Buying iMac in Japan, International Flights!

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by stickyfingers85, May 21, 2013.

  1. stickyfingers85 macrumors regular

    Aug 31, 2010
    Hello All

    I just wanted to share my recent experience of buying an iMac in Japan and then taking it on several International Flights, for those that might be thinking of doing the same thing.

    My old Macbook Pro was starting to come to the end of its life and I had been looking to replace it with one of the new iMac's.

    This month I went on vacation to Taiwan and Japan for 3 weeks and noticed a very big price difference between there and in the UK for Apple products, especially in Japan!

    So, while in Japan, I took the plunge and purchased myself an iMac with the following spec's:

    27" iMac
    3.4Ghz i7 CPU
    8Gb RAM
    1TB Fusion Drive
    USB SuperDrive
    GTX 680MX 2GB Graphics
    Magic Trackpad

    The total price came to ¥251,400 and I then got a 5% discount for "tax free", as I was taking the iMac out of the country. I paid with my UK Amex Gold Card, and with their exchange rate and fees, the total came to approx £1650 (US$2500).

    If I had purchased the same spec in the UK it would have cost me £2383! A total saving of £733!!! An incredible difference!

    The only hard part now was how to get it back to the France! (I'm from the UK but living/working in France for 2 years)

    Stage 1 - Japan to Taiwan

    For my holiday I was based in Taiwan, staying with my girlfriends family. So the first part was to get the iMac from Japan back to Taiwan for the remaining days of my holiday.

    The white iMac box does not have any padding, but the iMac is encased in polystyrene for protection. Thankfully the Apple Store were kind enough to give me an outer brown box for the iMac, the ones that they are shipped in. This does have foam padding at the top and bottom of the box, but not on the sides.

    I arrived at the airport a bit nervous as what to expect when I checked in. Firstly I went to the Baggage Wrapping service counter and found two very helpful guys. For approx. £10 they wrapped the iMac box in 3 layers of bubble wrap, and then surrounded it with the plastic wrapping. The whole package felt much more secure and protected after this


    Next I went to the Japan Airlines Check-In Desk. I explained to the JAL girl that I had a very fragile item of baggage, that was very expensive, and asked what she could do to help. After a few minutes of confusion, broken English conversations, and her discussing the problem with her colleagues, she could not have been more helpful!

    Firstly she proceeded to cover the box in Japanese fragile stickers, and then an official fragile baggage tag. It is worth noting here that I had to sign an official document stating that if any damage was caused the airline would not be responsible. After this, 3 luggage attendants arrived and after more confused conversations they brought a special fragile container to put the box in, and then promised to carry the entire thing from the check-in counter directly to the plane, meaning it would not travel on the belts!


    Finally the iMac was taken away, and while I was happy that I had done my best to protect it, it was still a very nerve racking flight back to Taiwan.

    We arrived in Taiwan and went to the baggage belt. After a few minutes of waiting several Japan Airlines baggage staff came over to the belt and hung around the part where all the luggage came out. I thought that this was a bit strange as had never seen so many staff needed for the belts before. After a few minutes more waiting the alarm sounded and the belt started to move. What was the first item out, yes it was my iMac!! Swiftly followed by all our other bags! The baggage staff took all our luggage of the belt and then over to the Japan Airlines desk in the baggage hall. After which they just left, and didn't bother with any of the other customers bags!

    After discussing this with a JAL girl at the desk, she said that the staff in Japan had called ahead to inform them that a very important passenger had some very fragile luggage, and that it should be taken off the flight first and be treated as VIP!! The service from Japan Airlines was exceptional and could not thank them enough!

    I took the iMac back to my girlfriends house, but decided not to open it as I had another flight in a few days. Everything looked OK from the outside though!

    Stage 2 - Taiwan to France, transit in Hong Kong!

    The next, and final stage, was to get the iMac from Taiwan to France with Cathay Pacific. I was more worried about this part as it included a transit in Hong Kong and wasn't sure I could guarantee the safety of my iMac.

    Upon arriving at the check-in desk in Taipei, I explained to the CX girl all about the iMac. She covered the box in several Chinese fragile stickers, but could not put it in a separate container as they didn't use them on Cathay Pacfic. Next, 2 baggage guys arrived, and after speaking with the CX girl, told me that they would carry the iMac directly to the plane, avoiding the belts. So off the iMac went! The CX girl also told me that she would contact Cathay Pacific in Hong Kong to make sure that when the box was taken from one plane to the other they would handle it with great care.

