Back in 2013, I researched online for my family’s move to Beijing. I came across Taobao.com and bj.56.com. I already had my apartment picked and all my future purchases decided. The guy assigned to help us with the transition nearly choked on his noodles when I told him my plans. He let me down gently.
Though I chucked 56 hoaxes, I waded through fake and real Taobao products because it really was the best solution for me to shop in China on a budget. My toddlers hated shopping with me and I hated shopping with them, since every beautiful thing is set right at their eye level in markets.
I was known as the Taobao queen, finding things on the site that even my Chinese friends couldn’t find. I once held a workshop at my former school to train other teachers in setting up their Alipay. Then last year my foreign friend wanted me to pay for his rent using my account. Long story short, my Alipay got messed up, and I haven’t bothered with fixing the blasted payment platform. I resigned to using JD.com. Though I found it much more convenient since it allowed WeChat Wallet, I didn’t like the prices.
Then this year, everyone started talking about Baopals.com. JD had become a habit, but finally I decided I was going to put aside my trauma of losing Taobao and plunge into setting up yet another platform for shopping.
To my delight, setting up Baopals was super easy. I mean, shouldn’t it be? It’s all in English. And they accept WeChat Wallet. The glory of those cheap prices came sliding back… Quick! someone lock my WeChat Wallet before I black out from shopping addiction…
Skip setting up and just jump into shopping. Search for something.
Products matching the translated version of your search will appear.
They’re releasing a second version early in 2017: it’ll be easier to sort through the thousands of products.
Found what you like? Make the product changes you need then add it to your cart.
You’ll be prompted to create your account if you click buy now. Go ahead and do that, it’s easy.
That was painless. I decided to enter my shipping address after this. Where I live is no one’s business, so I think you can figure it out. A Chinese (汉字) address is best, though English/pinyin is OK.
You’ll then pick delivery method. And how you’d like to pay. The WeChat Wallet note is just in case you’ve been shopping in your mobile browser instead of in WeChat or on your computer. Users found they couldn’t long-press the QR code while in a mobile browser. Scan the QR Code while in WeChat to pay. Do a little dance! You’ve just had an English online shopping experience in China!If you’re waiting for the packages eagerly, check out your account history. You can even see the tracking status.
I was curious about who came up with the awesomeness of Baopals and decided to reach out for an interview. Sure, Baopals isn’t new news for everyone, but do you know much about the men behind the site? No, I think not.
Tip 1: Paste any link from Taobao and put it into the Baopals search. Voila!
Literally every product on Taobao is already on Baopals.
Tip 2: Baopals is coming out with version 2 early next year.
Tip 3: Shopping on your phone is possible, just note that it’s best to shop in WeChat rather than on your phone’s mobile browser.
Tip 4: In their official account, they send out a round up called “The Cool, The Cheap, and The Crazy” which lists some great deals and funny, only-in-China products.
Fact 1: 75-80% of purchases on Baopals are made with WeChat Wallet.
Fact 2: The team started at 6 people in Charlie’s apartment but is now at 25 people in a legit office.
Fact 3: Baopals doesn’t plan to just stay in China. One of their aspirations is to break into the global market.
Two of the three founders made the mistake of adding me on WeChat prior to the interview [insert evil laugh here], so I scooped out their personalities on their moments. I ambushed them with some pretty cheeky interview questions. Many thanks for playing along, Jay Thornhill and Charlie Erikson!
What would be the Baopals theme song?
Jay: “The bananaphone song. We play music while we work, and when the bananaphone song comes on, it’s a time for us to goof around. We don’t dance, but we should. We’re constantly communicating with someone, whether its sellers or consumers, our phones just – ring, ring.”
Which super power would Charlie most benefit from?
Jay: “I wouldn’t want to indicate Charlie is lacking from anything. I guess the ability to handle a thousand things at one time, or maybe to hold five conversations at once.”
Charlie: “That’s not really a super power, that’s more of a mutation.”
(I interjected to say it’s OK, it fits with X-Men.)
Jay: “Ok, five mouths to hold five conversations. We oversee lots of different things we need to handle. Someone is always constantly asking us a question. So I think best to have five mouths to hold five different conversations at one time.”
What’s the oddest behavior you’ve caught Jay doing at the office?
Charlie: “What’s the oddest behavior I’ve caught Jay doing? Well, our office used to be in my apartment, so home and work life often mixed. Some of us lived in the office. In that sense…”
Jay: “Hey! This is a kid’s magazine.”
Charlie: “One time a neighbor came over to use our showers after their hot water ran out. The neighbor was leaving right as staff were arriving, and that was pretty awkward for everyone involved.”
Who’s better at Chinese?
Jay: “Definitely Charlie. I plateaued in 2008 and now I just run on survival Chinese.”
Charlie: “My mom is Taiwanese and my dad is a translator. I was at decent level in a the US. [I came to China because] I wanted to improve. My mom would say, ‘You’re my son and you can’t even understand what I’m saying?!'”
What’s Charlie’s biggest pet peeve in the office?
Jay: “Well, does it have to be in the office? We all know each other really well and are great friends, and our other co-founder, Tyler and Charlie are the same height, so they often share clothes. I’m shorter than them, so no one can borrow my things. Much of our stuff has become communal and free.”
Charlie: “Which means I own all the clothes and Tyler doesn’t own anything.”
Jay: “They had this resolution where they went on Baopals and bought 30 pairs of socks, all the same color and style.”
If I were interviewing your dog, Doge (pronounced DOH-j) what secrets would he tell me about Jay?
Charlie: “He spends too much time on OK Cupid.”
Jay: “But I really don’t!”
What are the Baopal office rumors about Charlie?
Jay: “Well, I think Charlie is comfortable with me sharing this, but there was a rumor that he was bisexual, though he is actually heterosexual. But we did not confirm or squash those rumors. It’s probably because Tyler shows up in his clothes.”
Who picked out the matching suits at the recent award ceremony in Shanghai?
Charlie: Both of us came up with it. Often what happens is that we’re taking branding to a level it shouldn’t and then we’re already there. One of us will say, ‘You’re not going to back out, well I’m not either.'”
If Jay could be anyone in the world, who would he be and why?
Charlie: “Clearly me, if it wasn’t me, maybe an NBA player.”
Confession time: how many of the crazy Baopal finds have either one of you actually purchased?
Jay: “We’ve bought the dog wigs, the lion mane, and the boyfriend pillow. That was a gift for a girl. We actually started a Tinder campaign using the boyfriend window and quickly got banned from the site. We’ve also bought the magic wine and the Death Star for ants, but typically we buy the cool stuff more often than the crazy.”
Check out more about Baopals on their website or through their official WeChat account.