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Taobao Drama :: Butter + Turkey

In some respects, Taobao.com is China’s version of Ebay.

In other ways, it’s the wild wild west where vendors may or may not have what is pictured in their “store”.

We always try to buy from vendors with high ratings. For the most part, we’ve been pleased with our purchases.

This week, we had two returns which gave me an immediate headache.

Return #1

Once the weather was cooler, we knew we could order a large box of butter. Simple enough. We’ve done this before and had no problems.

When we got the butter we were pleased to see it in a freezer box with ice packs all around. Everything seemed fine. We released the payment.

But then we started cooking with the butter and something wasn’t right.

First, we noticed all the wrappers were on backwards. Then, we realized the butter was orange and had an unusual odor.

Wrappers, color, and odors aside the butter simply wasn’t baking properly.

Finally, Hubs realized the problem. They shipped us a Chinese version of “Crisco”, not butter.

Hubs called the vendor to rectify the situation. The vendor genuinely seemed surprised that his butter was not genuine butter. He said, “I just shipped you a box of exactly what my supplier shipped me.” Corruption at many levels apparently.

After some discussion it was agreed that we would return the butter and get a refund.

Return #2

Since we can’t buy turkey locally, we decided to order one online. Today (3 days later) we received the Turkey…completely thawed and nearly warm.

It was placed in a standard cardboard box with a few newspapers to keep it from bumping around.

2011-11-19@19-17-09
That’s it. No freezer box. No ice packs.

Hubs immediately called the vendor to explain the situation. The nice lady on the phone said, “It’s fine. A thawed turkey is just fine. Just cook it.” Hubs asked,  “How many turkeys have you ever thawed and cooked?” “None.” she replied.

The next thirty minutes sounded like this:

“It’ll be fine!”
“A thawed turkey riding around in a truck is not fine.”
“It’ll be fine!”
“A thawed turkey riding around in a truck is not fine.”

Finally, Hubs said, “I’m not feeding my family and friends this turkey.” It was agreed that we could ship it back for a refund.

Ship it back?!?

Let us say that Taobao for the most part has been pretty good for us. With the exception of this week’s butter and turkey fiascoes, all of our purchases have turned out satisfactory. Shopping on Taobao certainly beats traveling to Shanghai and hauling back suitcases of imported goods. It also beats going down town and wandering from seller to seller trying to barter for some item that could easily found with a little Taobao price comparison.

Back to the turkey.

We were shocked that they wanted us to mail back a thawed turkey. But that’s exactly what we did. Today, we mailed a sweaty, mushy 12 pound turkey in the same cardboard box it came in.

Hubs Taobao shopping tips:
If you’re buying anything remotely temperature sensitive (dairy, meats, etc) be sure to communicate to the seller to package the items in a styrofoam box with a coldpack. They may charge a few extra RMB, but better to receive the item in a somewhat frozen state, than to deal with pro-salmonella sales reps.

If buying butter, buy it in whole box increments so they don’t have to unpack anything. We bought 40 cubes of this butter. They shipped the entire box to us. I should mention that we ordered two cubes from them first to check the quality. No fake crisco. We were good.

(If you’re new to Taobao, when buying multiple increments of items, be sure to chat with the sales people to have them change the shipping fee to reflect a bulk shipment. I usually say something like: 请修改运费,谢谢您!Then pay for the item after the shipping has been changed.)

Currently, we’re waiting on a refund for the butter (product + shipping refund).

And we’re waiting on a shipping refund for the mushy turkey.  (shipping refund only – we never released payment)

With a very busy week, Hubs will go in search of a turkey because we have 19 guests coming for Thanksgiving and I refuse to host The Salmonella Infested Thanksgiving of 2011.

Refuse.

6 comments to Taobao Drama :: Butter + Turkey

  • Erica

    Sorry the turkey & butter didn’t work so well! We got 3 turkeys from Metro in Wuhan. The Changsha Metro for the 2nd year in a row decided they didn’t want to get any turkeys in until mid December…
    But Wuhan came through for us!!

  • Sara

    I agree. I would refuse to host The Salmonella Infested Thanksgiving of 2011 too. Good luck in finding a turkey!!

  • Julie

    How awful! Funny that I read this right before I buy 5kg of Anchor cheddar. I’ll definitely be sure to ask fro ice packs, but since we live in the north it isn’t as worrisome considering it is -3 here and probably colder in BJ.
    Have you bought cloth diapers on taobao? If so, can you recommend the seller? I will be buying some today and not only for me but to give to my SIL in the States. I really don’t want to deal with bad quality… since my baby isn’t born yet, I can’t really test it before releasing the funds. I bought some before and my SIL loved them! She said they were better than her 15 dollar fuzzibunz, but that vendor no longer sells cloth diapers 🙁

    Happy Turkey Hunting! I hope you find one in time for Thanksgiving.

    • I’ve been working on a cloth diaper post and should have it up today or tomorrow. The cloth diapers on taobao look great. I have some that we got in China and some were gifted to us by bumgenius and they both work great. The going rate for cloth daipers is 10 – 12rmb. Such a good price. OK. Will finish that post soon!

  • Charis

    Yikes!! Hope you find a non-salmonella infested turkey before Thursday. I think our gathering is going with chicken this year because all the turkey options were crazy expensive. Oh well. I don’t think any of us thought to try taobao…maybe a good thing given your experience?
    I do wish I was more taobao savvy. Seems like you can find all kinds of stuff there.

  • jdavis2

    we’ve had some not-so-great experiences… but percentage wise, we’re about 90% satisfied.
    apparently taobao sellers are not required to keep their stock up to date and they may not even sell that item anymore.
    and apparently they can change prices or even merchandise at their leisure. this has happened to us 2 or 3 times where they do a switch-a-roo and ask for a higher price.
    most recently we’ve had many fiascos concerning a pair of boots… we ended up ordering 4 pairs and still don’t have a size that fits!
    even with the many pitfalls (ie. multiple text messages for clarification, etc.) we’re very happy for the opportunity to buy what we want from the comfort of our own home!

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