ezbuy (65daigou) review

First off, it is important for me go clarify that this is not a paid review (and I say again that none of the reviews on this site is). 65daigou and many of the third party Taobao parcel forwarders pay bloggers to write reviews. Reading paid reviews always feels distasteful to me and takes away credibility from the author despite how objective they say they are. That said, and I think it’s obvious, the monetisation strategy for this site is plain old advertising, so don’t be surprised if you see a 65daigou advertisement on this page (i hope 65daigou catches the hint).

Prior to this, I never used 65daigou, since it is easier to just use Taobao’s consolidated parcel forwarding. Besides, Taobao’s parcel forwarding goes by actual weight, whereas 65daigou, and practically all third party parcel forwarders go by volumetric weight, which typically costs more, unless your parcel is very compact and dense. My preference is always for actual weight because i think it’s less likely to spring me a nasty surprise. Nevertheless, I think 65daigou’s economy air shipping rate, at $1.99 $1.69 per 0.5kg volumetric weight (basically the industry standard), is quite competitive (for comparison, Taobao’s shipping rate starts at S$6.40 S$5.30 for the first kg, and thereafter S$2.65 S$1.85 per 0.5kg).

While trying to order a video camera, Taobao’s parcel forwarding option was not available, due to the lithium battery in the video camera. I was left with no choice but to go with a third party forwarder. Naturally, I turned to Google to find out which one was better, but was not able to arrive at a conclusive answer. Eventually I went with 65daigou, because they appear to be more established (having the capacity to handle shipments from China, Taiwan and USA says something), and they have an on-time shipment guarantee.

I would say 65daigou’s website is very intuitive to someone who understands the overall concept of buying from Taobao. I was promptly informed about the arrival of my parcel at their China warehouse, way ahead of the delivery status update on Taobao’s website. I made the payment for the shipment via an Internet Banking transfer, and received acknowledgement of my payment within 1.5 hours (they promised to update within a few hours). The shipping to destination happened in less than one day after that. The estimated date of arrival given was one week from shipping date, although the given estimation on the website is 4 to 6 days. Anyway, my parcel arrived in 5 days, so their guideline on the estimated time to ship proves to be accurate. I picked up my parcel (for free) from their warehouse in Seng Kang, which is just minutes from where i stay. The pick-up timing is 6-9pm for this particular warehouse, which is probably convenient for most people. It’s nice that they have a proper warehouse.

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65daigou’s Seng Kang Warehouse

Update 12 Feb 2016: I have since tried their ship-for-me service for USA as well. Again, very prompt notice of parcel arrival, both at the US warehouse and arrival in Singapore. The shipping rate is also much cheaper than what i was using before (Flat S$3.99 per 0.5kg vs US$11.80 for first 0.5kg and US$3.25 for subsequent 0.5kg). Gosh! i was paying way too much before!

Update 30 Nov 2017

Ezbuy was in the news recently for their failure to fulfill customers’ buy-for-me orders. Somehow, Taobao wasn’t happy with ezbuy’s way of buying thousands of items per day using just a handful of Taobao accounts. If you’re one of such customer who use ezbuy buy-for-me, i would suggest it’s time you moved on to buying from Taobao yourself. It will save you money in the long run, and it will be easier for you to resolve problems by communicating with the seller directly.

Anyway, i have something good to say about ezbuy. Just today, a parcel was received into the USA warehouse on my behalf, and ezbuy’s staff managed to repack the parcel, reducing the volumetric weight from 2.59kg to 0.66kg! That saves me S$12!

Taobao product recommendation – Christmas gifts for under S$3

Christmas is just around the corner. I think many people are preparing to do Christmas gifts shopping soon. If you are looking into buying low cost gifts for kids in bulk, here are some suggestions:

1. 3D Puzzles

I’ve mentioned about buying these 3D Puzzles in a previous post. I still think this is a fantastic gift idea, suitable for boys and girls. I particularly like the “3D World Style” series and the famous buildings of the world series, which cost S$2.90 and S$1.60 respectively.

