Saturday, 10 August 2013

My Experience Buying From Taobao Overseas

So about a month or earlier, Taobao announced they'd made some changes to help overseas buyers buy from Taobao easier. It went around the Lolita community like Chinese whispers but as far as I'm aware, no one really knew what changes they'd made or dared to try and buy from Taobao themselves. Here was my chance, I thought! I laugh in the face of country barriers - I want to buy from all over with no limitations and no fear. I had just ran out of white crochet lace I bought on my last lace order from Taobao so here was my chance to place a small lace order myself and *hopefully* run into no problems in doing so. Here is that long, merry little tale with a few imaginative expletives thrown in as I realised what I had done. I will make a real, finished 'How to buy from Taobao from overseas' post after this escapade has been recorded.


So first off, when you go to Taobao, you are met with 'Buyer's Quick Start Guide' in English on the right hand side of the website. Even more optimistically, once clicked, you're given 'Quickstart guide for overseas buyers' - hurrah!


After that you're presented with a rather detailed and fast paced flash slideshow which is hard to screenshot, so I won't even try. Each part of placing an order is categorised, making it easy to digest and take in. 'This will be easy!', I thought. According to the quick start guide, all you have to do is: Register > Choose items (and check sellers and feedback) > Sort out 'Logistics and Delivery', the main thing limiting overseas buyers > Order Confirmation and Payment > Receive Your Order and Leave Feedback, yay! I read through the guide 2-3 times to make sure I understood everything (which I didn't, more on that later).


The first part you have to do is register with Taobao. Their quickstart guide makes this relatively easy to complete. However, they mention an 'SMS verification', which is a code sent to your phone by SMS text message, which you then input into the registration but I wasn't presented with this at all during my registration. It's probably only for Chinese buyers or other Oriental countries such as Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, etc.

After registering, they recommend you check out products you want to buy and then check out the sellers and their feedback for safety. This is relatively commonplace and explained in the guide so I'll skip this part.


After registering and checking out sellers, it gives you the option of downloading Ali Wangwang, China's version of MSN Live/instant messaging service. With this, you can communicate with sellers easily and even ask them if they ship internationally. However, I learned the hard way that the smaller, more independent sellers don't speak English (more fool me, thinking that the majority of China speak English) and that they are terrified of sending products overseas as they have no idea how to do it.


No matter, however! According to the quickstart guide, 'you may send the product to the warehouse of a third party cross-border freight service provider'. Excellent! So Taobao have changed their settings and collaborated with 'third party cross-border freight service providers' to allow you to send your orders to their 'warehouses' if the sellers don't ship overseas. I was led to believe these 'cross border freight service providers' would then send your products to you once they had arrived at their warehouses, like Taobao had made their own shopping/forwarding service to save you the hassle.

With that knowledge safely tucked under my bloomers, I merrily skipped along, found a lace store that had lots of pretty lace and placed an order of around £20 with them. Upon checkout I was presented with a number of 'third party cross-border freight service providers' I could send my order to. I picked the first one given to me, which was located in Beijing, because I believed they had sorted the results as to show you providers closest to the seller. I then went along and entered my payment details - I signed up to Alipay, who are owned by Alibaba.com and are like China's version of Paypal; they are the safest and most widely accepted form of online payment on the Chinese part of the Internet. As told in the quickstart guide, Alipay can accept pre-loaded cards with money on as payment, bank transfer orders if you have a Chinese bank account or regular credit/debit card details. The credit/debit cards don't even have to be owned by a Chinese bank, therefore overseas buyers can use this payment method. I entered my debit card details and was met with a successfully placed payment method and order page.

I was so happy at this point. I had dreams of placing Taobao orders at will, as frequently as I place eBay and Amazon orders, and have this whole new expanse of cute foreign and cheap items at my disposal. At this point I believed I just had to wait for the order to arrive at the 'warehouse', they would contact me and I'd give the information and payment for them to ship the order over to me in the UK.

After a few days I wondered if the lace had reached the 'warehouse'. I didn't know how they were going to contact me but my name and mobile number were on the warehouse address and order information so I wondered if they could contact me by email or over my Taobao account.

A few more days passed and I began to worry. A 'warehouse' isn't going to keep storing your order forever and I didn't want my lace order to just be tossed after a few days. I checked the order details again, and then to be sure, the 'quickstart guide' when I noticed this detail I had somehow managed to miss:



OH HOLY JESUS FUCK NO. 'Appoint a cross-border courier to collect the product and deliver it overseas'? So I had to now find a courier in China, bearing in mind I don't speak, read or write Chinese at all (all throughout this I had used Google Translate to translate whole webpages and snippets/form titles to fill in details with ease) to collect my order and post it to me? Why not just use a FUCKING SHOPPING SERVICE? They added a whole other unnecessary step to the order! Even a shopping service cuts out the whole 'send it to a warehouse, then collect it to post overseas' step! It was the most ludicrous thing I've ever heard and I was almost certain I wasn't going to be able to get my package at this point.

