In this post, I will be giving my impressions on a Taobao agent called Bhiner. I have only used Taobao agents to buy BJDs and BJD related items. I have not used them for cosplay or any other items, so please keep that in mind! This is a very long post, so you might want to pee before you start reading. :3
I will go over the following topics:
What is Taobao?
Taobao is basically a Chinese eBay. Thousands of sellers come together to competitively sell their products. A lot of the products are fake or are knock offs of major brands. Many of the products are also cheaply made. However, some products are legitimate and are quality products. On another note, the website is completely written in Chinese, but Google Chrome has an automatic translate feature built into the browser that does an okay job at helping English speakers to navigate the website. But if everything is in Chinese and Taobao is based in China, how to people from other countries buy from this website? You can either attempt to buy from the website yourself, or hire an agent to do it for you. That brings us to the next topic!
What does a TaoBao agent do?
A Taobao agent is a person, usually part of a company, that will purchase the items for you as well as ship them to you. A good agent will contact the seller to make sure the items are legitimate, as described or pictured, and ask if the item is in stock. They should also communicate with the seller if something goes wrong with your order. Once your item arrives to their warehouse, they will open up the package and inspect the items to make sure everything is correct. They should then send you photos for you to verify. Once verified, they will repack the items and ship the items to you.
Hold your horses though, because all agents charge a fee--sometimes up to 10% of the purchase total! Some agents even charge an extra fee to send you a photo of the items you ordered before shipping them to you. The total process is as follows:
If you have a Chinese friend who is nice, then you can ask them to buy things for you for free. However, the shipping will be outrageous because most people don't have the bulk shipping discounts agents have. Some agents boast that they have a 40% shipping discount for the EMS shipping method.
If you are feeling especially courageous, you can do it all yourself! I will get to that part later.
Bhiners website navigation and ease of use
In my opinion, Bhiner has the best looking website out of any of the Taobao agents I have seen. The website is updated in terms of aesthetics and nicely streamlined. I found it easy to navigate and to find what I needed.
Bhiner's customer service is friendly. For those who live in the US, there is a time difference so replies/updates will take about a day or more depending on the situation. While it may be in the middle of the day in the US, everyone in China is probably sleeping!
I have noticed that while they do speak English (or use google translate?), there is still a language barrier and sometimes my questions or requests do not get answered correctly. I would suggest speaking in simple English. For example, do not ask if an item is on "sale" if you want to know if an item is discounted. You need to ask if the item is "discounted". Try not to use words with double meanings or words that may be mistaken for something else like sell and sale. Even the word "sale" can mean two different things (that the product is "available to purchase" or it could mean "discounted").
I also noticed if you ask a question they do not want to answer, they will not give you a straight answer.
Another thing to note is that I asked a question that was answered on their website and they gave me a wrong answer, so to speak. If you buy from Taobao yourself and use Bhiner as a shipping agent, it says on their website that they will open the package and take pictures for you to confirm the content if you pay a $1.00 fee. I wanted to confirm this, but the agent I spoke to said that they did not offer this service. I took a screen capture of their webpage saying that they did, and they changed their tune.
Here is what the Bhiner agent told me when I asked:
Hello, bhiner warehouse package doesn't have item snapshot service.
So of course, I went full Karen and sent them a screenshot.
They responded thusly:
Yes, need to pay the snap fee if you want ^^
For the most part, the customer service is okay. Since there is a language barrier and a cultural difference (China isn't as customer oriented as the US), communication can sometimes be a little rough.
As you can see in the above screen shot, each head will cost $84.70 USD. The current exchange rate (via Google) states that these heads should cost $79.83 USD. Taobao says $80.05 USD. Googles exchange rate is $0.145, while Bhiners is $0.154. While they both round to $0.15 USD per CNY, that third digit makes a hell of a difference.
Bhiner excepts PayPal, Bank Transfer, Western Union, Transferwise, and Bitcoin. All of which you will need to pay an additional fee to use. My item total was $543.60 and if I had used PayPal (which you can't, by the way...more on that in a second), I would have to send Bhiner $543.60 + 4% + $0.30 = ~$565.64.
Bhiner states on their website that you can't use PayPal on items over $500, but that is a LIE. In the actual cart message it states that you cannot use PayPal for any item over $231 ($308 for cosplay), but that is also a fat lie. You cannot use PayPal for any item over approximately $125, they WILL NOT LET YOU. You will get big fat red message when they process your quote (denied quote) saying that you cannot use PayPal. Even the item that was $124 was DENIED.
I opted for Transferwise. Western Union wanted to charge one hell of a fee, as did my bank (didn't want them having my bank info anyway). I ended up using my PayPal debit card (you have to have money in your PayPal balance to use this card) on Transferwise to send money. Be careful though, the PayPal debit card has a set limit on what you can spend per day. PayPal would only let me do about $50 at a time, then blocked everything all together. Transferwise had the lowest fees out of all the options, as well. I don't get Bitcoin, so that was not even considered. I tried reading up on it but...my brain exploded. Bhiner also charges a currency conversion on top of their mark-up USD to Yuan(RMB) prices.
