In China, as a foreigner you are supposed to register at the local police station (派出所) within 24 hours after you enter the country, move to a new place or change your visa. When doing so, you need to bring copies of your passport info page, the China visa page and also your rental contract (if you live in a rented apartment). For the last few times I’ve done this, since I didn’t own a printer, I’ve scanned the documents into a computer file, loaded them onto a USB thumb drive and taken it to a local mom & pop print shop to get them printed out for about 0.50 RMB per page. The scary thing is that they plug your USB drive into their computer, drag the files onto their desktop and then print them. It’s up to them to delete them off their system. That’s a situation ripe for identity theft.
Today I decided it was time to finally buy a printer so that I could keep our personal information safe from any possible prying eyes. The last time I bought a piece of electronic equipment, an external LED monitor, I went to a nearby computer products mall. It’s chock full of little vendors all clamoring loudly for your attention as you walk by their stores. It feels like an aggressive flea market but in a five story, air-conditioned building with escalators. Shopping at the mall was stressful for me because I couldn’t tell whether I was being quoted fair prices for the monitors I inquired about. Being an overseas Chinese guy, the vendors don’t immediately recognize that I’m a foreigner, but as soon as I start talking in Chinese they soon realize that I can’t quite understand their responses. So I’m always wary that they will be quoting me the “foreigners” price rather than the normal price.
Recently I’ve been learning how to buy stuff from TaoBao.com, China’s version of eBay. Being that TaoBao is a nationwide market, I feel confident that prices quoted there are the genuine prices. So this time, wanting to buy a printer, I decided to look for a printer on TaoBao. It wasn’t hard to filter the search results to just show me inkjet printers sold by vendors in Chengdu city. The Canon MP259 printer sold by a vendor only about a mile away from where I live caught my eye. I did a quick search on Amazon for a few models I found on TaoBao. But Amazon didn’t carry any of the Canon or HP printers I searched for. It seems that I was searching specifically for printer models specifically sold in China. I was, however, able to find many positive reviews about the printer on NewEgg’s China website. The U.S. version of the printer, the MP250, has great reviews also here and here. I chatted online with the TaoBao vendor to see if they had the MP259 in stock and to confirm the 370 RMB price listed on the TaoBao product page. And before long I hopped on my bike and pedaled down to the store.
It wasn’t hard to find the right brick-n-mortar printer store that was selling the MP259 on TaoBao. And there were many other stores specialized in selling printers and computer products in that area. To double-check whether 370 RMB was a good price, I first walked into a neighboring store and found that they were selling the MP259 for 450 RMB. Then I went to the store I intended to buy from. They had a stack of MP259s right by the entrance. The clerk told me that he couldn’t sell me the printer for 370 RMB, as that was the online-only price. He said that the lowest he could sell it for was 380 RMB. That was fine by me. Not a bad purchase for just 58 USD. Walmart sells the U.S. version for only 32 bucks so its not a steal. But I don’t feel ripped of either. Electronics are always cheaper to buy in the U.S. than in China.
I felt like a local biking home with my brand new printer bungee corded to my bicycle. Thanks to the helpful store clerk, who helped me strap it on, the printer made it home safely during crazy Chengdu rush hour traffic.
In case you’re in China and are thinking to buy this same printer, here are some pics of its setup.
They sold me a brand new printer in a box that had never been opened. Often in China, if you buy any electronics, you can ask the vendor to plug it in to make sure that it works before taking it home. But I took a chance and just bought it without opening it first.
All the instructions are in Chinese. The CD installation program runs in English.
The printer was covered with orange plastic tape to secure the product during transport.
The printer came with two ink cartridges, a power cable and a USB cord tucked inside.
This printer uses just two ink cartridges. I’m used to printers with separate cartridges for different types of color. But this one just has one cartridge for all colors. Hope it lasts!
Upon setting up the printer, I tested it and it works great! The copier function works fine, too. I’m very happy with the purchase.