Before I start here I think it’s only fair to let you all know what you’re in for. So get ready for a deluge of disclaimers and trigger warnings, I guess.
I’m about to get really whiny about problems that are so first-world they don’t actually qualify as problems anymore. Most of you probably have it much worse when it comes to ordering manga. It’s just that this has been bugging me so I figure I would complain about it here to get it out of my system.
If people acting entitled and whiny are annoying to you, this is going to be a very annoying post…
Lately (I use the term loosely and you’ll find out why) I’ve had some less than stellar experiences ordering manga. Let me tell you a couple of stories.
Righstuf has a weird definition of cheaper
I start it Rightstuf. I thought about leaving their name out but since I already whined about this on Twitter (and it’s fairly well known on the internet) I figured why bother?
A few years ago, Rightstuf made this big announcement and campaign called Rightstuf Loves Canada where they announced they were offering free shipping to Canada on orders of 250$ or over before taxes. Naturally, they were making up their money on such big orders and we still had to pay all taxes and duties. They even had a not unsubstantial shipping insurance fee which you could opt out of but you had to do it manually and it wasn’t that obvious. So that free shipping meant you were usually paying a minimum of 300 to 325$ to Rightstuf. All in all a pretty good deal. In raw distance, Montreal is a lot closer to Rightstuf than places like Miami, San Diego or Seattle, but I understand that crossing borders can be a hassle and has a lot of associated expenses. It’s all good.
I have a membership with Rightstuf. Last year I paid for one which gives me a few cents off most books (the biggest single savings I have seen from it is .55 $). I figured that since I had to make such large purchases for free shipping, it would pay for itself and actually provide some savings by the middle of this year. I made an order at the beginning of the summer. All was fine, great even. Then I decide to make another one a week ago and I see a shipping charge.
That’s weird. I think maybe they raised the minimum amount you need to buy or I maybe I remembered it wrong and it’s actually 300$. I have some time so I scour their website for some info. I find a very helpfully titled page “International Shipping Update”. Yay, this will explain everything!
The page says that
I’m still confused at this point, so I hit the little talk to a representative button. The very nice and patient representative from Rightstuf (who did a great job none of this is their fault) volunteered that the change in policy was due to 5 fuel surcharges in recent months. 5 you guys!!!! I hadn’t asked since I assumed the reason was corporate greed and had accepted that. But this reason annoyed me.
5 fuel surcharges sound like a lot but that’s mostly because the word surcharge makes it sound like an extra fee. The purpose of a fuel surcharge is to provide a flat rate that allows the cost of fuel to be incorporated into shipping rates. By averaging the cost of transporting goods, the result is a fair, fixed fuel cost shippers can use to account for fluctuating fuel prices. That’s it. As for 5 of them, well that surcharge varies with the cost of fuel obviously and gets updated weekly. So if they are talking about the changing rates, there have been way more than 5 since 2019 when Rightstuf made a huge deal about announcing free shipping to Canada.
I am more than willing to believe that the pandemic made tariffs higher and drove up the cost of business for everyone but for months now, fuel surcharges to Canada have been trending down so I thought to myself, it looks like they might normalize and go back to 2019 rates. Since the information has been volunteered and the reason given was this temporary extra cost, then logically once that cost was removed then the policy could be reinstated right? I asked hopefully. The representative tells me in no uncertain terms that there are no plans to bring back free shipping regardless of fuel surcharge variations in the future. This makes the reason given sound a little less earnest. But fine. A business’ job is to make as much money s possible after all. I get it. I just don’t like feeling like I’m being tricked along the way.
But there was one point that really annoyed me. Like I said, the free shipping policy was put in place in 2019 with a large campaign called Rightstuf loves Canada! There was promotional art, the site banner was changed, dozen of different marketing emails and postcards were sent out and Rightstuf probably got some sweet north-of-the-border sales. So far so good. But I had no clue that this had been removed until I spent quite a bit of time putting an order together and noticing that the impressive shipping amount wasn’t going anywhere.