If you change the websites currency to Yuan, you will noticed that their is no price markup on you items (but you will still be charged a service fee). Unfortunately, I could not find a way to top-up in Yuan. Transferwise will not let you send Yuan to a business, only to individuals and Bhiner is a business and has a business payment account. I asked Bhiner about this and they said they do not accept Yuan, only USD. Big surprise there. They want that extra money on their marked up currency conversion! I sent them HKD (Hong Kong Dollar) one time, and they way over charged on currency conversion when adding it to my Bhiner wallet. They converted it from HKD to USD. So I suspect if you send Yuan they would convert it to USD (and charge the hell out of you for it). The more you convert, the more fees you will have to pay. Unfortunately, PayPal doesn't allow you to send Yuan. They have many currencies available, including HKD, but Yuan (RMB) is a hard nope. I just want to know why people in the US are barred from using Yuan (RMB) on so many platforms.
All in all, I suggest you top up your "Bhiner Wallet" before making a quote. You can always withdrawal the money from your wallet. You can top up your wallet without having to buy anything beforehand. I suspect you can use PayPal to top up larger amounts by topping up with several smaller amounts. For example, if you need to pay $200 you can just top up with $100 twice, or 4 times at $50. The PayPal fee wouldn't be that much of a difference. Let's take a closer look.
Bhiners PayPal "handling fee" is 4% + 0.3USD.
So for the $200 you will pay a $8.30 fee.
For $100 the fee is $4.30. Times that by 2 and that is $8.60. That is a .30 difference.
A $50 top-up has a fee of $2.30 x 4 = $9.20. That is a .90 difference.
Also notice the domestic shipping fee in the top right corner in the previous screen shot. Taobao stated that domestic shipping (express shipping) was FREE. However, Bhiner charged me $9.31! I did notice that there WAS another option called "official transshipment" that was 16 yuan per KG. I have no idea what that was about.
No matter what item you add to your cart, whether it be free shipping for 10 yuan, your cart will say $1.86 USD for domestic shipping. I am guessing this is their shipping up charge?
You may be wondering about international shipping. I am not sure if they up charge the price on international shipping. I tried to do some calculations, but I was getting different results. In any case, from all my calculations they should have charged me about $20 USD or so. In the end, I believe the international shipping price was okay. If you were shipping the same box within the US it would cost about $12. I was charged $13.13 to ship it all the way from China.
Here is the info in case you want to check for yourself:
Shipping method: China Post
Weight: .7kg (700g)
Longest side: 32cm (I did notice that they added about a centimeter or two to each of the package dimensions.)
Declared value: $62 USD
Shipping charge: $13.13 USD
Paying for the shipping is much easier. You just tell them service you want and pay. They conveniently have a PayPal checkout option for the shipping and yes, they do charge you that 4%+.30 handling fee. Since they have a high currency conversion rate for USD, you will be paying more for shipping than it would cost you in Yuan (RMB). I had some screen captures of the checkout process, but I lost them. :(
Yes, if you live and are a US citizen in the US, you can purchase from Taobao yourself. However, you will need a MasterCard credit card. I had to make an Alipay account, which was a process in of itself, and then add my PayPal debit card to my Alipay account (I did it through the phone app, as I couldn't figure out how to do it on the website). On a side note, if you are NOT a Chinese citizen from China...do not expect to "verify" your Alipay account! But don't worry you can still buy from Taobao.
You can ask the seller (use google translate) through "Ali Wang Wang" if they will ship overseas, if not you can use Taobao's shipping forwarder. You can also use a Taobao agent to do the forwarding, which will probably 50% cheaper than using Taobao's forwarder. To test the whole process, I bought a single weft of hair that weighed about an ounce. I had to call PayPal with each payment though because my transaction was an overseas purchase and PayPal thought it was fraudulent.
It cost me about $1.00 USD to ship to Taobao's warehouse. I was unable to choose which forwarder I wanted to use, unfortunately, and about had a heart attack when I saw how much shipping would be to the US. Shipping cost me FIFTEEN UNITED STATES DOLLARS to ship something that was four inches long and weighed maybe an ounce. Bhiner charged me only $13.13 to ship a 700g box that was 32cm long with a wooden box holding an MSD head.
Exchange rates are always changing, so the USD prices are approximate!
In conclusion, Bhiner up charges EVERYTHING. They have an above market exchange rate, they charged me a domestic shipping fee even though on the Taobao website the item had free shipping within China. The international shipping was on point, but I wouldn't be surprised if they up charged on that too. They get a bulk shipping discount, but I am sure they add a few bucks to that discount when they charge the customer for shipping.
If you want to take a slight risk to save money, buy from Taobao yourself. If you want to play it a littler safer and pay a little more money, then use Bhiner. If you use their buying services, they are more friendly and helpful. However, if you just use their "ship for me" service, they are a little more unhelpful and less friendly. They defiantly give priority to their paying customers.
If you have any questions, feel free to ask! I will answer them as best as I can.
P.S. If anyone can figure out how to pay Bhiner in Yuan (RMB), please let me know!
I'm Deadra - I'm a quiet, anxiety-filled individual with a resting bitch face. I am an artist, graphic designer, and self-made hundredaire with a strange obsession for ball-jointed dolls.