You can pretty much find anything on Taobao – from clothes to homeware to even…pet snails (and for 1 SGD only). However, navigating the site and paying for your order is tricky business, especially if your command of Chinese is um, less than spectacular. Here are some Taobao hacks to make your shopping experience on the site much easier.
1. Signing up for an account
Signing up for a Taobao account may seem like a daunting task, but do not fear young Padawan. First things first, use Google Chrome as your browser so that the page is automatically translated to English when you view it. Other browsers like Safari and Firefox don’t seem to auto-translate pages, so it’s a bit more troublesome to browse Taobao on them.
Next, click here to sign up for an account. You’ll be prompted to agree to the user terms and conditions, then enter your phone number. You don’t need to enter the country code, as the site should have already preset the country to Singapore.
Taobao will then send you a verification code and after you enter it, you’ll be prompted to enter your email address. Once all is good, wait for Taobao’s verification email and click on the link to complete your account registration. You should receive it within the hour, but if you don’t, check your spam filter. Also, I don’t know if it’s just me, but the email was sent much quicker to a gmail account than say, a company email account. Might be something to do with different servers, but yes, take note anyway.
2. Even if you’re using a forwarder, enter your own address into the shipping address form.
We’ve gotten quite a few emails asking us about this (because some people seem to think that we’re a Taobao help desk -__-) but anyway, the short answer is: use your Singapore shipping address, not the forwarder’s China warehouse address.
As long as you use one of Taobao’s forwarders (4PX, PRouter etc), you don’t need to enter the forwarder’s address at any point. Once you select whichever forwarder you want to use (there are a few options on the list), the forwarder’s address will automatically be input for you.
3. If you forget your Taobao or Alipay password
I sincerely hope you never forget your Taobao password or username because oh dear lord it’s a real biznatch to reset, especially when everything’s in Chinese. Anyway, if you’ve forgotten your Taobao or Alipay password, click here and enter your username. You’ll then be prompted to verify your account either by phone (Taobao will text you a verification code), or by uploading your identification card and details for Taobao’s verification.
Obviously the easier option is to use phone verification, but this sometimes fails to work because…I don’t know why, really. Because Taobao, that’s why.
If you can’t use phone verification for some reason, you’ll have to upload your ID and wait for Taobao to verify it. So yes, don’t forget your login details people.
4. Upload a photo into the search bar
When I first discovered this feature, I thought it was the COOLEST THING EVER. All you have to do is upload a photo of an item you’re looking for, and Taobao will list items that look similar – no need to tear your hair out trying to Google Translate phrases and whatnot. YES. THANK YOU TAOBAO. I WOULD GIVE YOU A KISS IF I COULD.
Although the Taobao app is entirely in Chinese, it’s a really handy way to keep track of your parcels. You can access your Taobao account through the app and check notifications about your order, chat with sellers (without having to download the Aliwangwang chat plugin) and view new arrivals from your favourite stores. You can also upload a photo (instead of a phrase) into the search bar to find an item your looking for.
The app is generally quite easy to navigate, so hey, a little
shopping light browsing won’t hurt right?
6. If you received a defective or wrong item, talk to the seller first.
For international buyers, it hardly makes any sense to return an item to the seller because the shipping fees will cost you a bomb. Also, items sent back to China may be subjected to import taxes, which is…not cool.
Talk to the seller and let them know that you are an international buyer who used a forwarder (货运代理), so you can’t exactly return the item to them for a refund. Take a photo of the item (or a video, if it’s a defective electronic item) and send it to the seller to prove your case. It’s definitely not possible to make a refund if you buy medicines, so read here where it is better to order a generic Viagra. In most cases, the seller should give you a refund for a defective item. If the item was the wrong style or colour (but otherwise still in useable condition), perhaps you can negotiate with the seller to refund half the amount of the item’s value.
Once you and the seller come to an agreement, go to your order history page and click on the Refund button to start the refund process. Once you send in your refund request, the seller will have to confirm the conditions before you get a refund to your Alipay account.
If all else fails, loop in Taobao’s customer service to mediate the negotiation. Always keep your conversation on Aliwangwang (Taobao’s chat service) instead of WeChat, so that Taobao has a full record of the discussion between you and the seller.
