Getting a bargain from online shopping

Besides her smartphone, Tai also monitors her online business via her laptop.

BACK in the old days, people had few expectations from the postal service.

What they could expect from their mailboxes were mostly personal letters or document-type mail.

But nowadays, the situation has changed as more people are turning to postal and courier services, especially women, generally dubbed ‘queens of online shopping’.

Shirley Tai, a mother of four children, is one of them. To her, online shopping is full of surprises.

“Receiving a parcel online is just like receiving a present from somebody. That’s why I’m so into online shopping. You can’t buy the sort of excitement that comes with getting the items you purchased online from the courier service. That’s how I feel.”

Online shopping 

As a full-time reporter of a Chinese local daily in Miri, Tai went into online shopping to earn extra income.

“I started e-commerce by selling clothes via social media such as Facebook. The response from my Facebook friends was encouraging and this motivated me to go even further.”

In online shopping, she said, it’s common to look for cheaper quality products.

The famous Chinese online shopping website, Taobao, operated in Hangzhou, Zhejiang, by Alibaba Group, has attracted her.

It took her almost a month to research the website. There were many things she had to take into account before doing e-commerce with Taobao, particularly the fear of dealing with errant sellers from countries she is not familiar with.

Subsequently, she started communicating with Taobao sellers via email, and discovered, to her surprise, that only a few of them — such as in Guangzhou, southern China and Shenzhen, the major city in Guangdong Province — had some knowledge of Malaysia.

There were also sellers from Beijing and Shanghai who got in touch with her via email and they too did not know about Malaysia – in fact, they had never heard of the country.

“I don’t blame them because China is such a huge country with a population running into billions.

“If they aren’t aware of Malaysia, what more to say about the state of Sarawak and its city Miri. So, hopefully, through our initial contact, Taobao will tell these sellers about our country, especially the state of Sarawak,” Tai said.

An Alipay e-wallet.

Foreign ascount

To purchase items from Taobao, she has to have an e-wallet called Alipay.

Being a foreign shopper, it’s almost an impossible mission for her to explore the online shopping potential provided by Taobao.

“Alipay is a kind of convenient way of online payment system for the people in China. Foreigners who want to have this e-wallet application must have a bank account in China and the contact number in the country — plus other requirements such as passport and email address. But these are not easy to get,”she said.

Tai believes such strict requirements will enable Taobao, as one of the largest global online shopping websites in the world, to protect their sellers from the risk of international business scams.

She said she had been approached by a woman from China in Miri, offering her an Alipay account to continue her Taobao venture.

She declined because the account was registered under the woman’s name.

“The offer was cheap as I only needed to pay RM60 for her to lend the e-wallet account. At first, I wanted to accept as I saw it as the way to enter the e-commerce world of Taobao. But then, I had second thoughts and rejected the offer as I feared it would be too risky.

Realising Tai’s keen interest in Taobao, her husband managed to lend a friend’s Alipay account to her. With the account, the first thing she did was help her colleagues to shop online with Taobao since the transaction was in China’s currency — Renminbi.

Tai has been using her husband e-wallet account for about six years and she is now one of Taobao’s agents in Miri.

Tai has to sort out the items into small parcels before delivering them to customers.

Efficient service

She gives the thumbs-up to the services provided by Taobao. As an agent of the global e-commerce network, she has been allotted a store at the warehouse.

“For those with Alipay accounts, they can make personal purchases. The handling and shipping fee is a bit costly but with group buying, it’s much cheaper.”

On shipment, she rates Taobao highly in handling customer consignments.

“Their services are excellent — they have their own Key Performance Index (KPI) to deliver the goods within two weeks from the day of purchase.

“Moreover, I can track my consignment from the day it is shipped out from my store to a destination.

“The information on the arrival of a consignment from one destination to another is very precise. This is the part that makes me very excited about Taobao, particularly when the purchased items reach the final destination.”

Since dealing with Taobao, she has not encountered major problems — only some minor issues on delayed deliveries, particularly during clearance with Customs.

Tai is fully behind the effort to elevate Sarawak to a digital economy.

She said introducing an e-wallet via Sarawak Pay is the best way to educate the public on a cashless payment system.

“Who knows, one day perhaps our e-wallet system can be accepted by others countries for e-commerce transactions.

“This is something good. It can cut all the hassle, especially when you are travelling to other countries or dealing with international businesses.”

A consignment of goods delivered to Tai’s doorstep.

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