    Strangely, I did not have to sign any form stating that the airline was not responsible in the event of damage. Not sure what would happen in that case

    All of the above helped but I was still obviously very nervous about it.

    After arriving in Paris I went to the baggage belt. After a few minutes of waiting my bags turned up on the belt, but not the iMac. I was now very worried! I went to speak to the Cathay Pacific girl in the baggage hall and she suggested that it might come out with the oversized luggage. Off I went to that section but nothing had arrived yet. After around 30 minutes of crazy panic waiting, the doors opened and there was my iMac! Everything looked to be ok from the outside, a little dirty, but OK!

    I took a taxi back to my apartment, opened all the plastic wrapping, took the iMac out of the box and....PERFECT! Not a single dent in the box or anything wrong with the iMac. I was so happy!

    Some pictures of how it looked upon first arrival in my apartment:




    Overall, for me, it was completely worth the time and effort it took to get it back to France. The difference in price was so much that I could afford to get a higher spec iMac, and put the money I saved towards another holiday.

    A few things to note for those thinking about doing the same thing:

    *> While I travelled in economy class on all my flights, I have Elite Emerald Status with OneWorld. This means I could use the First Class Check-in with Japan Airlines and Cathay Pacific, and was allowed extra baggage. While my status no doubt helped my situation, I'm sure that the staff would be just as helpful with a regular passenger.

    *> The iMac, all wrapped up, weighed just under 15KG. While this was fine for me because I had a 40KG baggage allowance with Cathay Pacific, the normal allowance for an economy passenger is only 20KG. I believe CX charge US$50 per extra KG, so prepared to pay or travel very light!

    *> Make sure that you can get the outer brown box from the Apple Store before you buy the product. I would not recommend the Flights with just the regular white iMac box, it isn't padded enough!

    *> You can purchase special flight cases for the new iMac, but they are really expensive and so was not an option for me

    *> Get the boxed wrapped in bubble wrap and plastic film. It wasn't expensive and really made the box much more secure.

    *> Explain the situation to the check-in staff. When I explained that I was carrying an iMac that was worth £1600 they were very helpful. If you don't get a helpful member of staff, insist on speaking to a supervisor.

    *> Remember to check the plug on the new product. My iMac from Japan has a USA style plug on the power cable. Currently I am just using a plug adaptor but will eventually purchase a new cable from Apple

    I am sorry for such a long post, but I thought it might be helpful for those thinking of buying an iMac, or any large Apple device abroad. I spent several hours searching for information, and found several posts of people thinking of doing this but none of anyone who had actually done it!

    If anyone has any questions feel free to ask and I will do my best to help


  2. macking104 macrumors 6502


    Jan 14, 2003
    California, USA
    And you did pay all import duties, taxes, etc... since you were importing a computer into the EU? Or, did you just admit guilt?
  3. stickyfingers85 thread starter macrumors regular

    Aug 31, 2010
    You are correct, I did not pay any import duty when arriving in France.

    No one was around in Customs and I just walked straight through with it ;)
  4. Attonine macrumors 6502a

    Feb 15, 2006
    Kent. UK
    Well done on the good luck when arriving in France. Sometimes you just luck out.

    I did something similar when I bought a 30" ACD in Hong Kong and shipped it as checked luggage to Saudi Arabia. I simply got some cardboard boxes and cut them up to fit them around the original packaging and checked the package. No trouble at all. It's not something I would want to do often as these are large clumsy packages, but it's a simple process.

    When I returned to the UK several years later, I shipped 500kg in a crate by air cargo from Saudi to London. This included my 42" TV, Marantz amplifier, Speakers, the ACD, plus other household stuff. I kept the original packaging for everything and had a wooden crate built. Everything arrived in perfect condition. Saudi Arabian Airlines, £1 per kg for air freight, no kidding!!!!
  5. jg321 macrumors 6502

    Aug 29, 2012
    Nice post! Thanks for the info, and congrats on your new purchase; I imagine you're very pleased with it!
  6. stickyfingers85 thread starter macrumors regular

    Aug 31, 2010
    Very pleased with it indeed! The screen is so much brighter and sharper than my old macbook pro, and the speed of the fusion drive is great!

