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Monday, February 2, 2015

Buying Direct from China(Taobao) - A China Product Consumer's Point of View

Many of you might not have heard of Taobao by the time I type this out, well now I'm here to let you all know the real deal on China punya goods. Some people would say stuff like "Buying from China!!? You Mad Bro?" or "China stuff or cheaplak onelah, cannot use onelah" or "China stuff all easy rosak one".But I would say NOPE to all baseless criticism towards China's huge consumer product manufacturing. I have recently bought directly from China through Taobao and Buy2Taobao and here is what I have to say.

Ubiquity of China Products and the General Connotation to the Public
Just take a few minutes to think about this: Who do you know who DOESN'T use ANY product with the 'Made in CHINA' sentence printed,stamped or embedded on it that's so customarily articulated, it feels like a movie star or famous singer. Can't think of anyone, right? So do I. How about the question of how many China products do you have in your room, house or even within an arm's reach of your current position from where  you're using your device to visually(at least) permeate your senses? More than you can count with your digits right?(except for the arm reach one of course). 

So why with the common criticism by people about their products? Maybe it's the influence of the mass media of stories from China exploiting consumers for personal gains? Perhaps its the somewhat unbelievable prices of China products compared to the branded, well-advertised and sometimes exaggerated implication of a their so-called high-end goods only we humans deserve? - which also causes people to believe 'expensive = quality'. It could also be the prejudice of certain groups of people with certain pass and history not to be mentioned. It could be a combination of all of the above! But my hypothesis for the current mindset of the general population towards China's products is the undeniable ubiquity of its products. Like I emphasized in the previous paragraph, China products are everywhere! It could even be the cloths you're wearing right now! Furniture, clothing, electronics, vehicles; Pretty much anything you would use are and can come from China. 

Don't just take it from me, Take a look at other website references:

The article from TheAtlantic can pretty much tell the whole story, that is, China makes pretty much all we use - even our gadgets! I just found it by Googling 'computer manufacturing in China' and it came out first. 

Generic Stuff - The Brand Killer?

So let''s move on and talk about generic stuff. I believe some of you might have heard about generic and its relation with products - especially the one from China. So what is it? Let me copy pasta(I know, it's intentional) from



applicable or referring to a whole class or group; general
(biology) of, relating to, or belonging to a genus: the generic name
denoting the non-proprietary name of a drug, food product, etc
a drug, food product, etc that does not have a trademark

So basically it means something along the lines of common, easily found? Pretty much. But for products, it would the fourth meaning which actually is still as I said before.You should get the point by now: most(if not all) products from China are generic. Which brings us to the overall price of things. But first, have a good go of reading these articles from Lifehacker:

Generic VS Branded
As for my thoughts on the matter, branding helps the consumer to choose better products but not necessarily economical and worthwhile all the time. Maybe it helps give consumers a sense of surety and (again) quality of their products especially in the electronics department - these days would be mobile devices. I guess the warranty from the brand also adds to the surety of the product too. That's true for these products since like 99% of the human population can't possibly create their own electronics from scratch in their own backyard. Take computer graphic cards and processors for example, the chips have such micro-size parts to the point of nanometers(nm) requiring special machinery to build.

So yeah, I can't make them then let someone else who can do it and buy from them instead! The issue lies in the part where big-time companies and corporations price these things exorbitantly. I believe it's exorbitant because of a simple comparison. Like I used to explain to my friends, just look at a RM2K smartphone and compare it with a laptop of the same price. Get what I mean now? The material required to make a RM2K laptop would definitely be more than any smartphone. Well, you would say it's fair since electronics such as smartphones can do so much in such a small package and researching, designing and building them is no small feat. I agree wholeheartedly - and so do the rich ones. I ain't an opponent though since I believe if you use something a lot, it's OK that it's expensive(because usually it's way better when 'it' is expensive)

On a side note, expensiveness itself is really subjective as it really depends on the income of the person concerned. As an example, there are such smartphones costing $10000 but to rich people earning like $1000000 a year, It would only cost them 1% percent of their annual salary. To them is like spare change. It can even boost their status, maybe.

Generic stuff on the other hand for electronics would almost certainly be a bad idea for a few reasons. First, the materials used, method of manufacturing and overall quality is questionable to a point of a potential article on Discovery Channel. Second, warranty would most likely be non-existent or a bloody pain in the ***. Buying stuff from China per say would and then wanting to claim warranty would require you to send it back directly to China, that's IF they have warranty in the first place. Third, hmmm, not really much else negative to say about generic, maybe the only thing bad that's left is the feeling of anxiety of the quality and security of your purchased goods. BUT, this all only applies to electronics and other expensive stuff like bags and clothing, still mainly electronics though.

