Hey, Malaysians! Your FAQs On How To Shop @ Amazon.com Answered Here
Saturday, 4th September, 2010 § 93 Comments
For every Malaysian who regularly shops from Amazon.com, there are at least 50 others if not more who want to but are still unsure for so many reasons. Mostly, their concerns revolve around security and guarantee of delivery. I’ll try to address here the many questions I have been asked or have heard over the years with regards on how to shop at Amazon for us Malaysians. Here goes:
What makes you think you’re such an expert?
I have been shopping from Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk (and a couple of times from Amazon.co.jp) since 1997. I usually order books from them but after I bought my first DVD player in 2003, I bought DVDs from Amazon as well (no pirated stuff for me, kids) and also the occasional music CDs (Why? Because no Malaysian music shop stocks CDs by Weird Al Yankovic, that’s why!) I’ve experienced and continue to experience the highs and lows of shopping from Amazon. Yeah, I consider myself an expert.
Why can’t I just buy the book from a local bookshop?
Because our local retailers don’t carry all that is published out there. Some don’t even carry anything at all other than the latest hot titles. Amazon has in stock just about every book published in the English-speaking world. Sometimes you can even find a Malaysian publication like Amir Muhammad’s120 Malay Movies.
One more thing why buying online from Amazon is better. In many cases it’s cheaper than buying the same book from a local retailer. Even with the shipping costs, it’s still cheaper. Go figure.
Okay, then. Is it safe shopping from Amazon?
If you mean are you secured from identity theft, then yes. I’ve shopped online from them for over thirteen years and I’ve never had any discrepancies in my credit card statements. Nor have I heard of any identity thefts resulting from shopping at Amazon. Since their business is conducted online, they put top priority on encrypting their customers’ personal details. I don’t know what encryption system they use and nor do I care. All I know is, after thirteen years I feel save shopping from them.
Occasionally, Amazon sends emails to their customers to inform them of upcoming books they might be interested in. They, however, never send emails asking for their customers’ credit card numbers, password and other personal details. This is a ‘phishing’ email sent by scammers. They target gullible idiots. Don’t be one.
I don’t have a credit card. What other payment methods do they accept?
Amazon is an online-only retailer based in the US so a credit card is pretty much required to shop with them. Amazon currently does not accept payment from international wire transfers, PayPal, or Smart Cards. Sorry.
(If someone from Malaysia has shopped at Amazon without a credit card, please inform me).
I heard that Amazon does not ship to Malaysia. Is this true?
This is one of the most common questions I’ve come across and the answer is, No, it is not true that Amazon does not ship to Malaysia. The fact that I’ve frequently had this question asked either to me personally or to someone else suggests that this is a popular misconception in Malaysia.
I’ve always wondered how this mistake came about and I think I figured it out: I’m guessing someone tried to order a cheap, used book from Amazon Marketplace and found that Malaysia was not in the list of countries they ship to. Amazon Marketplace is not Amazon.com. It’s a different part of Amazon which I’ll address in the next question.
But yes, Amazon.com does ship to Malaysia. Always have and hopefully, always will. Here’s what Amazon’s Help page says about what they can ship to our country:
The following items can be shipped to almost all destinations outside the U.S.:
books (except for extremely heavy books like multi-volume sets)
Additionally, some consumer electronics, health and personal care, home and garden, jewelry, pet supplies, shoes, software, sporting goods, tools, video games, and watches can be shipped to [Malaysia].
So what is Amazon Marketplace and why don’t they ship to Malaysia while Amazon.com does?
Amazon Marketplace is a place where individual sellers are given space in Amazon’s site to sell their items. They sell new and used items through Amazon but they are not affiliated with Amazon. According to its Wikipedia entry, “In order to sell on Amazon, you have to live in certain countries, and you need a bank account in certain countries.” Suffice it to say, Malaysia is not one of those ‘certain countries’.
Okay, I want to buy an electrical item but Amazon doesn’t ship it to M’sia. You say there’s a way around it. What is it?
I wrote this blog post to help and inform Malaysians on how to buy books from Amazon.com (this blog is primarily about books after all) but I anticipate questions of this nature as well so I’ll give a quick answer: try vPostAsia.com. I’ve never tried them before (never had the need to) but I understand that they enable you to shop from sites that do not ship to Malaysia. It’s all legit, no hanky panky, so don’t worry. But I’ve never tried it before so I have no experience in this matter.
Okay, let’s move on…
How much is the shipping cost to Malaysia and how long will it take to arrive?
There are three kinds of shipping available: Standard, Expedited and Priority Shipping.
STANDARD SHIPPING RATES
For books, it’s USD$4.99 per shipment and USD$4.99 per item.
In my experience, standard shipping from Amazon.com takes about 14-16 working days to arrive. At the latest, 22-26 working days. Standard shipping does not have a tracking system.
PRIORITY SHIPPING RATES
For books, the rates are USD$29.99 per shipment and USD$5.99 per item.
