If online shopping hadn’t already captured your imagination before this, these past 2 months being cooped up at home might have made you a convert.

It’s become to convenient to shop online for everything from groceries to fresh fruit, meat and vegetables, and of course, the little bits and bobs we need around the house. Even my Dad has taken to buying things online, something I never thought he’d do!

I too have been doing a bit of online shopping, but mostly things for my dog or some household items. The pup has amassed quite a goodly selection of toys and accessories since we got locked down LOL 😛

But instead of buying from my usual overseas websites, I have been spending a lot of time on sites like Lazada and Shopee. For those outside the region who are wondering what these sites are, these sites are rather like Amazon, where you can find anything and everything under the sun.

What I have not been buying since March however, when we were put into lockdown, is beauty products from my usual overseas online stores.

So, when I received a few inquiries by email and through Instagram from people having inordinate delays receiving their beauty purchases, or in more than a few cases, having their items returned or prevented from being delivered, I was a little puzzled. This hadn’t happened to me before.

But I have an idea why it might be so.

I’m no stranger to buying beauty products online. I have been doing so for many years, long before it was fashionable to do so haha!

I have even shared my guide to shopping online for delivery to Malaysia, and it’s proven to be quite a popular little guide, especially for those who might be faced with customs duties, and how you can deal with it.

RELATED READING: Curious where I shop online or want to know what to expect when buying online for delivery to Malaysia? READ HERE

Overseas deliveries for beauty products might be delayed

Recently however, I’m told that deliveries are not only taking an inordinately long time to arrive, some aren’t even arriving at all. I’m told that purchases from Cult Beauty, for example, are being turned away and returned. This, regardless of amount.

I was puzzled when I first found out. This was unusual, because prior to this, purchases from Cult Beauty that did not exceed £80 (approx) would be quickly cleared by customs for delivery. Purchases above that had a tendency to attract a customs charge, but again, it would be quickly notified by the shipping forwarder, and cleared for delivery once the taxes were paid.

However, I found out that the shipping courier during this period of lockdown (both in the UK and here in Malaysia), had changed to Fedex. And suddenly, it became a little clearer why.

Fedex courier delivery is a little problematic in Malaysia

I’ve always had a bit of issue with Fedex as a delivery courier. They don’t seem to process deliveries as quickly, and aren’t as efficient when it comes to beauty product deliveries.

In the past, I’d had problems with Fedex, even for other non-beauty deliveries. They are quite unhelpful and not very consumer-friendly towards the end-user who may not know how to navigate things like customs and duties. They also imposed higher fees and charges, and their communication was quite poor.

By contrast, DHL is a better courier option, in my experience. They seem to know what they’re doing when it comes to ecommerce, and are more end-user friendly. Their fees and charges for clearing customs aren’t astronomical, and they are quick and efficient with information and notices.

My preferred mode of delivery when it comes to international purchases is registered mail. While people complain about the postal service, I have found that registered mail options are usually most efficient for me. (I’ve spoken more about this in my previous post)

beauty online purchases

Pharmaceutical Department delays

What was happening apparently, was that Fedex was running all beauty product purchases through the National Pharmaceutical Department, and treating all online purchases as an import. In order to import a beauty product or pharmaceutical item, it must first be approved by the National Pharmaceutical Department, and a permit obtained.

Naturally, for individual consumers, this would be a complication, for we are not in a position to declare products for clearance, or to obtain permits from the NPD. There is a lot of cost and procedures involved with registering a product at the NPD that isn’t for the end-consumer to handle.

Most of us are merely purchasing products for our own use, and not for retail, so it technically shouldn’t be necessary to obtain any import permits. I do wonder if Fedex might be unfamiliar with handling international ecommerce purchases, as opposed to commercial orders.

I had the misfortune once to have my package from iHerb detained by customs, and I had to visit the NPD to obtain an approval before I could collect it. When they saw that it was just single bottles of body wash, the people at the counter literally rolled their eyes at me, told me it was such a hassle for the customs to refer me to them, and promptly cleared my purchase with no issues.

