So I’ve been listening to K-Pop since about 2009, but it took me a while to discover the joy of purchasing my bias online, *ahem* I mean bias group’s CD online. It wasn’t till February 2011 that someone on a forum I was on told me about YesAsia.
Needless to say off I trotted to check out this supposed land of dreams come true. I think the first time I wandered onto the site I was not prepared for the amount of goodies that would be laid before my eyes. I’m pretty sure I sat there with my mouth hanging open not knowing where to click next.
I did finally make a decision and purchased Super Junior‘s 4th album “Bonanama,” Dalmatian‘s “Mini Album Vol 1” and the piece de resistance “Attack On The Pin-Up Boys,” which, on a side note, if you have not watched, go watch it now!
I think once I gave it a respectable weeks wait I was checking the mail every day, though I knew it was going to take a lot longer than that. The anticipation at receiving in hand my first actual K-Pop CD was too much for me and I was pretty much a giggling fool the day it arrived.
Since that first order I have discovered other online sites to order my guilty pleasures from and have discovered all online sites are not created equal!
First thing I will mention, as an international fan, sometimes we feel like we can’t do a whole lot to show our idols we support them. One thing we can do is make sure the online site we buy our CD’s from is supported by Hanteo Chart. Now what does this mean you may ask. Well, the charts basically track the sales of albums and then list the albums from greatest to lowest sales. Hanteo charting is used by the GAON Chart to help determine album of the year, singer/group of the year etc. Now this is a very simplified explanation and there are other charts and numbers used to determine it all but the basic idea is, buying from a Hanteo supported site means your purchase helps your idol climb the chart.
Now once you have found a site that is Hanteo supported the next important thing of course is price. Price can range drastically on these online sites but be careful because sometimes if the price of the CD is low the shipping can be high.
For me I have been mostly been buying from YesAsia and KPopTown over the last three years but within the last year I have discovered Soompi and MWave and most recently KPopMart. I will be going into more details about each of the sites individually in a moment but just some general thoughts.
All these sites have different prices, merchandise and services. MWave and Soompi recently started offering autographed CD’s at great prices which is something international fans were super excited far. YesAsia joined in shortly after and even KPopTown and KPopMart occasionally get autographed stock in now.
For the most part the autographed CD’s sell for either the same price or only a couple dollars more than an unsigned CD. MWave mostly does Meet & Greet event’s for their signed CD purchases. These events are great in that you get to watch your idol live as they read messages left by fans when they purchased the CD, they also normally have small prizes for different aspects of the Meet & Greet.
Soompi just does special orders, normally with a limited amount available. The other three all just list the autographed albums as normal merchandise and there’s no way of knowing normally how many they have left in stock.
So let’s get into the nitty gritty of it. I went to all five of these sites and attempted to set up my shopping cart the same for each of them. I did the example purchase two ways to help show some differences in shipping for some of these sites. So one example is a single CD purchase the other is a multiple purchase.
So let’s look at a single purchase first:
So now looking at these basket’s if I just wanted to purchase Sistar‘s “Touch My Body” album the cheapest, even including shipping, would be KPopTown at $20.20, Soompi came a close second with $20.98 and the most expensive place was KPopMart at $25.20.
Now that’s all fine and dandy but personally as an international fan I rarely find myself just buying one album at a time. Wether because multiple albums have been released or just the money situation was such that I had to wait to buy the albums I wanted.
So let’s delve into the realm of multiple CD purchase:
As you can see, thing’s have changed. I opted to order three CDs to get over the free shipping bracket for some of the sites. This is the benefit of ordering multiple CDs from most online sites. Now in some cases some of the sites have higher prices on their CDs and offer the free shipping over a certain total. It doesn’t always work out like that just because you’re getting free shipping that the total price will be cheaper. For this example the best place to buy these three CDs would be MWave or Soompi both coming in at $48.97 and KPopMart coming in again with the most expensive at $54.20.
So even though YesAsia gave me free shipping on my order because their CDs are priced slightly higher it didn’t make a difference. Soompi and MWave both gave free shipping too and with their lower price on CDs it made all the difference.
Now all these prices are all well and good and most of you could have probably figured this out on your own. Even though this time KPopTown came out first for a single purchase and MWave and Soompi first for multiple does not mean that’s always the case. For me when it comes time to purchase CDs I might spend half a day trying to figure out what combination is best. Placing half an order with one place and half with another. It can be tedious but I almost always manage to save myself a few dollars, which means more money left for another album.
Now we are going to delve into my personal experiences and opinions on these five online sites. As I said before, I’ve been buying online for over four years now and have quite the collection of CD’s and K-Pop merchandise. I have had great experiences and some really bad ones and personally that determines a lot more than price how likely I am to re-order from these sites.
