Two years ago when I first moved to China I had never heard of the online market place called Taobao. I can only describe it as Ebay on steroids, I honestly believe you can purchase anything you want on Tabao be it a new component for your computer or even a wife!
So what is the catch? This is China after all. The catch is that you can never be sure what you are purchasing exists, and if it does exist is it the real thing. The girls in the office warned me of this when I first started shopping on Taobao but my experience up until recently has been perfect. Everything I ordered had arrived in a timely manner and was exactly as described. This was shopping heaven for somebody like me who likes to save pennies wherever possible.
Sadly, my last 3 purchases have not gone to plan…
I ordered a USB to 1.8” HDD case so I could utilised a 60GB HDD from an ancient iPod with my Raspberry PI computer….this never showed up, but after several months I was able to ask for a refund.
Gillette Fusion Power Razor blades. I ordered these based on the reviews, everybody saying that they were the real thing. Great product etc. I then thought surely not even the Chinese would go to the trouble of manufacturing fake razor blades. How wrong could I be. At first the packaging is almost identical to that of the real product. And when you unpack the razor blades from the packaging they look like the real McCoy….but then you try to shave with them….holy crap, it’s like being waxed on the face! I immediately knew there was something wrong so I took a closer look:
The blue strip that tells you when to change the blade did not look like that of the genuine article, sure it faded overtime but it was different.
The plastic moulding was slightly different, but the overall assembly of the product and colour of the components was identical.
The major difference was the spacing of the 5 blades. On the genuine article these are spaced evenly, but on the ‘Chinese’ version the spacing was sporadic which is probably the cause of the painful shave.
Apple A1243 keyboard. You either love or hate these keyboards, but I love them. They are quite and great to code with. When I travel to South Korea I stick mine in the suitcase each time. I am a lazy git and want an easy life so I decided that I would have a complete office setup in Korea and China so I decided to buy another keyboard from Taobao It arrived today, and although it is genuine article I have no idea which country it is for because the keys have characters that I don’t even recognise. With the aid of my wife I have complained to the seller and intend to return the goods and get a refund, but for me this is all hassle and I will pay the 30% more and get what I want from the Apple Store.
I must have been lucky up until now, but my love affair with Taobao is coming to an end. Maybe I am being a bit harsh, my colleagues have been shopping far longer on Taobao and have much worse stories to tell, so maybe I should chalk this up to another ‘China Experience’.