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Own Personal Shopping Service While Travelling to Japan? 
23rd-Feb-2014 09:00 am
Hello!

I'd like to know have any of you have ever done a little shopping service for your local community and friends when you visited Japan?

I am going to Tokyo later this year and I thought of offering a shopping service to people I know who want items from Japanese stores. I thought of taking a small commission fee and taking the items with me in an extra suitcase back to the US.

What do you think? Have you done this sort of thing before? What amount of commission might be normal for this kind of thing? What sorts of rules might come in handy?

Thank you all very much!
Comments 
23rd-Feb-2014 03:30 pm (UTC)
With the price of luggage on airplanes these days I don't think taking it back with you is the most realistic thing; there's also the problem that things will get wrinkled or in the worst case scenario a suitcase could get lost. You could always ship stuff before you leave but it's very time consuming and it's not easy dealing with the post office unless you're fluent in Japanese as nobody there speaks English.

It's also a little awkward because resellers and shopping services are looking upon badly so if you're going to do that make sure you memorize what you want to get before you get in the store...walking around looking for stuff with a list in hand would look very very bad.

I think what you are thinking of doing is very nice to your community but there's a lot to do in Tokyo and I think even if you go to the stores it would be a rather large amount of time spent on making purchases for people and it might be worth it to leave it to people who live here full time and can squeeze the shopping into their normal routine. If I were you I'd focus on having a great trip. :)
23rd-Feb-2014 03:56 pm (UTC)
Thank you for the great advice and concern, truly :) i completely understand where you're coming from. but in my own defense to anyone who reads this, there can be two 50 pound checked suitcases per person flying to and from Asia and I didn't want to make any of my friends have to pay shipping. Not to mention, I make a personal point to never pack heavy and it would probably be best to pack all items over $30 in a carry on. Also, I have had quite a bit of experience shopping for things in the theatre when specific costume pieces are needed. Not only that, I do plan to go out shopping every day, but I wasnt planning on busting my butt to find certain items. If I didn't find them Id give any money received back. I have taken 2 years of college Japanese enough to get around the city. Overall, I would let everyone know there's a very small chance I find an item in a that isnt in the brand store, but if its at a brand store it's very likely. I wouldn't take anymore than 15-25 orders depending on whether they are big or little items and limit it to the well-known stores and only specific items (nothing generic).

I'm sorry if that was lengthy, but perhaps that might help understand where I'm coming from?

Edited at 2014-02-23 07:57 pm (UTC)
24th-Feb-2014 05:59 am (UTC)
I'm the type of person who can't seem to leave anything home with them even for a 10 day trip and always ends up paying extra for additional luggage so I tend to forget that some people know how to pack light. XD If you HAVE the extra room in your suitcase then sure, go for it- as I said if you have the time or if it's really just casually checking stuff while you're already in the store then it's something very nice to do for your community. Just be sure you don't take on too many customers because stock varies from shop to shop and you may end up having to do more running around than you'd like. I think what you're doing is really nice though...just wanted to make sure you enjoy your trip as well. I've done some shopping for others only locally (as in I live in Tokyo and I've shopped for girls who live in the rural areas of Japan) and it ended up being more stressful than I'd thought...and I was only doing it after school. Good luck and have a great trip!! If you need any shopping tips feel free to ask.
23rd-Feb-2014 04:10 pm (UTC)
I've done this, and I've also known friends who've done this on their trips to Japan. It depends on how much you like shopping and what portion of your trip will be devoted to urban areas with stores rather than historical or nature tourism sights - if you're planning to do a lot of shopping for yourself anyway, there's not much harm in offering to keep an eye out for other items as well, while you do so!

I would recommend making sure your friends know that you may NOT be able to get everything they want, however, so there's no hard feelings if you do return empty-handed. If you're looking for second-hand items, make sure to clarify the maximum purchase price per item, and any requirements about its condition (like if the person is willing to accept an OP with a missing bow or ribbon belt, or the JSK version instead of a skirt, etc). When the requests were small - wristcuffs, socks, etc - I let people pay when I got back, but for larger purchases, it's good to get a deposit in advance. Items that are new-in-store tend to be easier to get than Closet Child, which is really luck of the draw for finding specific items. However, if people are willing to make more general requests ("a black knitted bolero for under 6000 yen" or "Angelic Pretty plastic jewelry in sax or yellow") then it's a little easier to find something suitable second-hand.

