Aug 21, 2012

Posted by in Featured, Shopping | 2 Comments

Cost Saving Tips when Shopping from Amazon

Online retailers often tout Cost Saving as the biggest benefit of online shops compared to brick-and-mortar shops. By eliminating physical stores, online shops lower their operating cost by shedding the retail space rental component out of their operating structure. This directly translates to lower selling price that is passed on to customers as cost saving.

If you have tried online shopping before, you find that reality often stands in stark contrast to theory. The saving you enjoyed with the lower price can be eroded by other expenses incurred during shipment. This is not surprising to me as I have personally been through few of such occasions before. In this article, I am going to share with every one 5 Cost Saving Tips when Shopping from Amazon. While some of the tips are generic in nature, most of the example I quoted are inclined towards online shopper in Singapore.

  1. Check Brand, Seller and Fullfiller InformationThese are the 3 information that I deem as most critical when you first view an item listing in Amazon. The term Brand and Seller are self-explanatory. Nonetheless, I am going to define each of them for clarity sake. Brand refers to the item manufacturer. Examples of popular brands in Amazon are SPIGEN SGP (known for their high quality phone screen protectors) and HuGu (known for their tempered glass iPhone screen protectors). Seller refers to the shop or you can view it as ‘virtual kiosk that rents a space in Amazon’. Examples of virtual kiosks offering unique and interesting phone accessories are Strapya World and SF Planet. Fullfiller refers to the party responsible to¬†fulfill or ship out your order. While the first two (Brand and Seller) can be commonly understood by most people, the Fullfiller concept is foreign to many and hard to grasp. If you are one of those, rest assured that you are not alone. I’ll tell you in a while a simple golden rule to follow that will make your purchase simpler to manage and of course will translate to cost savings.

    With regards to Brand, it is easy and straightforward. You can stick to established Brands if you have little time to research the smaller brands. You will not go wrong on this one then. If you have more time to spare and enjoy doing a bit of brand investigation, you can do your background check on the brand and decide if it is a brand you can trust.Moving on to Seller, it is also a term that is at the heart of every shopper (especially shopaholic like myself). I found Amazon’s Seller Rating system to be the best out there (and that is probably why they are the biggest and most trusted Internet shopping destination). You can find loads of information from the Seller’s page, ranging from customer ratings to comments to shipping time based the Seller’s past track record. I considered myself a conservative in this aspect. My golden rule is to stick with Seller that has received no less than 1,000 customer ratings and the average rating has to be a minimum of 4. Trust me, choosing a reputable seller will save you trouble and shipping cost later.

    While Brand selection serves as my first layer of filter, I consider Seller and Fullfiller as the deciding factors before making any purchase. There are many Sellers who are also doing their own shipping. Strapya World is one such example. In this case, their items will be stated as “Ship and Sold by Strapya World”. See a sample snapshot below.
    Example of Item Shipped and Fulfilled by the Same Party

    Personally, I prefer items that are Fulfilled by Amazon. Why? Because for items that are fulfilled by Amazon, I can directly check with Amazon’s customer service about the stock availability, fulfillment location and delivery time. If you are not convinced about the quality of a product even after reading reviews of the item, one last check is to see if the item is sold and fulfilled by Amazon. When an item is sold and fulfilled by Amazon, it means that Amazon has bought the item from wholesale supplier and re-selling it to end-consumers like us.

    What is the significance of this? For an item to fall under this category, it has to be a best-selling item so you can rest assured on its quality. On top of that, items in this category usually comes with free shipping within US. In addition, if all your items are fulfilled by Amazon, the chance is higher that they will ship in a single batch. If your items are fulfilled by many different parties, they will be shipped from different locations in different batches. Having all the items shipped in a single batch will greatly reduce the cost you have to pay when shipping your purchases to Singapore.
    Example of an Item Fulfilled by AmazonExample of an Item sold and fulfilled by Amazon

  2. U.S. Address ProviderThis concept is sometimes known as Virtual Post. In laymen term, this means that you first ship your Amazon purchases to an address that is based in U.S. After it arrives in your U.S. address, you arrange it to be shipped over to Singapore. Having a U.S. address is important because large number of items sold in Amazon do not ship Internationally. To the best of my knowledge, there are 3 big U.S. address providers and they are namely SingPost, ComGateway and Borderlinx.

    Out of the three, SingPost probably sounds most familiar as it is provided by Singapore Post but it is sad to say that SingPost is the worst of the three. I have given them benefits of the doubt and tried several times before coming to the verdict. ComGateway appear to me as an affiliate of OCBC (but I cannot ascertain this) while Borderlinx is a service started by Citibank. When choosing between the two, take note that the virtual address you get from comGateway and Borderlinx fall under two different tax jurisdiction. To put it simply, all Amazon purchases that you shipped to comGateway’s virtual address will be free from sales tax while 8% sales tax applies if you ship to Borderlinx’s virtual address. While comGateway is tax-free, its shipping rate to Singapore is higher than that of Borderlinx. Based on few experiments of my own, I found that the total cost that you have to pay eventually would come to be about the same for both. Personally, I have been using comGateway for years and I am their happy customer. Jaschinta, on the other hand, has been a faithful Borderlinx customer and she has little to complain so far.

  3. Item ConsolidationWhen buying from Amazon, item consolidation is very important. All the virtual address provider mentioned above do provide item consolidation service. You need to consolidate your items if they are shipped in different batches. Take note that there is a minimum volume or weight that applies to each batch of consolidation. This means that if your items are delivered in 3 separate batches, you have to consolidate the two latter batches with the first batch. It is fine if each batch exceed the minimum volume or weight as the total will simply be the sum of the three. If say your last batch happens to be below the minimum weight, you will still have to pay the minimum amount. There were two separate encounters where the total price of my last batch was only US$1.00 while I have to pay the minimum amount of $5 for consolidation. Yes, it sounds ridiculous and I have to simply discard the item in the end because consolidating and shipping it just did not make sense.

  1. Wow what a damned hell long article. So much information.. I love it. A big thanks to you.

  2. Thank you for all the info of shopping with Amazon/GST in Singapore and other relevant articles. Have read them all. Very detailed and comprehensive. Appreciate it.

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