I wondered if I could perhaps contact the 'warehouse' and ask them to send the package overseas themselves, rather than get someone else to collect it and send it to me. I copied & pasted their address into Google and found Shouhuobao.com, a courier service in China that had the 'warehouse' listed as one of the places they could collect parcels from. Want to know why I've been using quotation marks in 'warehouse' all this time? It also had a photo of the 'warehouse':



IT'S A FUCKING SUPERMARKET. A TINY SUPERMARKET IN THE MIDDLE OF BEIJING. Oh my lord. Of course, being a small, independantly ran SUPERMARKET, they didn't have a website, only a phone number and I'm definitely not forking out for international phone calls only for them to not speak English anyway. I searched on the Shouhuobao website and originally thought that they can pick up your item and ship it to you. I arranged for them to pick it up, then read a little more into the website. It turns out it's only for mainland China and you can either A) Get Shouhuobao to pick up your item and take it to a collection point near where you live, then you can pick it up from there (on your lunch break, whilst shopping, etc.) or B) Arrange for them to ship it to you but you have to pay for the shipping yourself and fill out a form you get at the postal service, which I obviously can't do because I can't get to the postal service or read/write Chinese. After a mild panic, I quickly cancelled the collection appointment and headed onto the next step to sort out this skullfuckery.

Finding a Chinese courier to ship packages to the UK was a daunting task but Alibaba actually had a lot of people advertising their services from China to the UK with minimum package limits and prices. I found a couple of couriers with a minimum package weight of 0.5kg and emailed the first one that looked good, flying-trans.com.

Mr Robin Gui emailed the next day and said they could collect my package and ship it to me, no problem! *choir of angels sing* They could collect and ship my package to me via FedEx for $28 or more, depending on the weight of the package when they actually got and weighed it. I gave them the address and phone number of the supermarket, Yimin Supermarket and waited for a response. They rang the supermarket and told me there was no package for me there. 0_0 So I contacted the lace supplier, in Chinese via Google Translate, to ask if they knew when the package was going to be delivered and whether they had a tracking number. They said it was going to be delivered in the next half an hour, which I'm curious to know how they knew! Apparently it was shipped FedEx and they track the package right down to the hour it will reach the addressee.

So the next day Gui rang up the supermarket again and confirmed the package was there. Then the supermarket asked for a password/parcel code so they knew it wasn't just some random person coming to collect the parcel. Wait, what? I had no knowledge of a parcel code or password. I found my order details and gave Gui my order confirmation number and another number that was attached to the supermarket's address and my name, and hoped that would do the trick. They rang again and it was neither of those codes. T_T Oh balls. I contacted the supplier and asked them about a parcel code/password. Apparently I needed to choose a password that I had to say when I came to collect the parcel, so they knew it was me/someone who knew me collecting it. They seemed confused that I hadn't been contacted about it and asked if I'd received an invitation to make a password via SMS. I said that I hadn't, probably because my mobile number is overseas. Then, sometimes absolutely amazing happened! Somehow the courier company, Mr. Gui and the lace supplier contacted each other and started working out the order together! *another round of angels singing* I'm not sure how they did it; I think both of them are based in Guandong and perhaps the supermarket sort of acted like a middle man and supplied the details to one of them?

So Gui said that they were both sorting out the package together and he would get in touch when it was sorted out! He said he didn't know why the package was sent all the way to Beijing as it would've been much easier to send it to the courier company's address and save all this hassle...heh heh... *shifty eyes* He emailed me the next day to say that they had sorted out the package and the company was going to collect the package in the morning! Once the package was collected and taken back to the company, which would take 1-2 days, they would weigh and package up the order properly and give me a true quote. The proper quote was $31.50 including a $1.50 Paypal fee I happily payed. After I paid, Mr. Gui sent the package via FedEx, supplied me with a tracking number and said it would reach me in 5-7 days. Mr. Gui, I want your babies.

