Buy Buy Baby

Features - March 20th, 2005

Credit card primed Colleen Sheils shops-till-she-drops at the best online stores

IT’S THE DAY after payday and there’s a lull in my workload but not in my bank account. Time for a quick fix, I glance over my shoulder, furtively lean towards my computer screen, and with hand on mouse, I click off into cyberspace. Direction undetermined, I convince myself that I’ve launched for the sheer reason of a quick distraction. But with credit card in hand, who am I fool­ing?

The winter has been cold and long and my hiberna­tion has been made complete by two main ingredients from abroad: books and DVDs. The latter have come to me from, a site that has a large selection, including independent films, collectors editions, and even Japanese movies with English subtitles. For my region-free DVD player, this American site is a saving grace. As the store name suggests, the DVD prices are low, and shipping starts at $8.95 for international delivery. Here I found the complete third season of 24 for $48.85, a price that shatters the ¥17,640 listing at another well-known site, where instead I find my books — yes, the ubiqui­tous The site, which can be navigated in English, discounts retail prices and delivers free for any purchase over ¥ 1,500, which makes their often less-than-prompt delivery of imported books more bearable, especially since their inventory is huge. Also a useful site for occasional bargains on house items and electronics, this winter brought me a high quality, reasonably priced coffee maker and an aromatherapy humidifier.

As a foreigner here, I have experienced the pangs of loneliness brought about by being the only one on JR with a bag big enough for its own seat. Anything big­ger and I am a social outcast; it’s that simple. Without a car, large purchases have been difficult and costly. But I recently came across — specifically their ExpatMall link and have found a system that lets me shop at hundreds of popular online stores such as Walmart and Babiesrus that don’t otherwise ship internationally. For an unfathomably small charge, ExpatExpress sends my goods direct to my door in Japan usually in a five-business day turn­around. For major purchases of home stuff at home prices, it’s extremely convenient and often cheaper than buying comparable items in Japan. There are good-for-the-wallet-and-apartment shops like Target,, and (gasp) Ikea. There is also a lot for kids and babies. And, the brass ring: women’s appar­el. For those of you sick of a closet full of trousers that start with G and end with P, ExpatExpress has, one of my favorite sites for discounted designer clothes, Nordstroms (go straight to the sale link), and the lovely Anthropologic (for a splurge).

The joy of mouse-to-door delivery holds out even for items not traditionally delivered, like groceries and household goods. I’ve had more than my fair share of back pain from carrying home plastic bags full of Campbell’s soup cans. Helping prevent future chiropractic problems,  sells individual comfort food, medicine, and supplements — more than 13,000 items, again with about a one-week turnaround.

After taking care of the more practical side of life, it’s time for the indulgent, day-after-payday fun. That’s right: girl stuff. I turn to, a store based in Hong Kong that sells brand-name makeup and perfume at low prices, with free, fast shipping. Buy three or more items and get five per­cent off, and repeat shoppers get even more discounts with each additional purchase. After taking care of the primping goods, it’s next to the pampering at With free shipping here as well, I get bras that actually fit, workout clothes for the gym and yoga, and oh-la-la lingerie.

I can remember a time when I would save up all my spending money to binge shop while overseas. The growth of the e-retail and reliable shipping ser­vices has helped tame my horde-and-binge habits, ultimately letting me live far away without living far removed. Some may argue that this is not such a good thing, but when I look around my apartment and I feel surrounded by things that remind me of me, I somehow just can’t agree.