Often, there are no problems obtaining this clearance from the NPD, if it is required. This is so long as you don’t buy a large number of items, where it might trigger an import permit requirement. For normal consumer purchases, it would usually be cleared quickly.

If you have taken upon yourself the role of a personal shopper, and you buy a few items in bulk, then you could be in for a nasty shock. If that’s the case, good luck 😛

Delays in delivery at this time in inevitable

Due to this period of pandemic lockdown, when businesses and government offices are not functioning at full capacity, I imagine that delays in delivery are inevitable.

This is true not only at our end here in Malaysia, but also at the end of the sender. At this time, the pandemic is a global problem, and we are seeing countries impose different lockdown regulations, so our packages may be caught up in this red tape and delay leaving the country of origin. Even flights have been significantly reduced at this time.

The customs department here is quite likely inundated with all sorts of items coming from overseas, thanks to everyone shopping online. While sites like Lazada and Shopee take the stress of dealing with taxes and duties off our shoulders, this isn’t true of purchases from international websites.

While I haven’t bought anything from sites like Net-a-Porter or Luisaviaroma since the lockdown, I don’t anticipate facing any issues with them if I do, for taxes and duties are automatically factored into your purchase. They also deliver using DHL, and from experience, DHL handles everything for you painlessly. You just have to wait at home for your package.

My last online purchase from an international website was from COS Online. I received it in the middle of lockdown, and there were additional taxes payable (which I had prepared for). Their delivery courier is also DHL who handled it quickly and efficiently, allowing me to make payment online to them, so I could receive my package more speedily.

I have seen photos of the postal service and local courier offices being inundated with packages from all the online shopping that people are doing. There is a lot to get through, and I think we have to be fair to the people working at the warehouses, and to those processing the orders.

Delays are bound to happen at this time. It is inevitable. I am waiting on a dog bed for my pup which still hasn’t arrived, even after 2 months. The only consolation is that I am able to track it’s progress. It’s just not moving very quickly 😛

shopping online not advisable during pandemic

Track your deliveries

If you do still want to risk buying your beauty products on line at this time – Track your deliveries.

Now is not the time to take a risk with a non-tracked delivery option. Tracking allows you to monitor your package’s progress, so you know where it is, and if it goes missing, at which point it goes missing. It also allows you to make a claim from the company, if you don’t receive your item.

I made an iHerb order during the lockdown and had it delivered by DHL. It contained handwashes and some other bits and bobs, and I was able to track it every step of the way until it arrived on my doorstep. To be fair, there was only a very slight delay of a day or two as compared to normal times, so I was pleased about it.

While I have been happy with untracked deliveries prior to this from various websites, it’s not an option I’m willing to take right now. It is only common sense, if you ask me.

With the rise in online shopping at this time, packages are bound to go missing at any stage, and if you don’t have a tracking number, you’d basically screwed. I can’t help you there. No one can.

Some websites offer free standard (untracked) delivery options. While it is tempting to take that, (who doesn’t want free shipping?!) don’t. Pay the extra cost for a tracked delivery, be it by registered mail or by courier. If it works out to be too expensive, don’t buy. Really, it’s quite simple to close the website and click away 😛

Don’t buy from international websites for now

Personally, my advise to you is this – Don’t buy anything, especially not beauty products, from international websites for now.

It was a decision I consciously took back in March 2020, but with a slightly different reason in mind then. I expected that there would be delays, and I didn’t want my items sitting in warehouses and customs for longer than necessary. The heat and humidity here in Malaysia will affect the items, and I did not want that happening to my purchases.

Now, with what I know, I’d suggest that you skip the online purchases for now, until the transportation chain and work capacity returns to normal.

While it means that you may be without your favourite beauty product, it also means that you are now able to explore what else is available locally. You might even be surprised at what you will find! 🙂

Have you faced any trouble with international shipping since the pandemic lockdown was imposed?

I’m quite relieved that I was forward looking enough to anticipate problems, and therefore not make any purchases. I understand not everyone is, so tell me if you faced any problems getting your order?

Paris B

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