Buying the stuff I need, at US prices… or not

Posted on 18.07.2014


As I said in a previous post, Japan happens to have a LOT of western products available for purchase. They’re easy to find, prominently displayed, and apparently, rather popular.

There’s only one issue, which I know I mentioned earlier, as well: the markup. Maybe it’s import tax. Maybe it’s the cost of delivering overseas. Maybe it’s just good old price-gauging (although based on everything else I’ve seen, I highly doubt it’s the last option).

This has been on my mind a lot lately, as I’m slowly running out of cruelty-free makeup and need to buy more. On one hand, I really want to get into buying stuff here, locally. On the other  hand, I can’t read yet and so I have no idea if this product contains whale blubber, has been tested on animals, or is for dry skin (or not). I don’t necessarily WANT to stick to just what I know, but it is helpful when you don’t know what you’re buying otherwise.

None of this ‘reading’ stuff matters when buying perfume, though. The bottle of Gucci Guilty that I buy here will be the same bottle I bought in Germany. So the only issue to worry about here is the price difference.

I’ve been keeping a list of perfumes I want to buy next go-round (which is NOW), and the other day, I finally had enough time to walk through the fragrance department of my local Seibu to do some research on my way to the office. As most of the perfumes I want are new and current, they had them all in stock, all conveniently located in the ‘international fragrance’ section. I wrote all of the prices and sizes down, in order to compare to US prices when I got home. Here’s the damage (converted to USD for ease of reading):

Versace Bright Crystal, 3 oz: JP $150, US $89

Juicy Couture Viva La Juicy, 3.38 oz: JP $122, US $92

Clean Skin, 2 oz: JP $102, US $69

Dolce + Gabbana Desire/the One, 1.6 oz: JP $124, US $93

Gucci Guilty, 1.6 oz: JP $99, US $77

Clearly, there’s something going on when everything costs at least $20 more. I expected that they would be more expensive, but didn’t realize it would be such a difference. This is nothing compared to the cost of a pair of Levi’s jeans in China, I know, but it’s still a lot.

I got a message from Sephora a while ago when I changed my home address to Japan, informing me that orders over $100 qualify for flat-rate $15 international shipping. So I went ahead and tried to buy some makeup from them. I tried to buy perfume, hair oil, nail polish, and some solid products, like face powder and blush. It wouldn’t let me buy the liquids!! I was SO angry. My cart ended up with 3 products in it, not nearly enough to qualify for $15 shipping. So I wrote an email to Sephora asking what was up, and got back a response that :
1- some companies still won’t let them ship overseas
2- some things are considered hazardous, such as polish, perfume and hair oil, so they can only be shipped via ground. So, you can’t get any of those at US prices, sorry!

skin_eau_de_parfum_1All of this amounted to me eventually buying a very overpriced bottle of perfume from the Seibu on my way to work. Because, of course.

I was definitely annoyed to have to pay WAY more than I know it’s going for in the states, but on the other hand, at least I did the research and could rest assured I was getting the best price available. And now I know what I will be buying when I go to the states: lots and lots of perfume, and makeup in general. I’ll just place a huge order with Sephora before I arrive, and bring all of it back home with me in my suitcase. No laws against that, yet…

While I was there, I did a survey of which makeup companies were on that floor, selling their wares. It looks a lot like the makeup section of any major department store, each brand has its own counter and workers who want to put stuff on your face. There’s an organic section there as well, but it’s all bath products and body scrubs. There was a Bobbi Brown counter just next to the international perfumes as well, and I checked them out since I know they’re cruelty-free (I was interested in knowing a while ago, so did the research). A powder compact would have run me about $55, which is just a bit too much for me.

Log_Powder_zu-02Earlier, I’d seen Logona cosmetics in a shop upstairs that carries other imported products. I used Lavera in Germany, since it was cheaper, but Logona is also vegan, cruelty-free, and made in Germany. I had originally scoffed at the price of a powder compact ($32), but after seeing the Bobbi Brown prices, I knew what I was dealing with. There are some things you can’t just buy online, and face powder is one of them. So yesterday, even though it was tough, I spent $32 on face powder. I really hope it lasts longer than my previous one did.

I now know that whenever I go overseas, I’ll be buying makeup. Now I just need to get myself a small cooler to store all of it in, so it doesn’t go bad waiting to be used…

Sephora didn’t pay me to write this, and I would prefer to just buy these things on my way to work, rather than have them shipped from overseas. Maybe one day, I will buy all of it without even thinking of the silly markup. But until I get that desperate, I’ll continue to try to earn air miles shopping online at a sponsored shop (3 air miles per dollar) and having my favorite things mailed right to me. Because that’s a win-win. The face powder? I’ll keep trying to buy it online, once I know my shade…

Posted in: hair, Japan, life, shopping