e-Shopping Spree: Get More Options on China’s Bustling Online Marketplace

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It’s quite common nowadays to hear people, and even your newfound pengyou, saying their recent purchases are bought on either Taobao or JD – or the most popular online marketplace apps in China. Even if those apps are fully in Chinese, you can actually get over the language barrier by remembering several steps or using clever strategies just like what other well versed expats do.

Online shopping in China is truly distinct, and most of the time a learning experience. But a word of caution: it can be addicting and a real cash drain once you learn the how-to’s.

So first, let’s have a quick rundown of the top three online marketplaces you should know:

But Here’s the Catch…

Success! Your item will be delivered but you think you’ll be in the office by the time the courier arrives at your home. 

Just add your office address as your second shipping address so that your item will be directly sent there. Remember to select that before paying an item.

“The delivery of my item is taking too long!”

It could be because of the shipping location or other issues like public holidays, the famous November 11 sales day, and severe pollution (yes, because it affects air freights). You can also track the courier, but remember everything is in Chinese so you need to translate it using an app or asking help from a Chinese pengyou.

Okay, you bought a cheap quality item and it’s ready for shipping … but you changed your mind and want to replace it with a different colored one, if not, get a refund.

That’s tough because you need to talk to a seller’s customer service representatives (CSRs) or fill up a form. Only a few of these CSRs can speak a limited amount of English. What you can do is to use your translator app… or when they call you, just tell them the following phrases:

  • Sorry, I don’t speak Chinese. Can you send me a message instead so that I can translate it? (对不起,我不会说中文。 你可以给我一个消息,以便我可以翻译吗?Duìbùqǐ, wǒ bù huì shuō zhōngwén. Nǐ kěyǐ gěi wǒ yīgè xiāoxi, yǐbiàn wǒ kěyǐ fānyì ma?)
  • Hold on, here’s a friend to talk with you. (等一下。 这是一个朋友跟你说话。Děng yīxià. Zhè shì yīgè péngyǒu gēn nǐ shuōhuà.)

“Wow, the delivery was fast…” only to find out the item has defects or different from what you ordered. Worse, you found the item was fake!

Again, this is a tricky part because you need to contact the vendor. Try sending them a message telling:

  • • The item I bought was [fake / has defects]. Can I replace it [or have a refund]? (我买的物品是[假/有缺陷]。 可否更换[或退款]?Wǒ mǎi de wùpǐn shì [jiǎ/yǒu quēxiàn]. Kěfǒu gēnghuàn [huò tuì kuǎn]?)

Baopals Around

So when every effort you exerted in using Taobao and JD fails, or if you lose patience, Baopals is another option. On Baopals, most items are priced slightly higher compared to their Taobao counterparts, so if price is not an issue, then you might want to go with Baopals.

Getting your Baopals account is pretty straightforward. In addition, it has a WeChat account where you can do online shopping. You can also find in the account a blog, that contains its famous “The Cool, the Cheap, & the Crazy,” items. Since Baopals is integrated into WeChat, you can for pay items using WeChat Wallet. Baopals also has customer service that responds promptly, so you can direct your instructions like item quantity and shipping location.

Food in a Box

You can also buy food from these Taobao, Jingdong, and Baopals, but beware, there are fakes, and freshness may not be guaranteed.



Other thrift options to set up your home

If online shopping on Taobao or JD.com proves to be too much and you feel Baopals is too pricey for small kitchenware, fret not and remember to use your WeChat. There are several groups like Old & New Deals – Beijing and 2nd Hand Beijing Bargains where you can buy (or sell) items at a much lower price. Below are also some groups you can follow to buy, donate, or sell items. Following these groups will open a lot of possibilities for networking and volunteering too!

Roundabout is a free service /social enterprise. Donations are either forwarded to charities that are registered with Roundabout or sold to raise money to help those in need. (6040 8794,   English contact: 137 1877 7761,  Chinese contact:  137 1895 3814, roundaboutchina.com) Roundabout Store, adjacent to Yosemite Villa Compound, Yuyang Road West, Houshyu, Shunyi District. 众爱慈善商店北京市顺义区后沙峪优山美地别墅西街榆阳路. Roundabout Community Center, N4-1-4, Shine Hills, No.9 Antai Dajie, Houshayu, Shunyi District.云爱汇社区中心北京市顺义区安泰大街9号院祥云小镇北区4号楼104

The Migrant Children’s Foundation (MCF) is a non-profit organization whose sole aim is to enrich and develop the lives and education of migrant workers’ children in and around Beijing, China. MCF holds a quarterly auction called “Live for Less” where everyone can donate their unused items or exchange with others. The remaining items are given to Roundabout to help its registered charities. For more information, email lorna@mcfchina.org or visit www.mcfchina.org.

Brandnu is a social enterprise that works with migrant women, using second-hand clothes to create upcycled fashion. It is essentially a charity store that employs disadvantaged women. The shop accepts donations of clean, gently-used clothes. Call the donation hotline at 153 1300 8571 (Chinese only) to find out more.

Founded in 2005, Freecycle Beijing is a Yahoo group that is open to all who want to ‘recycle’ that special something rather than throw it away. This group is part of The Freecycle Network, a nonprofit organization and a movement of people interested in promoting community involvement, reducing consumerism, and keeping viable items out of landfills. By following a few simple rules, members can post ads for things they no longer need and others will claim them for free. It currently has over 1300 members. Membership is free. To join, follow the prompts at groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/FreecycleBeijing/info.

This article originally appeared on p 44-47 of beijingkids May 2017 Home & Relocation Guide.
Download the digital copy here.

Photos: Photo-Mix via Pixabay and Yew Chung International School Beijing, (YCIS, Beijing),
Shiyuan Lin, Year 13, Hong Kong

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