A Chinese Sales Story: It Wasn’t Simple But We Got It Done

Jul 13 2014

I_don't_speak_ChineseWe all get daily inquiries about our numerics domains.  I’m not like many domain investors in the fact the lowballs and 5 generic emails a day don’t really bother me. Of the all the junk that comes through my email, this isn’t at the top of my list.  It doesn’t take but a few minutes to put in a number.  Yes, nothing usually happens but every once in a while it goes somewhere.  Last year I sold a domain for $15K from a random Chinese email so I when I received a response from one of my quotes I figured there was a chance we had a real buyer.

The first email was your typical email. Do you want to sell, not perfect English.  But the second came in with the response “I saw your domain was at auction, if he doesn’t pay I’ll offer you  $”.  I had the domain for sale at Godaddy twice.  It had sold for $7200 once and nobody paid.  I waited 3 weeks for them to pay and nothing. So I relisted.  It got lots of action so I thought I’d try one more time. Of course Godaddy made me pay for the auction again.  This time it sold for $4500.  Not as good of a sale but still a good profit.  But because he second email from the potential buyer came in two days after the auction I didn’t want to screw the auction buyer like I had been screwed.  Even though I had a chance to sell it for more.

I responded with “if the buyer doesn’t pay it’s yours”.  One, I expected the auction winner to pay. Two, I never really expected to hear again from the Chinese buyer.  I should have known better, and per usual the Godaddy buyer hadn’t paid by week two.  I contacted my Godaddy rep Patrick,  who is always very helpful, and basically said, I’m tired of this BS, it’s been two weeks, I want to cancel my obligation.  No questions asked I received an email saying my obligation was over and it was mine to sell again.  So I contacted the owner and told it I officially accepted his offer and I would start an Escrow.com transaction.

Maybe it’s all the emails.  Maybe it’s because I have no way of doing any homework on my buyers from China, but no matter what stage I’m in of the sale process I always feel like it won’t go through.  I really have no reason to be so pessimistic as once at escrow things have always gone well.  But then I had reason for concern.  The buyer said he didn’t feel comfortable with Escrow.com.  He gave lots of reasons but it really came down to the same reason I have trouble with Chinese transactions.  My lack of understanding the language and the inability to be able to discuss the transaction with anyone because of the distance and language barrier.  I got the escrow.com email saying he agreed but then I received an email saying he would feel more comfortable doing the transaction at ename.

I received an email from a person at ename.com named mia (with a real email address from ename) saying that they had a customer that was using their escrow service and they had received funds.  All they needed was my auth code and my bank details and they would take care of the rest.   Up went my flags.  No website link, no online verification nothing.  I went to their site to do some homework and ….well, it is completely in Chinese.  Which to me might as well have been written in braille because either way I had a zero chance of reading it.  I emailed mia back and told her my feelings.  I need more verification, I don’t speak or read Chinese and I don’t feel comfortable.  I emailed my friend Kassey who you might see commenting on quite a few of the domain blogs and asked for a favor. He speaks Chinese and asked him for his opinion.  I also have him Mia’s phone number and asked if he would do me a HUGE favor and give her a call to see if this is all legit.  Because to me, it was coming across as an elaborate scam.  But if it was a scam, they had two very good emails to work it with.  His was a great three letter numeric that was privately owned and hers was a one name, ename.com email.  I also emailed someone I knew could help.  I contacted Michael at 4.cn.  We have been working together for years and I knew he could help.  But rather than ask about ename I asked him if they could escrow the domain for me.  I gave him the buyers email and waited to hear back from everyone.

I received immediate responses from everyone.  Kassey was nice enough to talk to Mia personally and yes, it was all legit.  He agreed with me that the email process was a bit odd and should they have sent me to the website but she indeed was a real person and had been funded for the purchase.  Most likely they didn’t because the site was in Chinese and I couldn’t have used it so they were trying to be helpful.  Kassey suggested that I ask Ename to charge me a little extra and move the escrow over to the escrow company I feel most comfortable with. But before I got back to Mia I received an email from 4.cn.  Michael said he contacted the buyer (in Chinese) and told them he could handle the escrow.  The buyers knew and trusted 4.cn so he agreed.  And not only did the buyer agree ,but that he had already funded the 4.cn account and I just needed to agree to transaction.  And the rate was a reasonable 4%.  (it’s 8% if you are only a bronze member).  After I agreed, 4.cn again confirmed funding and I sent over the auth code.  Two minutes later, ename (the registrar he was putting the name in) sent over an email.  One problem, it was completely in Chinese.

