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The price is right? How shopping globally can save you money

Smashing Pumpkins / Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness 5CD+DVD box set

This Smashing Pumpkins deluxe set is £75 in Canada and £140 in the UK

If you shop online for your reissues and box sets, it’s quite likely that you purchase regularly from Amazon. It is by far the most popular place to order, and amongst the attractions in terms of buyer experience is the excellent pre-order price guarantee which means you only ever pay the lowest price advertised for your item before release, regardless of the price listed when you made the order.

This is all well and good, but I wonder how many of you automatically shop by default at your ‘home’ country’s amazon site?

When making expensive purchases in particular, it might pay to check out what price other Amazon sites are offering the same product at, because do not assume that the prices are all equal, give or take some small variance for exchange rate fluctuations. There are bargains to be had if you make some comparisons.

For example Peter Gabriel’s So deluxe box is $99.99 on the US Amazon.com, and has been for most of the pre-order period. At today’s exchange rates this is just under £62. However the amazon.co.uk price – for exactly the same product – is £99.99. Americans are getting this box for two-thirds of the price that those from the United Kingdom have to pay.

The big problem with purchasing from Amazon.com, if you are in the UK or Europe, is that import duty is due on the item. You could get lucky of course, but if the item gets picked up by customs, not only is there a chance they will open the package (possibly not handling with care), but any saving you were hoping to make would likely could be wiped out by import duty (which is approximately equivalent to VAT) and ‘handling’ charges levied when the time comes to collect your item from the post office.

The other thing to consider is that if you love getting box sets on or near to the day of release, then planning for your item to cross the Atlantic is going to delay arrival significantly. Of course, you could upgrade to expedited shipping, but that would negate the whole money-saving exercise.

Let’s say you don’t mind waiting, and you get lucky and no import duty is levied. What do you do when you open the item and notice that a CD is badly scratched or your box has a ‘dink’ in the corner that you can’t live with? Not only do you have the massive hassle of getting the item back to the US, but you’d then have to worry about incurring import duty all over again, assuming Amazon.com offered to re-ship your item. A lot of hassle for a £20 or £30 saving.

Sometimes the saving can be large enough to easily cover import duty and still save on the domestic retail price. Amazon.ca (Canada) had the forthcoming Beatles stereo vinyl box set for around 300 Canadian Dollars in early October. That’s approximately £190, a whopping £110 cheaper than the Amazon.co.uk price (it has since gone up).

Let’s look at a current pre-release to see how prices compare. We’ll take the Smashing Pumpkins’ Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness 6-disc deluxe box set as our example.

The price on Amazon.ca is currently $120 Canadian which is £74.69 (at today’s exchange rate). The same box on Amazon.com is $133.81 US which is £83.10. If you were to order from Amazon.co.uk you’d have to pay an incredible £140.00, almost double the price in Canada. Obviously, these prices might go up and down at any point, but a pre-order should lock you in to the low price of today. The only proviso is that Amazon have not entered into a contract with you until they have taken the money (i.e. when the item ships) and this allows them to get out of pricing errors when expensive items are listed with insanely low prices.

If you are based in Europe, you can still make savings without the risk of import duty, by ordering from other European Amazon sites (import duty not applicable within the EU). Using the example above, the Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness box is €130.99 in Amazon.de (Germany). That’s £105.29 with shipping in 2-3 days adding only £2.75 to the price. In total that’s £32 cheaper than the UK price without any risks or shipping delays.

It really does pay to shop around. The same item has a price variance across different Amazon stores of over £65. Here at SuperDeluxeEdition we regularly put multiple pre-order links at the end of news and reviews, and it is always worth having a look at prices in other countries to make sure you’re getting the best deal.

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19 responses to The price is right? How shopping globally can save you money

  1. Thanks to your article and a quick scour of amazon’s European sites I’ve just pre-ordered Neil Young’s Psychedelic Pill triple vinyl set on amazon.fr for 39 euros including shipping. It’s currently £75 on the UK site. Thank you very much for the advice!

  2. Bert says:

    What you’d need to do is create something like this: http://www.brickset.com/buy/amazon/ ;-)

  3. Dominic says:

    Now the price for the Rage against the machine XX box set has gone live, I can see that it’s approx £15 cheaper at amazon.de than .co.uk, including postage from Germany!

  4. Ti m says:

    It works in reverse quite well for me. I listen to a lot of acts that don’t have contracts in the States anymore or if they do not everything that they release is picked up here. It is often less expensive for me to buy the product direct and new from Amazon.uk than it is to order it as an import via Amazon.us…that’s how much they jack up the prices. And I have no import duty or VAT to pay. Same with items out of print, even with international shipping it is often less expensive for me to buy that collectible via Amazon used.

  5. Will says:

    Interesting stuff.

    I would definitely try and avoid buying from the U.S though.
    The last 4 packages I’ve bought from the States have cost me an absolute fortune in fees. One of them was only £1.50 above the limit too.
    They seem to be targeting packages at the moment.

  6. Rob says:

    I’m in the USA. Like Tim says, I regularly use Amazon UK to get UK titles. It’s frequently cheaper than buying the import copies from Amazon USA, despite the added shipping costs. In addition, you’ll find that when you add an item from Amazon UK to your basket, once the site realizes that you’re not in Europe, it lowers the price for you because it is removing the VAT which is frequently already built into the price. Usually takes about 8 – 10 days to get delivered.