Unless you have a stellar memory or a good organization system, don't take on too many requests! Also, let people know where you plan to go and see if they want anything from those stores, rather than planning to make extra trips to places you aren't interested in going (for example, don't offer to buy fabric if you're not already planning on going to a fabric shop for your own interest - you will be sad to spend that time running someone else's errand instead of seeing things you really want to explore).

I didn't charge a commission, but I did keep the points cards for myself, which allowed me to get an item for free with all the shopping I'd done :) That said, I don't think there's anything wrong with charging a small commission for your time and effort, either, especially for bigger items.

For my trip, I went to Japan with two suitcases that fit inside one another, so I had one case with my own clothes on my way there and two cases (one with purchases) on the way back! I was also able to ship a box via the post office with very little problem, despite not speaking Japanese. I'd recommend using a post office that's located near a tourist center (I used one near Shinjuku Station); you could also ask your hotel if the concierge can handle mailing things back to your country on your behalf (email them in advance of your trip to ask if this is an option, if you're interested!). That said, I didn't find the airline fees for the extra suitcase to be that much higher than shipping a box would have been. There's always a risk of lost luggage or shipments, but that's true when you buy direct from Japan as well!

Be aware that full-size parasols won't always fit into a suitcase, and you can only take one per passenger as a carry-on item. My partner had to carry a frilly AatP parasol back on my behalf, and he wasn't too thrilled about it!
23rd-Feb-2014 05:53 pm (UTC)
Thanks a lot for the advice from your own experience! I plan on going to Japan for many different things, but I am planning on making this trip specifically for fashion and costumes inspiration. Not to mention, I will be staying in Tokyo itself the entire duration.

Personally, I love shopping and looking for treasures in clothing. I will make a list of shops that I already plan on stopping by as well.

Also, I'm thinking of possibly not allowing for items that are too general, and just sticking with specific brand items that can be named and identified very quickly. That way I can take more requests and spend less time looking.

The airline I'm taking will allow two 50 pound suitcases per person for free, so it shouldn't be an issue since I doubt I'll get more than 50 pounds worth of shopping.

I'd like to PM you for a few more questions about your experience and opinion

Edited at 2014-02-23 07:56 pm (UTC)
23rd-Feb-2014 04:19 pm (UTC)
I went to Japan last year, but I purposefully avoided any conversation that might lead to people asking me to buy them things. When I got back, this girl who's more of an acquaintance than a friend started telling me "Oh, if you go back I'll give you a list of stuff I want from shops. Don't worry, I'll pay you." Lol, nope, girl. I didn't even offer that to my best friend. (I did get my friends a bunch of souvenirs, I just didn't want to take requests.)
I know you can have heavy suitcases on the plane, but my husband and I had one each and a carry-on and it was still a pain. Since we had to walk a bit to the train station it was kind of hard, but my husband picked out these pretty large suitcases and I couldn't manage one up the steps to the pedestrian bridges over the roads. There were 2 or 3 of those on the way from our hotel to the train station. It wasn't so much that it was heavy, I am just super short and every step I took banged it against a step because I couldn't hold it high enough.
So if I were you, I'd tell people it was limited to small, non-fragile, and light things.
23rd-Feb-2014 04:42 pm (UTC)
Definitely I have thought about that. Although maybe I should've mentioned Im staying with a family of friends. It's likely they will help with transportation with the airport and luggage if it does become unmanageable. They have a car, so I can see if they will be driving me at all so it may not be a huge issue. I also have those fancy cases that have the four swivel wheels and I think stacking the carry on on top of that could work as well. Thanks!
23rd-Feb-2014 05:15 pm (UTC)
That's a bit of a different story, if you'll get driven to the station. Good luck, and have tons of fun!
24th-Feb-2014 12:23 am (UTC)
I took a short vacation to Tokyo with my boyfriend over New Years and like you, also avoided anyone asking me to bring something back for them. I've had 2 acquaintances ask me if I'd bring a Liz Lisa lucky pack trunk back for them that they arranged for someone else to buy at the stores first and hold onto them. Ah no. I'm getting one myself and there's no way I can nor want to bring back extra luggage that isn't mine. I did get a lot of gifts for friends, but didn't offer any shopping services because my vacation time is MY vacation time.