Actually it had a translation at the bottom that said this

If you WISH TO PROCEED with the transfer, you must respond to this message via one of the following methods (note if you do not respond by 5 days, [433.net] will not be transferred to us.).
Please go to our website, LINK was HERE to confirm.
If you DO NOT WANT the transfer to proceed, then don’t respond to this message. 

When I clicked the link, all Chinese. It had two buttons but I had no idea which was confirm and which was cancel. So I put the characters from each button in Google Translator.  And while neither translated out very well to English, one said something to the effect of “do not agree”,  so I clicked the other one and hoped for the best.  I emailed Patrick again to tell him that I needed a call back to verbally release a domain quickly (I have the call back security measure with Godaddy to prevent theft).  Patrick called back which meant it had gone through.   I verified that I sent it, the buyer confirmed and 4.cn confirmed for a second time my wire info and BAM.  One numeric domain sold to a person all the way around the world.

I can’t thank Kassey enough as well as Michael and everyone at 4.cn.  After this transaction I feel like I can do a lot more business in China.  Both sides of a transaction need to feel comfortable.  Most of the time Escrow.com does exactly that.  But there are a few billion people that don’t quite know them (Brandon, I smell an opportunity) and that’s why 4.cn is in such a good place. They filled that gap for me.  Ename said they too are in the process of building out their English site to help English speakers do transactions on their platform.  And with Kassey speaking Chinese, he has the ability to make a lot of money bridging those gaps as well.


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Outsmarting the Dumb, Outworking the Smart

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  1. Kassey

    Glad to be of some help to you. However, I can’t take the credit for “Kassey suggested that I ask Ename to charge me a little extra and move the escrow over to the escrow company I feel most comfortable with” which must have been from the other gentleman. Should you have Chinese issue again, just shoot me an email.

  2. Sameh

    Congratulations on the sale. It pays to be patient in situations like these (most of the time).

    Glad to see a new pool of buyers shopping around. In the last month I sold two domains to Chinese buyers. One of them was DNShow.com for $2,499.

    The buyer contacted me last month and it looks like he used an online translation tool to write the email but I understood what he meant. He was saying that he saw my domain for sale for $2,499 and was wondering if he can negotiate. I told him that I spend a good amount of time pricing my domains at competitive prices and therefore we have no space for negotiations (which is true on the majority of my domains). This is my usual reply to this particular question. Two weeks later he purchased it on Sedo.

  3. John

    That’s ridiculous about GoDaddy. With that kind of customer verification and length of time they should be charging no more than 5% on all auctions. Commissions on auctions are way to high across the board in the industry. Glad it worked out the way it did.

  4. Voltaire

    Well done, Shane…

    4 weeks ago, I closed a solid $xxx,xxx domain sale of a premium domain to a buyer from China. The negotiations were protracted (over about 10 days), and the transaction was finalised via Escrow.com – but, the buyer paid by transferring no fewer than 4 separate sums into Escrow.com to make up the total.

    All was well….But, you need patience, good negotiation skills, and clarity to do business with the Chinese.

    Btw….I don’t speak Mandarin, but we managed.


  5. Paul

    I loved this story. Going to translate.google.com is exactly what I do when I sell numerics to Asian buyers and they opt to transfer to their eName account. Eventually I just learned it’s always the option on the “LEFT” side of the screen. I hope they don’t change their auth page in the future or else I might accidentally click the wrong button! I still don’t understand why the auth transfer email includes an english version of the text, but the website does not.

    When selling numeric domains to Asian buyers my two go-to website are http://www.xe.com/currencyconverter/ and http://translate.google.com =)

  6. alon

    Just found your post as we’re currently negotiating with a Chinese domain owner as well.
    While we only want to use Escrow.com, the owner – for obvious language barrier reasons – insists on using ename.
    What would you suggest? We fear that we won’t have any law enforcement possibilities and, still, it’s a five digit dollar sum…

    1. Post author

      Escrow.com is the best undoubtedly but at this point they are lacking a Chinese language barrier. I would suggest DN.com. The are Chinese but have the people to help get it done in English. They are the best and biggest in China and your buyer would probably feel safe. Again, I prefer Escrow.com but if you don’t speak English it is just as scary to them as Ename is to you.

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