The best way to find out whether a store is reliable or whether an item is as described or shown in the stock images is to read the customer’s reviews on each product page and on the seller’s rating page. If you can’t read Chinese, there are some other solutions:
Overall Customer Satisfaction Rating
On a shop’s page or item’s page, when you hover your cursor over the seller’s id at the top, this little box will appear:
Those 3 numbers in blue are the ratings that you need to pay attention to. They are all rated out of 5.
The first number at the top is the rating for likeness of product to stock image / item description. This is probably the most important one since one of our greatest worries when shopping online is receiving items that do not look like their stock image. Ideally, a decent rating would usually be 4.7 and above.
The second rating is for customer service. I suppose this doesn’t concern you as much, since I’m the one dealing with the sellers XD. However, sellers with higher customer service tend to be more responsible and efficient, and less likely to send wrong items.
The last rating is seller’s speed of posting out items. Shops that sell made-to-order items tend to suffer in this aspect, but usually this rating shouldn’t go below 4.5 unless the seller is not meeting the deadlines they promised. Anything below 4.5 suggests that the seller is inefficient.
In general, if you expect quality, stay clear of anything below 4.7!
Positive, Neutral and Negative Feedback
If you click on the blue words at the bottom right corner of the box, you will be brought to the seller’s feedback page.
This box with the flowers shows the number of positive, neutral and negative feedback that the seller has incurred. The red flower is positive, yellow flower neutral and grey, wilting flower negative. There are four tabs, the default tab (2nd tab) is for feedback in the past month. The very first tab is for feedback in the past week. The 3rd tab is feedback for the past half year. The last tab is feedback for before the past half year and beyond.
I do not trust this feedback rating very much because most buyers are unwilling to leave negative or neutral feedback because they are afraid of getting neutral or negative feedback from the seller in return. There are times when I see a Red flower, but a very negative comment. So it’s really not quite accurate. On the other hand, a decent seller may receive a negative feedback from an unreasonable customer, affecting his/her feedback eventhough he/she is actually a really good seller.
Of course, if a seller has several yellow and grey wilting flowers, it is a sign to avoid it since most reasonable buyers do not leave neutral or negative feedback for no good reason.
One more way to judge is quality of stock images. Original, beautiful and professional-looking stock images and detail images are indications of a seller’s sincerity and professionalism.
Some Taobao shops use stolen stock images rather than their own pictures, and try to replicate the items in the photo. This results in actual item looking slightly different from the picture. If I’m aware that the shop uses stolen stock images or has bad reviews, I will inform you. But if such information isn’t clear from the shopfront, then I would not be able to tell you. Please use your good judgment. Basically, you get what you pay for. If the price is too good to be true, then it probably is too good to be true.
However, there are always exceptions to every case, so if you are still not sure whether a store is reliable, don’t hesitate to tell me your doubts. I’ll read through the reviews and let you know what they say!