My boyfriend and I ended up doubling our luggage. I'd suggest maybe pack a big duffle bag into your suitcase if you don't want to bring 2-3 suitcases. I transferred all my clothes and soft stuff to my duffle to check in and stuffed my suitcase with all the expensive/fragile things for carry on. I think there's a low chance of losing your luggage on one-way flights..
24th-Feb-2014 01:28 am (UTC)
Thanks for your input ^_^

I've definitely thought of bringing a large bag instead of all suitcases. I will admit that this is not exactly relaxation time for me. So, it's no big deal. Before I go to Tokyo, I will be in Korea, and that will be more relaxing time since we won't be in the city very much. Besides, I won't be spending too much time with anyone else in Tokyo since my friends there will either be in school or at work and I'm travelling alone. Not to mention, I will be there for over two weeks and will have time to spread everything out and make a good plan to stick to.

Edited at 2014-02-24 01:28 am (UTC)
24th-Feb-2014 06:06 am (UTC)
Also one more thing you should think about....it's really the luck of the draw whether you get searched or not but for brand new items I recommend cutting off the tags. I don't know the law exactly and you should be able to buy whatever you please, but I feel like if someone were to look inside your 50 pound suitcase and see a dozen brand new dresses with tags they might look at you strangely. Again I really don't know what the laws are regarding that and in theory it should be fine but there's so many issues with stuff being taken from Japan and resold elsewhere that I'd just cut off the tags for safety. You can keep them in a separate pouch and ship them with the item when you get home.
24th-Feb-2014 02:17 pm (UTC)
Oh ok great ^_^ Thanks for that and I will keep it in mind. I understand that it probably will be a little hectic though sometimes I'm crazy and like to go "treasure hunting" lol

Will the separate brand store locations be able to call the other stores to see if there is a certain item in stock, so I don't have to go to every store location looking for it?

Yes, I think that's a good idea about the tags as well. I will take all of them and put them in my wallet or something so that I still have them.

Edited at 2014-02-25 02:12 pm (UTC)
24th-Feb-2014 02:17 pm (UTC)
Oh ok great ^_^ Thanks for that and I will keep it in mind. I understand that it probably will be a little hectic though sometimes I'm crazy and like to go "treasure hunting" lol

Will the separate brand store locations be able to call the other stores to see if there is a certain item in stock, so I don't have to go to every store location looking for it?

Yes, I think that's a good idea about the tags as well. I will take all of them and put them in my wallet or something so that I still have them.
25th-Feb-2014 01:28 pm (UTC)
Before landing in the US at least, you're asked to write down any expensive items you purchased abroad and their values on a customs declaration form. I snipped all my tags as I left and I honestly cannot remember what I wrote on the form, but I agree that carrying a bag full of a dozen dresses with tags of 25,000+ will probably not look so great.
25th-Feb-2014 02:12 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the input ^_^ I'll keep that in mind

Edited at 2014-02-25 02:12 pm (UTC)
23rd-Feb-2014 04:45 pm (UTC)
Also, added to my service will be steaming the garments (carefully!)

Edited at 2014-02-23 07:56 pm (UTC)
23rd-Feb-2014 07:22 pm (UTC)
I've done this the past few times I went to Osaka, because it's fun for me and gives me an excuse to shop without actually spending my money haha.

Do make sure your airline is still offering two free bags for international flights - many have switched to having to pay for the second bag very, very recently (like, this past fall). It would be a nasty surprise to get to the airport for your flight home and have to pay $100 to check another bag!

I did collect a commission fee, but I wasn't just shopping for friends - I offered it to anyone and even did an AP release, which involved waiting in line for a while. But since I've done it before and can speak/understand Japanese fairly well, I had no issues (other than some things selling out before I could get places - so have a game plan for that). Also be sure to keep track of the weight of items, obviously - I always decline orders for heavy things, like books and shoes, unless they wanted to pay shipping from Japan, which I did ship about half my orders before returning (primarily to Australian and European customers, because it was cheaper from Japan than the US).

