| Global Times | 2012-11-26 18:45:04
By Li Yuting
Sitting at your computer, clicking on an item to buy, and waiting for the knock at your door is now an everyday experience of shopping. And the popularity of websites like taobao.com is testament to the huge and growing demand for online shopping.
And purchasing goods unavailable in domestic markets (or which are too expensive) from overseas e-business websites - called haitao meaning "taobao from overseas" - is also becoming an increasingly popular trend for many online buyers.
"The reason I got into haitao is because I find the prices of high-quality goods in domestic shopping malls is unreasonably high, while the quality of cheaper goods on taobao.com cannot always be guaranteed," Xin Suqiao, a 27-year-old haitao fan in Shanghai, told the Global Times.
Step by step
A widely-read online article called "The quick way to become a good haitaoer" concludes the process of haitao requires three steps: firstly, register an account on an overseas shopping website; secondly, select and register with a shipping agency; thirdly, make the order and wait to receive your parcel.
Before the parcel is mailed out by the shopping website, the payment (pre-authorized) will be deducted from the registered credit card details supplied. This payment covers the price of the item, the cost of domestic freight from the website to the shipping agency, and the cost of international freight from the shipping agency to the address of the receiver in China.
Lin Hai, author of the article and the founder of a haitao-related website (123haitao.com) is willing to share his rich experience of this type of shopping. "I used to make frequent business trips to the US, and enjoyed the shopping experience there. Most outlets have competitive prices and guaranteed quality, and this made me want to continue my purchasing of American goods by means of haitao," Lin told the Global Times. "But haitao is much more demanding than taobao.com because it requires knowledge of a foreign language, customs policies and the logistics in various countries."
Amazon.com, one of the most popular overseas online shopping websites, sells products ranging from electronic goods to fashions. And it is also the most used site among Chinese haitao buyers. "Amazon.com has relatively relaxed requirements for a credit card in that you can use Visa, Mastercard or American Express," said Lin. "And it is very rare for an order to be canceled on Amazon, whereas this happens a lot on other websites."
Heavy taxes is one of the reasons why products such as electronics, cosmetics and luxury handbags are so expensive in China. But there are other reasons behind the booming demand in the haitao market.
"The frequent scandals involving domestic milk companies worry me, and I don't trust any local brands. I can't take risks with my baby's health," Gu Haicun, the mother of a 11-month-old girl, told the Global Times. Since the birth, Gu has become an experienced haitao shopper. She bought almost everything for her baby from US websites, while most of her milk power comes from the German online website, windeln.de.
"On average, I purchase eight boxes (800 grams each) of milk powder at a time, and even with the delivery fee, it's still cheaper than domestic brands that are of the same, or even, lower quality. But I'm taking a risk of being taxed if my parcel is checked at Chinese customs," she said.
According to the import tax policy issued by the country's customs department in April 2012, 10 percent of the dutiable price should be levied on the import of milk powder.
Difficulties and risks
For Chinese buyers who can't speak any other languages, downloading and using the Google Chrome browser is a useful way to translate website information.
Lin also pointed out there are risks in choosing a shipping agency: "Good shipping agencies enjoy a higher rate of getting goods passed through customs faster and unimpeded," Lin said.
Express companies are responsible for delivering the goods from the country of origin to customs in China, from where they are transferred to local delivery companies. Fedex and UPS are popular delivery services in the US. "Actually, the most expensive, but most reliable, is the US Postal Service, which measures up to the standards set by the Universal Postal Union," added Lin. "However, small companies established by some Chinese Americans are also reliable, such as Global Courier Express and United Courier Service."
Lin added that patience is needed for the process. "It may take a long time to receive your goods parcel depending on the workload of customs officers. So my suggestion is not to buy too many products at one time, and if you buy electronic products, avoid putting them all into one package."
A glimpse at some popular online websites
Drugstore.com - skincare and body care, mother-and-baby products
Gymboree.com - clothes for children and babies
Diapers.com - all products for mothers and babies
Shop.nordstrom.com - mid- and high-level fashions (clothes, bags and cosmetics)
Dsw.com - designer shoes warehouse
Ecost.com - electronic products
Iherb.com - food and health products
Saksfifthavenue - comprehensive site for luxury fashion brands
backcountry.com - outdoors products
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