Finally became a member!

Back in June, I got a wonderful idea. I wanted to join the Hello! Project Fanclub. "Don't you need a Japanese postal address to do that, Dran?" is what I can hear you all asking. And you are right, in order to join the Hello!Project Fanclub you require a Japanese postal address - something alot of people don't understand why. I didn't either. But now that I'm a member it all makes sense. More on that in a minute though.

Anyway, needless to say, I do not live in Japan nor do I have a Japanese address. But I'm not the first foreigner to join the fanclub right? So there must be a way. I researched a few methods. From what I understand Himalia from Hello!Online uses a PO Box as his address and does everything through that. That's a fair system, but it wasn't going to work for me. That would be rather expensive and ultimately you need someone in Japan to collect and forward the mail you get. So that idea was out. What I needed was a proxy buyer/seller in Japan. And that's what I used. Celga offer to join various different fanclubs for you. You pay the price and they send do everything for you, using their own warehouse as the address on your FC membership ID. Some of you may have used them in the past to buy concert tickets or to bid on Japanese auctions. I hadn't used them, I'd only seen a couple decent reviews and when I emailed them asking if they could join the H!P FC for me, they were more than happy to. Just fill in a simple form on their site, which is actually too simple. So simple it was confusing. You use their webshop order page and put in the URL to the item, the number you want and the price, and then you have two big boxes to put information in. Namely information like what colour or size of the item you are buying is - obviously confusing what to put in there for a FC membership. And then there's a second box for additional info. I just filled it with any info they may need and sent it off.

So Celga ask for a 100% deposit. Namely you pay the exact value of the item up front, and then you pay for the cost of the shipping and Celga's own commission etc later. I had alot of trouble with this. That part was relatively easy, but later on they charged me multiple times for items I had already paid. A couple emails and it set them straight, but when they did it a 3rd time it started to get annoying. Don't let that deter you from using Celga though, they have great service. Lolli over at omame.co.uk and I both ordered this FC membership at the same time (and as such both were carried out simultaneously) and as far as I'm aware she didn't have any trouble. My own trouble, it seems was caused by the fact that my account email and Paypal are different. I don't have my own PayPal account, I use my dad's. And so when I would pay the deposit it would be from my dad's Paypal, but the account is under my own email address. This meant my payment details were all under two different emails on the system and caused alot of trouble. So be warned of that.

Celga took care of everything for me however. They do all of it. Send away for the forms, fill out the forms, and send them back. I can't imagine trying to do that myself without understanding a word of written Japanese. And this brings me to why the fanclub isn't open to overseas addresses. For a start, it's all in Japanese. No english. No romaji to help you either, Japanese people don't use romaji and a student of Japanese will tell you that romaji is only really used at the start of your lessons to help you learn the vocabulary and the sounds. Sooner or later you will need to learn hiragana/katakana. But that's another topic for another day. Bottom line is, if you don't read and write Japanese, you have no hope of filling that form out. Second of all, and the most important reason is the distance. The fanclub is old fashioned. You can not apply online. Everything is done via old-fashioned snail-mail. That's right. The post. It took 2 and a half months from me placing my order for the membership to me recieving that email saying I'd become a member. 10 weeks! And that was a process done almost entirely within Japan. Can you imagine how long the process would last (and how expensive for the company) if they had to do this with someone 6,000 miles away in the US?

Exactly. It would cost UP FRONT a lot of money to run such a fanclub. We gaijin fans are just not worth the money it would cost. At least not yet.

A time may come when they update their system or become big enough in the US that the doors open to a western fanclub, either a part of the official fanclub we already have or a new sepereate one all together. But for the time being, there isn't any profit in doing so, so UFI won't.

Anyway, 2 days ago I recieved an email from Celga. Apparently something had arrived for me from the H!P Fanclub. I haven't had that shipped to me yet, but I presume it's my Fanclub members' card. I was thrilled! So much so that I totally forgot that I had slept 2 or 3 hours in the couple of days before. I was exchausted. Then I heard the news, and felt energized. I decided that it was a good day because of all the other good news I felt had happened around the same time. The news of the Tokunaga Chinami photobook. It wasn't announced that day, but my blog post was published that day. And then that same afternoon my Love Machine figure set arrived. And my dad came home from a family visit to Sunderland with my ticket to Video Games Live this year in Gateshead. (Anyone going to this? Might be a good oppertunity to meet up and have a fun time with H!P and beer!)

