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Shopping on Taobao has its risks, especially when it comes to shipping fees or returning items. Sometimes, you don’t actually know how much shipping costs until items have been repacked for shipping to Singapore; and returning items has been notoriously complex. Ask seasoned Taobao shoppers and they’ll tell you that most of the time, it’s either not worth the hassle or return shipping costs to send the item back to the seller in China. 

But that’s about to change as Taobao’s shipping service, Cainiao, has now made it easier to do returns and has introduced updated shipping processes.

Returns

Cainiao has just launched its first free goods return service for Taobao and Tmall customers in Singapore.

Here’s a step-by-step guide: 
Step #1:
Go on the Taobao app and request to start the goods return process. This applies only to eligible items.
Step #2: Cainiao’s local logistics partners will contact you to confirm pick-up details. It will take up to two working days for doorstep pick-up.
Step #3: Once the items have been picked up, customers will get a return order code. Enter this code in the app to initiate a refund. It will take about five working days from the initiation of refunds to the refunding of payment.

Shipping via Cainiao: What’s changed?

Before: Shipping your Taobao buys over directly via Cainiao went something like this: Choose shipping method (air or sea freight), and make first payment for the items. Once the parcels from different sellers arrive at the warehouse, Cainiao checks, consolidates and repacks the parcels, and calculates the second payment, ie. shipping from China to Singapore, based on final combined size of the repacked parcels.  

The problem is that customers would not know the finalised shipping costs until the second payment is due — some may end up paying a lot more than they expected for air shipping, for instance. Cainiao also imposes restrictions on size, which means if your parcels end up too large, Cainiao’s consolidation warehouse will reject it and not send it to Singapore.

What it’s like now: Fewer surprises, for starters. Customers still choose air or sea freight at the first payment when they place the orders, but now, they have the option to switch between shipping modes at the point of second payment, after Cainiao consolidates all your orders for shipment to Singapore.

In other words, you can compare costs and delivery timelines of air and sea shipping before you actually pay, whereas in the past, you had to, well, live with your decision. Chose air freight initially but shipping costs for your larger-than-expected parcels are sky high? No sweat, switch to sea freight. Or if you’d chosen sea freight, but realise it’d take too long to arrive in Singapore, you can always switch to air freight when the second payment’s due.

With the upgraded shipping system, customers can also ship items via sea freight without worrying on size restrictions. Chris Fan, Head of Cross-Border, Singapore, Cainiao Network, tells 8Days.sg: “Parcels shipped via air freight have stricter standards, which limit the types and size of items that can be transported. 

“However, in the upgraded model, there are no additional restrictions on items that can be shipped via sea freight other than the regulations set by local authorities. One such example would be the prohibition of food and medicinal purchases from overseas e-commerce platforms, which means that such items will be ineligible for sea (and air) shipping on Taobao and Tmall as well.”

Main photo: Adapted from Pexels/Artem Podrez

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