Hello everybody, I hope this post finds you well!
The following review is for my recent Closet Child order and how service was impacted due to the pandemic. Please note, I do not mean to come across as trivial in any way. I personally feel that it’s important to document, at least for myself, how international orders were handled during this crazy time in our lives.
a lolita’s “new normal”
At the beginning of April, Japan began to restrict overseas shipments to several countries. Beginning on April 23rd the United States was added to this list. Japan temporarily stopped shipments to the US via EMS, tracked airmail (ePacket), and SAL due to efforts to conserve resources and limit air travel for international deliveries.
While surface mail (by boat) was still available, the general consensus among my friends was that it was too risky to use. Our items are delicate and fairly precious, and surface is not known for its gentle handling of parcels. It’s also the very cheapest option as far as shipping goes, which was another red flag. Tracking information is slow to update and minimal, and from what I read from reviews online, packages are more likely to arrive damaged or not at all.
In my research, I noticed that surface mail was typically used to ship bulkier packages and shipping larger quantities of things like books, magazines, media, and so on. Surface mail is also the slowest shipping method Japan uses for international packages. The estimated time for delivery can be anywhere from 4 to 8 weeks depending on your country. Changes in pressure and temperature in the containment area are more unpredictable than on airplanes. Again, judging off of my own experience and that of my peers, most of us chose to either keep our packages held until normal shipping practices resumed. However a few of us, myself included, decided to take a chance on Yamato and/or DHL. These are 2 shipping companies that I did not use prior to the outbreak.
my pending orders
Currently, I have 1 order open with Tenshi Shop, which will be shipped via Yamato Transport. I definitely plan on writing a separate review on Yamato’s service when it arrives. Along with Tenshi, I have 3 outstanding orders with Closet Child Online, 1 of which arrived today via a different shipping company, DHL. DHL has name recognition in the West, similar to that of UPS or Fedex. I had heard of DHL before but this is the first time I have ever come across Yamato Transport.
My order that arrived today was actually my most recent order with Closet Child, which I placed on May 21st (I’ll go into a more detailed timeline below) and paid exclusively for DHL shipping. I had previously paid for EMS shipping for my 2 remaining orders in the system, which is comparable to DHL’s rates.
Closet Child’s shipping methods before COVID-19
Previously, CC shipped all international orders via EMS and ePacket. EMS is the quickest method of the previously offered shipping types, and is the more expensive of the 2 options. I almost always ship via EMS since it’s automatically insured up to 20,000JPY, is usually very quick (usually 3-4 days from the shop to my doorstep), and is robust with tracking information.
I have used ePacket a few times before for smaller orders and items, as this method has both weight (must be under 2kg) and size restrictions (length, width, and height of the parcel must total 90cm at most).
Quick aside – this thoughtful weight table from Innocent World is a great tool for estimating how heavy your order may be.
Closet Child’s shipping methods as of today
DHL is currently the only option for international delivery. A downside to this method is that it’s not automatically insured. The insurance fee is a flat fee of 2,500JPY. From what I can tell, international customers still have the option to continue holding their older orders placed before DHL went live online (for a maximum of 6 months). However I’m sure CC is trying to maximize the amount of storage they have on hand and encourage DHL shipment as much as possible.
Closet Child sent out an email this morning with an overview of how postage for international DHL is calculated. CC quietly added this as a shipping option sometime on 5/20. I believe this email was sent to customers who had orders on hold until EMS/ePacket resumes, as this was sent to me after my 1st package had already shipped via DHL.
“We would like to happily announce that the DHL service is now available to our customers. The DHL shipping rates we can offer is comparable to EMS if the package is compact and not too heavy.
As an example;
up to 2.0 1780 jpy；up to 4.0 3203 jpy
up to 2.0 2080 jpy；up to 4.0 3742 jpy
Italy, Germany, other European countries：
up to 2.0 2180 jpy；up to 4.0 4743 jpy
up to 2.0 3480 jpy；up to 4.0 8186 jpy
★To the customers who have already paid EMS shipping cost for your order,
If you have already paid for EMS and the shipping costs for DHL are less, we will ship by DHL accordingly.
We will let you know before we send the order so please reply us if you would like to add the insurance since the above shipping cost does not include the insurance; cost of 2500 jpy.
If you have already paid for EMS and the shipping cost for DHL is more, we will let you know how much more to be paid if it is sent by DHL. So, please reply our email if you would like your order to be sent by DHL.
For the customers who would like to consolidate the orders, please note that your package may be outsize/oversize and the above rates may not be applicable. We will let you know the shipping cost after consolidating orders.
Please pay attention that with DHL, the above shipping cost is available only if we pack it in paper bags or small box (33.7 cm x18.2 cm x10 cm) and if we use the bigger boxes, the prices goes up a lot more.
For your reference, the average weight of the jsk/dress is 400 g (the weight of the dress varies 250 g to 800 g) , the clothing tops/blouses are around 100 to 200 g, and cardigans/hoodies are around 250 g to 350 g.”
timeline of today’s delivery
The following is a timetable of important dates to my most recent order. For simplicity’s sake all timestamps are listed in my local time zone (EDT).
Order 1 (Arrived 5/26/2020): Created after DHL made available on 5/20 to international customers.
