Good day, fellow collectors!
Because there is currently an exceptional promotion going on till December 5th 11:59pm PST, I’d like to offer my perspective on Tokyo Otaku Mode's Premium membership — specifically, how collectors should take advantage of it, both those new and those not new to the service. It may be in your best interest to first familiarize yourself with the exact Premium membership benefits as well as the terms and conditions, but the “points” are the focus for this article.
To begin with, let's clarify the following aspects for users who are confused or unaware of the "points" ecosystem. Then, I’ll address my recommendations for using their “points” at various stages of familiarity...
- TOM’s “points” are treated as real money in their online storefront,
- the TOM “points” campaigns (stylized as 30X, 40X, 50X, et cetera) represent the percentage of the transaction that you will receive as “points” immediately afterwards, and
- cash-back values apply only to the specified item(s), regardless of any additional items in your cart.
Right! Now that we’re at agreement, I can discuss strategy… and, please note that the following presumes you have already compared prices among online retailers. Feel free to skip to the section that best corresponds with your experience at Tokyo Otaku Mode!
"I'm not yet a member and need to accumulate points."
At least with respect to Japanese Yen --> United States Dollar conversion, Tokyo Otaku Mode’s prices are always going to be higher than the direct conversion value. This is true even for miniscule items such as anime/manga magazines. As such, it is critical to lower the price of their items by some degree in order to pay equal or less than what Japanese retailers such as CD Japan (aka Neowing) or AmiAmi will charge you. To do this, all of your purchases will need points. Ironically, unless somebody gifted you a points balance, your first purchase cannot possibly have totally uninstigated points (i.e. points that were given to you by Tokyo Otaku Mode); even first-time Premium subscribers have just shelled out real money in the form of $14.99 for those $16.50 in points, so almost all of those points are money that was already yours. Given these constraints (that you both need and don’t have points to use), it is essential that your first purchase accumulates a hefty amount of points. Hefty is totally subjective here, and you can decide what best fits you. I can only definitively say that 40X and 50X sales are rare and 10X points apply to every new figure for the first couple weeks or so. Therefore, the following events will need to converge IRL for the Tokyo Otaku Mode Premium membership to be a remarkable option:
- You really want an item that Tokyo Otaku Mode sells,
- a points/sale/coupon promotion is currently active, and
- the points-back value (stylized as 10X, 20X, and so on) satisfies your expectations for the item in question
If the item is a figure and there is no active sale, you will likely both overpay and fail to gather enough points to apply to future purchases. This is because figures default to only up to 10X points cash-back depending on how recent they have been listed on the site. If the item is not a figure, you will end up accumulating practically no points because the default for other items is 1X (I think). To summarize, ensure that your first purchase will grant you a large sum of points in the form of cash-back, by any means necessary. You may need to overpay for the item it is that you want, and the amount you do will vary from item to item, but the points will be worth it in the end. It is worth noting that you should choose to purchase one particular item (of many that you were eyeing) at a higher cost so that the points you reap can be immediately applied to the other items. By doing so, you can lessen the amount you overpay, but also jump-start your points collection. It also goes without saying that you shouldn't spend all of those points you earned unless you can earn them back on this second order. So, the best case scenario is a promotion that will remain active over a set of days and not one that only permits a single use.
"I'm a Premium member and have some points, but not a lot (<$50.00)."
So, you’ve accumulated some TOM points, but it's more than likely not enough to effectively apply to a huge sale such as the one that is currently active (40X points on everything and 50X on newly listed figures). Unfortunately, and in my opinion, you are still restricted to the costlier strategy of point accumulation, at least until your next purchase. During huge sales like this one, you are not quite at the points level to drop figures consistently below the $150 free-shipping threshold and still spend fewer points than you will receive, which is the best case scenario. Of course, the previous statements assume that the item(s) in question is near $200. Given the prices of scale figures on Tokyo Otaku Mode are generally well over the free-shipping threshold, and given your low points balance, your priority is to avoid spending too many of your points thereby receiving fewer in return, even if it means keeping the figure at or above $150. The amount by which you remain comfortable is totally subjective, but my quick-and-easy rule of thumb is to never spend more than I receive, though there is one condition that must be considered. If the following aligns with your situation, then the aforementioned strategy needs to be tweaked. Allow me to pose this situation to you…
The Situation — Part I: "Where did my points come from really?"