This is the most expensive shipping method because it’s a courier service. Amazon uses DHL and sometimes UPS. It takes about 3-5 working days to arrive at your door. Since it’s a courier service, you can track the progress of your order.
Standard shipping rates for Amazon.co.UK are slightly expensive due to the higher value of the British Pound. The rates for books are:
GBP 3.29 per item and GBP 5.29 per delivery.
Delivery from Amazon UK arrive in Malaysia within 7-10 days for standard shipping from date of dispatch and is non-trackable. Any more than 10-14 days and it’s probably due to Pos Malaysia sorting out the parcels at their HQ.
GBP 6.19 per item and GBP 28.99 per delivery.
Delivery is within 3-5 working days.
You’ll notice that I listed three methods of shipping up there but I only discussed two (Standard and Priority). That’s because Expedited shipping is a waste. It’s more expensive than Standard shipping but you still cannot track the progress of your order. Time of arrival is also more or less the same as Standard shipping. Don’t bother with Expedited. Either you go cheap (slow, cannot track orders) or you go expensive (fast, can track orders).
NOTE: If you order video games, Amazon will automatically ship it via the expensive Priority Shipping. You cannot change it.
What are the chances my books will be detained by Customs?
Chances are very low. Every Amazon box has a sticker pasted on it describing its contents. If it says “Books” there is a very good chance that the Customs will just wave it through. Don’t believe me? I once bought sex manuals from Amazon UK with no problems.
Not only will they not detain your book orders, they probably won’t even bother to open the box and inspect it. You can tell if your box has been inspected. The box will be secured with tape with the words “DIPERIKSA OLEH KASTAM” (Inspected by Customs) printed on it. Although some have said that their book orders have been inspected, mine have always passed through with no fuss.
It’s a different story with DVDs. Those will be inspected by Customs and sometimes, if you’re unlucky, DVD orders will be detained for tax purposes. But this is arbitrary. Sometimes they let it go, sometimes they’ll ask you to claim it at their office after you pay the tax.
Books are tax-free and that is why Customs don’t bother with them.
My order has yet to arrive even after Amazon’s estimated date of arrival
It’s probably lost in the mail. It happens. It has happened to me a few times. I don’t know where the fault lies. Is it with US Mail or Pos Malaysia? (this is why I use the Priority Shipping sometimes because I can track my orders). Don’t worry though because Amazon will replace the order free of charge, no questions asked!
But before you shoot an email to Amazon, I must ask you to be patient. First of all, Amazon’s estimated date of arrival of your order is vastly exaggerated. Most likely your order will arrive well before the estimated date.
However, if the estimated date of arrival has passed and you’re still waiting for your order, you’ll have to wait for two more weeks. This isn’t my advice but this is what Amazon will ask you to do if you email them immediately after the estimated date of arrival has expired. If after two weeks of more waiting and your order is still missing, then you can ask for a replacement and they’ll be happy to do it for you.
You will need the order number of course but that shouldn’t be a problem because Amazon would have had emailed it to you when you placed the order and you can also find the order number in your Amazon account.
I’ve had orders go missing before but more with DVDs than books. Lost? Stolen? Who knows? Got them replaced for free each time. On three occasions, my original order actually arrived after I received the replacement order. So they weren’t lost but just got waylaid somewhere. I was stuck with duplicate orders and when I emailed Amazon on what to do with them, they advised me to donate the extra copy or keep it myself with their blessings. No need to return it to them. I love Amazon. No wonder they keep winning ‘Best Online Retailer’ awards year after year. Their after sales customer service is wonderful. That’s important for international customers like us.
I’ve received my book but I changed my mind. Can I return it to Amazon and get a refund?
Yes but there are restrictions. First, you can only return it within 30 days of delivery. The book must be in its original (read: good) condition. If there are obvious signs of use, you will only receive a 50% refund. There’s no point arguing, “But it already looked like that when I opened the box!“
If you need to return a book, click on ‘Help’, then click ‘Returns and Refunds’, then click on ‘International Returns’. Follow the instructions. You will need to print out the return label and paste it on the envelope you are going to use to return the book in. Amazon will credit the price of the book once they’ve received it. You don’t need to use registered mail or Pos Laju. Regular cheap Pos Malaysia will do.
Thanks for the tips. Anything else you can tell us?
I don’t know. You tell me. I think I pretty much covered all the important stuff but tell me in the comments section if there’s an issue I did not address.
Oh yeah, here’s something I just remembered. Never, never, ever order online when a long holiday is approaching. In our case it’s Raya Aidil Fitri and Chinese New Year. Also not during Christmas because Amazon will be swamped with orders and the weather over there will probably cause shipping delays (snowstorms can delay airplanes for days). As for our side, a long holiday means the mailman is also on holiday so a parcel that normally would arrive within a week could be delayed to two weeks or more. Long story short, check the calendar. If there is a long national holiday coming up, don’t place that order yet. Wait until all the drones are back at work.