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Online Shopping from Manila: Tips & Tricks

I am an impulsive online shopper. I was never really one for shopping trips growing up, because it just seemed like such a hassle to haul myself over to the nearest sale. I do have an eye for bargains, though, and I have tried out several types of shipping methods, which I will share with you today. I consider myself pretty “learned” when it comes to these things, just because I’ve been lemming for things like hard-to-find books and music, even before I got into makeup.

So, if you live in Manila and are currently jonesin’ for some items abroad, here are some tips I have for you.

  • Philippine Postal Service
    You can always do it the old fashioned way and have your items sent through registered mail. The only thing that’s risky about this is that customs is inescapable. I’m happy to pay taxes if they weren’t derived arbitrarily, which they sometimes are.

    Since I live in the Quezon City area, that’s where my packages typically end up. The QC PO is usually good with customs, and they have been fair in the past, but lately they’ve been grouping separate shipments together and computing them as one taxable entity. I asked Ruffy Biazon (Commissioner of BOC) if that’s how the process is right now, and he said it wasn’t, so I don’t know what is up with that.

    They’re usually also more lenient with “minor” items (e.g. personal small packages from friends and relatives) that aren’t expensive or have a small declared value.

  • “Third-Party” Couriers
    These are the couriers usually based in the USA where people opt to send their packages to, e.g. Johnny Air. Basically, they have an address in the US where you can ship items to. This option is for people who shop at online stores that accept international credit cards.

    Here are some of the ones I’ve tried:

    Johnny Air: Efficient & reliable. Determination of value is weird because they either do it by weight or by size (dimension of the package). They will charge you the higher amount, for whatever reason. They also do not consolidate packages. I once had to pay four times for one order because they came in bunches (I was not informed by the merchant that this was a possibility).

    FRS Shipping: A good alternative to Johnny Air, just because they consolidate shipping (for a fee of Php 123). Fast & efficient, though their pick-up place is in Quezon Avenue.

    DHL, FedEx, etc: Some merchants do not have this option, but certain stores like Lomography use DHL. On the upside, these go straight to your house and there is minimal possibility of loss (in my mind, anyway). The downside is that the shipping, handling, etc. fees are higher than average.

  • GCASH & American Express

    This may be considered a third-party courier, but I put this one as a whole separate option because it’s a different animal altogether. Here’s what you need:
    — A Globe Number
    — A GCash account with a balance

    Basically, you just sign up for an account over here. There is a one-month free trial, but if you are happy with the service, you can renew it after one month for a fee of Php 250/year.

    Once you’ve signed up, you will get:
    — a US Shipping Address
    — an American Express credit card number
    — a US Billing Address

    This means that you can purchase items from stores that only take US-based credit cards. I’ve tried it with a bareMinerals order. It was a pretty pain-free process! I was alerted when my items arrived at their US address, and I had to pay around $5.99 to “authorize shipment” before they sent it to my house. My box was pretty small (but full of goodies!). I thought I was going to have to pay another fee upon arrival—$5.99 is just unreal to me—but nope! I got my box after that single payment.

    The only hassle I find with this method is that you can’t really buy “on the spot” if you don’t replenish your GCash wallet. I’m not familiar with the GCash outlets so it was quite a while before I managed to purchase anything. (I loaded money through an SM Department Store.)

  • Online Stores

    Ah, the fuss-free option—look for online stores that ship internationally. Or, better yet, that ship internationally for free. Customs duties usually add the shipping fee to their computation. Again, a practice that I don’t understand, but I can’t change.

    Amazon.com: They don’t ship for free, but depending on your order and how much the declared value was, sometimes it goes straight to your door.

    ASOS.com: My best-kept secret. I love ASOS. They ship internationally from the UK for free, at no minimum purchase. They are also always on some sort of sale or promo.

    Zuneta*: Select makeup brands (e.g. Le Métier de Beauté, Rouge Bunny Rouge, Korres, Becca) to be shipped to you! I have tried this only today and I’ll update you re: its “ease.”

    BookDepository*: Free shipping for most commercially-available books! This isn’t about makeup, but I thought I’d throw it in the mix anyway.

  • eBay

    eBay is a scary word, but it really does have a great selection of items. Here are some tips for shopping on eBay:

    — Check seller rating! Opt for the higher percentage, but also look at the ratings’ comments. Sometimes there are weird people who complain about dumb things and the seller can’t really erase the rating.

    — Don’t just check the price—check the shipping cost as well. Sometimes, sellers will price their items really low, but state an exorbitant shipping fee.

    — Make sure the product is genuine. If it’s a super cheap high-end brand, then it’s probably too good to be true. Don’t buy items that you can’t personally vouch for. Be familiar with the make and qualities of the item you are buying.

    — Check if they ship internationally. Ask the seller to mark the items as gift, if possible. Don’t push the issue if they’ve already stated in the listing that they will not mark items as gifts.

