Friday, September 11, 2009

Review of Hobby Search

 Update 02/15/2011: Hobby Search now accepts AlertPay payment gateway.
Update (07/22/2010): Finally was able to type up a review for Hobby Search. Been wanting to buy from them for the longest time because of the large volume of inventory that they have. When I tried registering however I found out that my country was omitted from their registration page.
When I emailed them about that I found out that my country was part of a handful of countries that they did not sell to because of “credit card trouble”. You have to hand it to the Japanese people, they are always so polite. That’s probably their polite way of saying that some people from your country had tried to rip us off *snicker*

I was elated however late last year when the news came that Hobby Search had started their paypal service wherein they also announced that buyers from banned countries can purchase from them as long as they use paypal for their payment method. After I successfully registered I got the bad news that their paypal service had been temporarily stopped. So my order was cancelled by them. Then came the news again that they had started paypal service again.
It was only this month however that I finally put my order through for a 1/100 non-grade SVMS-010 Over Flag model kit. I did this to take advantage of two things, one their promo on 50% off on the price of shipping that they were offering. Second was the announcement that they were keeping on a permanent basis their price markdowns that usually equate to a 20%~ from the original price.
To buy from them you have to first register at their site. Plus points for Hobby Search on this part because their registration and login is encrypted. At their registration page you enter a user id, your personal details then the all important email address and password. To log-in you just have to login your username and password at their log-in page. Then follow the standard fare in almost all e-commerce sites of adding your purchases to your cart then checking it out. Payment method of course was by Paypal. For shipping I chose EMS because of the promo, but you have the option to have it shipped as SAL small packet.
In the checkout stage I encountered the problem of my item not wanting to be checked out. I was able to solve this problem by switching browsers. I normally use Opera as my browser which what was causing the problem, when I switched to Firefox the checkout problem was solved.
It took about 3 days for the transaction to be completed. I checked out my item at 9 PM of the 5th of July and immediately got an order confirmation email. I got a paypal payment request from them the following day at 2:55 PM. Then immediately after verifying that it was indeed a valid email from paypal I paid the required fee. A day after that at 6:46 AM I got an email from them informing me and thanking me for my payment. At 9PM also at that day I got an email from them telling me that my item had already been shipped. So the guys at Hobby Search do work overtime *snicker*.
For more information on the basics of buying from them, check out this beginner’s page. Then there’s the buying procedure explained here.
Logging in again afterwards to Hobby Search showed the status of my order as being shipped and that I had been credited “XX” no. of points for my purchase which I can then use the next time I order from them to discount my payment.
A week later I got my package. Since it was 50% off on shipping at that time, my item arrived in just a week’s time. Below is a shot of the box and the order form that came with the box.

I liked that Hobby Search used a nondescript box to package my item in. My country’s postal system is notorious for having items “lost”. So it really helps a lot in not calling attention to the package during the transportation stage.
According to the site literature, Hobby Search was founded in 1999. Their offices are located at Tamada Build 7F/6F Misuji 1-1-19 Taitoku, Tokyo. The funny thing is that their company is named Hobby Search Co Ltd, but their official website is at 1999.co.jp, weird?

List of the great features of Hobby Search

  1. Best product Description page - I was most impressed with Hobby Search’s product description page. I’d say that it was the best I’ve ever seen. Not only do they show you shots of the product but they also go the extra mile to take pictures of the manuals and parts (if it is a model) which can really help during decision making time.
  2. Large Inventory - There are a lot of items in the site which could help cut down in your cost of shipment because you can get it all from one shop. Aside from toys, figures and model kits they also have tools and other accessories needed for model kit building (brushes, paintmarkers, etc).
  3. Quick at Pre-orders - A lot of new items which are scheduled to be released can also be pre-ordered from their site. I’ve also noticed that they are quick to have the latest items for pre-release up in their pre-order page. The only other site that seems to match with their speed is Hobby Link Japan and Amiami
  4. Good Product Listing arrangement - The way they arrange their items in the site is very convenient to the buyer. Items are well placed based on category. The layout of the site was really well thought of. You can also filter out items that are already sold out whenever you use the search box. There are also tabs on the product listing page that you can select to bring you immediately to the latest or restocked items. You can also jump directly to the Figure or Mecha page, or browse by manufacturer. In short, its very convenient.
  5. A lot of RSS Feeds - aside from the product listing, there are also a lot of rss feeds that you can put in your favorite feed reader. So anytime there is a new product, a restocked item or items that are up for pre-order, you can see it right away in your feed reader.
  6. Dedicated English site - the site frontpage is Japanese, but there is a dedicated page in English for us gaijin.
  7. User rewards - points system for every purchase that you buy which you can then use to knock off the price on your next order. Of course the points can’t be used for shipping charges.
  8. Secure Registration System - uses SSL system for user registration, user login and for order payment
  9. Charging only when pre-order arrives - some sites ask for payment upfront for pre-orders, but they only ask you to pay when your order is already there.
  10. Mecha sale page - where they place stuff on sale. I have to say though, that most of the items they have on here isn’t much to be desired, but hey, at least they have a sale page.
  11. Varied shipping option: Before, Hobby Search could only have your item shipped by EMS. Now Hobby Search offers the option of SAL Small packet shipment which is much cheaper. There is a catch however, if you chose SAL Small packet but your items have already exceeded the maximum allowable weight and dimensions for SAL small packet, Hobby Search will have no choice but to have it shipped as EMS. Also, items with the “SAL” icon next to them are usually the ones that can be shipped as SAL. Checkout more shipping method information here.
All in all its a great site and because they carry a lot of inventory and offer a great price, I would definitely order from them again. And if I were planning to setup my own online shop I’d definitely use them as a measuring stick because they really know what it is that a buyer needs in front of him in order to come up with an informed decision when purchasing.