The cheapest way to get anything in China is to buy it online, but Amazon.cn is not the best way to go. The two most popular alternative websites to Amazon are JD and Taobao. While the two websites offer similar, each has it’s pros and cons.
Most foreigners who live in Huaqiao prefer to use JD over Taobao. JD happens to have a warehouse right in our town so the delivery speeds for certain products are unbeatable and shipping costs are low. The fastest we’ve ever seen anything delivered was a microwave that arrived just two hours after clicking “buy”.
A lot of teachers at Kang Chiao get things delivered to the school because they don’t have someone at home to receive deliveries. It is possible to leave notes when you purchase something on JD, but you need the help of a Chinese-speaking friend – we’ve never tried this but I’m guessing you can try to ask for a specific time frame.
Although most JD deliveries come around noon, I’ve had items delivered as early as 8:30 AM and as late as 9 PM. If you’re not at home when the courier arrives they will usually call you angrily in Chinese or just leave the package in a closet near the fire extinguisher if your complex has one.
We actually have a text message saying “leave in closet” saved on our phones in case this happens. If there is no Chinese speaker around, we just hang up the phone and text them. Although there is no guarantee that someone else won’t take it, I’ve had things left in our public closet for almost a week without anyone touching it.
For the first 6 months, Isaac and I only used JD. We avoided Taobao because it was a bit more complicated to use, it was harder to find reviews and different sellers sold the same products for very different prices. Recently we’ve used it more because we discovered that it can be a lot cheaper!
Being a lot cheaper is not always a good thing. Anything ordered through JD is distributed by JD and has a guarantee. You can take a photo of any problem, get easily re-reimbursed and return anything for no reason within a certain number of days. We made a mistake ordering a drone on Taobao because it had no warranty, so we lost $300 when it fell out of the sky.
The best way to explain the difference between the two e-shops is to compare JD to Amazon and Taobao to eBay. Before you buy anything on Taobao you need to read up on the seller and see if someone else sells that item for a cheaper price. This can take hours but due to competition among sellers, prices on Taobao can be a lot lower than on JD.
You can order almost anything you can think of on JD from fresh sushi grade salmon to speed boats and live stingrays (as pets, not food). On the other hand certain Western goods such as fruit roll ups can only be found on Taobao. These goods are imported directly from abroad which makes delivery costs higher.
It’s impossible to say which eshop is better. If you want fresh food or items with a guarantee of quality and warranty, go with JD.com. If you want the lowest price and a wider variety of choice you should go with Taobao. Personally, I look up whatever I need on both websites and then decide.