Thursday, 16 November 2017

A Few Hints About Taobao

Something I frequently get asked about in emails and on places like Facebook is about how I get my head around Taobao. To a beginner, Taobao can be a very daunting place. There are so many different shops and guides, and then you have to learn how to use shopping services. So I decided today that I would share a bit about how I got in to Taobao ordering and where to go for the right advice.

Firstly, you should really check out 4chan. I appreciate that 4chan and the cgl board are seen as quite 'dirty' words in the lolita community and nobody likes to admit that they go on there, but it is possible to go on there without getting dragged in to any drama. Use the catalog to find the latest Taobao thread and you will find in the OP post an extensive guide. It really is the most reliable Taobao guide that I have come across. It has a load of lists for shops, shopping services, FAQs and even a dictionary so that you can search Taobao using Chinese instead of English by simply copying and pasting from the spreadsheet. If you want, you can also read the rest of the Taobao thread, although the guide is usually pinned to the OP post. A lot of people post their hauls in these threads and sometimes you stumble across some really cute stuff which you may have missed. You may even be able to ask the haul buyer where they got their stuff from. Sometimes people place reviews in these threads as well or offer updated advice on how reliable certain shopping services are.

There are a couple of points that sometimes get missed in the threads if you don't check them regularly. So I decided to include a list of pointers that I have learnt from my own experiences of placing Taobao orders.

Make sure to order items such as wrist cuffs in pairs- In the lolita community it probably seems like a bit of a no-brainer that wrist cuffs always come in pairs. But sometimes you will find that some stores only send out one wrist cuff and you don't find out until they have arrived at your shopping service. Look at the price. Does it seem realistic for a pair? Perhaps try emphasizing to your shopping service that you require 1 pair of cuffs so that there isn't any miscommunication. I have actually had an experience where a store ran out of stock of wrist cuffs, and I ended up with just one cuff even though I ordered 2. If you are able to, stick a note when you place your order to make sure your shopping service knows that you want 2 or you wish to cancel this item if they don't have enough stock.

Some stores use real animal fur- This is obviously a huge issue and something you need to be aware of. If you can't tell from the item description that something is definitely made of fake fur, then don't risk ordering it. Real fur tends to feel softer than fake fur.

Sometimes wigs come in multiple sizes- This is something I only discovered very recently myself, and I had no idea! I am yet to stumble across a wig store that offers more than one size. If you do, then either ask your shopping service a question about the sizing or post in the cgl Taobao thread for further advice. This is very confusing and I will edit this post with further information if I discover anything more.

Sometimes shoe sizing charts are incorrect- I have noticed that I have had to go a size up every single time I have ordered shoes from Taobao. Even then they have sometimes been a bit small. According to a lot of size charts, I should be ordering a 39 but instead I have learnt to ignore the charts and order a 41. The shoes can sometimes be a bit narrow too. Proceed with caution, especially if you are new to Taobao.

Lots of Taobao stores will hold sales throughout the year- The biggest sale of the year is usually the one for 11/11 held on the 11th of November. This is a good time to get Taobao items for even cheaper. However, be aware that more people are realising about these sales and because of this, sometimes shopping services get a bit clogged up with all the orders.

Aliexpress can be good for smaller orders- Shopping service fees can add up, and to make the most of this you should generally try to place bigger orders to make the fees more 'worth it'. But if you only want one or two items, I would suggest trying to locate them on Aliexpress. A lot of Taobao stores also have stores on Aliexpress and generally it is cheaper to place smaller orders here. Using Aliexpress basically means you don't need a shopping service, so you don't need to take their fees in to consideration.

A lot of listings will be full of Chinese slang- Google Translate has thrown up some very weird phrases on Taobao! The most common example I have found is "fried chicken". If you see a listing that mentions "fried chicken", don't panic! You are not going to be sent a bucket of KFC. It is simply slang, which means that an item is very good.

Sometimes the colour listings can be confusing- I have seen that a lot of Taobao stores class navy blue as some shade of purple. Another common example is sax blue and mint. It can be very difficult to tell which colour you are getting sometimes.

Don't place orders around Chinese holidays- Placing orders around the time of a national Chinese holiday can be a very painful experience. Everything is slow because all of the stores close, and you wont be able to contact your shopping service when they take time off either. Be aware of placing orders around times such as Chinese New Year. Even when stores start to re-open, it can take a bit of time for service speed to pick up. Weirdly though, there are some Western holidays where you may find your shopping service is working. I remember on one Christmas morning I was messaging Ray from Taobao Spree, who had shipped out my order on Christmas Day. We wished each other a Merry Christmas!

Be careful when ordering homewares- This especially applies to kitchenware and any non clothing that comes in contact with the body *cough*sextoys*cough*. China does not have the same safety regulations as other countries and as a result, sometimes those cute little homewares can actually be quite dangerous. Besides, cute homeware is becoming more popular and although it will probably be more expensive, there are more choices available elsewhere.

Those are just a few hints that I could think of. If I think of any more I will try to add them to this list before I publish it, or I will edit the post at a later date. But chances are, you will find the answer to any questions you may have in the cgl guide or in the cgl Taobao thread. I appreciate that sometimes anonymous people can get a bit snarky if the same questions get asked over and over again, but if you genuinely can't find an answer after a bit of searching then please don't hesitate to ask.


  1. Excellent tips, and you're totally right about the shoes! I find the same thing every time, I have to go larger than expected.

    1. Sometimes with shoes I find myself having to go 2, maybe even 3 sizes larger than my supposed actual size! It is really bizarre.


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