Saturday, 23 March 2013

Taobao order and TaobaoRing review - Part 2

In part one I briefly described how to use the Taobao shopping service Taobaoring. In this post I shall give a more detailed review of my order and the individual items received with pictures.
Overview of my order:
  • 21st February 2013 - Opened a Taobaoring account and placed an order. I leave a message in the "Memo and Leave a Message" section asking if they can mark the package as 'gift' and to the value of 250 ¥.
  • 22nd February - "Awaiting Confirmation" stage. This is when TBR contacts the sellers individually to see if the item is available. A few of my items have been confirmed, TBR informs me that one of my items is not available so I change it. 
  • 26th February - Still only a few items have been confirmed available so I email Taobaoring. They reply on the same day and the rest of the items get confirmed as "Available". They also reply to my message saying they can mark down my package.
  • 28th February - TBR email me saying my items have been confirmed available and send invoice for first payment (Item cost 661.99 ¥ + Domestic delivery fee 135 ¥ + Service fee 63.7592 ¥) Total: 860.74 ¥ (about £92). I pay the invoice. Later I log into TBR to find out that the Green jumper is not in stock and the Totoro purse is not available. TBR left a message on my order asking if I would like to change the colour of the jumper and suggest an alternate Totoro purse. I can't reply to the messages on the TBR website so I email them saying I would like to change the jumper to Navy and that I would like to cancel the Totoro purse and get a different item instead.
  • 1st March - I haven't received a reply so I email again, at this point I'm quite worried so I copy and paste the email into the "Memo and Leave a Message" section of my order page.
  • 2nd March - Still no reply to my emails but when I log in to my TBR account I discover that they have replied to my message that I left in the "Memo and Leave a Message" section. They confirm that they have cancelled the Totoro purse and changed it to the watch and that they have purchased the Navy jumper instead of the green one.
  • 7th March - Most of my items have arrived at the TBR warehouse apart from 2 >_<
  • 8th March - I log into my account to find that my final 2 items have arrived or so I believe. There is no way to tell if the watch (what I bought instead of the sold out Totoro purse) had arrived yet. I have not received any message or second shipping invoice from TBR.
  • 9th March  - Still no second second payment invoice or update on my items. There is just a dash (-) where it says next step. I email TBR enquiring if the watch has also arrived and that I have not received the shipping invoice.
  • 11th March - I log in to find that there is still no second payment invoice but TBR have taken proof pictures of all my items. I send them another email stating that I haven't received an invoice even though all my items have arrived.
  • 12th March - I log on to my account in the early hours to discover that there is an update and request for payment (again this is not sent to my email, you have to log on to your TBR account to find out any updates.)  The international shipping cost was $66.67 about £45 for 2600g by Airmail (;_; *cries*). They did not leave a breakdown of costs i.e. they made no reference to how much was added (the difference of the purse that was cancelled and the watch). I didn't want to prolong the process further and they were not replying to any of my emails so I paid the invoice and waited patiently for an update about my items being shipped. Their website says shipping is done within 12 hours of invoice being paid but to be honest I'm starting to feel sceptical about the claims they make on their website.
  • 13th March - My items still say 'Await Shipping' I decided to use the shipping fee calculator on TBR to break down the costs: I used Airmail so it was 355.05 CNY / $57.52 There is a customs declaration fee of 8 CNY for Airmail, SAL and surface packages according to TBR. The Total cost of the watch + domestic delivery was 81 CNY minus the total cost of the purses + domestic delivery 42.12 CNY = 38.88 CNY. The total is 401.93 CNY / $64.68 + Paypal domestic fee rate of 3.4 + $.30 = Grand Total of $67.27. So the shipping was correctly calculated give or take $1. If TBR had provided this break down of second invoice in a message or on the actual Paypal invoice it would have been quite helpful.
  • 14th March - I decided to email TBR to find out if they had shipped my items. I get a reply from James telling me my tracking number so I log in to my account to find it has been updated to 'Shipping' status. The column that says 'Next Step' now has a drop down list of 2 actions, 'Tracking' and 'Received'. On the tracking page, the shipment method (Airmail) and tracking number are clearly shown but the official tracking website is directed to the EMS website so I don't think it would work for tracking Airmail. On the 'Tracking Skills' page there are links to all the relevant postal tracking pages, so I click on the one for Airmail/SAL/Surface and search for my parcel. No items are found so I guess I have to wait a couple of days for it to update.
  • 16th March - Its been a few days since TBR have sent out my package so I decide to track it on the Arimail tracking page but no luck. Instead I use track-trace since it seems to work every time I track packages from Japan.There was no item found on the Airmail site but my package was found on the EMS tracking page >_> So I'm guessing TBR sent my package via EMS even though I clearly requested Airmail and I believe they charged me for Airmail but I have no idea now. I really hope they have fulfilled my request to mark down my package or I'll be in for another customs charge - Oh joy! EMS is thankfully easier to track than Airmail so I can keep up with my packages whereabouts using the tracking website or even the UK Parcelforce website.
  • 21st March - According to the Parcelforce website my package is is "Awaiting Customs Clearance" >.< and it has been so since the 18th. This is a reason why I'm not too keen on using EMS because packages are usually stuck in customs for a while even if no charges are occurred. I find Airmail a lot quicker and more convenient (the depot is very close to where I live) but if you don't happen to live in the UK then I'm sure the EMS service is exactly what it says it is - Express! 
  • 22nd March - My items finally arrive!! A little over 4 weeks after I placed my order.The items are individually wrapped and the box is very sturdy. 

