Update, May 22, 2015: Unfortunately the Aladdin payment method no longer works. However, all of the other steps (sign-up, shopping, checkout) described in this guide are still valid. If you can read a bit of Chinese, you can select a different payment method, or have a friend pay. Look out for a new Taobao article coming soon. It's Black Friday and I just got paid. I wanna buy some treats. I want to consume. I used to have my Chinese friends buy goods for me on Taobao but they've stopped returning my text messages. Luckily there's a way to use Taobao with minimal Chinese knowledge and a Chinese debit/credit card. You don't need AliPay or online banking or any of that confusing shit. All you need is a computer, a Chinese phone number, a bank card, a machine called Aladdin that you can find at many Family Marts and 7-11's in Shanghai, and this guide. In further tech articles, we'll cover how to set up Alipay and do more advanced Taobao-ing, but let's keep it basic today. Here we go.
I. Setting Up A Taobao Account
You'll need a Taobao account, so go to the Taobao website and click the circled bit. Enter your phone number and do the Captcha. You'll get a text message with a code in a few seconds. Input that in the code box. Now you choose a user name and password. Now you're good. Once you've done this successfully Taobao will automatically log you in and you can start shopping.
II. Finding The Treats
Alright time to find some products to consume. If you're searching for a common brand name like Haribo, it's fine to use English. If you're looking for something more specific like...inflatable animals, it's better to translate that to Chinese then search. See how Shanghai (上海) is circled in the bottom right? When possible, you should buy from sellers near you to reduce shipping time. You probably wouldn't want to order treats from Lan Zhou or something. You're also gonna wanna check the seller's feedback. This is **especially important** when using the method in this guide. If you use AliPay, then AliPay will hold your money for seven days until you recieve the product and you confirm that it's all good. But by using this method, you're just paying directly to the seller with no safeguards. Sounds scary, but if you go with a high-rated seller, you'll be fine. Those blue crowns are good. Click on those to see some more detailed info about the seller. Red is good in Chinese. This seller has all reds and it says high (高). Also, they've got 93% positive feedback on over 2,300 orders. That's a good sign. Definitely don't order from people with low feedback or not much history.
III. Buying The Treats
Ok those treats look good. Throw em' in the cart by clicking that button. You can access your cart at the top of the screen. Click that orange button to go in there. Once you're in your cart, you'll need to check that box to the left of the item. Then click the orange box in the lower right to proceed. Now, the first time you do this, you'll get a screen that asks you to enter your address info. You'll need to enter that in Chinese and it's really important to put your phone number in so the delivery guy can contact you. After that, select your shipping method. In general, the default kuai di (快递) is the way to go. There's also a little box to check if you just want your friend who has AliPay or something to pay for you. If you want to pay yourself, just leave that unchecked and click the check out button.
IV. Paying For The Treats
Let's look at that "have a friend pay option" real quick. If you checked that box, you'll get the following screen. Now all you need to do is enter your friend's email address or Taobao account number. After you do that and click the orange button, they'll get a message on their phone and take it from there. If you didn't check that box, you'll get this screen. You want to click the tab all the way on the right. That's for "other options". Then you'll need to change the city to Shanghai, otherwise Aladdin won't show up because most cities in China don't have these machines. This is what the city-select screen looks like. Once you choose Shanghai for city and area, you'll get the option for Aladdin. Just click that orange button and BOOM... Ok now you've got your code. Better click that button and send it to your phone, because you'll need the code and the price of your order. Once you've got that, head to your local Family Mart...
V. The Aladdin Machine
There's the Aladdin Machine. Beautiful. Aladdin has many functions – you can top up your mobile phone, pay bills, and buy shit on taobao. This whole process will take like two minutes. Click that lil' Taobao button in the bottom left. Select "Offline Payment". Enter that code and item price that's in the text you recieved, then hit that orange button. Enter your phone number and click the orange button. Aladdin likes to play it safe, man. Then select the second option on the right – that's for debit/credit cards. On the next screen you'll see the total amount. Verify that and press the orange button. Now stick your card in the slot. Aladdin will spit it right back out. Now just enter your PIN number and BOOM! You're done. You'll get a little screen with a smiling woman that says success (成功). Now just wait a few days for those treats and you're golden. That's it. Although this guide has a lot of steps, this process is really fast. I also bought this, because Haibao will never die in my heart. **** Look out for future adventures in Taobaoland, including how to set up AliPay...