Unfortunately, if you are a recurring Premium member, your points may not even be genuine rewards points anymore, as the $16.50 you received in the last 3 months is not cash-back from Tokyo Otaku Mode (please ignore the delta of $1.51, which TOM gives you upon auto-renewal). The money was and is your own. The act of prepaying the membership fee only to save the points for months at a time completely defeats the premise of TOM’s point system. So, please do not use your Premium membership so sparingly that your accumulated points are a reuncarnation of the money that you paid in advance to Tokyo Otaku Mode when the membership auto-renews! Now that I’ve explained this, you may be thinking that TOM’s Premium membership is far less of a great idea than you originally thought. Fear not!! With the introduction of this new complexity, it only means you must distinguish how many of your points are genuinely cash-back and how many are a prepaid balance as a result of auto-renewal. TOM will not keep track of this metric for you, but doing so yourself is as easy as recognizing whether you’ve spent at least $14.99 of that $16.50 in the past 3 months. In order to extend this concept further into the future, just keep track of at least $14.99 × the number of membership renewals that has occurred since your last purchase. On your next purchase, you will need to strategically begin spending that money, because it’s your money, literally. Remember, the goal of taking advantage of this system is to spend/receive more of TOM’s cash-back (in the form of points) rather than your own inevitable money (also in the form of $16.50 points every billing cycle).
The Situation — Part II: "My points mostly come from renewals, now what?"
If, for example, you’ve realized that two billing periods have passed since your last purchase, which corresponds to $33.00 ($16.50 × 2) of your <$50.00 in points being technically just a prepaid balance, for the love of God it's time to spend them… but with some caution. In a case such as this, you will want to withhold purchasing from Tokyo Otaku Mode until you can accumulate the same or more points back during that purchase. They are your own money! It would be senseless to use them without getting your money back in return. You must also factor in whether dropping the price below TOM’s free-shipping threshold of $150 is a worthwhile venture. In my experience, unless the figure’s price is near that threshold already (<$180) and unless a high points campaign is also active, having less than $50 in points is extremely disadvantageous to the overall goal of points accumulation and price reduction. It can still be done, and I’ll give an example: Say a figure costs $175 with 20X points back and your current balance is $45 in points. If you drop the subtotal to $149, you will have spent $26 in points and accumulated $29.80. Unfortunately, now the price is $159 because now Tokyo Otaku Mode has added in shipping costs of ten additional dollars to the total. As you can see, examples such as this one are technically doable, but only very specific cases will be profitable. The best case in this particular example would be to stay above $150, if the price still beats Japanese retailers, that is. It is the confluence of the most cash back and the lowest price. The piece-wise graph below illustrates exactly how using your TOM points in that case would affect the subtotal, shipping, and cash-back. Oh God, I sure hope you know how to interpret piece-wise functions... Sorry, if not.
Click for legendClick to hide legend
- Black piece-wise function demonstrates the effect of dropping the subtotal below $150 when using your points (represented by horizontal axis)
- Green function represents the cash-back at any value x
- Red function represents spent points, helping to demonstrate the difference between points spent and received; as expected, the red and green line segments intersect when the cash-back is the same as the number of points spent
"I'm a Premium member and have lots of points (>$50.00)."
I'm not so sure there is much to teach at this stage, but I'll do my best to offer what insight I do have. From here, you can choose to direct your point balance one of three ways:
- Point accumulation,
- point preservation, or
- point consumption.
Point accumulation: "I want to have a significant amount of points at once."
This path greatly opens up your opportunities in the future, as I'm sure you already know. Two years ago was the greatest points opportunity that I've ever seen, and boy did you need several hundreds of points to immediately benefit from it. The only way to acquire more points is to spend fewer than you are receiving. Though, don't lose sight of the initial mission: bringing down the grand total of the item you want to less than that of competing retailers like AmiAmi and Big in Japan. Always factor in the expected shipping costs associated with buying directly from Japan when comparing overall costs. Should the frequency of points promotions be in your favor, and if you play your cards right, you can attain hundreds of points by only spending the amount needed to match competing prices. As a necessary reminder, don't forget that membership renewals should not be counted alongside your legitimate rewards points, though they are included in the TOM points balance. They're your own money, prepaid to Tokyo Otaku Mode, and should be spent accordingly. Do your best not to accumulate them forever! Those $16.50 in points should be viewed as an upfront commitment to spending at least that much on the site every 3 months (or twice that amount every 6 months, or triple that amount every 9 months, and so on), which just so happens to grant you access to the incredible sales and promotions that take place every so often.
You can devote your effort into saving as much as you can on each item (a noble pursuit!), or you can focus on accumulation of points (while staying under budget compared to other retailers) and take advantage of an opportunity such as the one depicted above. It's your choice!
