Amazon is a global online retailer, one of the biggest players in the game, if not the biggest at all. Amazon has twelve branches across the Americas, Europe and Asia. If you've ordered from one of them, the other sites are not very difficult to unserstand and handle, offer an even broader product range, and quite often help save a lot of money. In this article, I share all tips and tricks I know about global Amazon shopping.
Understanding other Language Sites Navigation and Registration
Registration is actually not very difficult. If you've registered with any Amazon or associated site, you've already got a user account for all other sites as well. Just log in with your email address and your password. Delivery addresses and payment methods will be transferred to the account, and kept synchronized automatically.
When it comes to reading and understanding Amazon sites in another language, Bing Bar is a very helpful tool. It can translate any website into about 40 different languages on the fly, including secure websites. So you can translate and understand the Amazon websites during every step of your purchase process.
You can access all of the following Amazon and associated sites with a single user account.
Amazon Main Sites
The Amazon main websites offer a wide product range from many departments. There is an emphasis on media products and electronics, but other areas are growing constantly and quickly. The Indian Amazon main site is called Junglee.com. Apart from the name, it is not much different from the other Amazon sites.
- Amazon.com (USA)
- Amazon.ca (Canada)
- Amazon.co.uk (UK)
- Amazon.de (Germany)
- Amazon.at (Austria)
- Amazon.fr (France)
- Amazon.it (Italy)
- Amazon.es (Spain)
- Amazon.co.jp (Japan)
- Amazon.cn (China)
- Amazon.com.br (Brazil)
- Junglee.com (India)
Javari, Endless, and Amazon Fashion
Amazon's fashion website is called Amazon Fashion (formerly Endless.com) in North America, and Javari in the rest of the world. The name "Javari" by the way is derived from the Javari river, which is, like the Amazon, a Brazilian river.
MyHabit and BuyVIP, the exclusive Fashion and Lifestyle Shops
Another fashion branch of Amazon is called MyHabit in North America, and BuyVIP in the rest of the world. These sites are private sale sites, also known as flash sale sites, private discount sites, or sample sale sites. They provide exclusive luxury items at discount prices.
What makes it different from Javari is the feature that mainly samples and left-over stock is on sale. So this explains the good price you even get on high quality and luxury brands, but also limits availability for most items.
Amazon Local, Flash Sales for your City
Amazon Local is a
Deal of the Day site, promoting exclusive savings on restaurants, entertainment, health, beauty and other services in your local area - one deal
per day. It is very similar to what Groupon offers. There's no subscription involved. Just check out the deal every day, and get whatever you like. The deals might also come
in handy if you plan a vacation to the UK or the US.
More North American Amazon Partner Sites
Amazon has a couple more sites on the American market, selling industrial and labs supplies (AmazonSupply.com, formerly SmallParts.com), and various business services (AmazonServices.com).
There have been rumours or vague announcements of new Amazon shops being planned for Australia, India, the Netherlands, Poland, Sweden, South Africa, Chile, and Argentina. Amazon also operates centres in Ireland, Luxembourg, Romania, Slovakia, Morocco, Singapore, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Uruguay, and Costa Rica, which might be further locations of future shops.
Special Deals for International Customers
The Amazon US site features a page with deals for international customers called Amazon Global, a site that displays only internationally available products, for which Amazon will always display your end prices including your local import tax and customs clearance fees. The other country sites also include import tax and customs fee in their end prices for international customers, but make it more difficult to find internationally available articles.
Amazon Japan has created an English language site featuring lots of Japanese products that might be especially attractive for international customers. However, Amazon Japan only dispatches media items to international customers.
The Amazon Currency Converter is a tool available in the last step of the purchase process on all Amazon country sites offering to convert the invoice to your local currency before charging your credit card, the advantage obviously being to know exactly what amount you'd have to pay. Be creful here, as it might be considerably cheaper to disable the converter, and let your bank do the currency conversion.
Compare the Prices: Introducing the Amazon Linker
Any products article number (ASIN) is globally unique, so you know if you see a perticular product on any of the Amazon or associated sites, you can find the identical product on other country sites with the same ASIN. Prices however might differ a lot. Certain products might just be more affordable in a certain country (computer games in the UK, hardware in France, computers in Italy etc. - even despite higher shipping cost). Especially rare books and other rare products can have a considerably lower price in countries far away from their past origin.
