Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Online purchases

The very first time that I ever used ebay was in the mid 1990s. I would think that it must have been 1997 or later because I remember bidding for an item after Ban Hin Lee Bank, or BHL Bank, had relocated from Beach Street to Northam Road at the end of 1996.

Back then, I was eyeing a compact disk of Jacques Loussier, the celebrated French pianist who made it his business to interpret the works of classical composers but mainly that of Johann Sebastian Bach in a modern jazz vein. That was my first brush with ebay and I could feel the joy of winning a bidding war over the Internet. I learnt early that the secret to winning a bid, if you are serious about the stuff you want to buy, is to be logged into ebay during the dying minutes of a bid item so that you are always aware of someone outbidding you at the last second. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. I gave all that up after getting that Jacques Loussier compact disk because I couldn't spend the time to be on ebay during office hours when the bidding war would usually end.

Lately, I've been finding myself turning back to ebay occasionally and of course, turning to other commerce websites as well, to search for impossible-to-find items. Items that are impossible to find locally in Malaysia or if I can find them, they are too expensive to buy from the local dealers, even with local postage charges thrown in.

However, buying from ebay can also come with a few risks. The primary risk lies in trusting the seller to give you the exact goods you are buying. The second risk being whether the overseas and local postal services will handle the goods with enough care. The third risk is finding myself having to pay duty on my imported goods. And the fourth risk I can think of is whether our local Customs department will delay the release of the goods for delivery. I've heard from a friend in Kuala Lumpur that he has had stuff delayed for weeks and it took him visits to the Customs office to get them sorted out. The inefficiency there is defintely not good.

So far,  I've been lucky in the sense that the sellers have been trustworthy, my goods have arrived intact (except for twice when my compact disk casing cracked but at least, my compact disks were unharmed), I haven't paid duty on any of the goods yet although once I had to go down to the Customs office at the Butterworth post office to collect a parcel and open it up for them to inspect the contents, and none of my stuff has been unnecessarily delayed.

But I'm always very nervous when three weeks pass by without receiving the parcel. There's actually no way to trace the exact location of the goods. All I can be confident about is that the parcel is "on its way". Where exactly, I don't know. So you can imagine the relief when I hear the postman beeping their horn in front of the house. That's the signal that my consignment has arrived and I'm required to sign an acknowledgement for it.

To date, I've still waiting for the arrival of the last two parcels. They are books that I ordered from two bookstores in the United States. One is a second-hand book that is now totally out of print and the other is a print-on-demand book. I don't anticipate any problem with them getting through Customs or their deliveries but my only question is, when will I receive them....

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