My original shopping heaven was YesAsia and I have to be honest they are one of the best in my opinion. The items always arrive well packaged and in a fairly timely manner considering I live in the middle of nowhere. The most I have to wait for a YesAsia shipment is about four weeks. I have had some problems with making an error placing an order and they were very quick and helpful in fixing my mistake with no questions asked. I once received a poster that was damaged in transit, I uploaded some photos of the damage and they sent me a replacement poster. Most recently I had ordered an autographed BTOB album. When six weeks had passed and I had not received the album I contacted YesAsia and they were once again very quick to respond to my email, apologized for the error and were going to send me a replacement CD. Unfortunately it was out of stock and so they refunded me the full amount. This is great customer service and something not all online stores (K-Pop related or not) can claim to have. Regardless of the price they are number 1 on my list for buying online.
Second place for me is KPopTown. Again, I have been buying from them for a while so I have a lengthy experience with them. Their CDs also always arrive well packed, sometimes too well packed. They have a penchant for using the styrofoam packing wheels which annoy me to know end, they end up everywhere no matter how careful you are but I can’t recall receiving an item from them damaged. I once placed two orders fairly close to each other and mistakenly ordered the same CD. They were pretty quick to get back to me and remove the item from the second order. I will mention that their written English is slightly broken and might be a little hard to read but they are always willing to try and clarify any translation problems. I will mention that sometimes it can take a little longer to receive my shipments from them. Longest I have had to wait was six weeks, but that was in winter and was probably more to do with the Canadian weather than anything KPopTown did. KPoptown also has a loyalty points system. Each purchase earns you points which you can use to purchase something else. Now I do find it take a while to rack up any sorta amount but it’s still nice to get something back on all your purchases.
Soompi would have to be my third choice. I haven’t been buying from them very long but I have been pleased with my purchases so far. The CDs come well packed and arrive within about four weeks. Their price on their CDs and the fact they offer free shipping on orders over a certain amount is part of the reason they ended up third on this list. I haven’t had reason yet to deal with their customer service so I don’t know how well it works. My biggest problem with Soompi and the other reason why they are third is their CD selection and, sometimes, their “specials”. They seem to take a lot longer than other sites to get the newest album so if you have some patience you can wait and order from them. They also are one of the few sites with a great selection on autographed albums but the problem is they tend to do a limited amount, mostly 300 pieces, and it’s not always clear when that amount has run out and instead of purchasing the autographed album you are getting a regular one.
KPopMart is my most recent online site to purchase from. Again, I don’t have any experience with their customer service, but I have heard some good things. I found the items I ordered did arrive in a timely manner and arrived in pretty good shape. The box it was shipped in did take some damage but fortunately everything inside was packaged well enough it arrived in perfect condition. I do find their prices slightly lower but their shipping is slighthly higher than average. Now they do have a special incentive to pre-order albums from them. According to the site if you pre-order an album you will receive a free poster. I have not had occasion to try this out so I don’t know if it’s a random poster or the poster for the album you order. Either way, it’s still a nice perk for pre-ordering. KPopMart also subscribes to a loyalty point sysytem. I haven’t been shopping with them long enough to comment on how easy it is to earn points with them but again, regardless, it’s nice to get something back on your purchases.
Lastly is MWave, which is a real shame. With their Meet & Greet feature I would have really liked to place them higher on this list but unfortunately too many things have piled up to allow me to do so. Their prices on CDs aren’t bad and they do offer free shipping on purchases over a certain amount but thats about where the good things end. MWave are one of the slowest online sites to order from. Mostly they deal in autographed CDs and I understand they need to wait for the idols company to supply the CD but even on non-autographed CDs they take forever. I am normally waiting about a week just to receive the email telling me my shipment has been sent. Don’t even ask how long if it’s an autographed one.
I have placed over a dozen orders from them and I have no trouble saying that over 50% of those CDs have arrived with some damage. Mostly just a small crushed corner on the album case. Not enough for me to contact MWave about it but still very disconcerting. I did have to contact their customer service once though.
That is the shape my signed Lip Service album arrived in. Surprisingly, the CD itself wasn’t damaged but the case looked liked someone stepped on it. After contacting MWave’s customer service I was pleasantly surprised how quickly they replied to me and that they didn’t ask me for photo proof of the damage. Unfortunately that is were the pleasingness ended. They offered me 3 MWave credit dollars. Now at the time I had never used their credit system so was unsure what they were worth. Upon my next purchase from MWave I went to apply my 3 credits and much to my shock they were worth exactly three dollars. Now I don’t know, maybe some of you will think thats acceptable, but I cannot fathom with the amount I payed for the CD and the damage done to it that my refund should have been three dollars.
Due to all this I hold off quite a long time before making purchases from MWave now. The CD package has to be very special or they are the only ones offering the autographed album before I start a shopping cart on their site.
I don’t know if you, dear readers, will find any of this helpful but I hope you do. I know some of it has been detailed but I want to make sure to give you all the facts at my disposal to help you make a better decision when you purchase your next K-Pop merchandise.
There are some other aspects to these sites I haven’t gone into and will save for another article, so keep your eyes open, if you enjoyed this article, for a follow up to this.
So Officially KMusic readers did you agree with what I’ve said about these sites? Do you have good or bad experiences of your own with any of these? Maybe you have had nothing but good service with MWave, let us know in the comments!
Edited by: Karolina Goebel