Published link of this FAQ. Shorter link: http://tinyurl.com/taobaofaq

Taobao Frequently Asked Questions

 

Table of Contents


General Overview

What the heck is Taobao and what is this moonspeak?

Taobao is basically like Chinese eBay/Amazon where different sellers and/or shops sell their shit. Use a translator like Bing or Google Translate and it suddenly becomes like any other website. Alternatively for the lazy asses like myself, use a browser that auto-translates like Google Chrome. If you don’t want to use Chrome, there is also a Google toolbar that has a button  for translating stuff.

 

What is the pricing?

All prices are in Chinese yuan (CNY). Even if the dollar sign or Japanese yen* symbol is showing, it is always in RMB. RMB (renminbi) is the official currency of China; the primary unit of RMB is the Chinese yuan.

*CNY and JPY use the same symbol

IS THAT THE REAL PRICE!?!?

Yep, those are the real prices. However, there are SS fees and international shipping quotes to worry about. Do not forget to count domestic shipping costs from the shop(s) to your SS!

How do I order?

You use a shopping service (SS) if the shop does not ship internationally. Almost all shops only ship within China. If a shop does ship internationally, usually there will be an email to contact them on their shop page and a Paypal address to send payments. Taobao also has a forwarding service available in some countries.

However, now some countries are available to order using a forwarding service now. You will need to check Taobao’s website to see if your country has forwarding available that is directly on Taobao. Otherwise, you will need to find a forwarding service.

My country is on the list of available forwarding services on Taobao. How do I order directly?

An anon’s rough guide with screenshots here.

Another anon made a guide on tumblr here.

You can also use a forwarding service not on Taobao itself.

 

Which is the best shopping service/agent?

This is >opinions. See the SS spreadsheet for links to various reviews and a checklist about different SS. There is also a “Which SS to pick” section on that link as well.

Also, use a search engine to find other personal experiences that may not be on the spreadsheet. Keep in mind the date of reviews because older reviews might not reflect how a SS is now. Basically, it boils down to what you are looking for in your SS such as shopping cart system, discounts on shipping, low service fees, what payment methods, etc.

 Do not use BuyChina ever. More info on the SS spreadsheet.

What is the difference between a shopping service and forwarding service?

You pay a SS to buy items, have them shipped to their warehouse domestically, and ship items to you internationally.

A FS is when YOU buy stuff on Taobao yourself and have the items shipped to their warehouse. Then, the FS will ship it to you internationally.

tl;dr difference: SS will buy the items and ship to you. FS will only ship the items to you.

How much will ___ and ____ and ____ would cost to ship to _____?

To find how much an item cost, just can use Google search and put “## yuan to your country’s currency” (example: 35 yuan to usd). Do not forget to add domestic shipping within China to your SS. There are also plenty of add-ons/extensions for various browsers you can download too.

Also, it will depend on which international shipping method you use (see international shipping methods question). Most SS have a shipping calculator or estimations on their website. If you have similar items at home, weigh them to get a rough estimation and use the calculators.

Note: during major holidays such as Chinese New Year or Christmas, there may be delays in orders from an SS and from Chinese/your country’s postal service.

Is _____ a reliable/reputable shop with quality items? Is this shop trustworthy?

Here’s the feedback system breakdown (b/c chances are you will not find someone on /cgl/ who has bought from the exact shop that you want to buy from):

Instead of measuring feedback percentages like eBay, the ratings measure the amount of transactions completed, in addition to ratings.

The hierarchy is as follows:  <  < <

Click on the total transaction symbols (hearts/diamonds/crowns) to see the shop’s feedback page.

Clicking on the indicated tab at the top of the item’s description will show an item’s individual reviews:

This will be vital to see if the item you like is good quality.
If you are still confused,
this is a good guide.

What is Taobao Mall (T-mall, Tmall)?

Basically, Tmall has registered businesses that have to pay taxes. They have certain guarantees because they are in Tmall. More info can be found here. Essentially, it is similar to Taobao since it’s part of it. All SS (to my knowledge) is willing to buy from Tmall.

What is ershou?

The url ershou.taobao.com is for secondhand items on Taobao. Not all SS will buy from here. I know Taobao Ring will NOT buy from here.

Other cases will be added here as they are found.

HELP! I cannot browse Taobao anymore because it requires me to log in!

A lot of people are having this problem lately. Here are a few things you can try before making an account:

If this problem still persists, register for an account.

How do I register for an account/username?

Just follow the prompts on the website. If the site is translated using Google Chrome/Translate, it is self explanatory. If you do not want to use your own home/cell number to verify the account, you can use an alternative number. For example, Google Voice offers free phone numbers (at least in the USA) and a verification text will be sent to that number.