So I also ask if they were planning to make an announcement about the change in policy similar to the one they had made when the policy was put in place. Noting that their website only mentioned that they would be using Fedex (the only shipping method available for Canada for as long as I have been ordering from Rightstuf) and that shipping would now be cheaper and quicker which left some important information out in my opinion. The official statement was “we sent an email to our Canadian customers, I’m sorry if you didn’t get it ☹”. To which I thanked them for their time and wished them a nice day.
Rightstuff really really pushes you to sign up on their site. They give you 10% off the first time you sign up.It’s the only way to make wishlists or get notified when a manga you have been waiting for is in stock for instance. That makes perfect sense, how else would they be able to keep track of that? But once they get your email, their marketing department is really active. I get 2 to 3 emails every single day (no weekend breaks!) from rightstuf. Here, let me show you:
With this many emails, it would be quite possible that the change in shipping email got buried in the literal hundreds I get from them. It’s not the most upright way to go about it but I understand why they don’t mount a whole Rightstuf Now Hates Canada campaign. (For the record, that would have been hilarious, and I would have respected them a lot more for it but I’m not the target demo.) So I searched through all my emails. Almost to the beginning of the year. None of their emails contained the word “shipping”, “policy”, “fuel surcharge” or “Canada”. So I feel pretty safe in saying I never received their email. I’m not saying it doesn’t exist but it seems Rightstuf is a lot more concerned with making sure I get the three different sales promos every day than getting the information that the new shipping costs make all these sales moot.
Oh, and for the cherry on the sunday. I did order my last batch of manga from them. I had spent so much time putting my order together and had already gotten excited about reading them so I just decided what the heck, this time. That is probably what the strategy is, that Canadian customers will just continue buying from them through inertia. I’m not though. I already found a few alternatives for my next order. In the past, I would place an order, get my FedEx tracking the next day, sometimes even later that same day, and my shipment would arrive within a week. It was great! Now, with shipping costing me a bit over 100$ extra, it took a week to get my tracking email and the shipment hasn’t even left the warehouse yet…
I know I’m being petty but just to really illustrate the difference in price here, if I want to buy a single volume of Bleu Period from Rightstuf, it’s going to cost me more than 23 $ in shipping. Making the 9-dollar manga over 30$ instead. I know that some of you may be thinking this is normal and reasonable and if I just order more the shipping will eventually be worth it.
That’s half true. I did some experiments and the best I could get it is that if you order around 200$ or more, you’re shipping could go s low as 50% of the sales price. That’s the best deal I could get.
Ali Express is still shipping me things from China for .10$ but that’s probably not a fair comparison. So to see how reasonable the shipping is, I tried to order the exact same manga and have it shipped to the exact same address from a few US book retailers, and these were the results:
- Barnes and Noble: 14$
- Amazon US: 8$
- Powells Books: 7 $ (last shipment would have been 55$ instead of 134$)
- I also checked out Blackwells which is a large bookstore in England (as in on another continent). Their shipping was included in the 18.86$ price. If retail is 12.99 then that’s 6$ for shipping.
The most expensive was still almost 10$ cheaper than Rightstuf.
But is it worth it? It depends. It’s kinda convenient to have a lot of different manga in the same place. But it still feels a little exploitative.
I once again will state that I am very spoiled. There are a lot of people that have way more trouble or expense when collecting manga. It’s just that I was more spoiled until recently and now I’m pouting.
The BoxSet that Disappeared After a Year
But wait there’s more.
Unfortunately, among my alternatives in manga suppliers, I’m going to have to rule out my little local manga store. I’ll leave their name out of it since unlike for Rightstuf, it is possible that my experience is completely unique and normally customers have a great experience.
Anywho, I have a local manga store. There’s only one specialized manga bookstore around here and I was excited about supporting them. They are a bit more expensive than pretty much anyone else but that’s just how it goes with little local shops. Without support, they are never going to be able to compete against mega-corporations.
So last year, in the fall, I ordered the Princess Jellyfish boxset from them. I watched and loved the anime and for some reason, it gave me the impression that it would be even better in manga form. I had been itching to read it ever since. It was available on Amazon and in my Big Box bookstore (called Indigo) but I opted for the Manga shop because I wanted to support them. The website said shipping would take from 2 to 12 weeks (a big range there) and I was fine with that. I wasn’t in a huge hurry and had other things to read anyway.
