Since writing this blog we’ve mostly had positive experiences. Perhaps this post here will offer some variety. It’s probably more interesting to read about failures and troubles. So here we recount our Taobao missing item experience. It’ll be a frustrating tale of how our Taobao shipper lost our parcels and why we have decided to change our shipper of choice. And this will probably be a negative review of MRC’s Taobao shipping services, which we haven’t had the time to properly review so far.
Thus far, we’ve always been saying to buy from Taobao. It’s much cheaper than buying locally, especially for lights. That has been true. But it’s not without risks. Taobao items often aren’t of good quality. Many of our stainless steel items, supposedly SUS 304, have been rusting. To that, Taobao sellers will say that SUS 304 also rusts! That’s true, but the whole point of buying SUS 304 at a premium is because we don’t want it to rust easily. And if you buy locally from established brands, SUS 304 doesn’t really rust that easily. So it definitely is poor quality from the Taobao sellers.
In all our articles so far we’ve been recommending this Taobao shipper, MRC from HardwareZone forums. We first found him on the forums, and he has been pretty ok. His prices and speed of delivery have been good. MRC ships out stuff before receiving payment, which is expedient. He’s also easily contactable via Whatsapp.
Minor bad experiences
But there have been times when his guys messed up, albeit with minor consequences.
- There’d be times after we submitted the shipping form and we’d hear nothing for days. The next time he updates us can be a week later. By then our stuff is already on the ship. It’s definitely not the best way of updating.
- There was once our stuff was accidentally packed and shipped in the container even though not everything was ready. We ended up having to pay SGD 30+ to ship again by small sea shipping. Then there was another time when we received someone else’s chairs (minus the legs), which we kindly returned because they weren’t ours. We hoped that this would accumulate some karma for us.
- We ever submitted a list of stuff to ship and the China warehouse confirmed that everything was in. Except that it wasn’t, but they already shipped the whole shipment.
Losing our stuff
If there’s karma, it probably goes in the opposite direction. Our stuff was lost in our latest shipment. Of 17 boxes/bags, only 15 came. We lost almost 20 parcels in total that were inside these boxes/bags.
First sign of problem
The first time we learnt something bad happened was when arranging the delivery of the items. The Singapore courier guy said 2 of our items were gone. Just missing. They said they had to search the warehouse. We proceeded to arrange the delivery anyway because we couldn’t do anything.
Impatient delivery guy
It was night time when the delivery guy came, as we had arranged. He said he had many more places to run, and we needed to quickly sign the form to acknowledge that we took delivery.
He was impatient and didn’t mention that we were short of 2 boxes, whether they could or couldn’t find the boxes.
This wasn’t right because if we didn’t know beforehand that there were 2 boxes missing, we would’ve been pressured and signed for the delivery. Even for items we didn’t receive.
But we knew. So we counted the boxes carefully and tallied with our list. We then signed off with a comment that there were only 15 items.
Understanding the problem
So we contacted MRC. He asked us which boxes were missing. So we had to check everything to find the box labels of the 2 missing boxes/bags. He also told us to check all 63 items, which we also did. It was a very tiring process.
We lost almost 20 orders/parcels within those 2 boxes. It soon became apparent what the problem was. 2 of the boxes we received weren’t even labelled. That means they likely also didn’t label the 2 missing ones. The warehouse guys must have missed them out and either wrongly delivered them to someone else, or it went missing in the warehouse.
They then told us that they’d search the China and Singapore warehouses again. However, they still couldn’t find it. At this stage it was clear they lost our stuff. No one knew where it was. The Singapore side said the China guys were at fault, the China guys said they loaded everything into the container.
We had to discuss compensation because they still couldn’t find our items. We always knew the compensation was a maximum of 3 times the shipping amount. That was in the terms and conditions. However, we never knew how shipping amount would be calculated. We found out through experience.
Sadly, the compensation was bad. We were offered and compensated 3 times the shipping amount. We paid SGD 90+ in shipping, so we did not expect the compensation to veer far off that figure.
However, we were wrong. The shipper assessed that our 2 big boxes/bags with 16 parcels occupied only 0.2cbm. Which works out to be SGD 9.30 X 2 cbm X 3 = SGD 55.80.
However, that was terrible for us because the items cost us SGD 136.63. That excludes GST = SGD 9.56 (we declared faithfully to customs), shipping cost = SGD 18.60, and having to ship again to get the items (total of 3-4 weeks delay).
In total, we lost SGD 108.99.
We suspect that our stuff is in someone else’s home now. Delivered to the wrong home. And they definitely won’t do as we did and return them. The silver lining was that the shipment didn’t contain things that were SGD 300-400 in a parcel, like we had in past shipments. Otherwise, our losses would’ve been far greater.
If there’re regrets, it’d be that we didn’t buy insurance and we didn’t see the warning signs. We previously asked about insurance for a table and lights, but were told it’s difficult and slow to do insurance. We didn’t demand it since then. It was our fault and we can only blame ourselves for not pestering him for insurance. Also, if we heeded the warning signs from the past cases we should’ve stopped using MRC.
When we indicated our disappointment to him, his responses weren’t great either:
- MRC said everyone loses items, even DHL lost his items. That’d be fair, until you think about how they botched the delivery and the poor compensation. DHL probably wouldn’t handle it that way. I suppose we got what you paid for.
- MRC has an alternative shipper that he uses for commercial clients. This was more expensive but faster. We asked why he didn’t offer it first instead of offering it only after screwing up. He said slight increases in prices turned off his customers. This effectively meant that the shipper was lousier but still the only option he advertised online, because the prices were cheap.
- MRC said the shipper didn’t usually lose much stuff compared to others out there, only losing our stuff and a stool last year. This was scant consolation when told to the people who lost stuff. It’s like saying “oops sorry your dad died from lightning strike, but too bad, generally the chances are 1 in a billion”.
- MRC said he has saved SGD 5000 plus buying on Taobao after we said this SGD 100+ loss negated all our savings from Taobao. We disagree because not even Taobao savings can top up if the shipper continues to lose entire boxes/bags of stuff.
Back to searching for a new shipper
In summary, this post is not saying you should avoid MRC. His prices are not bad, if cost is your only concern. What you sacrifice might be reliability, although we could be biased because we lost stuff and money.
But for sure, we definitely wouldn’t be recommending him again. We actually recommended quite a few friends, but it just isn’t right to recommend someone we don’t trust anymore. This whole incident has been a huge waste of money, time, effort, and uncertainty. It’s not right that the original and only service you promote is not good enough and you’ve an alternative. A better one. It’s also not right for the delivery people to just pressure you to sign over for items quickly.
We won’t completely stop buying from Taobao. But we will scale back, look for a new sea shipper, and hopefully the change will benefit us. It’ll probably be back to SFinex for the time being. Meanwhile, we’ll also primarily use air shipment by official forwarders.
And if you do have suggestions on alternative shippers or other experiences that we can learn from, do let us know in the comments below! We’ll be tremendously grateful 🙂