Sunday, 9 June 2013

Welcome to Australia, have you paid your Barstard tax today?

Inspired by a comment from Colby on my “A Tale of Legends” post on the excessive cost of a Marvel Legends toy of $30 at Toys R Us in Australia.  I put it down to what I refer to as ‘Barstard tax.’  Which is essentially a mark-up on normal prices for no other reason than being in Australia.

I ranted on about this in a way back when the Dark of the Moon toys came out in my (cleverly named if I say so myself) “Dark Of The Moon figure price RIPOFF!”   That post was inspired mainly from the situation that had come about from a strong Australian dollar that had been around for a year or more at the time.  Transformer prices have improved a little bit for us, but not by much.  It’s now been about 3 years at least where the Australian Dollar has been equal or higher to the American dollar and yet most of our toys are at least an extra 25% higher or more, just because we are in Australia.

Excuses from various companies range from ‘advertising costs,’ ‘distribution" cost’ and others.  This doesn’t really fly with digital downloads such as games and music though which is still ridiculously high.  An easy example I can think of right now is the PlayStation Network.  For example, Okami HD on the PSN America is $19.99 and yet in the PSN for Australia has it as $29.99.
Why?  What justification do they have?

It’s not just me either, this was covered on a TV show that focuses on consumer rights and laws.  Recently they had a look into the pricing on the iTunes store.  The amusing video is below:

So, in the interests of toys in particular I thought I would get some comparisons.  Colby’s question was related specifically to Toys R Us and Marvel Legends, so in the interest of being fair I immediately went to the TRU website and accessed both the and  Sadly though the Australian site is so bad and lacking in online options I couldn’t actually find items I knew they stocked.

In regards to Marvel Legends, I was relegated to going to which I managed to get some stuff from not so long ago.  I bought a few extra figures to make the postage worthwhile, but for the sake of this expose I put one item into my cart, signed in and got it to estimate the shipping.  And for the sake of postage and the like, my Australian address is the default address and therefore the postage amount is to Australia.
Wow. Look at that.  Buying one single figure and shipping it to my address will cost me LESS than Toys R Us local shop?  Remember, my Archangel was the same price as all the rest at $30au.  Wow.  That’s Australian dollars too.

OK, what about buying TWO figures?  After all, I did want Wolverine and She-Rulk, so buying them locally would come to $60 wouldn’t it?
Oh my.  Only $43.43?  Australian dollars yes?  Damn.  I don’t even have to drive to the shop to get it…

Ok, I will say this, it might be a bit unfair to compare a giant such as to um, Toys R Us…  SOoo let’s have a look at Transformers on both the American and the Australian Toys R Us sites shall we?

Weaponiser Optimus Prime from Transformers Prime, I’ll make that my first example. 

So on the left, we have TRU Australia and on the right, TRU America.  Both are devoid of shipping charges, to keep the comparison fair.  So what do we have?
Wow, so we have 59.99 from Australia and a mere $32.99 for those luckily enough to be located in America.  Just a minor difference of $27.  That’s a mighty profit for, well, someone.

Just to see that it’s not a fluke. Weaponiser Bumblebee.
Hmm, still $59.99 and $32.99.

Commander Bulkhead:
Australian $17.99  and $9.99. Only $8 this time.

Beast Hunter Deluxes anyone?
WHOA!  $29.99 and $12.99???  $17 difference.  That is more than 100% increase in price.  No wonder I haven’t bought any deluxe sized transformers locally in well, um, I can’t remember to be honest.  Oh, I think it must have been the original Prime Soundwave.  Oh and from TRU.  But only because it was out early…  Impatience tax I guess.

Well well well. That’s been interesting.  But I am not finished yet.  Oh no.  I heard of this one on a toy message board.  And this one is Barstard tax in it’s purest form.

The LEGO shop online.
This one I can’t believe.  Off to to see for myself.  Apparently the price changes as soon as you change your region.  I was a bit shocked to here about this, but having seen it myself I am more shocked.  To keep things on a level playing field, the following prices are excluding postage.  Let’s check this out shall we?

First off, I found my target set.  It’s a big one.  Well, I found two actually, as I figured that these babies would be easy to find on both sites, if they were separate sites.  However they aren’t and you can select any set you desire and just change the region (in the upper right corner) as you see fit.

The first set is a Star Wars X-wing fighter.
US price of $199.99, limit of two and (I didn’t notice this until I circled the region and price) 199 VIP points.  Now one could assume that VIP points apply to a 1:1 ratio with the dollars you spend?  199 dollars, 199 points right?

Let’s add an Aussie flag to that page shall we?
Apparently not.  Australian price of $279.99!!   Limited to 5 per purchase.  Oh man, that’s a bit funny…(who’d buy 5 at that price?)  VIP points, well you’d think you’d get 299 right?  WRONG. You only get 186.  An extra 80 dollars and you get 13 less VIP points?  What the hell?

Perhaps this is a one-off too?
Arkham Asylum set  I didn't even know this existed.  If I did I would try and get it.   From America above.

Because I would have to pay an extra 90 dollars. That’s 10 bucks up on the X-wing.  VIP points? 159 for America, 166 for Australia.

The person who raised my attention to his little situation emailed the LEGO store and questioned why.  Their response was this:
Due to differences in economics around the world, prices are determined by the demographics of specific countries. There are also differences in taxes, exchange rates and market value of our products. Also, the laws of a country can affect the way prices are stated. For instance, prices in the US are shown without sales taxes while in Europe the prices stated to the consumer must include VAT.

I think it’s unlikely that taxes would take up to $90 or so.  So what they are pretty much saying is, “The difference is there because you are in Australia.” 

Toys aren’t the only thing to suffer from this.  It’s mainly due to the toy companies and retailers but a lot of blame lays on the Australian public.  For example, since we have been used to paying almost $30 for a deluxe sized Transformer since about the early 2000s (when the Aussie dollar was about half of what is it now), Mum and Dad Aus just think it’s normal and don’t really bother seeing cheap how things are elsewhere, they just assume everywhere must be paying such a high price as that price seems normal.  That’s great news for company bottom lines, bad news for consumers.

Case in point, I was talking to an older party who was complaining about the price of Star Wars toys.  I then supplied him some links to online reputable stockists and he was shocked at the difference in price.

I think however, looking at the reply from LEGO and the conclusion in regards to digital downloads above, that even though some of the blame lies with retailers and consumers, most of it falls onto the toy companies themselves.  I am giving retailers the benefit of the doubt here due to their reluctance of slashing prices to pass on old stock, however recently they rarely stock enough product on the shelves to discount majorly as it is and when they do discount it is often just a token amount.  Could that be due to the high wholesale price set by the distributor (i.e Hasbro/LEGO etc.)?  A Higher wholesale price allows less room for movement when looking to discount items.

Therefore in answer to Colby’s question about why I paid approximately double retail for my Marvel Legend, the answer is this:
Because Hasbro can charge that amount and most people will pay it without question.

And THAT my friends is Barstard Tax

By the way, check out Colby’s Random toy Reviews.  Interesting AND educational (in a toy sense).  I read it and therefore so should you. Wink wink.


  1. wow this is sad
    it's not fair that you have to pay more for stuff in AUS
    all the more reason to relocate to US


    1. Ha ha ha! Yeah, maybe it's telling me something. ;)

      I forgot to add that we have higher rates of pay, but I don't think that accounts for the large difference. Grrr. :D


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