About 11 months ago I wrote a small rant on how LEGO gouges Australian’s on pricing of kits from their online store especially on exclusive kits were are not typically sold through retailers, especially in Australia. Well sad to say that while economic situations have shifted the gouging still exists but there are some bright spots.
The Australian Dollar
Sadly since the last article the Australian dollar has slid down against the US dollar and we no longer enjoy our near constant one to one parity rating. This is only reasonable recent however, a fact which becomes important later on. Here’s the AUD vs the USD over the last twelve months:
After a bit of a dip the Australian dollar has flattened out at roughly the 90 cent mark, if we’re unlucky it may drop as low as 85 or even 80c but at present time we are going to assume a 1 Australian dollar equals 90 US cents parity rating for conversion comparisons.
The Shopping Trip
Like last time we were after an exclusive LEGO set, in this case the entirely kickass Lord Of The Rings Tower of Orthanc kit. One of the biggest freestanding kits they’ve had on offer and something we very much want for our collection.
As with last time this exclusive kit is, technically, not available anywhere else other than the online LEGO store. Authorised LEGO retailers in Australia don’t sell it so if you want to purchase it properly you need to go via the online store. This is where gouging is.
First off if you visit the online store from Australia it will, by default, redirect you to Australian pricing and you need to do some poking around in order to get it to divulge the US pricing instead. First lets look at the Australian pricing:
- Tower of Orthanc: $279.99 AUD
- Express Shippping: $100 AUD – to take up to 6 business days
The mini mech set is a thrown in freebie and thus not part of the comparison.
This gives us two possible totals:
- Kit + Express shipping: $379.99 AUD
- Kit + Standard shipping: $279.99 AUD
The US Pricing
So now we ask the LEGO store to give us the pricing for the very same kit as if we were an American consumer:
- Tower of Orthanc: $199.99 USD
- Express Shipping: $29.95 USD
Like the Australian shipping the standard shipping within the US is also free which is fantastic as it does allow us to now directly compare only the kit pricing rather than forced cost of shipping as well.
So once again this gives us two possible totals:
- Kit + Express Shipping: $229.94 USD
- Kit + Standard Shipping: $199.99 USD
So let us translate those US prices into their equivalent Australian dollar values using the previously decided on value of one Australian dollar equaling 90 US cents:
- Kit + Express Shipping: $252.94 AUD
- Kit + Standard Shipping: $219.99 AUD
As mentioned in the notes above the changes to the shipping mean this time around we can just focus on directly comparing the kit price. This gives us:
$279.99 AUD vs $219.99 AUD
A price difference of $60 AUD which in the great scheme of things is not a huge amount but is far more than can be accounted for in US state sales taxes or other differences in cost in selling the kit to an Australian. It seems LEGO is just intent on gouging us still because they can.
Wait – Don’t They Use The Danish Krone?
Last time we asked LEGO for justification about the large pricing difference we got this short and rather sharp reply:
“The LEGO Group is a Danish company – not an US company – and we price our products annually based upon the Danish Kroner, not the US dollar.”
The implication being the Danish Krone sets the base price, so lets see how much the same kit via the same store would cost us as a Dane:
OK so 1699 kr – Which, at exchange rates of time of writing is roughly $304 US dollars or $335 Australian dollars, significantly more expensive than either equivalent from the very same store. But wait it also says the product pricing is done annually against the Krone, maybe the Australian dollar rose significantly against the Krone in the last 12 months? Let’s check:
Or… maybe not. If anything the Australian dollar has steadily declined against the Krone, not risen so I’m fairly sure that we can now say the statement provided by the LEGO representative about pricing based on the DKK vs the USD is complete and utter bunk.
The Final Kick In The Teeth
This time around I picked up on something that I missed during the last comparison which I’m rather surprised by. Some may view this as the ultimate first world problem whine (which I guess it is) but it is rather curious. The LEGO VIP points assigned to the purchase vary wildly based on the country the kit is being delivered to as well.
What are LEGO VIP points? Think of them as frequent flyer miles for LEGO. The more VIP points you obtain, the bigger the discount you can get in the future and the more likely you’ll be able to access special sets only available to VIP members with sufficient points.
In theory the number of points should be universal across the board for countries and is only tied to the status of kit or perhaps you would expect the more a kit cost you (equivalently) the more points you would get. Apparently not. From the three screenshots you can see the VIP points per country of order is:
- USA: 199 VIP points
- Australia: 186 VIP points
- Denmark: 169 VIP points
Wow. So it seems that even if you are paying a significantly higher amount of money for the exact same kit you get less VIP points. Really LEGO? Even as you sit there and boast about how proud you are to be a Danish company, you stiff them even more on VIP points than you do Australians? That’s just cold.
Where Can I Buy LEGO in Australia?
In the last 11 months I have seen a lot of search queries hitting the previous articles with questions mostly relating to where they can buy LEGO in Australia or LEGO stores that ship to Australia. I’ll relay my experiences here of where I have purchased kits.
For standard kits I mostly buy from Myer – while they toe the LEGO RRP pricing most of the time, they very often have sales of 20% or more on toys which include LEGO and I find this is a perfect time to buy a small bulk lot of kits. The same applies to many of the other major retailers in Australia but I find that Myer tends to have a better in store range.
For standard kits that are not the current hot sellers (e.g Myer and co normally only stock three or four current lines at any one time) I have a preference for JustBricks.com.au who are not the cheapest but have a good range and provided me with very good service.
For everything from a single specific LEGO part/minifig to whole kits including very rare and sometimes never been unboxed collectors edition there is BrickLink which you can think of as an exclusive for LEGO eBay system. Just like eBay you should fully research and compare prices, check the seller’s reputation etc before purchase but if you want anything LEGO related including custom non LEGO created parts, you’ll find it there.
For exclusive kits the most trustworthy source is still the LEGO store. For all my griping about the cost differentials it’s still the best place to get it from, especially since the standard shipping now appears to be free for the more expensive exclusive sets.
A Word On Drop Shipping
This is another option available to you in purchasing goods from the US to be delivered to Australia and is especially useful if the seller does not ship to Australia at all. Drop shipping or relay shipping is a system where they essentially provide a middleman to ship the goods through.
Essentially you set up an account, they provide you with a US shipping location you can ship to. You then purchase the item, have it delivered to the US location, they repackage it and send it on to you for a nominal fee. This was the method I used to get the Haunted House LEGO set delivered last time but it ended up costing me more than shipping it directly (standard shipping cost $45 at the time) because I misunderstood the fee structure that most drop shippers use.
The concept you need to understand when it comes to drop shipping fees is known as volumetric or dimensional weight. This can be somewhat tough to wrap your brain around but it is the standard used in most shipping.
Shipping costs mostly by weight but if an item is below a nominal weight they calculate the charge off the size of the package and what that package would weigh at their assumed weight per volume rate. This is of particular relevance to LEGO and especially exclusive kits which are usually in very large boxes but have relatively little weight to them.
This results in the box being charged at a much higher rate than you might expect. It is always best to mull over the use of drop shipping and retain it for use when you are certain the cost is worth it or it is definitely an item the retailer can’t or won’t ship to Australia.
My drop shipper of choice is BorderLinx who try very hard to make sure end users understand the concept of volumetric weight. As with anything please research before you use a drop shipper and be aware that cost calculations are reasonably accurate but are not set in stone until they go through the reshipping and it is usually worth building in a buffer to your costs estimates.