7 Fuss-Free Taobao Tips for 11.11

Because 7–11 is a store and more. So is Taobao.

Updated 1 Nov 2017

I hate hassle. I absolutely detest hassle.

Here’s a glimpse into my personal life that fully demonstrates my loath towards hassle —

  • I almost always turn up in T-shirt and shorts. Even in office. Kudos to start-ups!
  • I don’t wear make-up. And no, my complexion is far from perfect. I’ve been told by many that I looked super tired, even though I might be feeling fresh as a flower.
  • My skin-care regime is determined by the number of products and steps required — the lesser, the better. It’s a miracle that I even took on a “regime” for myself.
  • I’ve long hair so that I don’t have to visit the salon often. Except when I had to for my bangs but that’s ok.
  • Speaking of bangs, the real reason why I keep it is really so that I don’t have to trim my eyebrows. Or give a damn about it.

I hope you’re convinced. If you’re not, come to our office anytime to catch me in my au naturale state. I walk around in my big yellow slippers.

So, as much as I love saving money for more practical purposes like stuffing myself or growing a pair of wings for travel, I’ve not explored the full potential of Taobao.

For fear of hassle.

Doraemon was made the mascot of Alibaba in 2015. I was totally unaware of that prior to googling for this image.

Just in case you’ve not heard of Taobao, it’s exactly like Doraemon’s magic pocket — You can find just about anything from this amazing space. Like this BBQ pit for one pax which is making me drool non-stop, and this collar that’ll make everyone a Dog Whisperer.

All at incredulously incredible prices.

But first, you need to know how to navigate this bizarre magic pocket made up of various compartments. Then, you can truly find anything you want at your fingertips.

Even Kate’s battery-powered Porsche at less than SGD200. Details on daddy Junda’s blog here.

I want to be Doraemon, but I want to become only through the most hassle-free route.

So I went around interviewing Taobao experts.

And boy, am I glad that they’re so easy to find!

So here are 7 fuss-free Taobao tips that I’ve gathered — from a mix of smart shoppers and from my own Taobao experience — all for 11.11 (11 November).

*Click here to find out why 11 November is a good reason for you to start Taobao-ing.

1. Search smart on Taobao

If you’ve chanced upon anything (anything at all) that caught your eye but you’ve no idea how to find it on Taobao, the easiest aka laziest way to locate it is to join these FaceBook groups:

And do this:

Ah, the beauty of crowdsourced knowledge.

I wouldn’t recommend forums simply because it’s tiring for me to navigate. But according to gamer Cody who gets his tech stash online and soon-to-be-bride Eva who just bought some wedding accessories from Taobao, forums are the shortcut to getting desired information in a snap of a finger.

If forums are your thing, go ahead and give this following thread a try!

Special thanks to marketer Bo Yi for the link :)

2. Choose the right seller

As what spend-thrifter Yen Kai pointed out, choosing the right seller out of potential hundreds selling the same item could be a hassle. There’s a trick though. Instead of having to do a thorough background check of these sellers, Yen Kai advised me to just go for the one with the highest sales volume.

Oh he also wrote a Taobao beginners guide here. Super useful!

Other credibility checks include looking at the latest transaction records from the past month for some recency, and the seller’s reputation (see below).

Fuss-free way of reading this chart: 1 red heart = nah, 5 yellow crowns = yes!

Kangtao seeker Andy also shared with me that discerning the authenticity of seller’s reviews is pretty important. He reads both good and poor reviews to get a balanced view, but with more focus on the poor reviews as these are 100% genuine (because no seller will talk bad about themselves).

That’s Andy and his lovely wife who named his blog “Daddy Kangtao”.

Reading reviews with pictures also help you to get a better idea of what you can expect beyond the well-shot and highly-photoshopped product images. Here’s Andy showing off his furniture buys for his new home in this blog post.

3. Always contact the seller

This blue waterdrop thingy will help you launch AliWangWang chat app.

Yoga enthusiast Wee Kee bought quite a lot of stuff from Taobao, enough to be a Shifu. Here are just some of his buys: balcony bar table and chairs, balcony swing chair, lights, carpet, clock and many more.

He recommends chatting up the seller over AliWangWang before purchasing anything. It’s not just for asking of product details or haggling of prices. The chat acts like an official contract. If anything goes wrong with the order (e.g. if you customise the furniture in green and it came in pink), Taobao can track the chat and reimburse you (provided that you really asked for green lar).