- May 21, 2020, 7:53pm: Placed order, paid via Paypal. Subtotal was 11,650JPY, DHL shipping 2,002JPY, for a total of 13,652JPY (PP USD conversion was $1 = $103.3JPY, $132.15USD total). Order was placed for 1 terrycloth jacket, 2 rings, 1 bracelet, and 1 headbow.
- May 22, 2020, 2:04am: Receive confirmation email from Closet Child
- May 25, 2020, 12:06am: Shipment picked up from CC to DHL
- May 25, 2020, 12:11am: Receive order dispatch confirmation email from DHL – in both English and Spanish. DHL sent all direct emails in both languages, which I thought was awesome! More companies should automatically send emails in other languages for ease of communication. I also was surprised to see DHL emailed me before CC did.
- May 25, 2020, 2:41am: Receive order dispatch and tracking information (link and number) from Closet Child
- May 25, 2020, 5:49am: Arrived at Tokyo sort facility
- May 25, 2020, 6:16am: Customs status updated
- May 25, 2020, 6:31am: Processed at Tokyo facility
- May 25, 2020, 8:12am: Departed Tokyo
- May 25, 2020, 2:47pm: Customs status updated in Cincinnati, Ohio Hub
- May 26, 2020, 2:43am: Arrived at Cincinnati facility
- May 26, 2020, 4:09am: Clearance processing complete
- May 26, 2020, 4:25am: Processed at Cincinnati facility
- May 26, 2020, 5:16am: Departed Cincinnati
- May 26, 2020, 8:30am: Arrived at Boston facility
- May 26, 2020, 9:49am: With delivery courier
- May 26, 2020, 9:57am: Receive email confirmation of waived signature
- May 26, 2020, 1:59pm: Delivered – not contracted by UPS/USPS, but an actual DHL truck and driver. The gentleman actually brought it up the stairs to my doorstep and handed it off to me.
My parcel was shipped in a sturdy thick bag, and was marked as 1.5kg in weight. Of course, a bag is not as secure as a box, but for reasons outlined in their email, it makes sense why boxes are more cumbersome and costly to ship via DHL. There was one small puncture in the bag, but it did not effect my items whatsoever.
The jacket was wrapped in cellophane, the headbow was folded into the jacket (also wrapped in cello). The rings and bracelet were packed in a separate box, in their own protective bub wrap and taped inside the box to keep them from jostling around during transit. My jacket acted as perfect insulation to keep the fragile accessories safe. I was really impressed with how everything was packed in! gives me ideas for Shipping Tetris on LM, haha
quick addendum: customs in the USA
There has been discussion over on Rufflechat regarding customs fees – for my fellow Americans it’s something we’ve experienced rarely if ever. When we purchase items internationally, we are essentially becoming independent importers of goods, even for personal use. On DHL’s website, they go into detail about what this means for customers using the service. In 2016, President Barack Obama raised the de minimis value from $200 to $800.
The de minimis value is the given maximum value for goods being imported by one individual per day – so if you imported a shopping service order valued at $900, you may run the risk of being hit with customs fees since this exceeds the max. US Customs and Border Protection has a useful guide specifically for internet purchases. If your items are valued less than $800, your items will generally be duty-free, and no additional fees will need to be paid – but there is still a small risk even with items declared under de minimis value.
rating for Closet Child: 5/5 | rating for DHL: 5/5
Firstly, I was incredibly shocked just how insanely quickly this order arrived! Roughly in just about 26 hours. This is hands down, the quickest a package has been delivered from the merchant to my front door – even domestically! I’m not sure if I was extremely lucky this round, or if this is typical for DHL International Express deliveries. I’m sure it also helps how close I live to a major metropolitan area, and that the Cincinnati facility is in the same timezone as where I live.
As for Closet Child – we already know that CC has a great rep in our community, especially for international lolitas hoping to find a great bargain on used brand. I always enjoy their efforts in customer service. Closet Child does their best to communicate with their international base with as much detail as possible. Their customer service team is easily reached through email and they typically reply to inquiries within 1 business day.
I had asked to combine all 3 orders – but now through doing this review I see how that may have been more burdensome to CC logistically and to myself for higher costs. It also makes sense to prioritize orders coming in that have paid for DHL service already and clear out that stock, while tending to the logistics of EMS/ePacket orders backlogged since April. Again, I can only begin to imagine how packed their warehouse is currently. It goes to show how well their stock is organized, even in the midst of a crisis. I truly appreciate and am in awe of the efficiency of both parties!
One thing to note – one of my friends noticed last night that shipping rates for DHL on CC had increased. As of this edit (5/28, 9:38AM EDT), it looks like shipping rates are in line with what is quoted above for the US, starting at 2,080JPY. While creating your order, you may need to play around with items in your shopping cart so your order doesn’t go over weight or size shipping restrictions. I noticed that heavy items like a coat may be able to add 1-2 small items, like 1 blouse or 1-3 accessories before hitting oversize.
To close, I look forward to updating (or writing another review, as this post is already long orz) with my experience with DHL in the coming days once my combined order has shipped. I’m hoping Closet Child is open to the idea of keeping DHL as a shipping method for those of us overseas, as long as it doesn’t hurt their sales margin.
Until next time,