Amazon offers the same excellent service worldwide, so checking out prices and offers on the different country sites might be worthwhile in any case. To save time and energy, you can use the Amazon Linker to do that. Just paste the ASIN, select "All Amazons", and go for it. It will show you all Amazon country sites' best prices for items shipped directly by Amazon, as well as used and new Marketplace items.
Hidden Cost or Hidden Discount: Sales and Import Tax
The way sales and import tax is handled can be very confusing if you're not used to ordering stuff abroad. In most cases you will be exempt from any applicable sales tax (VAT, MWSt, TVA etc.)
Amazon USA, Canada and China display prices without sales tax. All other Amazon sites display prices including sales tax. That's why their prices seem to be higher at first glance. Tax however will be deducted after confirming the international shipping address.
The second important issue is the one of import tax. Most countries allow tax free import up to a certain more or less generous threshold. Please check the website of your local customs authority to find out the threshold and the import tax rates. Import tax is due on delivery (unless you order throgh Amazon Global), and will usually be collected by the postman or by the customs office. Now there are four different scenarioes that are of interest.
The easiest one is purchasing from an Amazon EU site while residing in any other EU country. In this case, you'd simply have to pay sales tax in the country of purchase, and payment of import tax will be skipped. So the prices you see on the Amazon sites are your end prices.
If you reside outside the EU and purchase from an EU site, you don't have to pay the full price as listed on Amazon. Sales tax will be deducted automatically during the purchase process. Taxes typically range from 18% to 23%, might however be at a reduced rate for certain goods. Products by non commercial Marketplace sellers don't include tax. So you'll find out your discounted price only after placing the item into your shopping cart. Import tax might still apply.
Similarly, if you purchase from Japan, the sales tax of 5% is deducted during the order process, and import tax might become due on delivery.
If you purchase from the USA, Canada or China, you pay the price as listed on the sites. Import tax might also be applicable in this scenario.
Whether an item is available for shipping to a certain location depends heavily on whether it is dispatched directly by Amazon or through a 3rd party Marketplace vendor.
Media items (books, movies, music etc.) that are dispatched directly by Amazon are generally available worldwide (excpet for embargoed countries like Iran, Syria, North Korea and Cuba).
The following chart will show you which products are available in your country:
Should a certain item not ship to your country, you can still check the offers on Amazon Marketplace (used and new articles) for an alternative seller that does ship to your location.
International Mail Forwarding
To make global shopping easier, there is a number of service companies, who can receive your shipments in the same country as the Amazon branches, and forward them to any destination worldwide. These companies exist for all major Amazon markets (United States, European Union, Japan and China), and will gladly help you get your shipments. I have no personal experience with any of these companies, therefore I am not giving a particular recommendation here. But for all mail forwarders, you can find some reviews in Google. Some of them even ship for lower cost than Amazon's own international delivery.
- Mail Forwarders for the United States
- Mail Forwarders for the European Union
- Mail Forwarders for Japan
- Mail Forwarders for China
DVD and blu-ray Region Codes
Buying DVD and blu ray movies bears a special challenge: The region codes. To keep shoppers from buying cheap movies from other countries, the movie labels introduced the region code standard to the DVD and blu-ray formats.
This essentially means not every disk will play on every player. There is however a recent tendency to release new titles on region free disks. Especially blu-ray disks for the European market usually have no region code any longer. If in doubt about a certain disk, please check the Amazon product detail pages.
More information on region codes can be found on the Amazon UK site
Electric Devices, Voltage and Plug Types
When buying any electric appliances, make sure you only purchase devices that are compatible with your country's voltage. North America and Japan use 100-120 V, whereas China and the European Union use 220-240 V. Do not risk buying a device that is in danger of blowing up when you plug it into a socket in your home. Some devices are compatible with both systems. Check the description on the Amazon product pages to find this out.
The plug types may also vary between countries. This can easily be resolved if you order an adapter together with your device. In the European Union (excluding the UK) and China most devices are equipped with a two pin Euro plug. However, all countries also have their national plug type. If the same item (same ASIN) is being sold in at least any two of these countries, you can therefore be sure that it comes with a Euro plug.
In North America and Japan, the same plug types are used. Since voltage is also equal in these countries, you don't have to worry about any incompatibilities whatsoever when ordering stuff within that group of countries.