as shopee.vn. If these goods will be enough in most cases, you have to understand that quality in Asia is very different from quality in Europe.
In Europe, we are used to a minimum of quality, safety, and conformity thanks to regulation. For example, toys cannot harm children and will be tested to a minimum degree before being sold and shipped.
In Asia, most cheap products won’t last a year within a one-year span and can break the same day or cause harm.
Clothing, for example, is very tricky in Vietnam because of the weather and the proliferation of mushrooms in certain seasons. It’s not uncommon to see clothes getting a lot of black mushrooms that will never dissipate with the washing machine.
For this reason, I find it very hard to invest in designer clothes if you don’t own the proper wardrobe closet to keep them safe.
Note that sizes are very different from those in Europe or the USA. Here, XXL might be a M for a bigger body, especially if you are from America, where it can even be a S or XS.
Also, here in Vietnam, there is no such thing as a free return. Here, you have to be very careful when you choose your size, or else you’ll have to ship the product back at your own cost, and to be honest, charts are not that precise sometimes.
The quality of the clothes can also vary greatly from what is advertised. I’ve recently bought a dress for my wife that was supposed to cost over 1,200,000 vnd, which is expensive by Vietnamese standards, and the quality was nothing like in the picture.
The fabric was completely different. The one in the picture looks like thin linen, and the real one feels like a thin layer of polyester. The quality of the stiches was also miles apart; in the model picture, the folds are perfectly lined up and no stiches are visible, whereas the real product has visible stiches that are not even straight, and therefor the folds are completely unbalanced. The circles surrounding the main beige area are not even round in real life.
To sum it up, it was basically a knockoff of the version presented in the advertisement.
Vietnam is obviously capable of manufacturing good-quality clothes; it is actually one of the top countries when it comes to clothing and shoe production. Unfortunately, it’s really up to the brand owner to deliver or not on this promise.
For the same reasons mentioned for clothing, the weather can be very damaging to your electronics. People usually buy a dedicated cabinet that can control the level of moisture.
Camera equipment should be stored in this type of closet to be preserved from damage. It’s also important to let your equipment see the sun so the UVs can kill the germs. I learned this lesson the hard way with my Leica, which was standing in its own protective case on a shelf.
Beware: Prices in Vietnam are not regulated by the manufacturer. For example, I paid more for my camera, the A7S III, than what was advertised by Sony, simply because at the time stock was scarce due to the electronic shortage. While such practices are illegal in Europe, they appear to be legal in Vietnam.
My spouse told me that warranties only work for expensive products; usually, cheap rice cookers costing under 500,000 vnd, even if advertised with warranties, are not fixed or refunded by the store.
Even if I already had almost all my electronics broken, including this electric barbecue within a year, the wire inside burned, I haven’t had the chance to test this affirmation, but you should beware of this too.
Toys and equipement for children
When you buy toys for your children in Vietnam, you have to be very careful. Here, regulation is not as strong, so it’s easy to get dangerous toys for your children. For example, a cheap Rubik’s cube that can break into many pieces and be swallowed by a kid
Also, the quality is not the same as in Europe; things can be broken so quickly. Everything has been calculated to be as cheap as possible and the opposite in terms of durability. So fabrics are often very easy to break compared to their European counterparts.
Because each market has different needs, producers must adapt to the demand, and in Vietnam, cost is the priority for mainstream low-cost products.
Food and beauty product
Food can be sold by unofficial stores and could be peremptory, not properly stocked, or even tempered with. We highly suggest you buy from an official seller for peace of mind.
Street food from small restaurants is a big thing in Vietnam; most sellers are family members living in the upper floors of the stores.
Most people sell some kind of food, and while 99% of the time the food will be fine since Vietnamese know well how to avoid food contamination, sometimes it still can happen.
My wife and I had the terrible experience of buying sticky red rice in our neighborhood. We were sick for days and even threw up multiple times. The weather is so hot in Asia that bacteria can proliferate within a few hours.
At the end, there are some products you can only buy from trusted sources. One of the craziest rumors circulating is that used condoms can be cleaned and resold, which sounds almost like a hoax, to be honest.
In Vietnam, products are cheap for many reasons. First, purchasing power is low compared to western countries, so products have to be cheap to find many buyers. The quality is directly impacted by this trend; products will often work for a year before needing to be replaced.
Also, the weather makes it hard for products to last, not just electronics but also clothes, which can easily get stained with mold if not stored properly.
The result of all these effects is that high-quality products are often imported from other countries, where they last longer but are also more expensive compared to local products.
People tend to own and focus less on expensive materials and favor buying a lot of cheap products instead. After all, the pleasure is half the purchasing process.
Perhaps the only brand products that are bought by most of the population are those that are expected to last, such as a scooter (bike), a phone, a fridge, a TV, etc.
Only the upper class can afford designer clothes and expensive but non-essential products anyway.