Japanese briefcase arbitrage, Tenso.com edition
This briefcase costs about $950 USD:
This briefcase costs 33,600 Yen, which is about $318:
They are, obviously, the same briefcase.
A fundamental principle of economics is the “law of one price,” which basically states that you can’t make a profit simply by buying something in one place, moving it somewhere else, and then selling it. Or, at least, you won’t be able to make money doing that for long. Other people will notice, decide to do the same thing, and eventually drive your profits down to zero. Arbitrage opportunities, to the extent that they exist, are fleeting.
So it doesn’t really make sense that a briefcase that retails for a little over $300 in Japan sells for 3x that price in the U.S. (It actually might make a little tiny bit of sense: some company bought exclusive U.S. distribution rights, for an unknown price. Whatever.)
Enter Tenso.com, a genius Japanese company. Tenso lets you order online products that are sold exclusively in Japan, and have them shipped to Tenso’s warehouse. (Alternatively you can ask them to purchase the stuff for you, for a nominal fee.) Then, for a small fee and the cost of shipping, Tenso forwards your item(s) to you in the U.S. Voilà!
I recently had Tenso purchase and send me the briefcase. Total cost: about 38,000 yen for the briefcase and 5,730 yen for the shipping. (That’s including Tenso’s fees.) All told I paid about $415, or about 40% of what it would cost in the U.S.
Thanks to Tenso for proving that the law of one price is a real thing: in the long run, these guys can’t make money simply by buying stuff in Japan and selling it in the U.S.A.