Overseas Tech Shopping Not Always Cheaper

Overseas Tech Shopping Not Always Cheaper

Australians often speak enviously of the cheaper prices for technology available from our northern neighbours. But that doesn’t always pan out, as Technofile blogger John Harris discovered when he experienced a camera mishap in Singapore.

Picture by maisonbisson

Rain damage to his camera sent Harris searching Singapore for a replacement, with the best deal he could scour costing $1200. Given that he was subsequently travelling to Taipei, Harris held off, figuring the gear would be cheaper in Taiwan. But that didn’t prove to be the case: the best available option was $1400, and didn’t even have an international warranty.

Harris’ own tale had a happy ending, since he managed to resuscitate his broken camera. It still serves as a reminder that bargains can be hard to find in a foreign country, even if it has a reputation for cheapness.

Which shopping destinations have impressed you with their techno-discounts? Share your experience (and your wish list) in the comments.

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  • This doesn’t make any sense – what is the comparative price for a similar camera in Australia? $1,000 or $2,000? All it proves is that the price he could get in Taiwan was higher than Singapore. Maybe his haggling skills were better suited to Singapore? Who knows…

  • There’s a little balance missing from this tale. We know the price in Singapore was $1200 and in Taiwan it was $1400, but what was it worth in Australia and what camera was it? Also, I’ve bought SLR’s online and found them very good.

    More info please.

  • The point is well made, but the headline (and the linked story) is fraught with misleading information.

    Firstly, this is a single data point. Secondly, $1200 in Singapore, $1400 in Taiwan and $1259 (ebay, incl shipping from Hong Kong) are all better than the best online price in Australia ($1590, using shopbot.com.au at a glance) for a D90+18-55mm.

    Were the prices quoted in Singapore and Taiwan for the same thing? The article neglects to mention the lens/memory in both cases. And how much haggling was done?

    That said, I have a few observations about tech gear…
    * It depends what you’re buying. Singapore stopped being good for cheap camera gear (compared to Aus) years ago. The best price on my imported Canon DSLR and lens was to be found in the US.
    * Does our esteemed Technofile blogger look like a tourist/foreigner whilst shopping? In my experience, the potential success of haggling is greatly diminished in Asia if you do. Online is better, especially if you take the time to research the options.
    * Hong Kong seems to be the best place for good ebay deals, so in-person shopping is likely still good there too (it certainly was in 2002)
    * Australian retail prices for tech are a stupidly overpriced. I don’t know why that is, but I’ve imported cameras, lenses, phones, shoes, memory cards, batteries and more because the exact same product in Australia goes for 40-100% more. No warranty/shipping is worth that.
    * Speaking of warranty, it’s very common for camera bodies to be sold without international warranty, it’s the same kind of regional control that DVD distributors like to force on consumers.
    * A lot of the cheaper places in Australia are selling the same grey import gear, so the price is likely to be similar.
    * Both of my DSLR bodies are still going strong long past warranty. Then again, I’m just another single data point.

  • On a recent world tour, I had to constantly remind fellow travelers on the tour that alot of electronic items are actually better bought in Australia. The only exceptions really were in the US when our dollar was almost 1:1, we made huge savings on a PS3, Dell Laptop & Canon 450d over the Aussie price.

  • To be fair though, this wasn’t a purchase made at his leisure, it was driven by necessity. If you have the time (and patience) there are few things you can’t get cheaper overseas. I’ve ordered a couple of large, heavy items recently and even with the high postage costs (in one case $200+) the price has been much lower from overseas (50% or more less).

  • Yeah, we live in China and are constantly surprised the western electronics are a lot more expensive here. Even some chinese brands can be cheaper in Australia (an example is digital photo frames – $40 at BigW but shops and markets in Shanghai and Beijing are expensive). India was cheaper for electronics, but not as many of the cheap options we get in Australia.

  • Hong Kong is still the best place for all things computer & electronics both in prices (although not the best prices) and in choices, including the odd stuff such as electronic repair tools, vacuum tubes,etc.

    For the best prices, Akihabara in Tokyo may be a good place for the best bargain for electronic gadgets such as cameras and phones but some of them only have Japanese version.

    I was told that Malaysia got the best prices for computer parts but I have never been there.

  • I learnt the hard way buying a Nokia phone overseas. When I got back in Australia, the phone wouldn’t charge – and Nokia wouldn’t support the warrentee as they said “The are not authorized to repair an overseas model phone in Australia” and “that they don’t have the parts”. I just don’t understand why Nokia couldn’t ship the phone overseas to the country it came from and get them to repair it. But that’s Nokia for you. So just a tip to all readers, if you are overseas and your phone dies and you need another one, DO NOT BY A NOKIA.

    I wrote a full post about my nokia ordeal and about their customer service at http://www.jackcola.org/blog/47-global-companies-oh-how-i-hate-them-i-am-looking-at-you-nokia-and-dell

    • Local only warranties are very common, and unscrupulous international sellers will lie about international warranty to get you to buy. If you really want one, get them to show it to you.

      It’s unfortunate that we need to be wary of this practice, but the bottom line: if you don’t make sure you get an international warranty, the onus is clearly on you to ship the phone back for repair. You’ll find that Nokia is not at all alone in this.

  • When shopping for a new Canon 7D camera recently we found the prices were much cheaper in Hong Kong than Australia. But, they don’t come with an international warranty and Canon Australia will not touch them if there is a problem (we emailed and checked). So just something else to beware of.

    Lenses, OTOH, we often buy overseas.

  • We bought a Nikon D80 in Japan for about two thirds the price it would have been in Australia, and I’ve had things like nice condenser mics shipped to Australia from the US, and even with $60 shipping I still paid about half what it would have cost here.

    We also tried to buy a Nikon D700 in China and after a little haggling they were $800 cheaper than Australian prices at two places we visited but neither had them in stock, and we weren’t there for long enough to have them ordered in.

    Apple computers are pretty cheap in the US compared to in Australia too, but iPods are fairly cheap here.

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