Gothic lolita clothes, steampunk accessories, pretty wigs, fancy stationary, cute plushies and ball-jointed dolls… all at cheap prices. Sound like a magical girl’s fever dream? Surprise—it’s all on Taobao, and I’ve got the keys to the kingdom.
Taobao is an e-commerce platform similar to Amazon or eBay where individuals and businesses sell goods. Since it’s based in China, the site offers a great selection of items that deal with anime, cosplay and cuteness.
Here’s an example of what you can find:
A lot of Taobao’s offerings aren’t available in non-Asian countries. While you may be aware of Aliexpress, another Chinese-owned site that sells products near wholesale prices, their selection is limited in comparison and prices tend to be slightly higher.
While it’s possible to make a Taobao account and shop on your own, it can be difficult to navigate and communicate with sellers unless you understand Chinese. You also have to hope sellers will ship overseas and offer reasonable shipping prices.
The solution for those of us who don’t live in China is to use a shopping agent. My personal favorite is SpreeNow, and I’ll share how you can get started with them below.
Step 1 – Create an Account
Head to SpreeNow and “ooh” and “aah” at the items on their homepage, which shows what other customers have recently purchased. Click the “Register” button in the upper-right portion of the screen. Enter the information needed and set up an account.
Step 2 – Add Stuff to Cart / Select Options
Finding good stores on Taobao can be a process. I’ve discovered a lot by searching for keywords, browsing Taobao itself and looking at SpreeNow’s “Wall.”
I’ll be sharing some of my favorite stores later on, but to start I recommend using Google Chrome’s translation tool so you can navigate to different selections.
Once you find something you want, add the item to your SpreeNow cart. You do this by copying and pasting the item’s product url (from Taobao) into SpreeNow’s “Spree it!” box in the upper-right corner of their site. Then click “Search.”
SpreeNow will take you to a confirmation page and you can typically click the “Add to Cart” button and be on your way. However, some items have subcategories. In the example below, it wants me to select which style and size of paper I want:
Chrome’s translation option will usually give you enough to go on, but if you’re ever uncertain, don’t hesitate to pull up the Support Chat at the bottom of SN’s page. Item prices are listed in CNY, so use Google’s conversion tool to check costs against your local currency.
Step 3 – Submit Cart and Make Payment
When you’re ready to check out, use the blue “Submit Cart” button at the top of the page. The status of all your items should read “To be paid.”
You can see a price breakdown in your cart including item cost, shipping fee (from store to SN) and SN’s service fee. You’ll also see a notification appear in your messages, asking you to make payment.
Transfer funds from Paypal to SpreeNow’s system. Follow SpreeNow’s instructions to convert money from your original currency to CNY. You can move as much money to your SpreeNow account as you want, but I only pay the precise amount needed, since you can’t take the money back out of SpreeNow’s system.
You’ll then select a shipping option. I choose the cheapest option and have never had a problem receiving things.
Once you confirm payment, your items’ status will change to “in process,” then “being confirmed” when SpreeNow starts ordering and finally “shipped” once items have been repackaged and sent out. All that’s left to do is wait, typically 2-4 weeks, for your order to arrive.
What If I Have Problems?
The shopping process is pretty intuitive after your first time. I’ve tried to explain everything clearly here, but take a look at this video if you’re more of an auditory learner:
I want to stress again that if you have any problems with SpreeNow, get in touch with their customer service.
I’ve only had an issue with them once. It was during my second order and I was trying to get a Studio Ghibli music box. It arrived damaged (part of the figurine was chipped), so I contacted SpreeNow and was told they’d send a free replacement in my next order.
I didn’t really want to set up another order so soon (and pay shipping again), but after browsing the Taobao seller’s page, I saw that SpreeNow went to bat for me. They posted the picture I’d sent of the broken figure and even got into an argument with the seller when they didn’t want to replace it.
Despite the extra trouble, I was happy SN was willing to fight for me. When I received the replacement order everything was fine and the reps kept me in the loop during the whole process.
As long as you’re willing to order well before any important dates (or pay a pretty shipping fee), Taobao/Spreenow is a fantastic way to get unique and exciting items.
Have a look at SpreeNow’s “Wall” and prepare your wallet.
Header image from Magic Doll.
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