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Japan’s Mac Tax

June 28th, 2014

DriveThere’s a spiffy Mac accessory, a 128 GB SD card from Transcend that sticks into your SD slot and doesn’t stick out. I’d love to get it, as my 256 GB SSD is just too small for me.

The item costs $80 at Amazon in the U.S.

The same item in Amazon Japan costs $126. That’s priced down from $146 just a few weeks ago.

Both are sold and shipped by Amazon. They’re the exact same item.

I’ve encountered this repeatedly in Japan. Whenever I look for peripherals or accessories, anything labeled “for Mac” or which lists OS X compatibility is bound to be half again as expensive as similar PC-ready models, which most peripherals are marked as. I refuse to believe that creating OS X drivers for most basic peripherals (e.g., DVD drives, web cams, film scanners) is that hard—and in the case of the Transcend device, drivers are obviously not the issue.

Instead, it seems that Japanese sellers believe that people who buy Macs are willing to pay a premium. They may be right about a very small subset, and they may just be able to fool a larger subset into thinking they have no choice (and thus helping create the myth that Mac ownership is too expensive). But for the most part, it’s a stupid presumption, because that only applies to products which are, in fact, worthy of being labeled “premium,” which most of the overpriced stuff is not. The Transcend thing is a nice idea, but it’s just flash memory inside a frame; its main advantage is simply that it doesn’t stick out when it’s plugged in. That’s it.

The idea that I’d be willing to pay a $45 premium just because I use a Mac is asinine. I imagine that some people pay the higher price because they don’t know any better and think that’s the only option; a lot of Mac users, however, simply look around for the best price, and read customer reviews which tell if items not branded as Mac-compatible will actually work with a Mac. At worst, I’ll just wait until I go back to the U.S., by which time it might be even cheaper, or a 256 GB version might be priced competitively, which would be cool.

Until then, anyone wanting to sell me exorbitantly priced stuff can bite me.

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  1. Troy
    July 1st, 2014 at 11:07 | #1

    ah yes, I remember paying ¥40,000 — a week’s wages — for a new IIcx power supply in Akihabara, back in ’93.

    Later that year when I wanted to get a LaserJet 4MP, I was able to order it by telephone from a mail-order place in LA, and they actually shipped to Tokyo, miracle of miracles.

    It looks like Apple’s Japan unit sales are lower now than they were in the iMac glory days, so it’s pretty tough to find value I’d guess.


    shows Japan’s population is down 10% from the late 90s, too (!)

  2. David
    July 4th, 2014 at 16:25 | #2

    Seems to be a ‘tax’ or ‘premium’ placed on all things imported into Japan. Price-gouging is usually the case. With a captive consumer base that has no power against retailers and no alternatives, the serfs are expected to pay the ‘tax’ and not complain. Disgusting Japanese price gouging.

  3. Luis
    July 4th, 2014 at 18:12 | #3

    Interestingly enough, Apple does not really do this anymore themselves; their prices are pretty equal between countries, adjusted every once in a while for exchange rates. Of course, one could say that they place a premium on every country, but they at least don’t bump things up in Japan. They used to, but not any more. In fact, some prices are lower in Japan–the iPad Air costs about $480 here, $20 less than in the U.S.

    A lot of imports are priced low, except when they are priced just to match local goods. Strangely, not a few Japanese-made items are priced way higher in Japan than they are overseas. I remember pricing Japanese-made digital cameras in America and Japan, and seeing prices in Japan being way higher.

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