Buying generic should only be for common, day-to-day stuff(refer Lifehacker links above). All sorts of food(fresh,raw to be precise) would be the simplest item to put the generic-is-good-enough tag. I mean, how they gonna make 'premium' anyways? Genetically-modified food? Corn is one but they ain't that expensive or premium for that matter. Another rule of thumb for me from reading a ton and experience is stuff with lesser ingredients and material to create should be generic-is-good-enough. Take milk, bread or toilet rolls for examples. Milk sold to us would likely just be processed and some additives added but that;s about it. Bread uses simple ingredients such as eggs, flour, baking soda, sugar, salt and some colouring if needed. Toilet rolls? Just steamed and cleaned recycled paper. No mumbo-jumbo, no magic and no brand name, just natural materials made unnatural. The end results is generic stuff are cheap because of lack of branding.

Back to the point, electronics at least is okay to go for the pricey, high-end stuff as they you would usually use them for years to come. Hence the reason of this lengthy post, people should buy generic stuff; mostly from China since that's where we can get most of it.

Taobao and Buy2Taobao Review Time! (Finally)
This isn't much of a review, more of a, recommendation actually.  

Shopping online is fantastic but what's even more fantastic buying cheap(generic) stuff!  Taobao is basically China's online shopping service for goods throughout China.Buy2Taobao is just the sister/brother site of Taobao meant for South East Asia, mainly Malaysia and Singapore. I used Buy2Taobao so here are the steps:

  1. Sign up at Buy2Taobao
  2. Search for stuff at AND is the main site so the items on sale are more comprehensive in just about every way there. Buy2Taobao helps you to purchase from Taobao since Taobao in mainly a Chinese website.
  3. Fill cart to load up an order
  4.  Pay order(Item price + Service Fee)
  5. Wait for about 3-5 days then pay Shipping Fee
  6. Wait for it to arrive
There's more I can explain but you can find it all at the websites.

The ONE MAIN reason for buying from Taobao is because of their prices. Like me blabbering in this article above, it can be said all stuff from Taobao are generic but also because the fact that China makes everything. So why buy thourgh some third party or agents or sellers where they increase the prices exponentially when you can buy them direct from China. I got my purchases and they are GOOD EXCELLENT! I always thought these products cause as much as those in the malls/shopping centres, etc. but they were like 80% off! Just go to the website yourself and see their prices. What you see is what you get - minus stupid prices. 

Update(18/2/2014). Almost forgot to add this:

Waybill No.
Last Status

(11 digits number)
Delivery process
2015-01-31 10:51:59 
Delivery process
(Location) PPL
Arrive at delivery office
(Location) PPL
Consignment dispatch out from Transit Office
Picked up from the sender

release from customs clearance
Waiting for customs clearance
Waiting for customs clearance
Waiting for customs clearance
arrive at the airport
In Transit to Destination
Guangzhou China
Sorted to Destination
Arrived Hub

Above is the online tracking details for one of my orders from Buy2Taobao. It took quite some time at customs due to the weight I believe but it was still really fast(about 1 week) for my order to arrive.

In brief, buying cheap stuff is fantastic! I can't believe I've been this dumb to buy local products where the prices are like heaven and earth compared to the ones at Taobao. So what'cha waiting for? Get shopping!

 ----------------------------UPDATE ON 1/8/2016------------------------
Moving Forward to New (Shopping) Heights - Taobao
It has been several months now since Taobao has open its gate to the global market. This makes Buy2Taobao outdated as Taobao is the sole proprietary market that aggregates other sellers of China. With several months of browsing and shopping, I can review (World.) appropriately.

So from the beginning, is essentially minus the agent in between. has it's own system of managing available products on sale, inventory at so-called 'warehouses' and communication with the shipping agencies at the buyers home country.

Shopping Process
The steps to buy and item is almost the same as Buy2Taobao and below are the steps:
  1.  Login and and start searching for the products you want to purchase - it is best to search in Chinese as the product description are mostly key-worded in Chinese. So use Google Translate or something.
  2.  Add the items in to the shopping cart. You can straight purchase that single item as well

3. In the next step in the configuration of shipping - This is one of things that differentiate Taobao from Buy2Taobao. Here you can select from 3 shipping methods translated from top: Taobao Online Shop, Taobao Cargo and Contact the seller for shipping. As the name (and the English description beside it) implies,
1st option is considered premium shipping as it immediately delivers bought items straight to this desired location by paying the item + shipping. I am unsure whether I have used it once before. It I remembered correctly, I ordered a jacket and asked to ship using the 1st option and the item was straight delivered to the my desired address without a another payment unlike the 2nd option that will be explained next.

