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Sunday, 31 March 2013

BLOG -- Recap of March

So... Happy Easter!! I just had to say it. March was a ridiculously busy month for me. Work-wise, it was a mix of super-craziness one week, and super-manageable the next. A lot of things just happened in March. Besides somehow beating 4 games this month (I am sooo on top of my New Year's Resolution for that), I barely had the time to relax and unwind. Even now, I just wish there was one more day to relax, hahaha. I was out everyday this weekend and so didn't get a chance to just sit around and do nothing.

Anywho, if you are curious about my thoughts on anything, as always, please go ahead and ask. :)

Outings/Events in March:
- Started a Monday hangout ritual with a friend.

- My sister moved out. I'm so lonely now at home :(

- Beat my 21-day challenge of cleaning my room. It's still messy, but hasn't got messier since starting that challenge.

- Checked out the One of a Kind Spring Show with my sister.

- Hung out with other friends x3.

- Visited my sister's new place.

- Had a drink with co-workers.

- Attended a 1-day course. It did not fully prepare me for its online test. ><


Exposures:
- (drink) Gin & Tonic -- Blah... it was too bitter.

- (drink) Beer Mojito -- This was Sapporo beer with lime and mint leaves, I think. It was good!

- (restaurant) Spring Sushi -- This is mainly a sushi buffet place where the menu is on a tablet. Yup, it's super fancy. The food is just okay. Great fried rice, though.

- (restaurant) Kokame -- This is a sushi place that has dynamite dynamite rolls.


Finished...
Watching:
- (Anime - OVA): Ninku: The Movie -- I was hoping for a little more than a 26-minute OVA. I want my minutes back.

- (Movie): Warm Bodies (x2) -- Yeah... I watched this two more times... ^.^''


- (Movie): Jack the Giant Slayer -- Well, I watched this mainly to use a movie coupon I had. The other reason was that Nicholas Hoult was in it... hahaha... (you didn't hear that!)

- (Movie): Admission -- This movie was okay. There were some funny moments, but not enough.

- (Movie): Carrie -- Creepy music. I don't think I would ever watch it again.

- (Movie): Highlander -- This movie is sooo dated and cheesy.

- (Movie): The Perfect Host -- There were some interesting moments here. Some creepy ones, too.

- (Movie): X-Men: First Class -- This was really, really good. Xavier was a really neat character here.


Playing:
- (PS3): Spec Ops: The Line -- This is an amazing game... but I would never play it again. Just thinking about it gives me a headache. It's a mental beating... but the story is very good.

- (Xbox): Fable -- This was a fun game. I had tons of fun being a cleptomaniac and stealing stuff from shopkeepers and civilians.

- (PSP): Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth -- This game is amazing. The story is a little hokey in the end, but the gameplay is just fabulous.

- (DS): 999 (x3)

Reading:
- (Novel): Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion -- Despite this and the movie sharing some similarities, they are essentially two separate entities. The novel has a different voice for R, and an entirely different voice for Julie (Yes, yes, I will discuss more at length in my review entry of Warm Bodies).


Currently... 
Playing (not all at once):
- (PS3): Folklore 
- (PS3): Borderlands 2
- (DS): Legacy of Ys: Book I & II
- (PSP): Persona 
- (Wii): Fortune Street 
- (PS2): Ape Escape 3
- (PS2): Atelier Iris 2


Watching:
- (Anime): Yu Yu Hakusho 
- (Anime): Shakugan no Shana
 
Reading:
- Nothing this time.


That's it for March. Here are some random photos / videos:

My beer mojito.

Something that I saw while hanging out with friends.
It was some kind of exhibition for Lay's.

Something that I bought from the One of a Kind Spring Show.

 "Yamaha" by Delta Spirit.
This is one of my favourite tracks that was featured in Warm Bodies.


Thanks for reading! :)

REVIEW/THOUGHTS [VIDEO GAME] -- 999: 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors

Playthrough Status: COMPLETED THREE TIMES
Approx. Length: 12-15 hours for the first time; less on the next two times
Language: English  
Played on: DS
Type of Game: Visual Novel; Puzzle; Horror; Mystery
Overall Impression: The story is very engaging! I strongly recommend it.