4. Brush up on your Chinese

Never thought that your grasp of Chinese can help you to save money? Now I finally know why my mother forced me to memorise 词语手册 (some Chinese vocabulary bible) in my younger days.

Don’t get me wrong. You don’t need to be super awesome in Chinese, just good enough not to be daunted by the Chinese characters.

Here are some terms that Wee Kee told me to “use like it’s free” so that I sound less like a Taobao noob from a faraway land:

  • Use “亲” (qīn) all time, every time when you’re referring to the seller. Yes, the word means “dear” or “darling” and it’s super common to use this word in the Taobao world. So unless you’ve some strangely high moral standards that disallow you to call anyone else but your significant other “亲”, just use it.
  • “拍” (pāi) means “buy”. When I first chanced upon this term, I thought that the seller wants me to take a picture (outside the Taobao world, the word “拍” means to snap a photo). Luckily I’m surrounded by Taobao experts, otherwise I might be wondering if the seller is plain weird.
  • The term “宝贝” (bǎo bèi) refers to any item that you’re intending to buy. Be it a toilet seat or a diamond ring. As long as it’s on Taobao, it’s treasure (the actual meaning of the term “宝贝” in real life).

If all else fails, befriend someone like Wee Kee who’s superb in Chinese and/or superb in Taobao.

If you’ve no friends, then go for Google Translate. That real-time video feature is amazing.

5. Add to Favourites

This is a pretty nifty tip from Yen Kai, who runs a blog here documenting useful bite-sized life hacks.

I call it “finding (some sorta) peace amidst chaos”.

Using the Favourites Folder (收藏夹), you can “favourite” any item or seller that catches your eye. This is particularly useful if you’re looking for say, a single seater sofa, which will probably give you this result —

Look at the different sellers peddling the same / similar products.

If you’re keen to do a more thorough research and browse more sellers, just “favourite” the shortlisted ones and move on to the next. You wouldn’t have to toggle between so many tabs then.

There’s another benefit which Yen Kai highlighted below, completely unsolicited and uncoerced. I’ll let him do the talking:

“The Favourites Folder is also good for assembling items that you wish to buy before placing them in your cart. This is especially useful if you wish to earn Cashback through ShopBack.”

That’s Yen Kai and his adorable baby boy!

6. VISA — everywhere you want to be

Payment is made easy with VISA which really allows you to be everywhere you want to be.

But first, you’ll need to create an account with Alipay, a third-party online payment platform with no transaction fees. It’s pretty simple to set-up though. Once you’re done, you can proceed to choose VISA from the payment options.

Mastercard — a world beyond cash, works too! Our very own Taobao shifu Yun Lum uses it all the time.

She’s one of my super convenient sources of Taobao knowledge.

7. Shipping Simplified

This final step is always the main cause of headache for me, simply because there’re too many choices, too many numbers and too many permutations & combinations involved.

So I just use the following. So far, so good.

a) Taobao Global Direct Shipping

These generally work well for smaller and lighter stuff like clothes, accessories and books, and they ship DIRECTLY to your Singapore address (woohoo!). Very fuss-free, very easy.

b) Taobao Global Consolidate and Shipping service

This service helps you consolidate items from different sellers and ship it to your forwarder, residential address or even Singpost POPstation. I used it to ship over this penny board.

The wheels really light up when it’s on the move!

c) Peeka Ship4u

This was first recommended to me by a colleague who’s another amazing Taobao expert. It’s my go-to for bigger and bulkier stuff like a life-sized mascot.

A few fabulous things about this third-party agent that I really like:

  • It’s based in Singapore
  • The customer service is on-the-ball
  • They help to take picture of your goods once it arrives at the warehouse
  • The shipping price is final
  • They know how to call you before they deliver the goods to your address in Singapore. You’ll be surprised how some of the local couriers are totally not equipped with this presumably commonsensical act.

Oh, one last note before I sign off — try not to get time-sensitive items from Taobao. Only then can you be a carefree and fuss-free Taobao user.

That’s all folks.

Remember, these are fuss-free Taobao tips for hassle-haters like me. Please don’t treat them as the most affordable way to Taobao as I’m quite sure that it’s not.

Any other fuss-free Taobao tips for me?