2. Korean style stationery

I think these cute stamps, together with the multicoloured ink pads, will appeal to most girls. They come in at S$0.70 and S$0.40 respectively.

3. Burr Puzzle (孔明锁)

These classical Chinese puzzles have elements of fun, education, aesthetic and tradition, all-in-one. Individually, they cost S$0.50 to S$1.30, or you can buy a set of 25 pieces for S$24. Mostly for boys.

Don’t forget to get cashback for these items from Shopback!

Taobao product recommendation – Dust blower and CCD swab

I’ve been using a Nikon D40 camera since 2009 and somehow, a few dust specks appeared on my camera CCD sensor barely a year after I had the camera (or maybe it was there since the very beginning, i don’t know), resulting in 2 specks in every photo I take that has a light background. Believe it or not, as annoying as that is, I resorted to removing the spots via post processing. I didn’t even find out how to lock-up the mirror so as to expose the CCD sensor and try to blow away the dust, not until recently.

I’m sure most people who own a DSLR camera would have a standard cleaning toolkit that consists of a blower brush, some lint-free paper and a bottle of cleaning fluid. When i finally did the mirror lock-up and tried to blow away the dust using the blower brush (with brush removed), it didn’t work. So i Googled for other ways to clean the CCD sensor. I found the suggestion of using a swab. Years ago, such a tool didn’t exist. I remember there was a tool called the Arctic Butterfly, which is basically a very soft brush which was spun around to generate static electricity. It was supposedly safe to wipe the sensor with the brush (but i’ve read many reviews that say it made things worse). Anyway, it was too expensive (was more than S$100 back then) for me to buy and use it practically just once. Fast forward to today, there are now inexpensive disposable swabs that are safe on the sensor. This is now the recommended step 2 in cleaning the sensor, if step 1 didn’t fix it. Step 1 involves using the blower, which is obviously safer since it does not come into contact with the sensor.

I was determined to fix the problem on my camera this time. I already found out beforehand that my blower brush cannot make it, and since a blower is very cheap anyway, i bought a new blower along with some swabs from Taobao. You should be able to guess that these items are many times cheaper from Taobao than from elsewhere, since they are mostly made in China. The blower cost 13 Yuan (S$2.90) while the swabs cost 8 Yuan (S$1.80) per a pack of 6 swabs.

Guess what happened when i tried the blower? I was half expecting that there will still be some stubborn dust specks left, but it actually cleared away all the dust! At least there was no more speck that was visible to me. There was no need to even use the swab to clean the sensor. I couldn’t believe it! All those years of blemished photos, arghh!

Don’t forget to get cashback from Shopback!

Taobao product recommendation – baking stone and tin

I have been trying my hand at baking bread for some time. I still don’t make very good bread, but good enough. I think most people buy rather than bake their own bread because they overestimate the difficulty associated with baking bread. What got me started was simply the thought of having freshly baked bread in the morning. Naturally i wanted to achieve that goal through the path of least resistance – using a bread machine. Since i wanted to just try out, i didn’t want to invest a lot of money. I got help to bring in a bread machine from the UK, since it’s cheaper from there and they use the same voltage and plugs. It is just a China-made OEM machine of course, but with a reassuring “UK stamp of approval”.

The results from the bread machine were less than satisfactory initially, largely due to my not following the recipes strictly, and also, i now suspect, due to using inferior quality yeast. After a while, i decided to try baking bread without using the machine. I still do use the machine for the initial kneading of bread, so, thankfully i am still getting a return on investment from the machine. I think not relying on the bread machine has given me a much better idea of what actually happens during the entire bread making process, like how gluten develops during kneading, how fermentation affects the taste of the bread and the joy of watching oven spring. Only when you get your hands dirty do you really learn how to transform flour, yeast and water into the kind of bread you want.

