There’s a lot of talk about the use of Taobao Agents and it was brought to many people’s attention that TaoBaoRing or (recent name change to 42 Agent) has been the best one to use. Let’s talk about what is a Taobao Agent. There are many types of TaoBao Agents and usually, you go to http://www.taobao.com and you find a product that you like from a seller that you like and you shoot the product “link” to your agent. Your agent then buys the products for you, repackages them nicely, shoots you a photo of your package and helps you facilitate shipping. All you’re doing is sending links. This is very convenient for people who do not know how to navigate through TaoBao themselves or don’t want to set up a new form of payment online to pay online at TaoBao.com through AliPay.
Many people then wonder how much the fees would be to use such a service. Here’s where it gets a little tricky and I feel like full exposure is the way to go since, hey, I really want to know all the details in the fine print (or in this case not even printed). Here’s a breakdown of a sample client:
Here’s what I notice. Shipping rate usually ranges from $8 – $18/kg depending on weight and the service you used. The higher your weight the $/kg comes down. In this case, this client had a box that was 32 kg which is quite high and so the rate for shipping is considered pretty low for a taobao agent. However, let’s see the other costs.
- Domestic Freight – this is what is charged to ship domestically to their warehouse.
- Commissions – ranges from 8-10% for most agents.
- International Shipping Fee – the cost to ship from China to the states or which other country you’re shipping to.
- Paypal Fees – most people like to pay through paypal so they charge about a 4% fee for you to pay through paypal.
All this seems fair at first glance however they don’t disclose a lot of places where they have inflated the cost.
- Domestic Freight – most items purchased through taobao actually has free domestic freight and never have I seen anything at 31% of the cost of the items charged to me ever for shipping domestically. All of the things I have purchased thus far has had free shipping.
- Commissions – this is as it is. 8% of the cost of your items.
- International Shipping Fee – this is inflated and sometimes by a lot. If you ship through TaoBao directly, your shipping fee is usually $6.5 – $6.8/kg so you’re looking at pay from 30% to over 100% inflated prices through going with the agent. This is where they make the money.
- Paypal Fees – as it is through paypal.
- Exchange Rate Fees – recently it was brought to our group’s attention that the exchange rate fees that they used to convert from RMB/Yuan to USD was inflated by about 11% .
What does this mean?
I have labeled above Exchange Rate Inflated and Exchange Rate Actual (what your bank would charge you or actually what is reported from my credit card exchange rate when I buy through TaoBao). Just through interest rates, they are making $59.14 more on the order. In the bottom box, I have calculated the same cost that I pay through buying from TaoBao Direct. You would have paid $346.99 for the same box of goods. The differences are below:
So the total difference in shopping by yourself for 32.5kg of books is $188.67 in savings if you did it yourself. For some people, it’s not an option but for others, it really is a great way to get another box of goods out to you. The bottom charges of shipping differential, exchange rate differential and domestic freight is where I don’t think it’s exactly disclosed like it should. They weren’t actually costs to “them” but actual fees they are charging sort of in a hidden way and I feel that it should be disclosed somehow that hey, we charge domestic freight whether it’s free or not to us and we charge you inflated shipping prices, etc. On a per book basis maybe this isn’t a lot of difference and being able to enjoy books is better than having none in my opinion but it’s more fair for charges to be disclosed so at least you know what you’re paying.