So I ordered it, got a receipt and the over 200$ was quickly deducted from my account. I waited about a week and send them an email as I hadn’t received any sort of tracking. Their response was – It takes 2 to 12 weeks, write back when it’s been 12 weeks. I clarified that I wasn’t looking for my order, just a tracking number and I was told they don’t give tracking numbers. I let it go but it did bother me a bit. These days it’s pretty standard to offer tracking on orders, especially bigger ones.
I waited for the 3 months (12 weeks) and no Boxset. I wrote back told them I hadn’t received it and asked if there was an issue. The response I got was that actually for Boxsets shipping was more like 16 weeks. Ok… why didn’t you tell me this 11 weeks ago… is what I should have said. Instead, I said, thank you and went back to waiting. 16 weeks had passed and of course no boxset. I wrote back (to be clear I was always the one that had to initiate contact) and asked if everything was ok with my order.
I was told that due to covid (I ordered it in 2021 but it was 2022 by then) there was a slow down in shipping, but the order was still fine. Ok, great but I need more details here, so I asked them, I know you can’t give me tracking but do you have a ballpark estimated delivery date? Is it going to be another 2 weeks or another 12? They couldn’t even give a rough estimate so I thanked them for their time and said I would check back eventually. I did, I checked back every month, once a month. I notice that responses were getting very slow but the answer was always the same. The order was fine and would get to me eventually. It wasn’t lost or anything that’s for sure.
At the 6-month mark, they also started suggesting a store credit since it had been such a long time. I told them that I really wanted the boxset (I didn’t tell them that I was afraid it would just restart this circus if I ordered anything else) and I kept on waiting. I was in it for the long haul. By now, I was buddies with the customer service rep, even though I think they were not quite as fond of my monthly emails but I could wait. My emails were short but polite consisting of a few lines which said that I was just making sure everything was still ok and wishing them a nice day.
In late June I sent off my monthly email and a few days later got the usual response. Everything was fine, I would get it eventually, no one can tell me where it is though. I said thank you and put it aside for next month.
But a few weeks after that, I got a surprise email. For the first time in 9 months, they were actually writing me! The email said “After pressuring our supplier, we had to come to the reality that we won’t be able to fulfill your order. We can offer you a refund on a gift card or directly on your original method of payment.”
Shocker! There’s a lot I could say about this message but I said that’s too bad and asked for a refund on my original method of payment. I was told that they would proceed on their end, send me an email when it was done and after that email, it would take up to 10 working days for the refund to actually be processed and available to me. I thought great, I would simply buy the boxset elsewhere as soon as I had my money back. 10 days came and went and I still hadn’t received the email, never mind the money. So I wrote back, I was told that these things take a bit of time and to wait a few more days. I did and then wrote back. This time I was told that my order was “quite old” you see and therefore a little trickier to refund and also the person who did those things had been away but they were back now and it would get done. Again, information that could have been shared earlier to save us some time.
Another week, almost a month since I was told I was getting a refund and still no confirmation that they had processed it on their end. I wrote back and decided to get my ducks in a row. I asked them to confirm that first, they needed to do something on their end, then I would get an email and from that email, I would be able to get my refund 10 working days later. I just wanted to get the timeline down in my head. Except I did a typo and wrote 110 days instead of 10. They thought I was mad and apologized for all the delays saying they understood my frustration and it would be done by the end of the week.
I was about to write them to explain that it was a typo and I wasn’t that frustrated but I decided to wait a bit. Tell them after I got the email and apologize on my end.
You guessed it. That was last week and still no email. It’s now August. It’s been a full working week after it was going to get done for sure and my last email has not even been acknowledged for days now.
I hope this is a completely exceptional case. I really wanted to have a local manga business I could support. Sadly, the few other people I talked to confirmed that their customer service was… the polite way to say it would be could use some improvement.
Sorry to leave you guys on a cliffhanger like this! Will I ever get m money back? Will I get Princess Jellyfish elsewhere??? I see why shows do it now, it feels exciting!
Ok, ranty rant rant over. You know what, I feel better. This was a huge post, I don’t blame you if you couldn’t make it all the way through. If you’re still here, you rock! I hope your manga collecting goes better than mine!