I've bought a lot of stuff over the internet and never been subjected to any sort of custom duty. Well, that's about to change. This article is about two very different Custom. The Ibanez J Custom meeting it's Malaysian Kastam counterpart.
Recently, I suddenly acquired an Ibanez J Custom guitar. It is something unplanned since I've been
looking ogling at Herman Li's Ibanez Egen18TVF for quite some time. During the time, I've come across this guitar. The "Tree of Life" inlay on the fretboard is what really sold me. The trouble is, a new one would cost some pretty penny. USD 4400+ to be exact. ouch!
After countless hours scouring the net for every bit of pictures of this guitar, I've come across the Ibanez forum about buying guitar from japan. It mention online japanese guitar shop such as Ishibashi and Ikebe Gakki. While Ishibashi ships its guitar to oversea, the choice can be limited and the price is quite steep even for used guitar. Ikebe Gakki has money choices but it doesn't ship oversea (not to my knowledge anyway). The forum also mentions another website called www.JaponicaMarket.com which acts as a middle man between you and the seller.
Reading through the website leads me to few other popular japanese online shopping site. Rakuten and Yahoo Auction. Interestingly enough, Ishibashi and Ikebe Gakki also listed some of the items not found in their website at Rakuten. By engaging the service of Japonica Market, I can basically buy from Rakuten or even do bidding in Yahoo Auction. For your info, Yahoo Auction very similar to eBay since there yet to be an eBay for japanese market.
Since money is the main issue, I'd figured, why not I check out Yahoo Auction and see if there are same guitar offered at low opening bid. Lo and behold! I see one with starting bid at super low 98000 Yen. A 2008 Model RG8470V Red Spinel J.Custom. Tone Zone Bridge Pick-up, Air Norton Neck Pick Up with Tone Velvet Dimarzio single coil pickup in the middle.
I emailed the guy at Japonica Market. It seems like this so called company is only run by one single guy called Hiroyuki (if I'm not mistaken). But make no mistake, this guy is one efficient dude. If you send him an inquiry, he'll respond within hours. I've had him respond to me in 45 minutes. And today he replied email to me at 6 something in the morning (japanese time). I wonder if he ever sleeps.
All you need to is fill in an email form indicating the url of the item you want to buy and also indicate the highest bidding amount you're willing to pay. You will also need to specify the type of bidding you want to do. If you're familiar with ebay, there is the "buy it now" option, but there is one called "sniper bidding". Sniper bidding is automated bidding that will only bid at the last 10 minutes before the auction ends. This is done to prevent bidding war. Never the less bidding war did happen for this guitar during the last 10 minutes as there's another guy also increasing about 1000 yen increment until auction ends. My maximum bid value was set at 135000 yen. The price of the guitar rose from 98000 yen to 130000 in 10 minutes.
All transaction with Japonica is done via paypal. You need to factor in Paypal cost and also the commission that this company will charge to you. The commission is based on the value of your item. the higher the value, the less the percentage. Mine was charged at 8%. Which is quite reasonable.
I've toyed the idea of getting similar guitar from the US, but the problem is, not many seller are willing to send the guitar oversea, and even if they did, the shipping cost will be very expensive.
I've decided to use EMS. Somehow it got to my head that, using EMS or Poslaju will fly through kastam without any hitch. How wrong I was. The guitar was sent to me on the 27th April and reached KL on the 28th. Since we can track EMS, it is easy to determine where it got stuck. On the 28th the status changed to something like "Awaiting to presentation to Custom Commissioner". This is the dreaded moment.
I've been checking the tracking website every hour for days and still the status did not change. Finally on 3rd May I called Poslaju to ask the status of my guitar (actually I called on the 2nd May thinking some lucky post office dude / dudette got to do overtime on public holiday, alas it's close). What they say is that a letter is being sent from Kastam to me in order for me to declare the parcel (guitar). That afternoon, the letter arrived via poslaju. Interestingly enough when I tracked the letter (it has poslaju number), it was sent by Malaysian Kastam on the 28th April. It only reached me on the 3rd May. That's 5 days!. What kind of Poslaju is this? and the letter I got was actually crumpled and torn. Imagine what would happen if they handled my guitar? There are 3 options available 1) Pick it up yourself 2) appoint Poslaju to declare to custom ( you'll need to pay extra 50 bucks + custom chargers) 3) you ask your friend to pay for you and pick up the item.
Seeing the condition of the poslaju letter and since I can't bear to wait another week before the guitar arrives, I decide to drive from Kerteh To KLIA and Back in one day. That's what I did. At the Kastam, when I declare my guitar, my heart just sank when the guy told me that I need to pay 10% for the guitar. I was hoping that I can talk him out of charging the 10% fee. Nope, that's not going to happen. He sat down and starts doing some calculation on the declaration form and I heard he said
"err...Lapan apa?" I asked him back. Heart beating faster, beads of sweat forming on my for head.
"Lapan puluh tujuh ringgit (RM87).."
He was probably wondering why I am smiling broadly when he told me that I have to pay tax. I don't know how he got RM87, I though he was going to charge me RM800 since the value of the guitar is closer to RM6000 including postage and all. I was so happy that I forgot to ask him to reduce the amount! Maybe if I were to let Pos Malaysia handle my guitar, the tax amount would differ? I don't know, but I'd rather handle my guitar personally then let them rough up my guitar like they did to the letter. And for your info, I was sorely disappointed by the way Japonica package the guitar. All they did was put some flimsy bubble wrap around the casing of the guitar. There's no thick boxes outside or anything. Another problem with Japonica is that if the seller did not send you everything as promised, it's hard for you to contact from the seller since all the dealing is done by Japonica. I've email the about one missing certificate, asking Japonica to contact the seller, and the reply I got is that it is hard for them to contact the seller and they are unwilling.
All in all, buying through Japonica is OK. but beware of the short comings such as warranty issues, missing stuff etc. One last thing, the guitar sounds great. it makes my cheap amplifier sounds Godly and the colour looks so much better in real life without camera flashes.
***Written by my hubby: Encik Mata Brown (bukan nama sebenar)