Taobao – One of the major online shopping platform in China.
Anytime a Chinese or a foreigner needs something – either because it is hard to get in a shop or just because he is too lazy to leave the house or just wants to buy it cheaper than in the shop – the Chinese answer is: 淘宝 有/ TAOBAO has it!
While it is very convenient to shop from your coach without needing to fight through the masses on the streets and in the shopping malls and you can find very attractive discounts – I have been warned by EVERYONE to NOT get an account on Taobao. Despite the warnings, I have opened a Taobao account this week.
Generally speaking, China is THE PERFECT MARKET for online shopping and online payment with huge developments in these sectors. Two years ago, when I left China after my year abroad, there was no WeChat pay, no DiDi. Of course, people already ordered food over different applications, but since I left, shopping became even more easy… and dangerous.
The worst part about Taobao is that you can spend money easily on things you do not even need, only because it seems like a good idea and it is on discount or generally not expensive. One of my friends (grown up man, though child in his heart) once bought a toy sword on Taobao. I am very sure, he never did anything constructive with it, so a German would say: Rausgeschmissenes Geld / thrown away money!
Another negative aspect of online shopping in general and Taobao especially, is the amount of time you spend in front of your screen, looking for nonsense things, hunting for the best bargain to struck. Instead of strolling around in the city, socialising with friends while having a coffee break. This is neither good for your eyes nor for your health.
My Chinese teacher also told me to be cautious on Taobao, she only buys from big brands as you might never know if they are fake and you really get your products or not.
Naturally, we have these kind of websites in Germany/Europe as well – the best known are Ebay and Amazon. They are particularly popular during the Christmas time when going to a shopping mall seems like torture.
Personally, I do use Ebay and Amazon for some things I know I don’t need to see or try on, because they will be good anyways – such as phone cases. But buying clothes or shoes on these platforms can be more troublesome than advantageous because if you don’t like them or they don’t fit you need to send them back which costs money and time. Also, if you want to buy something you have no good knowledge about – in my case electronics – I would prefer going to a shop and get a personal recommendation. For books, I like to just stroll in the store and get lost with the different book types, I love to feel the book in my hands and also smell this “book smell”.
Although all these aspects seem to indicate that Taobao might not be something you should get, I am convinced that it also does make your life easier. As a foreigner you might find products you cannot or only with great difficulty find in Chinese shops. Your Bulgur or tampons might be only one klick away!
I am very curious in which ways Taobao will change my life – for the better or the worse!