Perils of buying online, chapter 1, Buyee

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Perils of buying online, chapter 1, Buyee

Buying cameras online opens doors to unexpected escapades. I’ve heard about Buyee, a proxy service for buying goods from Japan from either online suppliers or from Yahoo auctions. While Yahoo seems to wane globally, it holds fort in Japan and Yahoo Auctions – Y! Auction – is the main online auction house there.

Yahoo Auctions are conducted in Japanese; Buyee is there to bridge the language and culture gap. The website is not great, jittery, painfully slow and frequently needs to reload pages.

So, I dove into Buyee, from there into Yahoo Auctions. The film camera category holds over 40,000 entries. Drilling into the subcategories doesn’t do much as the sellers take it as a recommendation only so all camera types are everywhere, which takes much sorting and sieving through the entries. Asking prices are all over the map. Some are way over- Pax M3 at $280, some are decent. Oddly, or perhaps not, the European cameras are offered at a premium – Flexaret VI at $370 – which is sort of understood. Less understood is why are the Russian cameras offered at a small fortune. Am not sure if they are sold at the asking prices or just trying. Probably a smart Moscovite had set shop there and brings cameras in crates from the old country. After marking some cameras to watch, checked back a week later to find out that about 10% were sold, not sure what about the reminder, eider dropped or relisted.

Finding cameras of interest requires much patience and creative thinking, realising that ‘Minolta’ could be spelt ‘minoruta’. Best is to study the images and from there go to the description. That gets tricky as once Google Translate does its thing, the results still need decipher:

Quote, unedited:

Description of item
I purchased hundreds of cameras from the collector.
Leica and successive badges, simultaneous listings to maniac goods We have sent at any time.
I would be pleased if you could enjoy it together.
Item state
I can not judge whether the shutter is an accurate speed
The speed has changed, and it is running out.
It seems there is mold or dirt in the viewfinder.
Although the surfa!!of the lens is slightly dirty I think it is relatively clean.
Other, operation not checked
Since it is an old thing, treat it as a junk item, I hope in complete NC / NR.
Acquisition route We purchased nearly 1,000 items collected by the camera/collector. It is not a specialty shop, it is an antique shop to the last. In case If you have any doubts or things you do not understand I would like to answer as much as I can There are many things that amateurs can not judge If you can not satisfy a satisfactory solution to meet your expectations things.
As for the state of the product, it may be different depending on the subjectivity, so please judge in the photograph, please refrain from the bidding of the more nervous one.
Appearance check Extremely slight “superfine class” such as ス レ accompanying use! We have maintained a solid elegant texture and matte black at the time of sale ♪ Sense of use is slightly beautiful to be loving and fond of! Each operation part is extremely slight, such as ス レ and it is very beautiful! The warships department is also very beautiful, almost no damage by straps! Zhang leather is also moist, it is the best with smooth texture! The bottom is also a bit of surprising beauty, such as regular sleds! Lens, Knurl is also a slight sense of use sense itself ♪ The mount part is shiny and perfect! ! There is no character disappeared, color characters are also very vivid ♪


The general idea is understood, yet I wonder if the choice of words is by Translate or by the writer.

For the novice, Buyee provides help pages that require their own help pages to understand. The Local seller ships the camera to Buyee’s warehouse which in turn ships it internationally.

So, I placed bids and in short order won three TLR cameras. My VISA account has been debited in a flash. Now its nickel and diming time. Buyee commission is 5% for purchases over JPY 3,000, or flat JPY 150 for purchases under that; so the minimum charge is US$ 1.35 which is reasonable, but it is just the beginning.

Next, you’ll need to choose a ‘plan’. This is what will happen when the parcel reaches Buyee’s warehouse: either it will be ignored (I assume), inspected and/or insured. Hard choice, but as the maximum charge is about US$ 4.50, I felt generous and went for it.


While waiting for the parcels to reach the warehouse, another camera I had bid on closed. It was a Tubasaflex III TLR. Never heard about it and the only online information is in Japanese for which I didn’t care much. My bid was the only one, at $25. Lo and behold, I got an email from Buyee:

We are very sorry to inform you that, due to circumstances on the seller’s side, your bid on this item has been canceled.

It is odd, I have never encountered such in any other auction. I fired a mild email to support, just to get a reply by Maria saying that sellers can do as they please it and Buyee has no control over it. Go figure.


Passing over this disappointment, my three parcels had arrived at the warehouse, ready for consolidation and shipping. Consolidation first. Buyee’s site has a page full of consolidation information, supported by colourful diagrams and examples. You may consolidate, reconsolidate, unconsolidated, and do any other action that rhymes with date.

In my mind’s eye, I saw my parcels handled by attendants in white lab coats and safety boots, each box opened, all carefully repacked together in another worthy box. All that while carefully inspecting it per the plan I chose earlier. Cost of consolidation – $12, Cost of protective packaging – $18. Still within reason.

With this in my mind, I confirmed consolidation. Haven’t suspected a thing.  Should have, as there was a clause on their online form, that consolidation is irrevocable.

The next day, as they are highly efficient, I got a mail advising me of my three shipping options: $198 by EMS, taking 3 days; about half of that via ocean freight to take 60 days; and a cheaper option, to abandon the shipment altogether.

One piece of information to complete the picture: the total weight of the consolidated package is declared to be 5.5 KG, about 12 lbs. $198 for 5,5 KG is exorbitant. I buy from Japan frequently, mostly paying some $30 per camera, taking a week to reach here.

Now I was upset. By their shipping tables, there are more shipping options, but none were available as the freshly packed parcel had exceeded the maximum. To abandon the shipment, well, not applicable. To use ocean freight, impractical. So, with heavy heart and light pocket, I approved the EMS shipping.

So far costs:

Cameras $75
Other costs
Plan $5
Consolidation $12
Packaging $18
EMS shipping $198
Total other costs $233

Simply put, the additional charges are three times the camera costs. What it really means is that shipping each camera on its own would have saved my a good $140. Live and learn.


The parcel has arrived. Three days, as promised. The poor mailman carried in a box the size of a bar fridge, surprisingly weightless.

I should have an unpacking video. The gargantuan box contained another good-sized box, and other two well bubble-wrapped packages, a camera in each. Opened the inside box, another well-wrapped camera.

All is good and dandy, save for the fact that the smaller box could have contained the three cameras, additional three cameras, leaving space for half a roll bubble wrap. Seems the eager packers packed one camera, thereafter realized there are more, so dumped all in the giant box and called the movers.

Emailed support again, got a reply from Cathy, that could be summarized in a few words that that’s how it is, and I should go fly a kite. Lesson learned.

A late note: got two further cameras from them. Individually packed, excellent packaging at $35 each. So the secret is not to consolidate which is sort of defeating the purpose and common sense, but so be it.


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