  7. Count me as another U.S. customer who frequently buys from Amazon.co.uk. The prices are almost always better than getting imports, and the shipping really isn’t that much and doesn’t take a ridiculous amount of time. And I’ve never had damaged product or any other real problems.

    I’ve also noticed that DVD box sets can be much cheaper in the U.K. than over here, as long as you keep an eye on whether it’s region-free, etc.

  8. Jakob says:

    I picked up my Never Mind the Bollocks box at a much better than advertised price on Amazon.ca Marketplace. The seller was based somewhere like Italy, but that was fine since the DVD is region-free, NTSC. Didn’t get dinged for duty either.

  9. dajokr says:

    I am also a U.S. resident who frequently takes advantage of Amazon.co.uk prices. However, I don’t know if it is just me, but they are horrible at packaging some of these box sets. The risk one runs is getting a damaged set and then dealing with exorbitant postage to return it or keeping a damaged item. In one recent case, I asked my wife to mail a set back by a certain date without telling her what it was and she dutifully sent it – for $100 postage.

  10. Foxy says:

    A while back Amazon US has started adding on foreign charges, so the customer now has to prepay any duty and customs fees directly to Amazon, in advance. Previously for me living in Thailand it was 50/50 if you’d get stuck with local customs charges, but after Amazon started adding them on for you, it became a certainty. And depending on what you ordered, that could be an additional 30%. So I stopped buying from amazon US and ordered from Amazon.ca or Amazon.uk who don’t (yet) add on the foreign charges in advance.

  11. Luc D. says:

    In all those years of ordering from Amazon and other retaillers, I have never been caught by duties (fingers crossed) – so, to me, I always look for the best price, wherever it may be.

  12. Lee says:

    the problem with ordering vinyl from the US is that quality is hit or miss. You might get a deal from amazon Canada on the Beatles boxset but there’s a decent chance the US version may actually be defective considering the crappy plant that is pressing it.

  13. Justin says:

    I’ve been using Amazon UK from Australia for a while now, and the service has always been good. The only problem I had was my stupid local postal service leaving a cardboard package on my doorstep on a rainy day, ruining a couple of books. At the beginning of the year, Amazon UK had free shipping to Australia/New Zealand as long as you spent over £25, which was a great deal and easy to accomplish. Unfortunately it’s no longer the case. Shame, especially as we have the same blu-ray code as the UK which made purchasing easy, got some great box-sets and music….plus the prices were often way way cheaper online than general retail out here, and I don’t mind waiting a couple of weeks if the price is right.

  14. peter chrisp says:

    I have been shopping online for over 6 years at Amazon UK, and gee do they look after me, although it can be expensive i shop at CD Japan for rare music, or when an album or a band i enjoy, and most times Japanese discs have extra tracks. With Amazon UK, when i pre-order a new album
    a good example 11;99 pounds, and they charge around 9:89 then they include their postage. A couple more brilliant examples Pink Floyd’s Immersion Box sets were worth $159 in Australia, both D.S.O.T.M & W.Y.W.H. and from the UK site each box set a whopping 14:99 pounds off, and even better, Jethro Tull’s Aqualung box set same discount and
    all 3 box sets only $112!!, & Tull’s box set is worth $199 what a rip off,
    I am with you Justin online is cheaper, Alien box set only $26 and its
    a 6 disc bluray box set from the UK, great stuff

  15. Brian McKeen says:

    I never thought to check the difference so this item was helpful. I had the 10cc Tenology on pre-order at Amazon US and it’s still $79.87 so I went to the UK site and got a price of 36.54GB which converts to $58.84 with shipping. $21 difference. thanks

  16. James says:

    I have always shopped around for the expensive items. As a Canadian, it is no longer worth it for me to order from Amazon USA because they now add a huge Import Fee on top of the shipping fee, so any savings in the price is out the window. I have ordered from Amazon UK and Amazon DE on occassion. I have NEVER been charged by customs on orders from either of these places. I also agree with one comment that Amazon UK’s packaging of items is aboslutely horrible and I have had a few items damaged over the years. In those cases, I have sent them pictures of the damage and they have always sent be a new copy without having to sent back the damaged version. I will also note that, when it comes to pricing errors, Amazon has ALWAYS honoured these errors when they occur. I don’t know about anywhere else, but in Canada, if a retailer advertises a price, they are required by law to honour that price. If they don’t, it is fraud.

  17. John says:

    I live in the US, and I’ve frequently ordered from Amazon UK as the price is usually better and the shipping doesn’t take too long. In the past year, however, there were certain items I was interested in that I couldn’t buy from Amazon UK because they were only offering the titles via a third party seller that did not ship to the US.

    There’s a new box set for Blue Rodeo out in Canada. The individual titles are available on iTunes in the US, but not the actual box set or individual CDs. An import is available on Amazon US, but it’s like $250 or something. However, I ordered it from Amazon.ca and got it for $112 total with shipping. Not too shabby!

    I have ordered from Amazon Germany and Amazon France in the past, too. What’s great is that all Amazon sites use my same Amazon US login info.

  18. Stevie Dal says:

    I’ve only ordered from the UK one (most of the time) and the US (rarely). From the US i started getting charged extra for import duty, which negated the whole excercise. I only do it now if its something i can only get in America and thats rare.
    ‘ll deffo be trying the German and French sites now though, maybe for the Beach Boys box set, If it ever bloody comes out.

  19. David says:

    I ordered the David Bowie ‘Station To Station’ deluxe box from Amazon US as it was £88 compared to £170 on the UK site. Massive difference. It actually came from Germany so didn’t pay customs charges either.

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