  • Multiply Stores

    I’ve only started using this option recently when I wanted to try out some NYX products. So far, I’ve transacted with Stuff In Style, Digital Traincase, and Beauty and Minerals. All went down smoothly, and I received my items very quickly, as I had opted to go for their “on-hand” items.

    Some stores offer a “pre-order,” though, which basically means that you are paying for something that has not arrived yet (which they will put in as an order from stores in the USA, presumably). You pick items and “order” them, then you get them three weeks later.

    I am waiting on a shipment from Digital Traincase, I believe. Shops like House of Flair do not limit your options for a preorder. You can send them links to the items you want, and they will send you a quote for the costs, etc. I personally haven’t tried this but a lot of people I know have. HoF is not limited to cosmetics, by the way!

  • Balikbayan Box

    Get someone you know from wherever to put together a box for you and ship items to his/her house. I’ve tried this method before Christmas (so I shopped for gifts) and split the box with Sarie and my brother. Even though we split it three ways, I still ended up spending a lot. I wouldn’t recommend this unless the items you want are big. Of course, you can always just split with more people, but it will really require a close eye on the box. Never ask someone you don’t trust to put together a box for you.

Phew! I know this was long and I’m sorry there aren’t any pictures or anything, but I hope it helped you! Feel free to ask any questions. 🙂 I know I just glossed over some of it.

Full Disclosure: Sites marked with an asterisk (*) are affiliate links, which means that I get a commission every time you make a purchase through that link.

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31 Comments

  1. Hi Carina,

    About the G-cash wallet, so I would put money on G-cash, and then, shop and you also said, shipping is only $5.99? Does it mean no CUSTOM fees when delivered at your doorstep? I really have a bad experience with paying customs tax & duties. Pffft.

    Thanks!

    • Hi Juvy,

      Yup, you just have to pay the $5.99. Keep in mind that the amount you are charged with depends on the WEIGHT of the parcel. Some bloggers paid around the equivalent of Php 1,000+ for their parcels, but since mine was so light and small, my total was cheaper. 🙂 You can easily search for other people’s experiences with the GCash/Amex system by Googling those keywords. Hope that helps!

      Carina

    • I got mine about a week or so after I authorized shipment, but a few weeks after I made the initial order. It took a while for bareMinerals to ship out the items. But My Shopping Box (the GCash/Amex partner courier) was very efficient.

  2. Try pobox.ph too! if ur not in a hurry to receive your stuff. You can ship a big box for only 50USD, no matter the weight.

    I’ve tried gcash also, They’re actually charging you based on volumetric weight which just means by dimension.

    I’ll try asos and zuneta. Thanks for the tips!! Hurray for online shopping!

  3. kim says

    hi! does Asos deliver straight to your house? or you have to pick it up? thank you!

    • You have to pick it up. The post offices very rarely send a package straight to your door. Often, if it is around the $50 mark (incl. shipping), they just make you pay a Php 50 processing fee or something like that.

  4. kim says

    how do you know if your package is already at the post office? 🙂 I’m sorry for this kind of question..:)) hehe

  5. tess says

    Hi,
    If seller from UK (Amazon) does not ship internationally, can you recommend a reliable UK forwarder like Johnny Air or pobox.ph or?

  6. paolo says

    hi.. I bought small items (less than 8grams) on ebay and philpost charge me P50 per item.. I just want to know how much philpost will charge me if I buy item from ebay that cost $20 and weight 400g? tnx..

    • They don’t really charge by weight, they charge by value. Also, you should probably ask them. I don’t know the specifics of their system.

  7. Sheryl says

    Thanks for the tips, Carina! I’d only ever shopped from local online stores due to shipping and customs concerns but your post has helped me overcome my fears. ASOS here I come! 🙂

  8. Micah says

    This is my first time to buy from asos and i’m wondering if i can pick it up at qc post office even though im based in manila? I’m worried that the one in manila isn’t good or they might charge me a lot more than expected..

  9. Jamaica says

    Hi what did you use in paying? credit card/paypal and how much the customs usually charge for item worth 4kup- Im from Bicol?

    • Sorry, I’m not an expert on this. I’m just sharing my experiences. Please call the post office for specifics. I have outlined everything I know in the post and comments already.

  10. Van says

    Hello, when you purchase from ASOS, you said that you will need to pick it up from the post office. Did you have to pay for customs duties and taxes? Have you tried express shipping? What courier do they use? Thank you!

    • Hey Vanessa, you always have to pay customs duties if your goods are taxable. I haven’t tried express shipping, and I believe they use Royal Mail. I usually pick my packages up from the post office.

  11. renna says

    hi! Do you still purchase at asos? I want to make a purchase to but I’ve read of some experiences that their parcel got lost in their local PO.

    • Hi Renna, I think you can pay for tracked shipping, but I’ve personally never had a lost package from ASOS. It just takes a really long time for them to get to me, for some reason.

  12. elise says

    hello! may I ask if you’ve tried asos’ express shipping method and if yes, do they ship directly to your house?

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