But before that, an aside, if you will.
When Poke the Merch was first conceived, Suich and I were determined to bring reassurance to potential importers through detailed reviews of import sites. In our respective journeys as collectors we have encountered dozens of sites dedicated towards product review, but none focused solely on the process. As importers, we remember our early days, when the world of collecting was wide and frightening, where every order was a leap of faith, and typing in "Is ______ legit?" only made us more antsy because it did not return any hits. Being so, we decided it was imperative to guide others now that we both have several years of import experience under our belts.
That being said, Poke the Merch has been on one, long tangent for the past few months. We have dozens of product reviews, but only three measly import site reviews. Not that we've relinquished our dedication towards the process, oh no, we're just ADHD in nature. So without further ado, let's begin our look at Plamoya.
Plamoya seems to sell everything, from standard run figures, to exclusive figures (including hard to find Touhou figures), to resin figures, to artbooks, to manga, gundams, beyblades, model aircraft, DVDs, CDs, dakimakuras, t-shirts, and even cute chopstick practice kits! Is there anything they won't carry?
Oh, garage kits. Plamoya doesn't carry garage kits, so if you're really into the nitty-gritty, hands on aspect of figure collection, you're out of luck.
Otherwise, Plamoya is a great site to visit if you missed your favourite item. You can even find high demand items that have been long sold out on other import stores (e.g. Bounty Hunter Yoko). Sure, it'll cost you an arm, a leg, and possibly your other arm, but more on that later.
If you run into an item that's currently sold out, Plamoya can notify you via email if it ever re-stocks. Just click the "notify me" button under a sold out product. Sold out products will be marked "Sold Out" (really, there's nothing clearer). Ocassionally, possibly because their system can't keep up, sold out products will not have a sold out sign until after you click it. That's really not an issue worth mentioning though.
Information on Plamoya is awesomesauce. Plamoya comes with all the standard product information, including make, release date, a few sample pictures. For artbooks they give page number and paper size. For DVDs they give run time and region code. For figures, they give scale and sculptor. All the info most sites give. Ocassionally they will have a short description of the product.
But aside from the standard stuff, Plamoya does something I absolutely adore: give product weight and box dimensions. To take it a step further, they estimate shipping costs for you. The mere presence of shipping information gets them into my good books. As far as I know, their estimates are relatively accurate. They even estimate shipping prices for pre-order items. Of course, such pre-order estimates may not be completely accurate, but it's endearing that they try.
Plamoya also has a section listing user photoes and reviews where you can puruse user opinions on various products. Take a look if you come across them. The more information the better, after all.
This is a hard section to write. Why? Because Plamoya's prices can swing from ridiculously cheap to ridiculously expensive all in the span of a few hours. A product can be 50% off one day, and back to retail price the next, or worse, twice as expensive as retail price.
Let's have an example:
On a bleary weeknight a few weeks back, I was looking to buy Huke's artbook, BLK (sans figma). Upon chancing upon it on Plamoya, I noticed it was $40. In my befuddled and insomniac state, I managed to bookmark it before crashing with spectacular gusto. Upon regaining consciousness the next morning, I noticed it had jumped to over $100 overnight. What is this travesty? I flipped a table. Then I realised it wasn't exactly cheap at $40 in the first place, and only my exhaustion-riddled brain could have possibly associated $40 with "a good deal". The table unflipped itself. I listened to some birdsong. All was well in the world. Out of curiosity, I kept an eye on the artbook. Sure enough, within the next few days, prices flip-flopped and went back down to about $50, give or take a few dollars. "Ah," I said, "so that's how you play this game." Then it sold out. End of anecdote.
I'm not sure how Plamoya decides to set its prices. Some products are priced so arbitrarily I'm left scratching my head at how little sense they make. Plamoya's Help Page claims prices are set with the flow of prices in Japan, so rarer products are more expensive, but I don't fully buy that story (The price of Bounty Hunter Yoko is probably not over $300 in Japan, at least, not when this review was written). Maybe they figure they can make more money off items that are in high demand. Maybe there's a monkey somewhere back there sporadically punching in numbers. Who knows? The moral of the story is to check and check frequently.
That being said, Plamoya does have some spectacular sales. I myself managed to snag several nendoroids at less than $20 a pop. It all depends on careful waiting, and careful stalking. Once something goes on sale, the price seems to drop steadily (a couple bucks a day) until it hits a certain frugality threshold. Then it's reset and the process begins all over again. Not all items on sale remain on sale, despite whether it has sold out or not. Not all items go back on sale once they have been on sale, despite whether it has sold out or not.
Shipping and Shipping Cost
Plamoya offers EMS and unregistered SAL shipping. Upon checkout, you're prompted to choose a shipping method. Boxes that are too big or heavy for SAL will not give you the option of choosing it.
