When I’m not traveling, crafting or telling other people to eat insects even though I don’t anymore, I’m trying not to shop because I have way too many clothes. How did I go from moving to China with five suitcases between Isaac and myself to having piles of clothes over the apartment and bursting out of my closet? Taobao.
I’ve never been much of a shopper because going to shopping malls is exhausting and sometimes unproductive. The clothes are either too expensive, too long for my short limbs or not available in the one color or size that I actually want. Taobao fixes all of these problems and adds the excitement of finding the best price and waiting for the package to arrive.
Most of the clothes that I buy on Taobao fall into one of two categories:
- Cheap, mass produced clothes made in China that I buy one of every color in (plain cotton T-shirts that are 56 cm long, a.k.a the only t-shirts that aren’t too long for me and dresses with fun prints that I can’t get enough of)
- Overstocked/second hand items from nice brands that were either stolen from/donated by/I have no idea how they get them from Western companies.
The first is the risky kind. “Made in China” can sometimes mean bad quality, although that is quickly changing and China makes literally everything even if it’s not clearly labelled. So many Chinese products, even knockoffs, are great items and sometimes, like in the case of the Yi Action camera, they are even better than the original!
Scrolling through all the provided info and reading (or in my case, Google translating) can give you a lot of information like the material, the exact sizes and sometimes even pictures of a model wearing the clothes with the details of her height and weight. However, all of this information could be completely untrue! So head down to the comments.
In the comment section you will see people complimenting the packaging, saying if the sizes fit, and sometimes there will be photos of the people wearing the item which can help you gage the size. People will say whether or not the item arrived as expected (Chinese people do NOT hold back) and whether the seller was easy to communicate with.
If there are no comments and no one ever bought the item, you’re going in blind. Even if you find the same item in a different shop, it could be completely different and not at all what the photos show! If you still want to buy it, check out other items in the store and their reputability. Zero buys and reviews doesn’t necessarily mean it won’t be authentic… it just means that you might be disappointed! Or not.
I’ve received many items that didn’t fit, that I didn’t like or simply changed my mind about. The great thing about Taobao is that you can return anything that’s not a food or an animal within seven days without explanation! If the seller doesn’t reimburse you within a week, Taobao will do it. Sending it back via door-to-door delivery has never cost me more than 15 RMB ($2) even when it was a lot of stuff going to traveling to the farthest most remote corner of China.
When it comes to my second category of bought items, the rules for buying are pretty much the same. But to be honest, I don’t have a trick for finding these magical shops that sell items like $60 Mango dresses with the original price tag still on for 10 RMB ($1.50). It also isn’t always obvious that the close are from these brands… that could be for copyright issues. The Chinese government has been cracking down on Taobao and getting rid of shops with copyrighted items, like re-printed books.
One of my more recent orders was what I assumed was second-hand clothing. It turned out to be all brand new items with all their original tags from a variety of stores ranging from Walmart to Reserved. Strangely enough, my $40 Reserved denim jacket cost 13 RMB ($2) which was half the price of the $5 Walmart shirt… apparently the original cost or brand plays no role the pricing. This is what makes all this online shopping in China thing so crazy and addictive!
I’ve actually had to uninstall my Taobao account (again) to avoid buying even more amazing and cheap clothes. After all, I won’t be living in China forever and I’ve already taken four suitcases jam-packed with new clothes to store with family. Chinese apartments weren’t made from Taobao shopaholics like me!
Enjoy your shopping and share your most exciting purchases/bargains in the comments below 🙂