 Now onto the items (click on the picture to go to item page):


Green cable knit cardigan
Price: 89 Yuan (£9.50)

Quality: 4.5/5
Colour more accurate in my second photo and accurate to stock photos. The material feels really soft and warm. The only problem is there are no washing/care instructions and it seems to crease quite easily. Its not too thick or too light so perfect for spring. As for the fit, I found the arm length was perfect and the overall fit was good but it didn't look right on the shoulders. I'm a UK size 8 on top for reference and it had a nice boyfriend cardigan type fit. 

Navy Cable knit jumper (initially wanted green)
Price: 115 Yuan (£12.28)

 Quality: 3.5/5
The colour was accurate to the stock photo and my second picture. I purchased the jumper from the same place as the green cardigan. The material is extremely thick and heavy, perfect for winter. There are no washing/care instructions. Also the jumper has quite a chemical smell, possibly due to long time storage.
As for the fit, its really comfortable and well fitting. The thick material makes it a big rigid so I can't really wear much underneath.

Lace Collar shirt (aparently a Cawaii replica)
Price: 75 Yuan (£8.00)

Quality: 3.5/5
The colour seems accurate to the stock photo although slightly more yellow. The material is 100% cotton according to the label and can only be dry cleaned (>.< hmm thats not gonna happen). The lace on the collar is intricate and beautiful like the stock photo but the neck area seems a lot larger therefore it sits lower than closer to the neck. The shirt has a loose fit and the sleeves can be rolled up and buttoned to 3/4 length. However the blue ribbon is not detachable.

Cherry hairclips
 Price: 3 Yuan (£0.32)
Quantity: 2 (£0.64) 

Quality: 1/5
For the price the poor quality is understandable, 1 of the clips broke immediately after I took it out of the packaging and started to peel away from the backing clip. I believe they are meant to be a replica of the Japanese store Katie's version, which costs 2,940 Yen (roughly £20.44). I wanted some clips to match my Emily Temple Cute jumperskirt, from my first photo you can see that they do quite well. I will probably super glue the other cherry back on >_> They accurately match the stock photos so can't complain about that.

Corduroy shirt dress
Price: 125 Yuan (£13.34)

Quality: 2/5
The most expensive item in my Taobao order and the one I'm most disappointed with. The colour is accurate to the stock photos but the material feels and looks faded and worn. When I opened the package the dress looked like it had been tried on and returned, half the buttons were undone and the dress was covered in lint. It fits well but the drop waist doesn't really suit me so this is going to be one of those 'at home wear' things.

Navy cherry tights
Price: 14.8 Yuan (£1.58)

Quality: 5/5
From the packaging I thought they had sent me the black version luckily I was wrong. The tights are extremely good quality and feature a woven cherry pattern throughout. The packaging says 280 Denier appearance, I didn't know you could get that much denier *^_^* It's more like 60 denier although on the mannequin stock photo it looks more like 40. The tights feel really soft and silky. The fitting is also great (for reference I am 5'6'' with ahem... larger thighs) 

Brown Lace tights
Price: 20 Yuan (£2.14)

 Quality: 4/5
The colour is accurate to stock pictures. The fit on the other is not so accurate, according to the shop the tights can fit from 150-170cm. Being 168cm I though it might be fine but it was not to be. The material is very delicate and it ripped when I tried to pull it up. Other than the fact it did not fit, the quality was very good and the rose detail was lovely.