Anyway, it's fun and doable, and is nice for people in the same country as you so they can get discounted shipping :) you just need to really stay on top of your organization and communication.
23rd-Feb-2014 07:55 pm (UTC)
This is the AA official website and China, Japan, and Korea are the only countries which don't have seasonal limitations and allow 2 first checked bags weighing 50 lbs for free: http://www.aa.com/i18n/travelInformation/baggage/baggageAllowance.jsp

Could you share your own commission fee? I probably won't charge very much at all even though many of the people who I will ask might be people I know as acquaintances.
23rd-Feb-2014 08:03 pm (UTC)
Ah ok~ because I know both United and Delta recently changed it (Delta actually did so WHILE I was in Japan - freaked me out because I was flying with them, but it didn't apply to me because I had bought my ticket before the change).

I did 10% (minimum ¥500 fee) for usual purchases, plus transportation fee if I had to go out of my way (so some place I wasn't planning on going anyway or had to go earlier than I was planning).
23rd-Feb-2014 08:22 pm (UTC)
Yep ^_^ I'm glad they didn't change it. That does suck that happened to you though lolz

Ok thanks for that! I just needed some sort of number to work off of XD

Edited at 2014-02-23 08:22 pm (UTC)
23rd-Feb-2014 09:06 pm (UTC)
I did a small SS type thing for a friend at BTSSB Paris for a friend (small commission fee, shipping once I got back to the States). I think it's easier if you're buying small items only, or--like the others said--you could be in for a bit of a nasty surprise when you have to check one of your bags. I'd say limit the items you're going to buy, and have people sign up for those in "slots"... Like you'll buy one JSK, one skirt, and five accessories (as an example). First come first serve, and once those spots are taken (whatever you deem reasonable), they're full (unless people are willing to pay a percentage of a checked bag fee).

Personally, I think I'd only do it for friends, though it's entirely up to you!
23rd-Feb-2014 09:31 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the advice ^_^ That's kind of what I was thinking. I seriously doubt that I'd even want to buy enough to go over 50 lbs though >.<

I will likely do it for friends and acquaintances and people in my community.
23rd-Feb-2014 11:18 pm (UTC)
Many people do this when they visit Japan! The going rate is 10-15%, depending on the difficulty of procuring the item (like just walking into a store and buying it or having to wait outside the store for a reserve). If you're buying an item that you know will be in the store like Swimmer or a lolita brand shop, you can ask for the money upfront on Paypal or whatever. If you are searching for something at Closet Child that may or may not exist, you should probably do a deposit and they can pay you the rest if you find it. I don't know if you have been before, but Closet Child can be a bit disappointing to tourists because although there is a lot of stock, the rare items are very few and sell out quickly. But that's if you were considering going there at all ^^

On a personal note, I used to be very "gifty" when I went to Japan on vacation and would search far and wide for things my friends requested but then I found myself a bit stressed out so now I give everyone like some Japan-only Kit Kats. It seems like it won't be a big deal in the planning stages but if you receive money from people you will definitely feel some pressure to deliver, especially if your friends know each other and you are able to get some people things and not others. Not to discourage you though!
23rd-Feb-2014 11:39 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the advice ^_^

I definitely will make it a pretty small fee that will be fully refunded if I don't get their item, and I will give everyone fair warning that there's a good chance I won't be able to get a item if it runs out of stock before I get to the store or if it's something that can only be found secondhand.

I guess I could also try having three slots for people willing to pay a higher fee for those items that may sell out sooner if they want me to go to get that specific item on my first day out shopping. Or higher fee for more generic items since that will take more searching. I don't exactly want to do a reserve, but would do it for one or two people if they gave me a pretty hefty fee O.O

Not to mention, I don't really have very many close friends in J-Fashion, so it's likely they won't be bothered if I don't get them something and I'm sure they understand the situation can be a little hectic. If I were to count my closer friends who might care, it would probably be three at the most XD
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