Fast forward to 9th August, aka yesterday and my package arrived! \*0*/ One of the laces which I thought was white is off-white/ivory because Google Translate translates 'off white' as 'white' for some stupid reason! The literal translation was 'raw white' which obviously means unbleached. Another of the laces is a bit wider than I expected but in all honestly, I really don't give a rat shit. I'm just so happy this fuck up was sorted out and I got my package. I spoke to my Chinese friend Alison who used to be my shopping service and she said I was very lucky the supplier, courier and supermarket were so willing to work together, as the supplier could have easily turned around and said 'We've done our bit, we don't care if you don't get your order' so I am very thankful for the amazing customer service of the supplier and courier. The supplier actually went above and beyond, as shortly after I placed my order with them, I had apparently paid too much shipping and they refunded 19.40CNY (approximately £2) into my Alipay account! I can't send this amount to my bank, however, as you have to have a Chinese bank account/credit card but I'm hoping I can use it on future orders.

So, now that this is all sorted and I have had a chance to get my head around this, I can finally decide whether it is worth using a courier instead of a shopping service for ordering from Taobao. Without all of the headaches inbetween the courier getting my parcel and shipping it to me, it is easier and cheaper to send your parcel to a courier rather than a shopping service. Couriers don't charge any extra fees for buying your items, collecting/receiving the parcel or sending it out - they are only a courier service and make their money on the shipping fees. I don't even care if they put a little on top of the shipping fees for themselves; ignorance is bliss and you need to make your money somewhere. As opposed to a shopping service charging you commission on each item and store you buy, you can bypass all this by buying it yourself and sending it to a courier to send to you, especially when it is small, cheap items like lace, where the commission can be even more expensive than the lace itself.

So I will finish this post by saying if you read all this, well done and I hope it helped you a little. Would you like me to make a detailed post on how to register with Taobao, download Ali Wangwang, register with Alipay, pay for items, etc? As this isn't so much a 'how-to' on ordering from Taobao as it's a 'what not to do/read more carefully'. Now I will play with my pretty lace and place more orders in the future, hopefully without the stress I had with my first ever experience here! Thank you for reading, have a lovely day~ <3

21 comments:

  1. Oh my goodness, sounds like you went through quite the ordeal, but this was so entertaining to read! I couldn't help but laugh at the part about warehouse just being a tiny Beijing supermarket XD

    I've always been really afraid of using Taobao even with a shopping service so I applaud your courage to try their new system! I'm so happy you got your lace, even if it wasn't quite what you were expecting :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It was definitely an ordeal, haha! But it's funnier looking back and it's an ordeal that helped in the end.

      And thank you! It's really my fault about the lace - I'm going to try and sel it and use up what I can, then risk another order, bwahaha! Thanks for your comment~! <3

      Delete
  2. Wow, this sounds actually even more complicated than anything I've ever encountered. Guess that if I ever want to order from taobao, I'll probably use agents, though smalltao seems to be down. O___o

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It certainly was more complicated than it should've been, haha! But if you just search Alibaba for 'china to uk (or your country of residence :P) courier) it should give you options and you can email some and ask for rates - that way you won't have to pay shopping service fees on your items. ^^

      Delete
  3. Wow, that was very brave of you to shop on Taobao without an agent! I, being literate in Chinese and living in Hong Kong, didn't dare to place my first order until two months after creating the account! Taobao was pretty complicated even for me! So thumbs up for you!

    Well Taobao is definitely making effort to attract more overseas buyers, it is now providing logistic services for Hong Kong, Taiwan and some South East Asian countries! It might extend the service to UK sooner or later :)

    It's a great post and I enjoyed reading it from the start till the end! Enjoy your lace and good luck with your future orders! <3

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ah, thank you so much! Ah, I can only imagine the wonder of being fluent in Chinese and being able to read Taobao with ease \*0*/ I am actually able to recognise a few words thanks to browsing though, haha!

      Yes, I hope they do provide logistics for the UK, that would be awesome!

      Thank you so much again, I'm glad you enjoyed <3 I'm currently making wrist cuffs with the lace I got!

      Delete
  4. My sister often use this kind of website to order from tabao, but I have never tried it myself...

    Would you like to follow each other on Bloglovin and GFC? Take a look into my blog and let me know! www.gwiyomistyle.net


    Giveaway: Lioeles Triple the Solution BB Cream SPF30 PA++ 50ml

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for your comment! I actually follow you already on Bloglovin', haha! I'd be very grateful if you followed me too <3 I love your blog and fashion style!

      You should try Taobao or get your sister to order for you, there's tons of cheap, pretty clothing and such variety! ^^

      Delete
  5. Do you had to make the phone verification? I have tried a million times to register on taobao but when I put my email and click "Submit" they always ask a chinese phone number :(

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I remember I had a problem with this too! When you are filling in your details and it asks for a Chinese address and phone number, I remember there was an option near the top right of the form that, when translated, was a form for overseas customers!