SPOILER ALERT WARNING!!
This review will contain some spoilers -- or rather, there will be a "Spoilers" section at the end of the review to go into further detail about certain things. There may still be slight spoilers throughout the review, but I've tried my best to keep them at a minimum.

PERSONAL STANDING (Pre-exposures, thoughts, etc.)
I was first exposed to 999 by reading many entries about it on Siliconera. What really drew me were two things: 

1. There were multiple endings depending on the choices made.
2. If you fail, your character will face a horrible end.

Later on, Siliconera posted a link to its demo. After trying it out, I knew that I was going to get it.


STORY
Just like the title suggests, 999 involves 9 people, 9 doors, and 9 hours. You play Junpei as he and 8 other people try to escape a sinking ship within 9 hours. In order to escape, you'll have to solve puzzles in various rooms (there are 9 rooms total). I won't say anything further. Part of the fun is seeing what happens next.

I can tell you, though: the story is engaging, and different story routes lead to different revelations, leading to a more fleshed out story in the end.


GAMEPLAY
In 999, there are some choices to make and puzzles to solve, but at its core, it is a visual novel: a text story with audio and visuals. So... there isn't really a whole ton of "gameplay" or direct gaming interactions. Sometimes there could be 10 minutes of just straight text-reading; sometimes even an hour if you find yourself on the path to one of the better endings. I wouldn't say that it is a detriment to the game, though. I mean, the story is interesting! If it wasn't, then yeah, the story-reading parts would be horrible (but it's not).

 Junpei (you) close to the beginning of the game.

PUZZLE-SOLVING AND GAME OVERS
From my few playthroughs, failing at a puzzle does not result in a horrible ending. You can try puzzles over and over, and other characters tend to give you hints if you fail at it often enough, or examine certain clues often enough.

The only time you really game over is when you make the choices that lead to a bad ending. In one playthrough, you will never be able to go through all 9 doors. Part of your choices include deciding which of those doors to go through, which results in which characters will accompany you, which results in a different "character learning" experience, which will ultimately determine the ending you will see.


CHARACTERS
From left to right: Lotus, Seven (big guy), Santa (white-haired guy), June, 
Junpei, Ace, Snake, Clover, 9th Man

There is a varied cast in 999. As you keep playing, almost all of them are fleshed out. They all have their own voice, too, which I find commendable. For a game where each character has a lot of dialogue, staying "in character" throughout can be quite a feat. 

By the way, the caption above only refers to them in their codenames. Many of them are strangers and figured it'd be safer to have codenames. My favourite characters are Snake and Clover. Lotus is neat. Junpei and June are cool, too.


GRAPHICS
Well, this is a visual novel, so the visuals often involve static backgrounds and character sprites that change expressions to match their dialogue and current moods. There are some animations when a door is opened, or if a lever is pulled. While this often pales against games that have characters physically moving about, it is the standard for visual novels. What's more key is the storytelling instead of graphics. That said, visual novels often trump other games in character design. Characters are key for a good story. If you don't care for the characters, you will most likely not care to find out about the rest of the story.

While this is a visual novel under the horror genre, there are some bloody scenes, but most of the uneasiness will come from the descriptive writing, and creepy music.


MUSIC
The music is varied, but tends to have an industrial feel to it, which fits. There are also some really touching pieces. Visual novels tend to have emotion-evoking tracks and 999 is no stranger to that. Whether you hear a slow piece that tugs at your heartstrings or some creepy tunes to enhance the eerie-ness of a scene, 999's got it. I'll mention my favourite track in the "Spoilers" section.


REFERENCES
999 has a lot of science fiction, parapsychology, and even medical references. I was... pleasantly impressed -- to introduce those ideas and make them fit with the game's story. I don't think I've learned about so much from any other video game. I'll mention some of the references in the "Spoilers" section.

 
REPLAYABILITY
There are 6 different endings to the game. If you play through it normally without any aid from gaming walkthroughs and such, I can guarantee with 99% probability that you will see one of the 4 bad endings. So, yes, there is replayability in 999, especially if you want to know more about each character, and the story. The nice thing is if you're going through a route you've been through before, you can fast forward through the text. 

