On January 11th I made a Taobaonow.com order for 3 pairs of Secret Shop socks, and today (28th Jan 2010) I received the order. While the wait wasn't TOO bad (it had to be shipped from Secret Shop to their office, and then to me), bear in mind that custom items will take much much longer, and Chinese New Year is going to throw a wrench into everything.
So here's what I did. One thing I loved about Taobaonow.com was their easily accessible website that lets you use the site itself as a shopping cart for your taobao items. So no more wrangling with Taobao's wonky system. You do need to make an account first though but it's super easy and takes no time at all.
Here's how to add items to your Taobaonow shopping cart:
1) Click on Your Shopping Cart.
2) Find your desired Taobao item, and type in the direct link to that item. Don't paste the shop's link in that box, for example. Also, you can type in additional info like size, colour and whatnot in the box provided below.
2a) Press Add to Cart.
3) It will show up after a brief loading period under the Your Shopping Cart yellow banner. Switch to your currency of choice to make things clearer.
(I used Mashimaro_girl's Taobao links page.)
Once you have all your items, just press Check Out. You will get an automated email saying you bought X and so on. Keep this email for future reference. NEVER RELY ON EMAILS FROM TAOBAONOW FOR UPDATES. The one thing I noticed is that they use automated emails most often, and two out of three times updates to my order were posted only to my Taobaonow "Your Orders" page. More on that later.
To check on the status of your order and to pay for it, do the following:
1) Log in and press "Your Orders".
2) Select your order number.
3) If the order went through, there should be a Paypal button for your convenience. Pay.
4) After payment, I like to leave a comment stating that I sent a payment. It's not explicitly necessary but I do it anyway just in case.
Note: My order was delayed a couple of days because I stupidly waited for email updates instead of checking Taobaonow all the time. Again, DO NOT RELY ON THEM TO EMAIL YOU. You need to go to "Your Orders" etc. to get updates on your items.
From here it should be streamlined. They will always reply with a "Payment received" notice once they get your money. If you don't get one, leave a comment asking if they received it or email them with your order number and Paypal receipt.
Here's a list of all the emails I got. Surprisingly they emailed me for payment of the international shipping fee, but because it was the only time they sent an email on an update that wasn't automated, I would not rely on this. Making an order, making a payment etc. will always email you automatic "receipts" of your actions.
Here's the shipping invoice they emailed me. This is for international shipping ONLY. You ONLY pay 2 parts for the invoice - the cost of the items + commission + shipping to their offices, and the cost of shipping from them to you.
They also let you select airmail or EMS, which is nice. EMS was shipped out on the 24th and reached me on the 28th, and I got that because I didn't want to wait any more for my socks. If you are ordering small items airmail can be a lifesaver.
However, they didn't send me an update with my tracking number until I prodded them about it.
You can see that on the 26th of January I asked for a shipping update, which they replied to with a tracking number showing that they had already shipped it without informing me. Not a big deal, but still. They respond fairly fast though, so that is a plus.
The box. It's a box. It's fairly sturdy etc. but all I bought were socks.
The socks, packed REALLY TIGHT inside many layers of plastic wrap.
The plastic lump. It felt as dense as a soccer ball.
Socks. I ripped off the plastic on the leftmost pair by accident, but they were all in their original packaging and in good condition.
All three socks. They're actually really nice, for replicas. The prints are vivid and the material is not too thin and quite smooth.
Overall I'd give Taobaonow.com a 4/5. They're not absolutely perfect, but they get the job done. If you need to buy in-stock items and such they're a good value for your money, since their commission fees are quite low; they charge only 10% of the item cost and the shipping to their office, with a minimum fee of 50 yuan (about $7).
The total cost for all 3 socks with EMS shipping was about US$40 and they don't charge paypal fees. I could've gotten them for much cheaper too ($35) if I had gone for airmail. So if you're pinching pennies, Taobaonow is a pretty good deal.
EDIT: For anything more complicated than ordering in-stock items via their shopping cart, they tend to be somewhat slow. There's only one guy with a full grasp of English to handle the more complex issues.
OT: I originally ordered the strawberry socks for my sister and the other two for myself, but I'm on the fence about them now that I see how short they are (knee socks tend to look really unflattering on me). Should I keep them or give them to my sister? >_<;