Lace Ankle socks (Green, brick red, blue and black)
Price: 9.5 Yuan (£1)
Quantity: 4 (£4)

 Quality: 4/5
The colours are accurate to the stock photos. On first glance the socks are very thick and lace is very fine and delicate. I opened one pair to find some stitching that I couldn't remove by pulling as I thought it was a stray loose thread but it had been stitched along with the sock (the sock on the right-hand side, directly above photo). Other than that the socks were nice quality and look like they would withstand a couple of wears.

Alice in Wonderland brooch
Price: 58 Yuan (£6.19)

 Quality: 3.5/5
Looks exactly like the stock photo. I purchased this brooch to match my Emily Temple Cute 'Chess Print' jumperskirt. The brooch is mounted onto a piece of leather which is stuck onto a 2-way clip. It doesn't seem that sturdy so I might have to super-glue it to make sure it won't come apart. The seller also provided a little bookmark a a gift, it looked as though it had been opened and stuck back together but it was a nice gesture non-the-less.

Alice in Wonderland White Rabbit brooch
Price: 61.2 Yuan (£6.53)

Quality: 4.5/5
Looks exactly like the stock photo. It's on the pricer side for a Taobao item but it is very well made, a few of the jump rings are slightly opened otherwise I would have given it 5/5. It matches my Jane Marple jumperskirt really well ^_^ The wooden cut-out White Rabbit is very well made, even the watch chain has been cut out neatly. I understand that these wooden cut-out Alice in Wonderland type jewellery can also be found on Etsy for a reasonable price.

Grape headband
Price: 35.99 Yuan (£3.84)

Quality: 1.5/5
I wasn't really looking for a grape headband just thought I'd get it as it's from the same shop as the 'White Rabbit' brooch. The grapes look more shiny than the stock photos and the vine part doesn't look very realistic at all. the grapes are also much smaller. I might attach some flowers to it to create a headdress of some-sort.

Afternoon tea Mini watch
Price: 75 Yuan (£8)

 Quality: 5/5
When the Totoro purse was not available I decided to get this watch instead. It matches the stock photo accurately. I'm really happy with this watch as it's really cute and similar to those at Japanese shop Par Avion which retail at 9,345 Yen (Around £65) each. The little clay teapot and cakes are neatly painted.

My overall experience with Taobaoring:
Communication: 1/5 
I think Taobaoring replied to 2 out my 5 emails in total. They were extremely hard to reach even during office hours. When they did reply, they were polite and helpful. Apparently they are on QQ (a kind of messenger) but I have never seen them online. I knew they were reading my emails because they would always carry out the action i.e send me shipping invoice when I enquired about it.
Website:  2/5 
The website's cart system makes it extremely easy to use but the major downfall is that you cannot reply to any messages TBR leave thus have to resort to emailing them or using the box at the bottom for comment. There is no guarantee that they will see the message you leave there.
Efficiency: 2/5
They started off efficiently confirming my order then it sort of petered out and there was no word from them. I thought this could be due to the seller not confirming items with TBR but when I emailed them about it all the items suddenly became confirmed. Also when all my items had arrived in at the warehouse, it took a long time before they sent my shipping invoice. I had to email them again to ask about the shipping invoice.
Accuracy: 2/5
At the very beginning I asked TBR to mark my package down and they agreed but when my parcel arrived it had not been. Also they sent my parcel via EMS rather than Airmail which I had requested. I still don't know whether they charged me for EMS or added the difference between the watch and purse to the total.
Shipping: 2/5
They sent my package EMS rather than Airmail. I don't like using EMS, it's more expensive and takes a similar amount of time as Airmail due to customs.
Packaging: 5/5
Very sturdy and used bubble wrap to cover my items.
Overall: 2.5/5
When you order from Taobao you expect it to take a long time which it did, a little over 4 weeks so this is not the option if you are in a rush. The whole process is quite lengthy. I ordered straight after Chinese New Year so TBR probably had many orders to get through. I may use them again in the future if they improve their communication. I might try Bhiner next time.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Some new things...L'est Rose and Her Curious Nature

It's been some time since I made a lolita related post or any post in general really >.< In January I took part in EGL's Wardrobe theme for the first time, it was enjoyable to see other lolitas collections. My wardrobe was mainly Otome orientated with a few classic pieces. I've started to focus more on Otome fashion as of late, as I really love the quirky prints and flattering cuts. My current favourite dress would be the 'Strawberry Gobelin' print by Emily Temple Cute. I just love the gobelin fabric, its sort of like a woven tapestry.

That takes me on to my newest acquisition, another take on Gobelin fabric by Japanese brand L'est Rose. I don't know how to describe this brand really. It's very feminine and features a lot of floral designs, so I would say it is a mix of Gyaru, Otome and Mori aesthetics.