7. Buying bulky items
The maximum weight and dimensions for packages sent using Taobao’s forwarders (4PX, PRouter etc) are 1 metre x 1 metre x 1 metre and 30kg, so as long as you’re not buying a bed or something you should be fine (well, unless you’re buying 30kg worth of clothes and shoes…in which case, gurrrrl you have a problem).
If you are buying furniture or bulky items though, you have to use other forwarding services such as 65daigou (shipping rates here) or SGShop (shipping rates here). You can also check out Facebook groups like Taobao Sharing and Taobao Marketplace to get feedback on reliable forwarders from other Taobao buyers.
8. Check for the credit card symbol on item listings.
I never realised this, but certain sellers on Taobao have lower credit card limits so this may cause problems when trying to pay for your order. Basically, sellers can opt to have a higher credit card limit for transactions (identified by the credit card symbol on item listings), so that customers can purchase higher amounts.
However, if you’re buying an item from a seller who has opted out of this, you may have problems paying for your order if the total amount is more than that seller’s daily allowed limit.
It also doesn’t matter if the other items in your order (from different sellers) have the credit card symbol – as long as one of the sellers you’re ordering from doesn’t have a higher credit card limit, you won’t be able to pay for your order if the amount is higher than that one seller’s credit card limit.
You can check the daily allowed limit on the payment page, under 限额表 (Limit Table). I’m not entirely sure, but I think the limit is around 5,000 yuan (1087 SGD). Anyway, you can read up more on the issue here.
If you want avoid all this trouble, tick the 信用卡支付 (Credit Card Payment) box in the filters when searching for an item.
9. Filter Search Results
Taobao has thousands of listings, so make your life a little easier by filtering search results according to the characteristics you desire.
You can also filter results by whether the seller offers free shipping, delivery within 24 hours or item discounts. If you prefer to buy from more premium sellers, tick the ‘Tmall’ box – Tmall is just like Taobao, but the sellers there are verified by Taobao, so they are generally more legit.
10. If you’re in a rush to get your item, filter searches by where the item ships from.
If your forwarder’s warehouse is located in Guangzhou, you probably want to select a seller who is shipping from somewhere near Guangdong and not…Inner Mongolia or something (happened to me once, and oh mah lorddd it took REALLY long for my item to arrive at the forwarder’s warehouse). If in doubt, check Google Maps.
11. Collect 淘金币 (Tao Jin Bi/Gold Coins) to redeem discounts off items.
淘金币 (aka gold coins) can be accumulated to redeem certain items or offset the payment amount for eligible items.
Whenever you make a purchase on Taobao, you can get a maximum of 50 gold coins (depending on the purchase amount). You can also get bonus gold coins when you shop on Taobao’s Tao Jin Bi section (which is kind of like their Deals section). It actually takes a fair amount of gold coins (like 500-600 coins) to redeem 5-6 yuan (1 SGD) off an item, so don’t get too excited.
To check if an item is eligible, look for the gold coin icon in the item listing. It should also state the maximum value you can redeem off the item.
You can redeem your gold coins at the payment page by ticking the “Redeem Tao Jin Bi” box above the payment amount. To see how many gold coins you have, click here and sign into your account. More details (i.e. expiry, redemption items etc.) on Tao Jin Bi here and here.
12. Seller Coupons
Certain sellers offer store coupons, which can be used to offset your purchase. Just look out for the red square ¥ symbol under the item name, and click that to redeem your coupon. You can redeem it at the payment page under the 店铺优惠 (Shop Promotions) option.
13. Seller and Buyer Ratings
Both Sellers and Buyers have a rating on Taobao. Seller/Store ratings are determined by the number of successful transactions they’ve processed, as well as feedback points from customers. I’m not entirely sure how Buyer (aka you) ratings are determined, but it probably has something to do with how soon you confirm receipt of your order, and whether you write reviews on the items you purchased.
I don’t think this happens very often, but Sellers can choose not to sell a Buyer an item if he/she has a bad rating. To check your rating, click here and log into your account.
Anyway if I were you, I wouldn’t leave nasty feedback for a seller because they take their ratings very seriously. Constructive feedback is fine, but don’t be like “这个卖家很烂！” (“This seller sucks!”) because hey, they do have your personal details you know.