Saturday, May 9, 2009

Review of Anime Export Ltd

Update (10/08/2011):Anime Export contacted me this week and kindly informed me that they have implemented changes in the shipment manager in their site and their service to address issues previously raised and which sort of makes this review I wrote outdated. I have yet to try out these mentioned changes to their site and service but will probably get somebody to purchase off their shop in the next months or so so that I can revise my review. In the meantime I guess we can just let the feedback of those who buy off their ebay shop speak of their service.

Update (10/20/2009): Just got my order last week from them. Box packaging was fashioned out of used boxes, generously taped together. This resulted in a non descript packaging, which is the way that I like my packages to arrive. Inside, the package was covered in bubble pack. I could say that I was satisfied with my purchase from them. My only minor complaint was that they didn't reply to me when I asked for a status update on my order. Like talking to a black hole after they got my money from me. Its a minor issue, but in the cut throat world of online sellers, it could mean a lot. Plus of course the thing with the "couldn't tell if it was shipped as SAL or EMS" episode.

Literal Box shots can be seen below:

Review of Anime Export Ltd Box Packaging

Review of Anime Export Ltd

Update: Its been a week and my order hadn't arrived yet. When I checked at the Japanese post office website it turns out that my package wasn't sent as EMS. I guess if you order from Anime-Export you have to email them to inform them that you want it shipped as EMS. That was one problem I had when placing my order, which was that I had to blindly submit my order and pay without knowing how it was going to be shipped. Not sure if there was a shipping option at their checkout page, where you could choose what type of shipping you wanted, because based from this experience I definitely wasn't able to see it.

Then again I realized that when I emailed them to acquire the status of my order, they hadn't replied to me. So how easy would it be then to ask them to convert my shipping to EMS? The only time they got back to me was when I cancelled my order during the first time I transacted with them.

Update: After logging in to Anime Export today (9/18/2009) I was happy to find out that my order had already been set to "Completed" Along with that was the tracking number of my shipment. When I went to Japan's postal site and entered my tracking number, I was surprised to find out that my item had already been shipped last Wednesday, yet it was only today that my order status had been updated. They must be bogged down with orders to have a lead time in updating order statuses. Guess I don't have to wait for an update email from them anymore.

Update:I finally placed an order on Monday (09/14/2009) and at the end of the day got an order acceptance confirmation, then two days later got a request for payment. I paid immediately, but so far still no news from them as to whether my order was shipped or not. I also fired off an email asking for a status on my order yesterday, but nobody has emailed me back. I guess when they said that it could take up to a week to ship your order, it can really take up to a week to ship your order.

Some thing I noticed though about their process is that the only time you can find out how much your shipping is going to cost is when they have sent you a request for payment. Then they explicitly state in their site for you not to commit an order just so that you can find out how much your shipping is going to cost. Their process is unlike the other online anime and hobby shops, who show you first in your order form how much your shipping is going to cost before asking for a payment request from you. Another thing, they didn't tell me whether my items were to be shipped by SAL or EMS.

Here's hoping that they get back to me soon.

Let me save you the trouble of reading this, the folks at Anime-Export took a long time to process my order so I decided to cancel it. I'll try to put up another review about them as soon as I am able to order something from their site. So consider this post a very lousy review on my part.

According to their Company profile, Anime Export Ltd have been around since 2005 and specialized in wholesale distributorship during their first 2 years of existence. They specialize in Dolls, Diecast, figures and plastic kits. Aside from their website, they seem to be active at ebay as well and have very good feedback from the users there.

To elaborate my experience, I placed an order at Anime-Export for a Macross 1/60 VF. After 24 hours there was no reply from them on whether the order was a go or no go so I decided to cancel it. Their cancel system requires you to wait for their response. It took about 24 hours for my order to be cancelled.

One of their policies that surprised me was that if you've paid them already and you decided to cancel your order, you are charged a 30% restocking fee. They said that its because they got burned the last time when a lot of customers cancelled their orders and left them with dead stock, so they decided to implement that policy. Some other online sellers do this, so you better think twice when ordering and forking your money over already. It's says there in their FAQ page that if they don't get back to you, you should contact them via the contact form.

I find it weird though that there is nobody to man their online store during the weekends, but even HLJ and Over-Drive Inc practice closing their online shops on a weekend. Reminds me of the old shops in the Chinese district that are going kaput because they like to stay closed on weekends and close shop on lunch breaks. What happened was that their customers went elsewhere. It's the 2000's already, according to Bill Gates we're living the web lifestyle already. Customers culture have changed already, if you don't get back to them in 24 hours, chances are they have moved on and ranted about it on the Internet.

A bright spot for them is that their prices are often times lower than their competitors by a fraction.

I find the site design to be amateurish, 1998-esque. Header banner is grainy and made me doubt at first if the site was legit or not, so I had to do a google search on their reputation. Site font seems to be too small at some parts. At least if you decide to update your profile it gets updated real time.

Another bright spot for them is that the site is in english. So while the rest of Japan grumbles that the local market is contracting because of their shrinking birth rates, Anime Export can cash in on the export market. Then again, if they don't process orders on time they get introduced to the reality that overseas customers aren't as patient as Japanese customers.

Security wise, the site seems to lack SSL features when registering your user profile, logging in, as well as when processing your order. Payment processing is through email, but I haven't gotten to that part because of my cancelled order.

I liked item browsing though because you get to see a thumbnail of the item. Its such a huge time waster to have to click on the item to see the photo. I wish they'd increase the thumbnail size though because you can barely see the item.

Order processing is standard fare. But to see the status of your order is confusing. In order to see the status of your order you have to go to your "My Basket" and scroll all the way down to the bottom. With pre-ordering you can't lump it in with a regular order and it has to be filed separately, so that's a hassle there. At least they accept Paypal. I prefer to shop with Paypal because I like the security of not having to surrender your CC no to a seller.

Product description only shows you the weight (to help you compute the cost of shipping) but no dimensions of the product. Product description is sparse, which doesn't get the customer excited enough to buy. Not to mention that it can sometimes get confusing as there are multiple product listings and your not sure which one you are really getting.

Search functionality is Ok and returns what you are looking for if its more than 3 characters. Product organization is great. I like how they show the categories on the left side when you do a search. So you can just click on the categories to narrow down the results further.

Site doesn't seem to offer any affiliate program either to other websites so that they can earn by directing customers to them, but neither do HLJ and Over-Drive offer that. I'm assuming that this is because so that they can keep their prices low.

Site shipping offers SAL, EMS, Fedex, UPS and DHL.

Wholesale orders are allowed but needs a minimum order of 200,000 yen. A 30-50% upfront payment of the total price is needed though with no option for cancellation. That's understandable with such huge cash involved.

Because of their proximity to their suppliers they say that they can get for you hard to find items not included in their listing, all you have to do is contact them.

And that's my review for Anime-Export.

Next up I'll try out their competitors Hobby Link Japan and Over-Drive-Inc