All in all it was a good day, I feel.

But this morning, when I woke up, I awoke to an email from Celga which told me my FC ID and password. I now have access to the website. The store. The FC messages. The event tickets. It was a grand experience! So many things there I want on the store, but must resist the urge to buy that personalised photo from Umeda Erika celebrating her graduation. It's a nice memento, but one that clocks in at 20,000 JPY. Money which I can't really afford to spend at the moment. It's a shame to miss it, but can't be helped. A personalised message from Maasa, mind, I'd buy that up quick, and I hope to see one for sale over the next year. (But preferably not as a graduation memento!)

Right. Without trying to make this end sound too much like a LJ entry, it's getting late now. 2AM. I'm tired. Time to sign off and perhaps continue this tale - assuming there is any left to tell - another day.


gordokaba said...

Congratulations on finally becoming a FC member. :)

Up-Front would also need to send all that stuff that you order and bills for it internationally, which is expensive and very time consuming indeed. When you order something you first get the bill sent to you which usually has a very a short fixed last day to pay for it. Plus if they are about to let foreigners join the FC they'd need multilingual support ready to help people out who don't understand how everything works. They probably also expect that they would need a multilingual website in the first place. There's a lot of effort and money required to have a worldwide open FC. Something that they are not convinced would be worth it.

It's the same with events in Japan. There's a lot of stuff that is confusing even for the Japanese. Events are hard to attend because then they know that people who do go knows how everything works because they made it through all the hassle to get there.

Oh, and someone will probably ask "why don't they just let you pay by CC when you order stuff from the site?" Well, that would involve banking and taxing problems. The banks work differently in Japan and there's always fees involved. There's not many places at all from where you can order stuff from a company based in Japan by using international credit cards and that also ships abroad. The few sites offering that usually has very high fees for it. I'm sure many people have used Japanese companies for auctions and such and experienced their fees, on top of the PayPal fee which you usually pay for your stuff through. Just like this company you have used now. It's not completely Up-Front's fault that it's pretty much impossible to be a part of their fanclubs.

By the way, about how big is the fees + shipping for everything you would now order from the FC taken by Celga?

Dran said...

Indeed. Simply not profitable. :)

Celga charge a flat rate of $10 for every 10.000 Yen you spend on the item. So if the item costs less than 10k then you will pay Celga an extra $10. If the item is between 10k-20k yen, you pay Celga an extra $20.

That's pretty fair. Not cheap, but in no way is it expensive.

The real cost comes with International Shipping. Shipping cost is based on weight and method. Presumably the heavier the shipment the better. I tried to get them to ship one of those signed H!P baseballs that was released to the Fanclub a few years back which I'd won from Yahoo. With SAL the price of shipping to me was extortionate. Something like $70.

Luckily Celga let you decide yourself when to ship the items, so you can pool up alot of items you've won and then tell them when to ship to help cut the cost of shipping individually.

I'm not sure how shipping works from Japan, but presumably shipping 3 small items seperately is alot more expensive than shipping them in one bigger package.

gordokaba said...

Ahh, I believe I might actually have used Celga before, because I'm familiar with the fees. What I never managed to understand with their fees was how 11,000 yen would become $20 in fees, just as if something that costs 20,000 yen. I wanted to use them for auctions to buy concert tickets, but too often my ticket prices ended up around 10,000-15,00 yens, so I decided to get some other site to help me out instead.

The rate for SAL shipping is from what I can recall around basically the same as the weight in grams, just adding a couple of yens. Like 1,000 grams is 1,080 yen.

Anonymous said...

That's amazing. Are you still using your Fan Club member benefits? I am thinking of joining, one way or another. I have found a way to buy tickets to Hello! concerts, but Third floor and 38th row?? That's too far! I'd need binoculars. So I call BEA and ask them if I could change a seat to a closer one, and she pretty much tells me that I need to be a Fan Club member if I really want to get a good seat... Hmmm! Ok, so that's my next move. Oh, by the way "A LOT" is 2 words, never 1. 'I like you a lot.' 'I have seen a lot of museums in Japan.', etcetera... Always 2 words 'a + lot'...

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