I have to say this: In order to reach the "True" Ending, you'll have to first reach the "Good" Ending (AKA the "Safe" ending). So, in essence, you will have play 999 at least 2 times to get the full story. It's well worth it!

Oh, one other thing: Almost everything in the story will be tied up in the "True" Ending, except for one thing. I hear that this was intentional, so that players could come to their own conclusions about it. I'd say it's a minor loose end and doesn't affect the major story.


MISC. MINOR PET PEEVES
Well, not every game is perfect and I did run into a couple of pet peeves while playing 999. These are not deal breaking (one is a personal pet peeve anyway), but I figure I should mention them.

1. The default text speed is too slow. If there was an option to speed up the text or a button to allow all the text on one screen show up, that would have been great.
2. Ahhh, Lotus... Why are you a character with huge breasts in a skimpy dancers' top? Well, I know why... but whyyyy? In my opinion, 999 is good enough that it doesn't need that kind of appeal for game sales. *sigh*


CLOSING THOUGHTS
999 is a great game. If you enjoy a good story and nicely fleshed out characters, this will not disappoint. When I first picked it up, I never imagined that I would be pulled so strongly towards the game. But it did. And I have no regrets.

Thanks for reading! If you have any comments, feel free.

So I'll do the scrolly thing and the "Spoilers" section will appear after that. Then I'll add some more scrolly things after the "Spoilers" section in case anybody wants to comment, but not see the spoilers.

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SPOILERS


References

So, during my 3rd playthrough, I decided to Google some of the terms mentioned in the game and lo and behold, they are real terms! Now, I haven't seen all the endings, so I might not have seen all the different references, but here's what I've found so far:

Ganzfeld Experiment -- This is a test in telepathy involving two subjects where each is placed in separate rooms. Subject A is given an object to observe, while the Subject B is supposed to say what Subject A sees.

Ice-9 -- Ice-9 is a fictional material that has a melting point of 45.8 degrees Celsius.

Morphic Field -- In 999, this is described as "a field the eye can't see, but everybody has access to." Once somebody learns information, it can be placed on that field and those who can access that field can acquire that same information. It sounds really cool.

Prosopagnosia -- This is a disorder where a person is unable to differentiate between faces. It's unfortunate that this is real.

Rupert Sheldrake -- The guy behind the morphogenetic field, morphic field, and such.

Ship of Theseus -- The idea that asks if an object is still considered that same object if it becomes largely made up of other "replacement" parts. So... a ship named Theseus. As it gets fixed up over the years and have had its parts replaced, is the ship still Theseus if most of its original components have been replaced? It's a very interesting question!


My favourite music track

Morphogenetic Sorrow

This track played during the tender moments, and I found myself crying when it was used for the two ending scenes (when Snake wouldn't go down after Ace shot him so many times, and when Junpei was linked with Akane). This plays while you're tackling the last puzzle (a Sudoku puzzle) of the "True" Ending, and I must agree with the Top Commentor in that Youtube link: "The most emotional Sudoku puzzle I have ever done in my entire life :')". 


If you read my spoilers, thank for reading them! Now to finish with more scrolly things. Feel free to comment :D


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Sunday, 24 March 2013

BLOG -- My Karaoke Renditions V.1

So... unfortunately today is a super-busy day for me, so I won't be able to do a fully fleshed out blog entry. Instead, I'm going to share some of my, um, karaoke singings.

As some of you may know, I LOVE to sing! I can listen to a song over and over -- especially if I feel that I can sing along to it. And since I love to sing, every now and then I'd find myself in a karaoke booth (either with friends or by myself), just singing my heart out.

So... well... if you think I suck... my apologies! I don't remember if I've shared any of these videos in my earlier blog entries, but I don't think so.

Even though these are in video format, just like with all the other karaoke videos I've shared so far, you will not see my face. Sometimes you won't see anything at all, so just click "Play" and do whatever else.

