SO YOU WANNA USE TAOBAO?
Disclaimer: This tutorial was written with Filipino audiences (Or those living in the Philippines) in mind. While a lot of the details are generally applicable to everyone, please note there might be some things that are confusing to international audiences. Please PM me for further questions.
What is Taobao?
Taobao is essentially Chinese eBay. Or, Online Divisoria. Here you can find a large selection of everything you can imagine, and this is primarily where Chinese BJD companies sell their goods.
Why should you buy from Taobao?
Because we have a very limited number of people here in the country who are actually producing clothes and accessories, it is most likely you will have to buy stuff online anyway. Chinese stores are generally much cheaper because of the cost of production there vs the west, and while there are some items that are lower in quality, this is not always the case. The BJD hobby is also strongest in Asia, so really, there are more producers here than in other parts of the world.
But before you jump into it, I’ve written this tutorial that might help you out. This tutorial will primarily cover Navigating Taobao, Buying from Taobao, and other miscellaneous tips and tricks.
One of the easiest but most helpful things to do is search Taobao using Google Chrome and enable translation. Although the translations will be far from perfect, it will at least give you some context clue of what everything says.
Just select the translation button ad configure the settings to always translate. There are times when chrome will fail to translate the page, but don’t worry! All you need to do is refresh.
Searching For items
Taobao operates almost exclusively in Chinese, and as such, searching with English keywords will be pointless. You should make use of tools like google translate & Petrovna’s Directory to find the corresponding characters for your search.
Add ‘BJD’ to whatever your search is, which will limit the listings to only show BJD items. For example: BJD 鞋 is what you put to search for BJD shoes.
This is what the search results look like for BJD 鞋 (BJD shoes).
On the (1), you will see the bar for arranging the result order. Sort by Sales shows the items which have sold the most copies for, Sort by Credit orders items according to the reputation or positive feedback of the store they are from, and Sort by Price orders the items from cheapest to most expensive.
You can also specify the minimum and maximum price. It goes without saying, since taobao is based in China, Prices are in (CNY) Chinese Yuan (also known as (RMB) Renminbi).
On (2), you see the filter area which shows additional parameters to limit results. When you see the word ‘Sale’ translated on Taobao, this does not mean Sale like discounts. This is used to mean pre-sale, which is the items will not be made until a later date.
When you see the word ‘spot’, this means the item is in-stock.
Once you see an item you like, clicking into the individual listing will show you this.
(1) is the price of the item. If you see the value greyed out, it means the greyed out value is the actual price, but it might have a discount. Discounts are often misleading because it often only applies to very specific conditions, like having a paid account, or buying right then and there. I would suggest just treating an item as full price until you buy it.
If you see a range rather than a single value, that is because you need to select the specifics found in section (2). These specifications can be anything from size, colour, design, etc. When you input this properly, it will also show you the number of stock the store has for that specific item.
(3) is the name of the store. Clicking that will take you to their storefront where you will be a bit to find all their goods.
(4) this is the feedback and reputation of the store. This shows you how many positive reviews they have. Taobao uses these symbols as an easy way to rate them.
Usually, it is recommended to only buy from stores who have a rating of 3 diamonds or higher. However, you may get from lower rating stores at your own risk, especially if the item you want is rare.
(5) is the breakdown of how well people find their services. This is their average rating for how well the description matches the actual item received, how good their customer service is, and logistics refers to shipping and handling.
BUYING FROM TAOBAO
Before anything, the key issues with Taobao is that the payment method of choice is Alipay. Credit cards are much less used in China than in the rest of the world, so not every store accepts credit cards. Another issue is that stores do not always ship internationally and often have different rates for international buyers.
Because of this, and because of these factors, and the obvious language barrier, the best way to buy from Taobao would be to go through a Shopping Service or Agent.
What does an Agent do?
An agent will essentially be the middleman to your transactions. You will order and pay through them, and they will communicate with the sellers as to what you want.
You can find many different agents online, but always be sure to check out their reviews and feedback online.
Breakdown of Payments
Through an agent, more often than not, there will be two (or three) payments to make:
First payment is made up of the following:
- Item price – The price of just the item you’re buying.
- Domestic Shipping – The cost of shipping from the store you are buying from to the agent’s location. Because a lot of stores do not ship internationally, items are first all shipped to your agent so they can put everything together.
- Agent Fee – Agents usually charge a fee for their services, which is commonly 8-15% of the item price and domestic shipping.
Unless buying a large or heavy item, the average price for domestic shipping is 10-25RMB. This usually does not change even when buying multiple items, so it is always best to buy as many items from the same store as possible.
Second Payment is usually just the payment for international shipping. Once all your items have arrived, your agent will make sure everything is there and put everything together to send to you in one combined package.
You can use various couriers or shipping methods depending on your agent.
The possible third payment is not one you send to your agent, but as always, the dreaded customs. Same rules apply as written in my Beginners’ Guide to BJDs.
Here are some links that you may find useful or relevant to your Taobao experience.
Lost in Translation
There are some words that don’t make sense when translated to English. So here is a short guide to common words that you might get confused with:
- baby – item for sale
- dear – customer
- spot – in stock
- sale – pre-sale/pre-order
- Uncle – 70cm+ dolls
- T – 70cm+ dolls
- change the makeup – faceup (faceup supplies fall under this)
- ferrite – just the body/part (not the whole doll)
- poor muscle – normal skin
- sunburn – tan
- IP – IPopo/Popodoll
- ID – IslandDoll