      If you click it, it changes the form to one for overseas buyers. I remember it would only let you select from Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan and one or two other countries but I just selected Japan and entered my regular address as I will always use a shopping service/courier and don't need my own address to use (the shopping service/courier will give you their Chinese address when you order!)! I hope this is easy to understand and helps, haha! <3

      Delete
  6. apart from credit card...could I use debit card?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi! Yes, sorry, you can use a debit card! I do not own a credit card but the term is used synonymously for credit or debit cards. Happy shopping!

      Delete
  7. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Wow, I'm glad I read all of this. I was planning to buy something from taobao without an agent, but perhaps I should reconsider.

    I couldn't help but notice that taobao has undergone some changes lately. You can now register with your overseas phone number and the layout seems a little different too.
    Have you ordered anything recently? If so, do you have any new tips?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks so much for your input! I haven't seen the new overseas phone number thing, I don't think - I remember when I registered, I put my overseas phone number in and sometimes when you order, they'll text you to let you know the package has arrived (especially if you sent it to a 3rd party warehouse) or if you win some extra Taobao/Amoy gold, they'll text you a code to verify the winnings but I've never received a text from them...I think they must block contact to overseas numbers sinceit could be costly for Taobao or the user...now I have my default address as the warehouse I send my items to, and I put the warehouse's phone number as the default phone number so they can contact them if they have a problem.

      I have just received an order recently, so I'll try and give you some tips! Find a reputable shopping service or logistics company to send your items to, get their address and phone number so there's no problems filling out information when purchasing on Taobao. Get them to check each package you sent to them and photograph the contents. Recently a couple of items have been wrong in my package and I didn't know until it arrived in the UK, so it's too late to do anything about it now. :( That would be the biggest tip, since it's easier to rectify mistakes when the package is still in China, in your logistics company warehouse.

      Delete
  9. thank you for spending time and telling your story,i am gathering now information about taobao and noticed this new overseas shipping offer they have. So your post really helped understand what exactly it was. Are you still using a courier service for your shopping?
    Thanks in advance for replying

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've just seen that information, my friend told me about it! For myself, I will still use my logistics company. I do not know how much the services Taobao uses will cost, and I would hate to get a nasty surprise in terms of cost. I also do not know if, when Taobao says 'overseas logistics company', they really only mean countries like Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia, etc. They sometimes only mean those countries in terms of 'overseas', so I wouldn't want to send my items to the logistics company to find they don't ship to the UK/US/etc. If you use Taobao's new service, please let me know how you find it!

      Delete
  10. I'm having bother trying to pay for my items. My items in my cart seemed to vanish until I realised they went straight to the Alipay website. I figured out how to get onto the payment page (bypassing the whole 'top up your alipay card' thing) but it still won't work.

    I'm confused as to how your payment went through so easily. When you signed up to Alipay did you get taken to their website? Did the items in your shopping cart get 'sent' to alipay as well?

    I also don't understand how you managed to get the forwarding option. When I put in my UK address I never got the option to pick a forwarder. Did you set your main address to the UK or did you not select a specific foreign country?

    This is really annoying as paying for my items is the last step. I already have my forwarder (which I set as my 'main' address to send items to) so I just need to give them my money x'D

    ReplyDelete
  11. I m willing to share my experience on taobao too, i m a chinese girl living in uk, i love to buy at ebay n amazon, but i want to try taobao as they have so many things which can never find on ebay. But even though i understand all the terms n condition, i still make mistakes of my 1st buy at taobao, i had contact the seller himself, n they agrees they can post to uk, so i've paid for the item n postage, n wait n wait, but didnt receive anything after 30 days, then i tried to search on taobao, it said i cannot even contact the seller after 7 days!!!! What the hell, no mention at their website anywhere, n who would know this 7-days rule until u actually paid n wait over 7 days? A post from china to uk definitely woupd be over 7 days for god sake, i lost my money and have nowhere n no idea how to get it back

    ReplyDelete
  12. Hey, sorry to hear that! Have you tried contacting TaoBao's customer service? I'm also a student studying in the UK, and I am currently trying TaoBao for the first time. ,_, The reason why I am afraid to make any purchases yet is because of the delivery issue. I have found a reliable forwarding service, but the charges are even more expensive than the items I want to buy added together, so I gave up. I have heard of using TaoBao agents (no idea what is that), but I am still clueless about that. Are you still buying from TaoBao? If so, could you please recommend a good delivery method?

    ReplyDelete
  13. Hey, Geisha Baby! I am currently trying TaoBao for the first time. ,_, The reason why I am afraid to make any purchases yet is because of the delivery issue. I have found a reliable forwarding service, but the charges are even more expensive than the items I want to buy added together, so I gave up. I have heard of using TaoBao agents (no idea what is that), but I am still clueless about that. Are you still buying from TaoBao? If so, could you please recommend a good delivery method?

    ReplyDelete