Anywho, feel free to comment, even if it is to say that I suck. Thanks for listening and have a great week! :)


Billy Joel -- "For The Longest Time"
(I associated this song to one of my old flames. 
I'm glad I can still sing it and enjoy it)


Fools Garden -- "Lemon Tree"
(I remember first hearing this on the radio)


The Shirelles -- "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow"
(Love this song. It was briefly looked at for one of my University courses)


Madonna -- "Die Another Day"
(No, I did not first hear this from the James Bond movie. 
I first heard it in an AMV *giggle* How geeky am I?)


Taylor Swift -- "Safe and Sound"
(This was on the soundtrack for Hunger Games, 
even though it wasn't featured in the movie)

Sunday, 17 March 2013

BLOG -- My Online Shopping Habits (Part 2)

So, here is Part 2 of My Online Shopping Habits. I'm pretty much just going to list some of the sites I've ordered from and a brief recounting of my experiences with them. Of course, not everybody will have the same experience as me. Where you live and what you order -- as well as a whole bunch of other things that are not in your control -- are factors for how your online ordering experience will be like.

And just so you know, because not all of this will apply to everybody, this entry is written from the perspective of somebody ordering from Canada.

Each site will be covered in this format:

Online Site Store Link
Currency listed: The currency you will be charged when you order from this site.
Free Canadian Shipping? Does the site offer free shipping to Canada? [condition for free shipping is listed here]
Last Order Made: The last order I made from the site (to give you an idea of how recent / dated my experience is).
Brief Experiences: My brief online ordering experiences with the site.

 
GENERAL ORDERING IN CANADA

Amazon.ca
Currency listed: CAD
Free Canadian Shipping? YES [Orders totalling 25 CAD]
Last Order Made: February 2013

Brief Experiences: This site is generally okay. Just keep an eye out on the product prices, 'cuz they sometimes change day-by-day. When you opt for the free shipping, be prepared to wait maybe an extra week for your order to ship. Also make sure that if you're trying to get free shipping, to order products that Amazon actually carries. The product page should say "Ships from and sold by Amazon.ca". If it says "Ships from and sold by [insert another name]", that will not count towards free shipping.

I've had a few experiences where pre-ordered video games orders were delayed. One order was cancelled on me, even though I placed the order a few months before its release date. So it's not exactly the best place for video game pre-orders. But sometimes it's cheaper than other places.

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Chapters / Indigo
Currency listed: CAD
Free Canadian Shipping? YES [Orders totalling 25 CAD]
Last Order Made: February 2013

Brief Experiences: My whole online ordering experience with Chapters has been extremely pleasant. Even with free shipping, sometimes the order is shipped out as soon as the next business day. Their prices are generally decent for books. Everything else that I've seen seem to be at regular price (unfortunately).

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Best Buy
Currency listed: CAD
Free Canadian Shipping? YES [Orders totalling 20 CAD]
Last Order Made: November 2012

Brief Experiences: My online shopping experience with them is just... meh. When I did most of my shopping years ago, free shipping was only offered for some items. They also offered in-store pickup instead of shipping, but again, for certain items. Product availability wasn't always accurate, either. For Best Buy, I generally prefer buying in the actual store instead of online.

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IMPORTING -- VIDEO GAMES / CDS / MOVIES / ANIME

CDJapan
Currency listed: Japanese Yen
Free Canadian Shipping? NO
Last Order Made: August 2012

Brief Experiences: I order mainly Japanese music CDs, video games, and sometimes figures from the site. Hands down, CDJapan is one of my most trusted sites for importing. For their media, their prices are sometimes decent, often standard. Shipping and customs will unfortunately be the bigger culprits for lightening your wallet. Prices for anime figures are often cheaper, though, if you can get in on their early bird pre-ordering discount.

It's just... there's so much flexibility with your orders. When you place an order, say for Item A that's in-stock and for Item B that will release next month, Item A will be set aside for you until your whole order can be fulfilled. Now, let's just say that you realize that you don't have enough money for Item A next month, but you will in 3 months... the same time that another item you want (Item C) comes out. You place an order for Item C and then you can move Item A into the order with Item C. Now, you can only do this if you haven't been charged for the original order, but that is really nice.

I currently don't know of any other site with this kind of flexibility, and the peace of mind knowing that the item is still there for you. I'm hoping that this feature will never be abused.

