Collateral Damage: Shipping

Figure collection, it isn't as easy as selecting the figure you like, paying for it and having it arrive at your doorstep the next day. We all wish that would be the case but, it rarely is. Throughout your collection you would undoubtedly run through several pitfalls and traps of the hobby or as I like to call it "Collateral Damages". With this new series, I aim to explore these various collateral damages while offering tips and tricks on how you can safely circumnavigate these treacherous waters. For the first issue, I will be talking about an issue which plagues all collectors which is, shipping. Unless you have some form of permanent residence in Japan, shipping can often constitute a large percentage of your cost. Ultimately, knowing the various types of shipping modalities available and when to utilize which will be your best bet at avoid unwanted shocking shipping costs. For today, we will be taking a closer look at the three most common shipping types which are SAL, EMS and Private Courier Services.

1. SAL
Beginning with the slowest yet, cheapest option of them all. SAL is a small packet air mail service that is best explained by the handy illustration above provided by Japan Post. While it may be the cheapest option available, I was not kidding when I said it was the slowest option. In many cases, be prepared to wait up to 2 weeks or more to get your shipment. Therefore, only under very few circumstances would I actually recommend utilizing SAL.

The first of which is if you are really tight for cash. The difference in cost between SAL and EMS (read below) actually do not vary by too much hence, the reason I would not recommend SAL. In order to make the most out of your SAL rate, you would need to have a parcel in the higher weight bracket where, then, the rates by weight vary more between SAL and EMS. As figures tend to be fairly light, this can often be a bit of a problem.

Not to mention, SAL offers the least peace of mind among the three available shipping types. While it does have electronic tracking, insurance is not offered as standard and a request for it will require a nominal fee.

To sum it all up, SAL is slow but cheap and best used when shipping large or heavy shipments of less urgent/rare/important figures.

2. EMS
The shipping option which still remains to be the gold-standard for me, EMS, is as its name implies, an Express Mail Service. Striking a balance between cost and speed, EMS parcels often require only 3-5 days to arrive. The fastest I have ever received a parcel via EMS is in 2 days and with no compromises as my Mami figures arrived save and sound. 

EMS is largely handled by each country's own national postal service. For example, a shipment from Tokyo to Sydney would be handled by both Japan Post and Australia Post in their respective countries. The party delivering the parcel to you would be the local postal service yet, electronic tracking can be done via both country's postal service with the same tracking code.

Another big benefit of having the national postal service handle the delivery is what happens when you miss the collection of a parcel. With EMS shipments, missed deliveries are often sent to the nearest post office from the designate mailing address. This means, at any time, you will quickly and easily be able to collect your shipments even if you have missed it.

The icing on the cake for EMS comes in the form of free insurance up to 20,000 Yen. There is little reason not to choose this and, often, helps provide you with a peace of mind in the event anything may happen to your parcel.

All in all, EMS is fast, reliable and safe with the downside of costing more. But, that added cost is often worth the price. To make the most out of your shipment, higher weight brackets offer lower cost per kilogram and can potentially help you save on shipping costs.

3. Private Courier Services
Private Courier Services such as Fed Ex and DHL are extremely common affairs even among figure collectors. In terms of speed, it edges out EMS but, only slightly. Meanwhile, these tend to cost the most because they are private services. Which begs the question, what reason would there be to use these? For that, I can only provide two circumstances where private couriers are extremely indispensable. 

The first scenario is for when your shipment is extremely important and cannot be trusted by your local postal service. That little bit of extra care you otherwise would not get in a local postal service is there with private couriers. And because, the condition of the shipment is entirely held responsible by the private couriers, you can almost always expect your shipment to arrive in perfect condition. As such, if your country's postal service leaves a lot wanting, this is just the perfect option for you.

The second scenario is a much rarer one where, by unexplained reasons, private couriers are actually cheaper than EMS. This could either be reduced of free shipping rates offered by certain hobby stores and only apply to private couriers. If the option presents itself, I would not hesitate to go with it.

Put simply, private couriers may be the most expensive but, they are also the safest and fastest option. If cost is not an issue, go for it. Unless, you have a tendency to miss the deliveries in which case collection offices may be less common as post offices. 
So, there we have it, a synthesized look at shipping from Japan and how to go about things. If you are still confused over it all, I only have one thing for you to remember. If ever in doubt, go for EMS. Few shipments later, you would have gotten the hang of things and will be able to decide for yourself in regards to future shipments.

With that, comes a close to this in-depth look at figure collection and shipping them. Until the next time, thank you so much for reading and have yourself and wonderful day ahead!


Popular Posts