Ever wondered how to pick the perfect OOTD, or what to wear to a wedding? Blogger Jessica Tham answers all of your Fashion FAQs in this column about all things fashion!
How To Shop On Taobao
Jessica Tham (@tippytapp) is a self-proclaimed shopaholic. Her eyes light up when she talks about dresses for her upcoming wedding in September (“I can’t decide how many to have…Two? Three? Maybe…FOUR?? Heh heh.”) and when she talks about her latest buys from Taobao. For those who don’t know, Taobao is like the eBay of China, and you can buy anything from clothes to teapots on there. We got Jessica to show us some of her favourite Taobao buys, as well as share some shopping tips with us.
Taobao Shopping Tips
Taobao is not the easiest site to navigate (especially if you’re not well-versed in Chinese), and it takes some effort to sift through the listings to find cute stuff. Also, most of the site is in Chinese so you need to have a basic grasp of the language.
I don’t have a China delivery address! Can I still shop on Taobao?
Yes you can! But it’s kind of complicated, so listen up. Taobao lets you use a forwarder to send your packages to in China, and once all your packages have arrived at the forwarder’s warehouse, they will send it to your Singapore address in one parcel.
Once each package arrives at the forwarder’s warehouse, Taobao will send you an SMS to notify you. After all of your packages have arrived at the warehouse, log on to Taobao to pay for the forwarding charges and get the forwarder to send them to you. The forwarder will hold your parcels for free for up to 20 days.
How do I get a forwarder in China?
After you’ve checked out and paid for your items, set up your Singapore address and select that address under the delivery address portion. Remember to check the ‘Use forwarder’ option (or you’ll get charged the rate for the seller to ship directly to you in Singapore, which is…A LOT).
Also, whatever you do, DON’T put the forwarder’s address in the address field instead of your own Singapore address. Taobao automatically updates the forwarder’s address once you select the forwarder you want to use.
It seems there are 3 different forwarders available, and you can see their ratings from past customers to determine which one has the best track record.
What are the shipping fees like?
Shipping rates for the package to the warehouse in China is usually around 10 – 20 yuan (2 – 4 SGD). Shipping from the forwarder in China to Singapore is around 35 yuan for the first kilogramme, and 12 yuan for every subsequent 500g. The tricky thing about ordering from Taobao is that you won’t know the weight of the item until it reaches the forwarder’s warehouse, but 4 to 5 dresses/tops should be about 1kg.
Shipping is pretty fast – about 2 to 5 days from the seller to the China warehouse, and another 3 to 5 days from China to Singapore.
How do I pay? Do I need a China credit card?
Taobao uses Alipay, which is sort of like the PayPal of China. You can use most credit cards to pay, but you should check with your bank if they charge conversion fees.
How do I order if everything is in Chinese?!
Two words: Google Translate. Or get someone kind and clever to help you.
But for easy reference, here’s a brief translation of the order page.
How do I know if a seller is legit or not?
Every seller on Taobao has a rating, which takes into account their customer feedback and transactions made on Taobao.
Check out the reviews on the item – some customers post photos of themselves wearing the item, so you can get a better idea of how the item fits. Also, don’t forget to read the item measurements before ordering – the waist, chest and shoulder measurements are usually listed.
If you need more information, you can chat with the seller…but you have to type in Chinese. Beginning to regret falling asleep during Chinese lessons now eh?
What if the item doesn’t fit, or *gasp* it doesn’t arrive?
Some sellers offer refunds within a certain time period, which is usually stated in the listing. If you don’t receive an item, you can contact the seller directly. Jessica says that she didn’t receive an item once, but she got a refund after contacting the seller. If all else fails, try contacting Taobao customer support.
What can I buy on Taobao?
EVERYTHING. Seriously. Taobao has everything from clothes to teapots to rental boyfriends (not that cute though, we checked).
Here are some of Jessica’s favourite Taobao shops.
Love Hello Panda : Lots of fun, flirty and feminine clothes – think polka dotted rompers and A-line dresses.
CBOMB: The clothes are a bit more casual and laid back, with lots of basics and neutral colours.
PUNK T.T: Strangely enough, the clothes and accessories at this store aren’t very punk-like. They have some cool tops and rompers though.
Mian Cun: This store has has quite a few ZARA, ASOS and Topshop-inspired items, but read the measurements carefully because the sizing is a bit different.
Haili Shoe: One of Jessica’s recommended stores for buying shoes on Taobao. The shoes are a bit dressier though – think heels and nice flats instead of sneakers.
ccmil: The clothes are mostly the simple, clean type with interesting cuts and textures. The shop also has a good selection of tops – from drapey tees to ladylike cropped tops.
FENG88: A wide selection of classic pieces. They also have quite a nice collection of classy tops.
QUEEN.ZZ: A wide selection of feminine and elegant styles.
What should I watch out for on Taobao?
DODGY SELLERS. Just kidding. But to be safe, always do your homework when shopping at a store on Taobao – check the item reviews/seller ratings and you should be fine. Most sellers usually ship within 1 – 2 days, but sometimes it takes longer if they don’t have the ready stock. There’s a “Remind Seller To Ship” button on the Order Summary page, which presumably makes the seller feel a bit more panicky when you click it (I clicked it once and the seller almost immediately sent me an update on my item).
You can also chat with the seller to ask them about the order status (交易状态 – save this handy phrase, because Google Translate will give you some other weird translation that doesn’t really mean Order Status).
Lastly, not being racist or anything here but if you don’t have a basic grasp of Chinese, then you should forget about shopping on Taobao. Or get someone who reads Chinese to help you order. Because there’s really only so much Google Translate can translate, and you’ll get confused/frustrated after 10 minutes of trying to interpret what “very little wild election shall vest’ really means.