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Yesasia
Currency listed: USD
Free Canadian Shipping? YES [Orders over 39 USD]
Last Order Made: May 2012

Brief Experiences: I will say right now: their video game prices are usually high. The really nice thing, though, is the free shipping option. Another sweet thing is that most often, orders to Canada aren't hit with customs. So, knocking off shipping costs and possible custom costs, some of their stuff could be the cheaper option, especially for the weightier items like books or figures.

I often buy Japanese music from them and sometimes Chinese music / movies. The unfortunate thing is that their older products aren't always up-to-date. Sometimes older media is listed as in-stock when it's not. Thankfully, they don't charge until an order has shipped. When you choose the free shipping option, expect at least a week's delay.

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Play-Asia
Currency listed: USD
Free Canadian Shipping? NO
Last Order Made: February 2012

Brief Experiences: This is my top 3rd site for importing Japanese media. Prices tend to be standard, though some of their products can be pretty pricey, especially the limited editions of whatever. But... they are one of the few import sites that actually will list limited editions of whatever for sale. That said, there isn't always the guarantee that a placed order will be fulfilled.

From my previous experiences, orders that can be fulfilled immediately take priority, regardless of when an order is placed. So, say you place an order for Item A (in-stock), and Item B (will be in-stock next week). Then, somebody places an order after you, just for Item A. The person who placed the order after you will get priority for Item A since their order can be fulfilled immediately. If there was only one of Item A in-stock... well... it would be an unfortunate day for you.

So, if you decide to order from Play-Asia, try to make sure you order in-stock items in one order. For products with a later availability, make another order for them.

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Zavvi
Currency listed: Euros
Free Canadian Shipping? NO
Last Order Made: December 2011

Brief Experiences: I have only had one buying experience from Zavvi, and it was pleasant. My order supposedly had a 0.99 Euros shipping fee, but I didn't see a similar promotion on their site just now, so that could have been a holiday promotion or something.

I checked out Zavvi, because I read from a number of people that it's a decent site to import UK video games. I was quite surprised that in my order of three items, Zavvi shipped the items out separately whenever they became available, at no extra cost. I find it pretty nice, and I would most likely check it out again.

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NIS America Online Store
Currency listed: USD
Free Canadian Shipping? NO
Last Order Made: May 2012

Brief Experiences: Now, this site is really specific. It's the online store portion of video game publisher, Nippon Ichi Software America (NISA). It mainly carries video games and anime series that they publish, as well as video game memorabilia. They also often carry exclusive limited editions of their video games. That's mainly why I order from them.

In terms of shopping experience, it's decent. I kinda wish they had more selection, so I could support them more.

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Rightstuf
Currency listed: USD
Free Canadian Shipping? YES [Orders totalling 250 USD]
Last Order Made: December 2012

Brief Experiences: So Rightstuf is my main shopping source for licensed anime. Their prices are just so... CHEAP sometimes. They also carry a lot of older series at cheap prices. Whenever I shop there, I have to make sure I have enough to get free shipping. Normal shipping to Canada would be 7 USD for the first item, and then 2 USD each for every extra item. That would just kill the deal.

Rightstuf's track record is fairly decent. Most often I receive all my items in good conditions. There were a few times, though... I could tell that some new products were actually used and shrink-wrapped. There were also a few cases that I experienced slight defects with the discs. Of course, since I order 250 USD's worth of anime every time, it's often too late to bring them up when I catch those things.

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IMPORTING -- FIGURES
 
Hobby Link Japan
Currency listed: Japanese Yen
Free Canadian Shipping? NO
Last Order Made: September 2010

Brief Experiences: My defense for not ordering from Hobby Link Japan for so long is that I don't usually collect figures, which is what this store specializes in. All my experiences with them have been very decent. If they carried stuff I would order, they would be seeing more of my money than they do now.