Point preservation: "I want to maintain my ability to get good deals with my points."
The key here is to follow the rule of thumb mentioned much earlier in the first section of the tutorial (I am not expecting that you will have read it, though!). Spend about the same number of TOM points as you will receive. You will inevitably accumulate as the membership renewal dates roll around, so keep the following in mind: Add additional points (based on the number of membership renewals that has occurred since your last order) to whatever value of points evens out with the amount you will receive — that is, unless you've already made a purchase in the last billing cycle that did so. Of course, it won't even out anymore, but that is because your intent is to spend the membership fee's points. Leaving them in the balance forever leads to a false representation of the points Tokyo Otaku Mode has rewarded you. This necessitates some management on your end, given that the amount of memberships renewals will not be expressly written anywhere for you to look up. The first two scenarios below exhibit how I was able to use a lot of points to greatly decrease the price of a figure while also maintaining my TOM points balance. The third scenario demonstrates how you would go about spending the prepaid $16.50 that is included in you TOM points balance from the latest membership renewal.
Point consumption: "This is the last figure I plan to buy from Tokyo Otaku Mode."
If you have any number of points, and you expect your collecting phase has come to an end (either with respect to Tokyo Otaku Mode, or in general), the logical next step is to exhaust all of the points that remain with one final transaction, and cease your membership. The best case scenario is a promotion that allows you to discount items on the store even further by way of a coupon. Though, don't hold out for such an event; in my two years shopping on Tokyo Otaku Mode, I've only ever noticed (and taken advantage of) two coupon events that significantly reduced the subtotal of my orders. For what it's worth, 5% coupons are thrown around quite often and you can always rely on your 10% birthday coupon. Keep an eye out!
Burning questions about TOM Premium and/or me
"Can't I buy TOM Premium only when I'm going to use it?"The answer is yes, but doing so comes with its caveats. Should you decide that you want to cancel your membership, your membership benefits end immediately, as per the Term and Conditions. Therefore, you need to have made the purchases that you wish to make beforehand. Also, your points are now at risk of expiring 6 months from the date the cancellation is confirmed via email. To further complicate the matter, should another sale pop up in which you wish to partake, you will need to renew your TOM Premium membership manually, and you should take great care not to renew the membership (i.e. pay the membership fee) more than 4 times in a calendar year, as that is the maximum number of times Tokyo Otaku Mode would auto-renew on your behalf. As an added caution, Tokyo Otaku Mode reserves the right to accept or refuse membership at their discretion. It would be my guess that you are not the first person to attempt to take advantage of the membership subscription process in this way, so I would tread with caution.
"How much can I expect to spend in order to benefit from TOM Premium?"I began to achieve noticeably reduced prices after my fourth order from Tokyo Otaku Mode, which was about $500 of my money by then, though your experience may vary. Unfortunately, I lacked the knowledge to properly take advantage of the system beginning with my first purchase, so I would venture to say that an informed consumer can expect their second or third order to even out compared to competing online retailers.
"Do TOM Premium membership's other benefits play a large role in saving money?"In my humble opinion, no. The other noteworthy cost-savings benefits, which are 20% reduced shipping costs (in the rare event that you chose to drop a subtotal below $150) and a 10%-off-anything birthday coupon, likely play very little role in any of your future purchases. Unless, you are an avid manga reader or are willing to trade your $16.50 in renewal points for an ANiUTa music streaming subscription, the most compelling TOM Premium membership benefit is and has remained the cash-back system.
"Are you, PANCHITOMATTE, affiliated with or influenced by Tokyo Otaku Mode in any way?"No. I wrote this article on my own volition, with no outside influence. Over the years, I have noticed my tendency has been buying from Tokyo Otaku Mode due to the TOM Premium membership benefits. Despite all of my price-comparing and penny-pinching efforts, Tokyo Otaku Mode almost always emerged as THE best deal, except in a few rare instances. I think that getting a great deal from their storefront has taken a slight turn for the worse in the past couple of years, but I wouldn't have written the article if I didn't believe opportunity still existed.
If you took the time to read this far, thanks. It means a lot. I hope that my experience was effectively communicated to you through this blog, and that you had a pleasant time while reading. Feel free to ask any questions that were not addressed, offer your own first-hand account with the TOM Premium membership, as well as correct any errors that you believe exist in this article. My expectation is that many people will read this tutorial over time, and I want it to be completely accurate. Once again, thank you to those that took the time to read.
Take care and happy collecting,