I cannot add items to my SS’s cart system anymore. How can I fix that?

There are a few things that you can do:

Help! I keep reverting to the Taiwan version of Taobao.

The link shows up as tw.taobao.com/whatever
To change that, click the top link and go back to the Global setting:

After that, I would suggest closing your Internet browser and opening up Taobao again.

What is up with the 11/11 sale? How do I take advantage of the sale?

11/11 is a consumerist holiday for Singles’ Day in China similar to Black Friday in the United States. Essentially, lots of stores on Taobao and other Chinese shopping sites will go on sale that day.
There are some SS that are willing to buy on that day. Here are some accounts from anons on /cgl/ from 2014:

International Shipping and Chinese Customs

What are the differences between the various international shipping methods?

Internationally shipping can kick your ass if you are not informed about which method is right for you.

Here is a chart about some shipping options I stole borrowed from the buyf/a/g guide on Japanese stuff (obviously ignore JPY. if I get unlazy which will never happen, then I will make a similar table for Chinese postage):

I have heard that Chinese customs will search through your packages and take items out!

So far, it is known that packages shipped by SAL, EMS, and Airmail China are sometimes opened by China's customs but NOT all of them are thoroughly checked. 

According to taobaoring’s tracking info page, packages are placed into random groups for inspection. If a group of packages seem suspicious when scanned through the x-ray search for dangerous items, it may get opened to check it and potentially looked thoroughly. If one of the packages in that particular group is suspicious, the other packages will be opened. They will thoroughly check if there are suspicious items in the x-ray or big brand replicas on top of your package when they open it to inspect that specific group of packages. Sometimes if several packages get opened at once from the groups, items get misplaced and get lost so not all items were necessarily directly taken from customs. You have to remember they are checking many parcels that go to the offices everyday so it happens. Of course, there’s also the conspiracy theory that custom officers take items from packages for themselves but who knows.

        According to Bhiner’s message (posted roughly on 3/18/13), packages shipped by EMS (or Airmail) that exceeds over 3.0 kg will be checked for brand items and that you should try using a different shipping method if you have any replicas.

See this post about SAL, this post about EMS, and another EMS post where their packages had items that were confiscated by Chinese customs. It does not matter which SS you use, your package is just as randomly likely to be checked if shipped via SAL, EMS, or Airmail. In some of those posts, you will notice there is yellow tape that says Repacked by China Post.”

To check if your package may have been opened using SAL, use your tracking number in one of these two places: http://intmail.11185.cn/itemstatus_en.jsp and http://intmail.183.com.cn/

After putting a tracking number, your screen may look something like this:

The status “Opening” may refer to your package being either x-rayed, opened, and/or thoroughly checked (needs more info on this but need someone that is able to read the Chinese postal site).

Note: other shipping methods are not known yet.

Well...then what is the likelihood my item(s) will be taken away by Chinese customs?

We will never know for sure because we are not the Chinese postal service. It is based off luck (x-ray inspection groups and the other info in the above question). If your knock-off does not have tags, trademark logos, and/or box while not obviously looking like a replica, it will be less likely taken but the chance is still there. If you plan to order replicas of big brands, ask your SS to remove all tags and boxes so that hopefully it will not be seized. Also ask to put those items on the bottom of your package and put non-brand stuff on the top and middle.

Potentially taken away by customs list:

  • medicine
  • DVDs
  • food
  • creams
  • weapons (including cosplay props that look real such as swords)
  • some anime merch (figures/toys)
  • powder, gel (some SS)

Also see:

This post about an anon's order where ALL of her clothes were taken away. (link to archived post)

This post about an anon who had indie lolia brands, tea parties, and other things. (link to archived post)

How will I know the weight of my package?

First off, all items do not weigh exactly the same thing. There are many rough estimation guides out there. It also depends on the shipping method. SAL goes by every kilogram rounded up. EMS goes by every 500 grams rounded up. DHL and Fedex goes by volume weight instead of actual weight.

For packages that rely on weight, here are links to several estimation guides:

For shipping estimation calculators:

If you do not want to depend on estimation guides, use your own items that you own already that you are also ordering and weight those instead.

From the looks of it, Taobao does not really seem worth it after shipping costs. Why is it worth it to order on Taobao?

Compare the price you would get a graphic t-shirt from a local store and see how it compares to Taobao. Example: A Forever 21 top can cost about $20 each. After calculating shirt cost+SS fee+divided shipping between all items in a package, the shirt may round to about $10 each. If you don’t mind the wait, shipping via SAL will make it worthwhile. Also, the variety of items sold on Taobao versus brick-and-mortar stores is quite different. Brick-and-mortar stores can be quite boring or not have the style you like while Taobao has interesting/different designs and styles.