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IMPORTING -- CLOTHES 
 
YesStyle
Currency listed: CAD
Free Canadian Shipping? YES [Orders totalling 150 CAD]
Last Order Made: April 2012

Brief Experiences: So, this is a sister site to Yesasia. YesStyle deals with Asian clothing. Sometimes their prices are decent, but other times, their prices are up there. The unfortunate thing is that sometimes, the colours of the products on the site don't match up with the product colours in real life. So, for example, online you order a teal-coloured skirt. When you receive it, you see that the teal-coloured skirt is actually a sky-blue-coloured skirt. I'm sure it could be sent back -- I've just never done it so I'm not entirely sure.

Another unfortunate thing is that sometimes I get hit with customs. Also unfortunate is that sometimes... the clothes I want to buy are too small for me. :(

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Qutie Land
Currency listed: HKD
Free Canadian Shipping? NO
Last Order Made: May 2012

Brief Experiences: This site is more like a commission site for the designs they advertise. There is usually a set price for set sizes, but if you need something customized to your size, it will cost extra. When you place your order, before they can get to work and start making the product, you will have to provide your measurements.

To put timelines into perspective, I placed an order for 3 items around mid-May. It took about two weeks to provide all the measurements they were looking for. Then, my items arrived mid-July -- about a month and a half.

I would still buy from them.

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Thanks for reading! If you have any questions about any of these sites, feel free to ask, though checking out the sites' "Help" section or just directly contacting them might be better. If some of this info is dated, please let me know. 

Sunday, 10 March 2013

BLOG -- My Online Shopping Habits (Part 1)

So I've been planning to blog about this for a while. I'm thinking it could be a little helpful to those just getting into the world of online shopping -- it can be a very massive world, depending on what you're shopping for. 

This blog is gonna be in two parts. In the first part, I'm gonna talk about the kind of things I'm think about when deciding to check out a new shopping site. In the second part, I'm going to list some of the sites I frequent for whatever I shop or used to shop for (i.e. what sites have met my approval). And, of course, since I always do this, I'm gonna start with my history of online shopping.


My Online Shopping History
I could be wrong... but I think my first online purchase was back in 2002. I ordered from a site that doesn't exist anymore. I ordered a DVD called DDR Project II. It was a series of AMVs set to the Dance Dance Revolution music, specifically the tracks from the 2nd Mix. Ordering that was quite the venture. I didn't have a credit card then so I filled out a money order. After all these years, I still have the DVD (and I am very happy that I do).

Since then, I have upgraded to a credit card and online shopping hasn't been a stranger to me at all. I've been very fortunate in my 11 years of online shopping to have only experienced major issues two times, and both incidents were resolved favourably. I've had a few times when an order would be cancelled due to product availability, but I was ready for that when I made those orders, so I don't really count those as major issues, especially since I wasn't charged for them.


What I Shop For
When I shop online, it's mainly for video games, books, DVDs, Blu-Ray, music. I also import those (buying products that are released outside of the country I live in). I also order character figures if I want something particular. I have also ordered clothes before, but I rarely do that. This is the problem when you have a lot of interests -- your parameter of what to shop for online just goes out the window, hahaha.


Pre-Site Venturing
So, when a new shopping site comes into my radar, before I even go to the site, I have to do this:

- Research: If I googled the shop name, what results do I get? Does the shop site actually show up as one of the top results? Do multiple people mention the site positively on a legit forum thread or review site? If there are horrible reviews, are there many? What do the horrible reviews say? Would I be willing to take the risk and possibly end up with a horrible experience like what was mentioned in those reviews?

Now, for shopping sites that also have a well-established retail store, they are generally already trustworthy. Just make sure to type in the correct site. Online electronics shops might still need some research, though.

When everything checks out to your approval, time to check out the site!

Venturing into the Site
When I go to a shopping site for the first time, here are some things I check for:

- Does it Ship to My Country?: This is very important, especially when importing. The first thing I do when I go to a site for the first time is check their "Help" or "FAQs" or wherever I think this information would be listed. Sometimes only certain items can be shipped to your country, so you gotta check on that.

- Shipping Costs: To me, even though I know it's essential, shipping costs are the bane of online shopping. It is an extra amount that I wouldn't have to pay for if it was available in a physical store (that I can go to). *Sigh* So, before even buying from the site, I have to be willing to accept the shipping costs.