I found this dress on Mbok auction site and contacted me Shopping Service straight away. I believe it was from the 2012 Autumn/winter collection. I love the brown bow belt and brown tulle under lining, it works so well with the dark green and burgundy floral pattern. I don't think I will get many chances to wear it just yet as it looks as spring has arrived, finally after what seemed like an endless winter (*^_^*).

Whilst in Topshop I spotted a gorgeous concession brand by the name of 'Her Curious Nature' specialising in handmade (bespoke) hair accessories. The use of velvet flowers and ornate colours gave the accessories a very Dolly Kei feel.

I decided to purchase a floral aliceband, it was quite pricey at £28 but I think it was worth it compared to those sold at Grimoire which are a relatively similar price. At first I found it hard to decide which one to go for as every piece is different but I settled on the piece with more brown accents as it would match my L'est Rose dress more accurately. The attention to detail was amazing, the photos really doesn't do it justice. I hope I can maybe do a Dolly Kei inspired co-ord with by new dress and headband in the future.

Saturday, 2 March 2013

Taobao order and Taobaoring review - Part 1

I am not very familiar with using Taobao, I have only bought a few bags and that was a couple of years ago. For that order I used the agent Taobaospree This time I decided to use Taobaoring as their website looked much easier to use than the excel spreadsheet Taobaospree uses. Indeed at first it seemed much easier, all you have to do is copy the URL of the item you want and paste into the 'Quick Order' section.

 The item will appear in your shopping cart then, be sure to write the colour, size you want or any other information that may be important in the 'Remarks' box. To make sure I normally write the colour in English and then paste the original Mandarin text in brackets just to be sure. You can also provide a link to the picture, so if it's a specific colour you can put a direct link to that picture. 

Taobaoring's fees are usually 8% and it is calculated simultaneously as you add items to your basket. Paypal fees are not added to this charge and will be calculated separately when they send the invoice. Once you confirm your order TBR has to confirm that your item is available with the seller then they will send you the invoice once all items are confirmed. This was the tedious part! TBR took over a week to confirm my order and by then a few of my items had sold out/were not available. This was due to the backlog  from Chinese New Year so it was understandable that they were busy inundated with orders to check. During this period you can still add or delete items from your shopping cart. 

During this time I became more adept at searching for items on Taobao even with my non-existent Mandarin skills. I usually perused through Tumblr blogs such as Random Taobao and Taobao Finds for good Taobao finds. Google translate and copy and paste help immensely when trying to look for specific items like cable knit sweaters or Mori girl related items. I finally managed to get the hang on it an made this order:

After Taobaoring had confirmed my order and contacted the sellers, they informed me that the cable knit cardigan was out of stock. Luckily I managed to find the same one in a another shop. After all items were confirmed in-stock TBR sent me the Paypal invoice, including Paypal fees, service charge and domestic delivery but not including international delivery. I paid the invoice straight away but a day after TBR informed me that the Totoro purse was out of stock and the green jumper was not available in that colour, and suggested a different item and different colour for me to choose. I didn't like the new Totoro purse they suggested so I told them to cancel that item and purchase a watch that I had seen instead. For the jumper I went with the navy colour instead of the green. Now my order is in the 'Purchasing' state so I will have to wait till the items arrive for the second invoice.

Here are a few pro and cons of using Taobaoring as your agent from my experience so far.
  • The website is very easy to use and understand, you just paste the URL to your item and the price shows up automatically. 
  • The Taobaoring agents speak very good English so there's no need to worry that they won't understand you. The are very helpful and polite.
  • You can add more items to your shopping cart in the confirmation stage.
  • You can easily find out the current status of your order with asking.
  • They will mark down your package.
  • There is a wide variety of shipping options available, including discounted EMS.
  • The fee is 8% which is the average fee for Taobao agents, some are higher but I have yet to find one lower. 
  • They give you options to change the item to another if its out of stock or change the colour if the colour you want is not available.
  • It takes quite a while for items to be confirmed with the seller
  • You cannot reply to the comments made by TBR on your order page so will have to email them separately or on the 'Message' section at the bottom of your order. This could get quite confusing. 
  • Messages sent by TBR about your order are not sent to your email so you will have to keep logging in to your Taobaoring account to find out the status of your order and any changes to your order.
  • Items can still be out of stock once you paid for them but this is common to most Taobao shopping services.
  • They are quite slow at replying to emails.
That's all I could think of for now, I shall do a more thorough review when my items arrive. Please comment if you have any questions and I will be happy to answer them to the best of my knowledge.