Buying Furniture On Taobao
You probably already know how amazing Taobao is (if you don’t, then read on and you shall be convinced). However, most people tend to buy cheaper items like clothes and accessories, because let’s face it – what if that Taobao couch you ordered arrives in the wrong colour? Or *gasp* with obiang patterns that weren’t shown in the photos? Returning items on Taobao is not exactly a breeze, if you know what I mean.
Before you give up on your Taobao home decor dreams though, there just might be a simple solution to your shopping woes. Singapore-based forwarding agents such as SGShop allow you to buy big ticket items from Taobao with less risk and trouble.
When it comes to buying furniture on Taobao, there are a few things to take note of. Firstly, Taobao’s appointed forwarders (such as 4PX and PRouter) have a limit to the size and weight of packages they can ship to Singapore – 1 metre x 1 metre x 1 metre and 30kg. So yes, you’re not going to be able to buy a bed direct from Taobao (unless you have a really kind and helpful friend in China, I suppose).
Secondly, certain items (i.e. LED ceiling lights) apparently can’t be bought directly through Taobao – but you can do so through an agent. I don’t know why this is so but yeah, it’s tricky business.
Lastly, returning items on Taobao and/or getting a refund is a real pain so always do your homework before buying. Chat with the seller to confirm if an item is in stock, and in the case of large items, you might also want to check on the exact weight and size of the item (so you calculate your shipping fees). Sure, it’s a bit more trouble, but hey nobody ever said that life was easy you know?
The best way to deal with potential problems is to just use a Taobao agent. I know what you’re thinking – an agent? For what? No need! I can buy directly from Taobao! That’s what Google Translate is for!
Now now, before you order that dream couch on Taobao, listen up to what we have to say here. Buying furniture on Taobao through an agent like SGShop is SO much easier – it will save you time, stress and having to converse with sellers in broken Chinese (you know it).
SGShop has two types of services for Taobao shoppers:
1. Buy For Me
This is where SGShop basically does everything for you. All you have to do is enter the Taobao links of the items you want to buy, pay with a Singapore credit card or PayPal, and SGShop will do the rest. Think of it as having a friend help you buy the items, then sending them to your doorstep. Except for a reasonable fee, I guess.
This option is good for:
- Taobao noobs, or if you can’t really read Chinese.
- Big ticket items like furniture or speakers, which you want to ensure are as ordered and in working condition. Because it would suck if you shipped a couch all the way to Singapore, only to find that a part of it is missing no?
- Restricted items like LED lights.
- Bulky items that are too big and heavy for Taobao’s appointed forwarders.
Cost varies based on the value, weight and dimensions of your package, but you can use this handy Cost Estimation Tool (click on the Buy For Me tab) to get a good gauge of the fees. FYI do not be alarmed if the calculated price seems way higher than you expected – the estimate includes the actual price of your item as well.
- Easier shopping experience: The ‘Buy For Me’ option is basically like having someone do all the nitty gritty stuff for you, so you don’t have to navigate the abyss that is Taobao.com. You can also search for items on Taobao through SGShop’s English site.
- Local payment: You won’t need an Alipay account (oh lawddd hallelujah!), as you can use your local credit card or PayPal to pay for your order through SGShop.
- Free inspection: SGShop will inspect your item in their China warehouse to ensure that it is the right colour, design and quantity. They will also check for obvious visual defects. They don’t inspect for authenticity though, so check the reviews before buying.
- Refunds and Exchanges: If your item is wrong or defective, SGShop will seek a refund or exchange on your behalf from the Taobao seller.
- Economical Shipping: SGShop’s warehouse in China will consolidate and repack your packages in the most economical way possible to help you save on shipping fees. This is especially helpful when you’re buying bulky or heavy items.
- Compensation for lost or damaged items: If your package gets lost or damaged during shipping, you will be compensated up to a value of 100SGD. You can also opt to purchase insurance for your parcel, which covers the full cost of the item, as well as shipping and agent fees. SGShop’s insurance is 5% of the total value of your items.
2. Ship For Me
This is where you do the actual buying on Taobao, but use SGShop‘s forwarding service to consolidate and send your parcels to Singapore. When you submit your order on Taobao.com, enter SGShop’s China warehouse address as the delivery address.
After doing so, go to SGShop‘s Ship For Me page and submit your order details. Once all your parcels have arrived at SGShop‘s China warehouse, you can log into your SGShop account to pay for the shipping fee to Singapore.
This option is good for:
- Taobao shopaholics who are already familiar with how to work the site.
- Shipping bulky items that are too big and heavy for Taobao’s appointed forwarders.
- Cheapskates (just kidding)
Again, use the Cost Estimation Tool (click on the Ship For Me tab) to get an estimate of your shipping fees.