- What Currency the Current Price is Shown in: This is something you'd have to look out for more often when you're importing. Most sites that specialize in doing international business will have a way to set the site to also display the prices in your country's currency. If not, you might need to have a currency converter tool ready while shopping. Something to keep in mind:

** Even with a currency converter integrated in the site, it is at best a guideline to the final amount. It might change depending on when you are actually charged the order. The currency conversion rate might have changed by then.

So, for example, I go to a site that lists their products in... Japanese Yen. I set the site's currency to also show the prices in Canadian Dollars (CAD). I pre-order a product listed at 1500 Japanese Yen (listed as 20 CAD). Say the site offers free shipping. Now, once the product is available and is shipped out, my credit card gets charged for 1500 Japanese Yen (NOT 20 CAD). Now, on the day I get charged for the 1500 Japanese Yen, let's say the Japanese Yen is stronger than the day I placed the order. After conversions, I end up paying maybe 25 CAD, because the Japanese Yen was stronger when I got charged for the order.

Just... don't be surprised if that happens. Conversion rates could also work for you if the end currency is weaker. Just saying.

- Any Free Shipping Promotions: Does the site offer free shipping? If it does, does the free shipping apply to your country? Yes, it's one way to get you to buy more, but if you strategize (like buying items that you would buy anyway in the future or making one big group buy), taking advantage of a promotion like free shipping could be worth it in the long run.

For me personally, if the product prices and shopping experience are decent, any site that offers free shipping gets bookmarked -- either physically or mentally.

- General Cost of Products: I would definitely not shop somewhere if the prices aren't at least decent or acceptable. That said, some shops, just like with retail shops, offer better prices for certain items. After poking around, I'd get a better sense of what I would shop for from which site.


Some Things to Keep in Mind
Here are some things that I also think about when shopping online. They might not all apply to you.

- USPS > UPS: I don't know how it is in other countries, but if there is a USPS shipping option and a UPS shipping option, take the USPS one for orders going into Canada. From what I've heard, you are less likely to be charged for extra surcharges (like fuel) if you go with USPS. When UPS is the only shipping option available, be aware that you might have to pay more than just the order and shipping costs.

- Customs: Ahh... another bane of online shopping. If you're buying within your country, you don't have to think about this. It's almost like paying taxes on the product. Unless it's been changed, you only get hit with Customs in Canada if the order totals to more than 20 CAD. Other countries will have that set at a different amount for their currency. Some countries might have to pay for customs regardless of the order amount. Find out if your country has something like this and order strategically, if possible. 

Like, if you get hit with customs for orders that total $60, try to place an order that ends up costing $55 to avoid customs. Just also make sure that this is still beneficial when considering the shipping cost.

- Taxes: Of course, when you're buying within your country, be aware that you'll be paying taxes. It's like something you just can't get out of -- you're either paying customs or taxes, lol.

- Buying Used: This could be its own separate blog entry. There are a lot of things to look out for when buying used, and it all depends on which sites you go to. If you plan to buy used (or new) from sites that highly encourage in-person transactions (like Craigslist), do that. Don't even bother with doing online transactions -- it's not worth the risk.

When buying used from sites like eBay or Amazon Marketplace, the first thing to look at is seller rating and feedback. How many good ratings are there vs. the negative ones? What do the negative ratings say? Another thing to look at is what the seller says about the product. Do you accept that condition? If there's not enough details and you have questions, you gotta ask. Before buying, you might also want to ask about the shipping price if it's not listed.

- Pay with Credit Card with Paypal: If you have a good standing credit card linked with your Paypal account and the only option of payment is Paypal, I would suggest paying by credit card through Paypal instead of the default instant bank transfer. That way, you should get charged when the order is shipped. Also, if things happen to go wrong, like you don't receive your item and the seller won't return your e-mails or anything, you can contact your credit card company for a chargeback. I've never used it, so I don't know the full process. To me, it just seems a little safer.


If you've read all of this, thanks for reading! I didn't realize that it would become so long. Feel free to comment on anything, if some of my info is outdated or whatever. If there are other things that you look out for when shopping online, I'd like to know about it! :)

Next week, I will list the sites I either currently frequent or used to frequent. It's my way of saying, "I have checked these out and they make my 'approved' list".