    It was interesting talking to the Apple sales guy in Osaka. He mentioned that lots of people from abroad had been buying iPads, laptops and other small devices from the Osaka store in Japan, but I was the first to buy an iMac to take abroad! He was very helpful with the whole situation, and at one point we even had the store manager come over to say congratulations on the new purchase and then preceded to check the Japan Airlines website for me for information on taking computers on a plane!
  7. technowar macrumors 6502

    Apr 1, 2011
    Cebu, Philippines
    One thing caught my attention:
    Indeed topnotch customer service, and congratulations on your new iMac.
  8. Mr. Dee macrumors 68000

    Mr. Dee

    Dec 4, 2003
    Very encouraging!

    I am planning my vacation to the States in November and I was so worried about this. Based on your experience and your tips, I more confident about doing this. Taking into consideration you traveled through a different culture, we might not have the same experience, but I am hoping it works out well. Reading about the TSA and their ability to steal, I will still keep this into consideration.

    - Key points, get the Outer Box, this something I knew should get, thanks for further confirmation.
    - Get it bubble wrapped at the airport.
    - Explain to the check in agent my situation, hopefully I will get a good response here.
    - Ultimately, my biggest problem will be when I come back to Jamaica, I have so far been lucky going through customs, but lets hope its not the same. Will come back on a Thursday when its not busy.

    Thanks again!
  9. ElRojito macrumors regular

    May 6, 2012
    Just make sure the computer you buy is still going to be serviceable in the country you take it to. Example: a phone bought in China cannot be serviced in the US.
  10. Mr. Dee macrumors 68000

    Mr. Dee

    Dec 4, 2003
    Well, there is one local company that services Macs listed on the Apple website. I was at shop in my town that fixes computers and the owner who personally owns a MacBook Pro Retina said his technicians are certified Apple repair techs.

    Hopefully, my purchase won't require an immediate servicing. Will be testing thoroughly at the store before I leave with it though.
  11. james6000 macrumors member


    Jul 3, 2007
    Does anyone have anymore information on custom charges within the UK when bringing such product in?

    If you don't declare it and they check you at customs, could you be fined?
  12. mrfrosty macrumors 6502

    Oct 1, 2005
    We still have customs ? I think you can 'fess up but then the price difference is not so much........I bought a 13" R-MBP from Japan in February things like that are much easier than an iMAC ! Plus laptops have worldwide warranties, i don't think iMacs do. So if it breaks you are daffied....
  13. james6000 macrumors member


    Jul 3, 2007
    Do you believe we don't have customs anymore? Yeh, a laptop would be much easier much a caved in a forked out for a desktop since I never used my old MBP for its portable side.

    The main scare is if it is lost in baggage and the airline doesn't hold responsibilty. Otherwise, sending by insured fedex and such would guarantee that I have to pay import duty.
  14. twisted panties macrumors newbie

    Jun 14, 2009
    If you import goods into the EU, UK included, you would be liable for VAT. So an extra 20% for the UK. This brings the price back to roughly what it would have cost in the UK.

    Japanese VAT ( they call it "consumption tax" ) is only 5%, hence the pricing differences. Don't blame Apple, look to your government :D

    Technically you are guilty of tax fraud if you don't pay this tax ( even if "no one was there" ) which in the UK is a criminal offence.

  15. stickyfingers85 thread starter macrumors regular

    Aug 31, 2010
    Yes, you should declare it in the "Red Lane" when you arrive.

    For warranty, if you buy Applecare, its International warranty
  16. DragonJade macrumors 6502

    May 2, 2009
    If you go though Birmingham airport in the evening there's no one about. I think they all knock off around 6 or 7.
  17. 282009816 macrumors newbie

    Apr 6, 2014
    Is 27 imac oversized when check in

    I measured the dimensions of the 27' imac box and found it is over the limit 61 inch. Did you pay for the fee of oversized checked in baggage when you took the plane from Japan to Taiwan and from Taiwan to France? Thanks.
  18. Consultant macrumors G5


    Jun 27, 2007
    The first post:

    "While I travelled in economy class on all my flights, I have Elite Emerald Status with OneWorld. This means I could use the First Class Check-in with Japan Airlines and Cathay Pacific, and was allowed extra baggage. While my status no doubt helped my situation, I'm sure that the staff would be just as helpful with a regular passenger."
  19. FrankHahn macrumors 6502a

    May 17, 2011
    For personal use (not for retail), the customs duties (the tariff) can be exempted or partly exempted depending on the value of the thing that is brought into the country.

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