- Economical Shipping: SGShop offers a few economical options for bulky purchases, such as their Economy Sea option which starts from $0.90 per 500g and takes about 12 to 16 days.
- Inspection service for a nominal fee: For $3, you can opt to have SGShop inspect your items for obvious defects and check that they are the right colour, size and model as ordered. You can also opt to have photos of your package sent to you for an additional $3.
- Compensation for lost or damaged items: If your package gets lost or damaged during shipping, you will be compensated up to a value of 100 SGD. You can also opt to purchase insurance for your parcel, which covers the full cost of the item, as well as shipping and agent fees. SGShop’s insurance is 5% of the total value of your items.
Still not convinced? We get blogger and shopping pro Jessica Tham (@tippytapp) to show us her Taobao home buys.
Tippytapp’s Home Tour (+ a Giveaway!)
Jessica Tham (@tippytapp) is a self-confessed Taobao shopaholic. “I would build an entire Taobao home if I could,” she says earnestly. Somehow, we wouldn’t be surprised if she did. After all, if there’s one person who can find the cutest stuff on Taobao – be it clothes, home decorations or even a washing powder tin (scroll down, it’s super cute) – it’s Jessica.
OK, tell us your secret – how did you find all these Pinterest-worthy home items on Taobao?
I usually browse on Pinterest to get inspiration, then I’ll use descriptive search terms to try and find items that suit the theme. You can use Google Translate to translate the phrases, but some things are phrased differently in Chinese. For instance, if you’re looking for a Scandinavian-style lamp, it’s better to phrase it as ‘modern standing lamp’ in Chinese, instead of the direct Chinese translation of ‘Scandinavian lamp’.
(Editor’s note: You can also use Taobao’s photo search function to upload a photo of an item you’re looking for. More about that here, under #4.)
Useful Search Terms
Home Decoration 家居装饰
Scandinavian style 北欧现代 (Scandinavian modern)
Striped Carpet 条纹地毯
Scandinavian Modern Lamp 北欧现代 灯
Floor Lamp 现代客厅落地灯
Assorted Pillows (Buy them here)
Decorative Deer Statue (Buy it here)
How much cheaper are home items on Taobao, as compared to stores here?
I got my LED lights from Taobao and even with the shipping and agent fees, they were still about one-third the price of some of the stores I checked out here. The items I ordered were mostly true to the photos, and so far they seem to be holding up well so I didn’t have any issues with the quality.
How long does shipping furniture usually take with a Taobao agent?
I opted for sea shipping because it was the most economical, and it took about 14 – 18 working days to arrive. If you want to get a better idea of the actual shipping cost, check with the seller on the actual weight and dimensions of the item before buying. You should also check if the item is in stock, or a made-to-order one.
Mason Jars (Buy them here)
Cookie Jars (Buy them here)
Pasta Jars (Buy them here)
What is the general process of getting your home ready like?
Once we got the keys, we looked around for an interior designer. We gave the interior designer a rough idea of the look and feel we wanted, and she did some mock-ups for us to look at. After we tweaked some things, the interior designer then worked with the contractors to create our desired plans. As for furniture and decorations – I got most of them from HomesToLife, Crate and Barrel, Courts and of course, Taobao!
Washing Powder Container (Buy it here)
Standing Lamp (Buy it here)
Hanging Lamp (Buy it here)
What are some shopping tips for Taobao newbies?
Always check the seller ratings and reviews (if any). Sometimes Taobao has multiple sellers offering the same item, so you want to pick the seller that has both a good price and ratings.
White Ladder (Buy it here)
Check out Jessica’s Walk-in Wardrobe Tour here.
Want to win some cool home decor stuff? Jessica has picked out 2 sets of items to give away! To win either Set A or Set B, leave a comment below with a registered Facebook account, and tell us which set you want to win and why.
Giveaway closes on 16 October 2015 at 11pm. The 2 winners will be contacted via Facebook private message during the week of 19 October 2015. (EDIT: The winners of this giveaway are Cynthia B Lin (Set A) and Phoebe AvEmaria (Set B). Please check your Facebook message inbox for details.)
Includes all of the following items:
1. Laundry Hampers(Item info here.)
2. Sauce Dispensers(Item info here.)
3. Containers(Item info here.)
Includes all of the following items:
2. Metal Basket(Item info here.)
3. Decorative Branches (for hanging accessories)(Item info here.)
4. Rabbit Lamp (comes with corresponding light bulb)(Item info here.)
SGShop Discount Code
Need an excuse to start shopping on Taobao? Register for an SGShop account using the code SCENE to get 4SGD shopping credit. You can use the credit to offset an item’s price during your first purchase.
This article is brought to you by SGShop.