2nd option is the cheapest and my preferred option. It basically directs all purchases to designated warehouses of your choice. Once all items have arrived, pay the shipping based on weight and the items will be on the way to you. You can store items at the warehouse and continue to gather other purchases at the same warehouse as much as you like for a at most 20 days AFTER the items have successfully stored at the warehouse. A fee of 1 yuan will be charged for each day the items are left there. This makes organizing purchases less hectic over a certain period as you can browse, buy and continue searching for other items while the purchased goods are on their way to the warehouse. You can also pay the shipping fee for a part of the items while the rest are left at the warehouse for reasons such as certain items for different addresses or wanting to accumulate the ideal amount of weight for the shipping.

3rd option is unknown to me as I never used it before and do not recommend as the price is really high at face value. I believe this method is used for 'sensitive' items (not referring to fragile items, e.g. glass) that the 1st and 2nd option are not suitable for. I assume the seller will find a way to ship to you but the preliminary fee is exorbitant(100+ yuan for an item that cost less than 100 yuan).

So as a no-brainer, the 2nd option(Toabao cargo) is the cheapest. The 1st option would be recommended for those who who want the item urgently and without the hassle of paying a 2nd time for the shipping. Do take note of a few things along the way. 

First, certain sellers may charge 'express fee' for items u purchase. It's a one time fee for domestic shipping(i.e. in China). It's a per seller basis, so many items from the same seller with the same express fee will only be charged for 1 express fee in total. Sometimes the system may be slow and you may notice that the total still include express fee for each individual unique item. If this happens, cancel the payment and go to your "Purchased Goods" page. Wait until the cost have updated before paying. I am unsure whether paying straight away with the wrong express fee will cause the system to eventually refund. I would not try that.

Second, the weight for shipping fee is actually based on volume which is, to be specific, the amount of space the boxes or containers that will hold the goods will use. So if some goods state one weight or so, it may not necessary be exactly that weight as it may just be the good weight alone so take that into consideration when you intend to purchase goods within a certain limit.

Third, unlike Buy2Taobao, the shipping fee per kg is fixed based on the warehouse you select and the courier company chosen AND not determined by the 'sensitivity' of the goods. There are NO special charges for goods with special packaging. The goods will be marked 'sensitive' but that is about it for the consumer. Just expect it in good packaging. I had lots of bubblewrap to pop.

You can request for refund through Taobao's refund system if you were to face issues with purchasing such as but not limited to the ones below:
  •  wrong order - wrong item choice(i.e. colour), wrong amount, no longer want the item but have already paid
  • slow delivery - seller may not have responded to your purchase request; It happened to me once after waiting for about 3 days so I requested a refund 
I have only requested for refund BEFORE the item has been shipped by the seller. I do not know what costs or consequences that may incur if you decided to do it when the item is along the way to the warehouse or worse, already at the warehouse. It's quite a waste having reject the item when it's already on the move. Imagine the effort required to get your item there.

Do note that your refund request can be rejected by the seller if the seller sees fit. I happened once to me when the item I ordered was not stored at the warehouse after almost 2 weeks. Long story short, there was an issue between the seller and the courier and/or warehouse authorities as the item was delivered using a domestic courier service but the item was never stored at the warehouse. In the Taobao system, the logistics record showed that the item failed to be track and only says the item has been shipped by the seller.  I requested 3 times with the last request giving solid prove of the issue. I managed to successful get my refund request approved after waiting for about 4 days as that's the time required for the refund to go through if the seller refuse to approve it. The seller did explain that he keyed in the tracking number wrongly but I felt sorry for him as now he has to solve the issue and did not get anything from me except for a good rating for refund as the stopped rejecting it.

 ----------------------------UPDATE ON 29/7/2016------------------------
There has been some significant changes in how Taobao World handles the customer's payment and shipment in terms of relating information of our orders. Before I continue, if you have purchased before, you should have noticed that the more is transferred to Revpay Pacific Sdn. Bhd. as they handle all the transactions for Taobao (for the Malaysia side at least). Now about the changes, Revpay have started to send email confirmations of the Taobao payments for the items directly to the email filled in during the payment process. It's great as the amount one would have paid might change if they try to recalculate from yuan as currency value changes. Checking your bank statement is of course an option but one still have to search and link back to their purchases. The information is as follows:

Transaction ID:
Transaction Amount:
Transaction Date & Time:

Next, Revpay has started a SMS notification system for order status. There's 2 parts of the notification, one where you will be notified when each individual item that arrives at the designated warehouse and the other when your local courier company has just begun delivery of your combined order to your designated address. This is a brand new feature(not more than 2 months old as of this update) and makes things extremely convenient when managing the delivery of the item. Previously, I had to check the Taobao website for the status of each item to the warehouse and later the status of the combined order to the designated address. Checking the status of the item to the warehouse is more important in my opinion as one needs to take further action once it arrives. This  feature should be a prerequisite in all shopping systems. Great to see Taobao and Revpay taking a step forward in implementing greater convenience for customers.