Items and Searching

How do I find _____? [or] I just found these _____ on Taobao and I really like them. Does anyone know where I can find more?

Google translating in simplified Chinese is good for search terms. Traditional works too but start with simplified first.

There is also a dictionary spreadsheet and another dictionary spreadsheet. There is also a Chinese pop-up dictionary add-on. If none of these options are good, try using this really good online dictionary.

Another trick is to copy listing titles of similar items/things and save common keywords. Sometimes items based off a franchise can be searched for using English (like Rilakkuma, Tutanna, etc).

If for some reason you still can’t find it, go bitch ask in the /cgl/ general taobao thread or ask somewhere else.

How do I search for a franchise (video game, movie, anime, manga, etc)?

If you want the Chinese characters for franchises (games, movies, whatever), use Wikipedia and change the country to China. Sometimes the Japanese characters work if you’re looking for Japanese franchises.

You can also look at baka-updates to find the Chinese characters of titles in the associated names section.

There are Chinese characters in an image I need translating. How do I translate those characters?

First, try to deduce what you are translating. If it is measurements and you are not sure which is which, consult the link of dictionaries in the previous question and you can, usually, translate from there. If your problem still persists, use newocr. You can upload an image on this website and change it to text (usually). It is not the most reliable method but hopefully you can find info. Good luck.

Where are all the sizes?

They don't use traditional sizes. For example, one store’s medium might be one store’s large. They list the maximum measurements of the clothes. Sometimes, they will list items in flat measurements where the garment is laid flat and measured. You'll need to get a tape measure and measure yourself or clothes that fit you (for flat measurements).

For shoe sizes, this is a good guide for measuring your foot and here is a site for international shoe conversion. Some brands of shoes use vanity sizing; it is not very common but it can happen so you should measure your foot rather than just depending on the shoe conversion.

Some SS have conversion guides as well:

Ultimately, these clothing conversion guides do not work very well compared to measuring yourself with a measuring tape and comparing with the items’ measurement.

How do I find plus size shoes and clothes?

This:

You can also add xxxl to your search for clothes instead of the Chinese characters.

What does VIP price mean?

If you are a VIP member of a shop, you can buy the item at a discounted price. Most SS are NOT VIP members. Sometimes they are, but it is safer to assume they are not.

Screenshot (with translating via Google Chrome) of how it looks like:

Some VIP have various tiers so even if a SS is a member of a shop, they might be in the lowest tier so they don’t get that much off the regular price. VIP is the highest tier membership of a shop.

A SS that is NOT VIP can still buy items that have a store VIP discount but they will buy it at the regular price (the price that is crossed out). In the above example, a non-VIP person would buy the item at 139.99 rmb.

What about sale prices?

If the price is crossed out and the pink highlighted part does not say “Store VIP,” then the item is on sale for whatever price is showing. Here are some example screenshots (with translating via Google Chrome):

 

How do I order Secret Shop shoes?

Secret Shop only sells their shoes to certain VIP SS and agents such as celestial_delinquent and clobbaonline. There may be others but these are the ones that are commonly known. The reason for this is because the shoe part of their store was overloaded with orders a while ago so they thought this was the best solution to deal with these orders.

However, some shoes are exclusive to clobbaonline (example: VM boots) so if you can’t get them from clobba, you may be able to with secondhand sales (i.e. facebook, egl_comm_sales).

There is a few dollars difference between ordering/shipping with clobba and a SS so it is cheaper to order from clobba directly unless your taobao order is huge with a SS.

How do I order Antaina shoes? How do I get them customized?

An*tai*na* (an tai na, antaina, other variations of spelling...) can be ordered either directly from them or through a taobao SS. They have two store fronts: mostly lolita shoes link and mostly cosplay shoes link. If you want to order directly from them, email them with what shoes you want, your address, your paypal address,  and your specifications. They will then reply to you with a quote and estimation of delivery time. However, if you order from them directly, it will usually be shipped via EMS unless you otherwise specify (their store front says it also offers registered airmail, DHL, UPS, Fedex, or TNT).

If you get many different pairs shoes, you probably should directly order from them. If you only want one or very few pairs of shoes, go through a SS with other items you want to order from Taobao.

Things you can customize:

If you attach pictures to your email of the various things you want, it will run smoother.

Example: your perfect shoes wants the upper part of one shoe, the heel style of another shoe, but the buckles of a third shoe. Circle those parts in a pic, label them, and send it with your email.

Are cosmetics or contact lenses safe to order on Taobao?

