I got a request for a taobao buyers guide so here goes. I'll add more as it comes to me, and as I learn the system better.
If you are looking to buy items in China using their version of ebay, Taobao.com, there are many third party groups you can go through. One of the most efficient and English friendly is Taobaonow.com It is a one man organization run by a fine fellow named Charles so although he can be slow at times, his customer service is excellent. He is based out of Shanghai, and I personally have been doing business with him for about 6 months now with no complaints at all.Pros of the service:The fee structure
: You pay a fraction of the fees that you would on TBnow than you would for any Japanese auction service. He charges 10% of the cost of the item with a minimum service fee of 50 Yuan (about $7). The exchange rate fluctuates around 7 Yuan to the dollar. That's it. That's the only service fee. Freaking nuts. The service fee provides: (from tbnow website) * You can use the most user friendly ordering system developed in-house by us (Register now to see for yourself!)
* Contact the seller by - Phone / QQ / WangWang / Email, to ensure - item availability / sizes / colors / styles / sets / etc
* Advise you regarding seller credibility, forseeable custom problems, etc
* General translation of product details
* Search the items you want for you, especially if you do not know the Chinese language
* Check the items for damage upon arrival
* If you have requested photos to be taken, they will be uploaded to our website. (Please request only if you really must have it, as your order delivery date may be delayed because we have other priorities. Although we will not refuse your request, but you may have to wait indefinitely. When we will do it is at our own discretion.)
* Repackage the item(s) to ensure safe shipment
* Provide 40% off regular EMS shipping rate (HUGE saving!)
* In case the seller shipped the wrong item, we will deal with the return on your behalf
Now say you have multiple orders you put through on the same day, through seperate buyers. He'll combine them all together into one order for you, so you don't have to pay multiple minimum service fees. Shipping:
He does his best to package these things as quickly and as securely as possible. In about 10 shipments, I've only ever had one item break and that was a figure made of sculpy that broke getting from the original seller to him. The shipping discount is also huge. Instead of paying a percentage over the cost of shipping in a fee on Japanese website, he gives you a discount. I have no idea how he can afford to do this, but he does.
He speaks very good English and is very personable in communications. He can search for items for you or provide translations to help you search. He can also ask questions of sellers who might not have items put up online that you may be looking for. How to use the service:
First off, you need to register with the site. Once you have an account you can go shopping. Once you find what you are looking for on taobao.com you log onto your TBnow account and go to the Shopping Cart section. Copy the URL of the item on taobao that you wish to buy. Then paste it into the shopping cart on TBnow and submit with the quantity and any other questions for the seller. The site will then fetch the auction for you and put it in queue.
Taobao does not work like ebay in that the vast majority of these items are not auctions. When an item is purchased, often times it will still stay up on taobao until the seller manually takes it down or it runs its course. So even if you do see the item up on taobao, that doesn't mean it's still available for sale. So, say your item is still in stock, here's the sequence of events.
1. Cue up your item in the shopping cart.
2. TBnow then contacts the seller to verify the item is in stock. Tbnow then sends you an invoice via paypal. He will not purchase the item from the seller until you have paid tbnow. There is no deposit system in place. If you wait to long to send payment the seller could sell to another buyer so don't dawdle on it.
3. Once paid, tbnow pays for the item(s) and has it shipped to them. Once it arrives and everything looks good, he will send you a shipping invoice to pay. He can hold items for you if you are waiting for other items to arrive.
4. Once shipping is paid he will send to you via EMS.Things to keep in mind while using Tbnow:
Charles has a lot of customers and he works first come first serve. Some days you will get a response from the cue in a couple hours, sometimes a day or two, it entirely depends on how busy he is. Because of this, try not to bother him with items or searches if you are not entirely serious about buying them. You are wasting his time and slowing down orders for the rest of us. Remember to be patient with him. If you want a much faster service, you are going to pay a lot higher fees. Take that into consideration if you don't hear from him for a day or two.
Do not ask him to haggle prices for you. Prices are already very low on Taobao, and unless you are making big bulk purchases, realize that many of these items are being put up by people who are already making little profit on it as it is, and it comes off as being rude if you go looking for discounts. That being said, don't bother asking anyway, because he most likely won't do it for you because it's a personal annoyance for him when people ask.
Another tip when using taobao itself. Use translate.google.com and put your searches into that to get a better translation then if you just put taobao.com into translate and search from there. Also when using search, if you search for an item and are ready to search for another item, go all the way back to the home taobao page. For some reason when you search for something and then use the search at the top of the page again, it will limit a lot of results. (it's not as simple as it just searching within the searched items, it just has a quirk that randomly limits the newer search.)
Edited by phillinley, 26 August 2009 - 12:22 PM.