***UPDATE - May 29, 2012*** Plamoya now offers registered SAL, along with EMS and unregistered SAL.
There is one limit. Pre-order items on Plamoya can only be shipped through EMS, that is, if you pre-order something, even if it's a keychain, SAL will not be an option. This means Plamoya is a real
As usual, shipping time varies greatly depending on country and shipping method. EMS usually reaches me (in Canada) within 7 days. SAL, within a month.
You can pay Plamoya through PayPal, or credit card (via PayPal). So really, only with PayPal. The process is standard. You confirm your order, they send you an invoice, you click the "Pay" button and viola, transaction complete!
Plamoya's packaging is commendable. Their items are wrapped in bubblewrap which are then covered by packing paper. I have never had an issue with damaged products. For samples of their packaging, go to their Help Center.
A state of heightened entrophy!
I don't consider myself a tightwad, but of course, that's just my opinion. I like my import sites to be clean, organized, and professional (nice colours are a bonus). I want my sites so over-categorized they all look like HobbySearch. Unfortunately, not all sites have such brilliant structure, Plamoya included.
Plamoya looks messy. And it is compared to more established import sites. Their front page uses an arrangement that defies all common sense from an advertising point of view. Strangely enough, they favours user pictures and reviews over showing off their products. To the new user, it's really just a bunch of floating pictures with no particular arrangement. When I first encountered Plamoya I was quite frankly turned away by how amateur their site looked.
There are subcategories under their tabs listing popular topics rather as a newspaper lists hot stories, but they lead to long and unwieldly lists of links/products. In the end they're not much help and you're better off ignoring them. Take a look at what the "anime items" page looks like.
***UPDATE - May 29, 2012***
Since our last review, Plamoya has taken the time to clean their page a little. They have traded their vast categories (e.g. Anime Items) for an "Important Links" column along the side of their page. Categories now include type of merchandise (e.g. Nendoroid, t-shirts, etc) popular manufacturers (e.g. Good Smile Company, Max Factory, etc) and popular characters/series (e.g. Hatsune Miku, etc). This undoubtedly makes the site easier to wade through, but there's still some room for improvement, especially from an accessibility standpoint. If it were up to me, I would place the "Important Links" higher so that it's immediatley accessible when customers first arrive at the site, and perhaps even merge it with the links atop the page to prevent confusion. On the bright side: No more wall of links! Thanks, Plamoya!
Plamoya is fine if you know what you're looking for, but if you want to window shop (like I do), you'll be doing more scrolling than on other sites. Once I tried to reach the end of their "sales" section. I got to pg. 54 and concluded the entire thing was bottomless and gave up. I haven't made up my mind as to whether this is a good or bad thing.
Contact us not! For we are not contactable!
Plamoya doesn't have a "contact us" section.
I trolled (trollolol), they do. But it's obscure. Their "contact us" button is located at the end of the Help Center page. (for your convenience, simply go here). Suspicious that they would want it so obscure, eh?
In their defense there are a lot of people who spam them with dumb questions, but that's really no reason not to have their contact information listed bold and clear.
I have never needed to email Plamoya about anything. I assume they are a prompt and informative people who jump to attention whenever inquires arise. That's the expectation, anyhow. Don't pull a Nin-Nin on us!
Cancellation and Returns
Plamoya does not accept cancellations. That being said, email them anyhow to request a cancellation if you really need one. I'm sure they won't hound you if you simply don't have the funds to pay for it. Then again, it might not leave them too happy either.
What Plamoya does do, however, is allow you to return a product within 10 days of delivery granted that the item is unopened. If you choose to return an item, keep in mind you bear the burden of shipping.
I have never recieved a defective item from them, so I can't speak for their exchange policy except that they do allow exchanges. Whether or not you bear the brunt of shipping is unclear. As usual, I will update this section as soon as more information comes in.
Product Availability: 9/10 (ability to find long sold-out items a plus)
Product Information: 10/10 (shipping estimations a godsend)
Prices: 6/10 (fluctuates between awesome and deadly)
Shipping/Shipping Costs: 9/10 (standard, no SAL option for pre-orders)
Payment: 10/10 (easy and straightforward)
Packaging: 10/10 (good)
Site Navigation: 6.5/10 (better since the update, but could still use some improvement)
Cancellations and Returns: 5/10 (bearing the return shipping fee is a hassle)
Plamoya is not a site I use very often. I do browse through their sales section every once in a while. It's a great site if you know what you want and it just so happens to be 50% off, but the fluctuating prices and sometimes ridiculous costs are somewhat of a turn off. Their mandetory EMS shipping for pre-order items is also unnecessary. I'm sure they would make more sales allowing users to SAL their pre-orders (wink, nudge, wink).
So what are my final thoughts?
Plamoya will never be my go-to site for products, due to the reasons mentioned above. Nevertheless, it's legit and trustworthy, and has some of the beefiest deals out there (when you catch them). I have never experienced a problem with any of my orders or products. If your item is sold out in other import shops, gives Plamoya a try. In all likelihood, they'll have a couple copies left. Return once in a while to seek good deals. Otherwise, I would stick with sites like AmiAmi and HobbySearch.