Chinese regulations are more lenient compared to other countries. Personally, it is not recommended because there could be serious things wrong with them despite the good reviews they get on Taobao. You only have one set of eyes so don’t fuck them up. Also, you have to remember that Taobao is a multitude number of sellers so things are not necessarily regulated (just like how Amazon has some sellers that sell knock-off merchandise).

Various examples of problems that could happen:

Disclaimer: some people do buy cosmetics with success. However, be wary of most products anyway.

But every country practically gets imports from China!

...So? They have a set of regulations to follow in order to get those items to the country it is getting shipped to. Buying directly from China means you follow the Chinese regulations. Buying an item from your home country means the item had to follow your country’s regulations despite being made in China.

How do I know an item is out of stock?

If there are no options to choose from such as size or color, then it is out of stock.

It will look similar to this screenshot:

The circled text indicates that it is out of stock.

If you are using Google Chrome, the phrase will appear as “this baby shelves,” “this baby has the shelf,” or something similar. See screenshot for an example:

Also, some sellers will keep their items’ listings in their shop even if they don’t actually have the item in stock or if it is a preorder. They usually pick a ridiculous price; what is commonly seen is that the price of an item is 9999 yuan. This is just as a placeholder price. Sellers do this to show a “portfolio” of items they have made/sold/whatever.

What does “fried chicken” mean? I see it while reading translated reviews on items.

From the /cgl/ archive:

It's Chinese homonym slang, which is very popular currently. It really means 'The wig is super great', and I bet that the candy is actually some candy the seller threw in there as a gift. Super in Chinese pinyin is written as 'chao ji' (1st then 3rd tone) 超级。 However, to be cute or whatever, often people will use homonyms instead, and 'fried chicken' (actually stir-fried chicken to be exact) is chao ji (3rd then 4th tone) '炒鸡‘.

This also happens with other terms such as

内牛满面 nei niu man mian (lit. inner cow (cow intestine) all over face), homonym slang for 泪流满面 lei liu man mian (tears fucking everywhere).

劳资 (lit. working or labour class) lao zi = 老子 (myself in an archaic sorta butch way, like ore or oresama in Japanese) lit. old guy

I read this whole FAQ but I still don't know what to do because hurrdurr

Google is your friend. There is an endless resource of reviews and guides out there, all you need to do is do a little research. Alternatively, bitch post in the /cgl/ general taobao thread.


Buying Tips

How to organize a local group order

This is a very general guide that can also be applied to other websites other than Taobao. I cannot guarantee that it will work smoothly for you because it all depends on the individuals that are in the group order as well as the host. Obviously, these are just tips and you do not need to follow these steps. This is what I like doing.

If you are the host:

  1. Set up a spreadsheet for your group and make a sheet within that for each person and their part of the order. I recommend using the budgeting spreadsheet as a guide if you do not want to make your own template. Keep in mind that some SS do minimum or flat domestic shipping rates within China so reflect that in each person’s spreadsheet (for example: two people might want to buy from the same shop and it is a flat rate shipping of 15 RMB, make them pay their percentage of items/weight for that particular shop).
  2. Ask for money up front for each person’s items (item cost + domestic shipping costs + SS fees)
  3. After an order is sent to the SS and items start coming into their warehouse, refund people for items that became out of stock or whatever reason the SS refuses to buy the item(s).
  4. Guesstimate the weight of all the items once they all arrive to the SS. Add the total. Find the percentage for each person’s items within the order and ask them to pay you for their part of international shipping.
  5. Once the items arrive to your residency/where you are shipping the package, weigh all the items on your own scale. Add the weight up. Find the percentage a person’s part of the order is. For any extra weight that may have been rounded up (like for SAL and EMS) as well as the box it arrived in, you will have to use the percentage you calculated for each person’s part so that they pay for that extraneous weight as well.
  6. Refund or request more money for international shipping.
  7. Give people their items. Hurray.

Random tidbits:

If you are a participant:


Other Taobao Resources

Because you are an addict and need MORE Taobao related things.

Dictionaries/Search terms:

Various store links:

Other random taobao resources:

Also, there is a crapload of tumblr blogs related to Taobao but they constantly change from being active to inactive to active again so find them yourself.

How to find the general Taobao thread on /cgl/: (no idea where else to put this)

Use the catalog link that is now embedded in the site.

Alternatively, use the archive search (normally the thread has the title taobao thread or something similar. If not, then just search normally there).

Be sure to use Thread Watcher so you don’t have to continuously find it. Someone usually posts the link to the new thread when the old one starts autosaging. Don’t be an extreme retard with your kawaii uguu emoticons XD and other such crap.

Things that will probably be added in the future...maybe:

If you want to add something to this FAQ or want to contact me for whatever reason, email:
redroses3164 AT gmail DOT com