“I was dating this Chinese girl. And you guys know the BEST part of dating a China girl?
Access to T A O B A O.”
Quoted from Ohio’s own, Joe Schaefer
American Comedian at Kung Fu Komedy Klub in Shanghai
One thing that has helped me survive The China Experience has been the ability to shop on the e-commerce site, Taobao.com. It was especially helpful when we were living in the stix, Haiyang , where we would have to trek the 2 hours drive to Qingdao just to buy dairy and beef. We scored when Sisi arrived, the newest expat to our little village. She was Chinese married to an American whose English was better than all of ours combined. In about 1 ½ years, us expat wives managed to bring up her Taobao account to 100,000 rmb! With the ease of google translate, nothing could stop us from bombarding her with links of our orders for our Western necessities (creamy, Mediterranean Fitaki cheese) to the oddly obscure (Biomagnetic Chinese suction cupping therapy set). When she announced their imminent departure, the Desperate Housewives of Haiyang went mental. I mean, how in the world were we going to order our portable, high frequency, electrotherapy pulse massager in the middle-of-no-where China?
After she left, the “Taobao” rush subsided only for a short time. Once my stash depleted, my need for a Taobao fix intensified. I began distributing my orders to the village driver, my ayi, my hubby’s secretary, and then the secretary’s secretary. It’s easy to assume that it would be a piece of cake to find a Chinese person to help buy on Taobao. But it’s not the “point and click” that’s complicated.
What takes time and an excellent command of the Chinese language is communicating to the vendors if the packages arrived damaged:
Or not exactly what we ordered:
** picnic blanket ordered on Taobao VS one received….how small was this girl that she can do the splits on that blanket? (thanks Morgan and Jo for the pict)
And all the other ifs and & buts of Taobao universe or any online shopping. Safe to say, my Chinese friends had better things to do with their time.
Zip-line 2 years later to living in Qingdao. Life in Qingdao is definitely much easier to find things, especially with the Mix C mall, Hisense, Jusco and Metro. But it’s also more expensive. It makes a big difference when I can order 500 grams of almonds for 50 rmb verses 120 rmb. Then a fellow Trash2 Treasure / Qingdao mamas member mentioned this new service, Baopals.com. “Taobao and Tmall for everyone!” is their tagline, and it does exactly that. They are basically an agent for Taobao and Tmall. The site is still in beta as they increase usability each week. They charge around 10 rmb per item, and the more you order of that item, the fee goes down. In my opinion it is honestly worth the fee as it’s ALL in ENGLISH.
I know this doesn’t seem like such a big deal, but with Taobao it could sit in “pending” status for months without any explanation. For me, I want the assurance that if an item is not immediately available, my money can be immediately refunded.
As mentioned earlier, I ordered these almonds on Baopals. I tried out 2 boxes, they were amazing, so reordered 6 more. On the Baopals site, they give a very clear return policy of 24 hours. But I didn’t even notice that I was sent the wrong item until 5 days later when I opened it up. What I ordered were almonds but what I received were apricot seeds.
So I sent an email to Baopals of the issue. They could have been really difficult by abiding to their policy. But they weren’t. The agent’s response was super sweet, fully understanding my issue, and again in English. She explained that since it was pass the 24 hour period, they would need approval from the vendor, which they quickly got. They sent me clear step by step instructions for the return, and within a day my account was credited.
Since the Baopals website is still a work in progress, they don’t have the extensive category lists yet. Instead, I still just find what I need on taobao, then put the taobao link into their search engine:
It’s a bit more work, but it allows me to buy anything from Taobao or Tmall through them. More step by step directions on finding what you need on next week’s follow-up post, I promise!
In the meantime, the friendly folks at Baopals were gracious enough to offer my Qingdao friends a discount of 25rmb with a minimum order of 100rmb purchase, one-time use per customer. Discount code is QINGDAO630. Take advantage, it expires on June 30th!
I hope you enjoy Baopals as much as I do!