In my quest to make baguette and ciabatta, two of my favourite types of bread, i came across the recommendation to bake them on stone. I looked up Amazon and found the prices to be beyond what i was ready to cough up, so, naturally, i turn to Taobao. If you searched for baking stone (烘焙石板) on Taobao, you will find few results, but with attractive prices nevertheless. At the time when i did my search a year ago, though, the price of a baking stone on Taobao was comparable to those on Amazon, so i bought a piece of BBQ grilling stone (火山石石板) instead. These are made of volcanic rocks (thus proven to be able to withstand very high heat), and they work just as well when used as a baking stone. With the additional possibility of being used for BBQ, maybe it was a better buy than a baking stone.

wpid-img_20150817_101041-01_wm_600x450.jpgVolcanic BBQ grilling stone on the oven tray

The stone actually also serves another useful purpose – generating steam. To develop good crust on the bread, steam has to be applied during the first few minutes of baking. Unfortunately, only the very expensive ovens would provide this function. The workaround i used is to pour boiling water around the perimeter of the heated stone. Once the stone has absorbed enough heat, it can continuously boil the water that comes into contact with it. I can’t be certain if there’s enough steam generated, but any is better than none.

The stone also solves another problem. If you wanted a very hot base for baking (I found that it is required for baking puff pastries), you’ll typically have to place your baking tray at the bottom rack such that it is just above the heating elements. The problem is, though, the top of whatever you are baking may not get enough browning since it is too far away from the upper heating elements. With a baking stone, you can pre-heat the stone and do your baking in the middle rack such that you have sufficient top and bottom heat.

The most common form of bread is none other than the sandwich loaf. To shape the loaf, you need a tin. As usual, Taobao offers you much more attractive prices. The 450g loaf tin which i bought (after trying out a cheaper one) can be had for just 36 Yuan (S$8) Update: apparently the cheaper item is not allowed for overseas sale now, so you might want to try this link instead, and it’s still cheap, at around S$12.

This is a high quality tin that is as non-stick as it gets. There is no need to grease the tin and the bread always slides out of its own. This is different from those tins or moulds which has a thin layer of non-stick powdered coating that isn’t quite non-stick enough. In case you’re wondering, i did the math and estimate that you can save about 25% if you baked your own sandwich loaf vs buying one from the store. The best part is though, you can avoid consuming any food enhancers or additives which are invariably used in commercial bread. Moreover, you can mix and match different types of flour and grains, like whole wheat, aramanth, kamut, spelt, flaxseed meal etc. and reap health benefits.

As baking is becoming quite popular in China, you can find all kinds of baking wares sold on Taobao. There is absolutely no reason to look elsewhere.

Don’t forget to get cashback from Shopback when you buy stuff from Taobao! Though only a small amount, any cashback is better than none!

Taobao product recommendation – walking poles

If you like the outdoors, hiking must be one of the activities you enjoy. I didn’t realise how much walking poles can help during hiking until I tried them. I brought along walking poles for my recent trip to USA and Canada as I planned to do some hiking. I had no prior experience of using them, but I had the impression that they will help to distribute weight to the arm, and so provide relief to the legs. Besides, i thought they will make me look like a professional (OK I admit this was the main reason). Anyhow, they proved to be indispensable when hiking uphill, especially when carrying a kid.

I know i will not be using the walking poles much once my holiday is over, so i didn’t want to get expensive ones, so obviously i turn to Taobao. They’re called 登山杖 in Chinese. In fact i just went for 2 sets of the entry level ones, at 46 Yuan (S$10.50) per set. The design is like that of pull-up bars that you fix across a door frame, where you extend and then twist to tighten. Unfortunately, one of the two sets i received turned out to be faulty – one of the segments could not be pulled out from the enclosing segment. The design is inherently prone to this problem. Just to give you an idea of what it looks like, see the sample picture below. If you intend to buy walking poles, DO NOT buy this type!

I learned my lesson (thankfully not an expensive one) and bought another set with a different tightening mechanism (external). This was more expensive of course, but not by very much, at 78 Yuan (S$17.50) per pair. It had the added advantage of being slightly slimmer and lighter. I was very satisfied with this second purchase from 大漠户外 and highly recommend it.

