It’s not a secret that I buy most of the stuff online. I haven’t been to a real store in ages especially now that I have a baby. But buying things online is not just about the convenience for me. It is also about the price. Living in Tokyo nothing comes cheap and me being addicted to retail is making it that much harder.. Believe it or not but there are many cases when buying something online from a US store at its original price and paying the international delivery fee and import tax is still so much cheaper than buying it in Japan at a clearance price. ^-^
Plus, when it comes to fashion, let’s just say I prefer foreign brands over local ones – style-wise and size-wise. If I want to buy shoes that actually fit me, I have no other choice but to shop online. In most cases, buying things on the Internet is relatively easy. Most of the US shops are now delivering to Japan and when they don’t, I can use logistics companies that offer re-direct services like Hopshopgo or many others. Yes, it is still cheaper to go through them than to shop in Japan. ^-^
However, more and more shops are beginning to Geo-discriminate customers. For example, gap.com or carters.com would allow you to shop filling your shopping basket with tons of clearance items only to let you know later at checkout that clearance prices are not available to the customers outside of the US. None of the discount codes would be working either.
For years, I have been shopping at abercrombie.com until they opened their flagship store in Ginza and built a Japanese version of the website with a big price adjustment. Suddenly, a 50 dollar pair of jeans was costing 22000 yen (roughly 220 dollars). Every time I tried to access the US website, I was redirected to its Japanese version. Somebody advised me to use a proxy to fool the website’s geo-tracking device into believing I was in the US but I could never complete purchase this way, none of the forms would display correctly…
Until 2013, Japanese Abercrombie store did not offer any kind of sales. The merchandise was always at a full price even during summer and winter sales. So, when US abercrombie.com was having a 70% off clearance sale, Japanese abercrombie.com was still selling everything at a full Japanese price. This year, they offered clearance for the first time but as you can see below, there is nothing “clear” about it. ^-^
The funny thing is, when you buy something at a Japanese abercombie.com, the delivery would still cost you 40$ because they ship it from the US, not the local warehouse. So you end up paying 120$ for jeans that costs 80$ AND 40$ for the delivery making the regular abercrombie jeans cost the same as a designer’s pair – that’s a kind of math I really hate!
When a couple of months ago, my friend Lille moved to Shanghai, she started using a VPN service called Hotspot shield to access Facebook that was otherwise inaccessible from China. It gave me the idea to try using it for online shopping as well. I installed a free version and went shopping at abercrombie.com just to check if it’s going to work and it did work! I could not only see the website with all its seasonal clearance deals but also buy discounted items and have them delivered to Japan!!! All I had to do was hide my IP address with VPN and boom – no more discrimination! The same can be done with ae.com that recently opened its store in Japan and closed the access to its US site with US prices.
VPN service is good not only for accessing restricted US-only websites but also to shop securely. I have never had any problem shopping online but for some people the fear of their credit card info being stolen is what’s keeping them from shopping online. I know a lot of Japanese who would rather buy something at a premium price at a real store than to get it online half off.. So, using VPN service can be good because it guarantees privacy by becoming a gateway between your computer and an online world. Instead of visiting websites directly, you are doing so via VPN anonymous server so the website is tracking their IP instead of yours! Neat!
It is also useful for watching movies and programs that are not available to the outsiders like a special John Stewart vs Bill O’Reilly debate on the Daily show or ABC TV series available to the US-only viewers. With my IP hidden, I can easily watch these videos for free instead of buying them on iTunes. ^-^ I can probably also become a member of Hulu and watch whatever at a real cheap monthly fee. Will try that later!
I wish I could also use VPN for shopping at gap.com or carters.com but they don’t discriminate based on IP, they discriminate based on a physical address agreeing to ship to Japan but not allowing to purchase things at clearance prices.. Which is ridiculous because knowing that the overalls for my baby costs 5$ in the US I will never buy them for 3000yen here in Japan so in the end, they are just losing me as a customer. Their loss!!!