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The external locking mechanism – locking is done in one step rather than having to continuously twist the bar without really knowing when to stop.

Don’t forget to get cashback from Shopback!

Taobao product recommendation – spin mop

Many people use a spin mop, but over time, either the mop or the bucket breaks down, but seldom both at the same time. Unfortunately, these are usually sold as a set. Moreover, they are quite expensive even when sold individually.

Well, as the title suggests, Taobao is your solution. I bought a replacement spin mop for 35 Yuan ($7.80). Inclusive of shipping cost, this spin mop would cost you about half the price of one bought locally in Singapore, so it’s a no brainer. The search term to look for a spin mop on Taobao is 旋转拖把.

Don’t forget to get cashback from Shopback!

Taobao product recommendation – Cooking oil spray

Does the term PAM ring a bell to you? Not many people in the eastern hemisphere will know that it is a popular brand of a cooking spray. A cooking spray would appeal to someone who is health conscious, since it reduces the amount of oil needed for cooking. I guess one reason it didn’t catch on here (in Singapore and South East Asia in general) is that we mostly prefer our food to be on the oily side. Nevertheless, the idea was intriguing enough to me that i wanted to give it a try.

The commercial type of cooking spray (like PAM) is almost exclusively produced and sold in the US. The only way to get them in Singapore is probably to have friends or visitors to the US bring them back. It may be possible mail order and ship them over, but i imagine it may not be cost effective since there’s probably a premium to pay for shipping such a sensitive product – it is an aerosol can, which can be dangerous. Anyway, despite the supposed lower calories benefit it brings, there are downsides to using the commercial cooking spray, since it contains potentially harmful chemicals. For these reasons, i decided that i will not use it. I would go for an alternative method – an oil spray.

An oil spray is like the perfume bottle that releases a mist when you press the spray nozzle. When spraying oil however, you will not get a mist but more of small jet streams. Though not ideal, it does the job of spreading the oil somewhat more evenly to a larger surface area than pouring, which gives the food you are cooking a more even exposure to oil. I can’t say for sure that this results in a noticeable difference to the end product of what you cook, nor am i bothered to scientifically prove that this uses much less oil, but i still like the idea of using an oil spray. The one downside is that the oil tends to leak down the sides of the bottle.

Surprisingly, an oil spray is quite easily found in local (Singapore) online shopping sites at competitive prices, so there’s no real need to buy from Taobao. Anyway, in case you’re interested, this was the one I bought (update: they have replaced the model with a glass bottle one). I got it at 58 Yuan (about S$13), but the glass bottle version is only 28 Yuan (about S$6.20). I like that it is made of high grade stainless steel with minimal plastic parts. You could even make your own oil spray if you wanted to, but for safety reasons, I would rather buy one (with the hope that the manufacturer used food grade material).

oilspray

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Splatter produced by the oil spray. It is still mostly concentrated in the middle.

Update: i hardly use the oil spray these days, because the oil tends to turn rancid very quickly, and to be honest, food taste better with more oil. Yes, you’ll need to pour to get enough oil in the food.

Don’t forget to get cashback from Shopback!

Taobao product recommendation – Panini grill

 

There’s something about the striped grill marks on a panini that makes it so luring to me that i wanted to own a panini toaster. Having the grilled stripes does add extra crunchiness, balanced by the rest of the softer parts of the bread. This is not achievable by a toaster or an oven, which grills the entire surface.

Anyway, a panini grill isn’t common in Singapore. What’s typically sold in Singapore are sandwich makers, which clamp the edges of sliced bread together and does not allow you to make tall sandwiches. While a panini grill isn’t expensive on Amazon, they run on 110V, so they can’t be used in Singapore, at least not without a high-wattage transformer (which doesn’t make sense). Well, as usual, i went the way of Taobao as i wasn’t going to spend a lot of money to buy one.

Continue reading Taobao product recommendation – Panini grill

Taobao parcel forwarder review – 4PX vs DPEX

There are 4 parcel forwarders on Taobao. I have used 2 of them – 4PX and DPEX. DPEX is a new entrant to this business. I thought i could give them a try since they offer a slightly lower rate than 4PX. So how did they fare?

Well, i’m not going to use DPEX again in the future. Here’s why:

1. They quoted the weight of the items to a single decimal place, instead of 2 decimal places like 4PX does. For example, 0.5kg. Very obviously, they rounded the weight upwards. It is possible that for an item that is 0.41kg, they rounded it up to 0.5kg. You’re not at the scene when they take the weight measurement, so they can really just quote a random weight if they wanted to. I’m inclined to think that a weight measurement having 2 decimal places is more likely to be real. At least, it takes more imagination or creativity to fake a weight measurement of up to 2 decimal places every time. I’m more willing to pay for the extra “work” done of plucking 2 decimal places out of thin air than 1. But anyway, a 1 decimal place weight measurement doesn’t sit well with me, not when you’re billed in 0.5kg quantum. If you’re buying 5 items or more, and every item is rounded up to the nearest 0.1kg, you’re definitely going to be billed for an extra 0.5kg of shipping cost!

2. In the consolidated shipment package, some items came sans their original packaging material. That is a big NO! The stuff you bought from the respective Taobao sellers were sent in a packaging that the seller deemed necessary to protect the item throughout the course of their delivery. Some items can be damaged if shipped without their original protective packaging. Guess what happened to some of the packages when they reached DPEX warehouse? They opened up some of the packages in order to make everything fit into the box they chose for shipping my stuff! What if they have dishonest staff who decided to keep some of the items you bought, or if they were simply careless and left out some items? Nobody will claim responsibility! They should not allow such a possibility in the first place! Here’s the thing that is most repulsive about DPEX – when they ship stuff with the packaging material removed, they still charge you the shipping cost according to the weight which is inclusive of the packaging material! I purchased a camera bag that is listed as weighing 300gm on the product page but was quoted 0.5kg by DPEX. Guess how the camera bag was shipped? Yes, simply wrapped in a plastic bag! If i was billed the correct weight then maybe i wouldn’t mind the repackaging done.

My experience with 4PX was far better. The items are all delivered in their original packaging, the weight is calculated up to 2 decimal places, and i also get an SMS on the day of the delivery (obviously DPEX didn’t do this)! Forget DPEX and go with 4PX!

Update 3 Feb 2017

A lot has changed since i wrote this blog entry. The couriers have changed, and the shipping rates too (more favourable now). I have not shipped via Taobao Consolidated Shipping for a long time, but have used ezbuy and 86OF. Ezbuy for shipping small items, because they have the option of self-collection from warehouse, which totally avoids the hassle of failed deliveries. And they’re likely cheaper too for non-bulky items. 86OF because you can ship large items, which you cannot ship through Taobao nor ezbuy, and for a low price too. If you’re new to Taobao shipping, i would encourage you to try out all the options to see which one works best for you, though for large items, you don’t really have a choice.

Taobao beginners guide

I am presuming you understand the benefits of shopping on Taobao. Let me begin by saying this is not going to be a comprehensive guide of how to complete a purchase on Taobao from start to end. Rather, i will attempt to explain the options available and pitfalls you may face. Note also that this guide is about making a purchase on Taobao directly and not going through an agent.

Account registration
If you are newly registered as a user on taobao.com, your initial attempts to make a purchase may fail simply because you are a new user. I have encountered the situation where my order gets rejected automatically. Some sellers choose to simply not trust purchases from newbies, maybe because they have encountered fake buyers. In other cases, you may be able to speak to the seller directly (through the 阿里旺旺 online chat) and the seller will flip some switches to allow your order to go through. Proficiency with Chinese and also the ability to input Chinese characters is important to get things done on Taobao, often times. Continue reading Taobao beginners guide