What New Users are Asking

OPAS recently participated in a New Year’s event held at a Japanese shopping center in suburb of Portland. The Shogatsu Matsuri or New Year’s Festival was a three day event with several booths for selling hot food like oden and imagawayaki and things like good luck charms from a local Buddhist temple. At our booth we had a game and participants could win a variety of prizes. We also used it as an opportunity to speak to people about OPAS and answer some questions about international shopping and personal import.

Banner

Portland has the 7th highest Japanese population in the United States, and since it was during the holidays, there were a lot of people visiting people around Portland who live in Japan. Some were native Japanese visiting American relatives, and some were Americans who live in Japan, but came home for the holidays.

Many had never heard of our company, and had never heard of a service like ours. “Our daughter [or son, or niece, or nephew] lives in Japan and is always asking us to send things!” was a statement we heard many times. With OPAS there is no need to bother relatives to send favorites from home. With your OPAS account you can order online from an American retailer, send it to your OPAS address in Portland, and then we will consolidate your orders and prepare them for international shipping. When you are ready to have them sent to you, just a couple clicks gets them on their way.

A couple people asked us about shipping cars to and from Japan. This is a much bigger proposition than importing a phone or sweater, and we usually recommend a company that specializes in importing and exporting motor vehicles. We have sent scooters overseas, however. And we see a lot of car parts go through our warehouse.

“I have a car I imported from Japan specially. However, I can’t get the parts I need in the US.” This is an issue we heard at the festival. “My mechanic doesn’t want to send the parts I need overseas, so I have to wait for someone who is coming to the US to bring them for me.” In this day and age there is no more need for people to wait weeks or months to get things sent internationally. We recommended she use OPAS and have her mechanic send the parts to our Osaka office. From there we’ll get them sent to her home in the US. This was one of the more unique situations we heard about, but I was glad we were able to help her.

many-mustang-rims-at-am2014

Some people asked about foods and wine. For example, you cannot ship wine using the US Postal Service because all alcoholic beverages are considered “Hazardous Materials.” However you can ship wine to Japan using Yamato Transport, but you can’t using UPS unless you are a licensed wine shipper. Even if the carrier will take it, there are some countries where alcohol is illegal. It’s not hard to guess that firearms and ammunition cannot be shipped internationally. But did you know knives can be just as difficult?

People are not surprised that spray paint cannot be shipped in the mail, but neither can most bottles of nail polish. Most people don’t need to send rubbing alcohol in the mail, because it’s cheaper to buy than send. That’s why they are surprised to find out perfume and cologne are also mostly restricted for shipping because of their alcohol content. We tell our users to check before you order whether or not an item can be sent overseas. Of course, we check as well to make sure we are not sending items that will get confiscated.

chanel-no-5-perfume-mc-0513-lg

Do you have questions about ordering and getting items shipped to you? Please feel free to ask us here or email us at service@opas.com


‘Tis the Season: For Phishing! (WARNING!)

As the holiday shopping season ramps up, the savvy online shopper must be prepared to protect themselves from the many, many individuals out there who want to steal your vital financial information through scam emails.

Phishing, one of the most common types of online theft, is effective mainly because it relies on the victim handing over their data directly, as opposed to “hacking” into your account or any other sort of cyber-theft that’s been popularized in fiction, usually involving unsavory-looking individuals hunkered over a bank of glowing computer screens in a dimly-lit room.

how-to-avoid-online-identity-theftThe basic method by which Phishing works is that you are sent an email, usually disguised to look like it’s from a source you’d expect to trust: Amazon, PayPal, or even your bank. In the email they’ll ask you to click on a link to update your account information or something like that, but the link WON’T lead to the actual destination. It’ll lead to a site where the data thieves will collect your information. Sometimes, they’ll even have a link on the Phishing page that passes you along to the genuine page, just to keep their deception in effect.

So how do you protect yourself?

1. Banks and big companies don’t request or send sensitive information by email. It’s the same rule as by telephone communications – they only ask for your sensitive information when you’re the one contacting them.

2. Take the long way around: If you get an email from a company saying that they’re having trouble processing your order and won’t be able to ship unless you follow their link and fill out the information there, don’t go through the link. In another browser window, login to your account with that company and check the order status that way. If the email is a Phishing scam, you’ll find there’s nothing out of the ordinary.

3. Check the URL: Any time you click on a link, check where it’s actually sent you before you input anything. What a link looks like and where it sends you are not always the same thing.

4. How did they address you? If it’s a genuine email from Amazon or some other company you have an account with, they have your name on file. Companies use their customers’ names in emails not only as a way to make you feel comfortable in dealing with them, but also as a security measure. If it’s addressed only “Dear Sir/Madam,” or “Dear (your email address here)” that’s a good indicator it’s fake.

5. Watch out for embedded forms! Sometimes, the email might have a form embedded instead of a link, and don’t trust that any more than you would the link!

Some of this may seem like common-sense sort of information, but Phishing scammers these days are getting smarter and smarter – the pages their links send you to may look practically identical to the account pages you’re used to dealing with from some of your favorite websites. They hope to catch you when you’re not paying close attention.

At OPAS, we want to do everything we can to ensure our members have a safe online shopping experience.

Here’s a link to a recent post from AARP (the American Association of Retired People) that highlights the idea of the Phishing link sending you to a page that is expertly disguised to look like another page:

http://blog.aarp.org/2016/12/02/new-amazon-phishing-scam-confirm-your-information-to-process-order/?cmp=EMC-DSO-NLC-RSS–TECH-CTRL-120516-P2-1662408&ET_CID=1662408&ET_RID=8510053&encparam=VHciUibIk9633UgjYMHoPw==

The example they use is an actual Phishing scam that’s been circulated in the UK and Australia; since OPAS has many members in both of these countries, we wanted to be sure to include this in our post.

Here’s another good resource from online security company Norton: https://us.norton.com/7-tips-to-protect-against-phishing/article

Have a great (and SAFE) holiday shopping season!


US Unlocked Makes International Shopping Even Easier

As an OPAS member, you surely know there can be many barriers to international online shopping. Many online retailers don’t ship outside of the US. That’s one of the areas OPAS helps customers with. Some retailers are also very strict about what payment methods they accept. Credit card companies like VISA and American Express are known and trusted throughout the world, but in an effort to keep markets separated, some retailers don’t allow non-US issued credit cards to be used for payment on their American retail sites. This is why OPAS joined with US Unlocked. If you run into trouble making payments online, US Unlocked may be the answer for you. Together we make shopping online smooth and hassle-free.

USU OPASUS Unlocked offers US issued credit cards to international online shoppers in a prepaid format. Instead of spending time shopping only to find out your payment method isn’t accepted at a particular US retailer, with your US Unlocked prepaid credit card you can make purchases online with no fear of being rejected.

Applying for a US Unlocked account just got easier. You can see follow the instructions here to get everything lined up before the big Black Friday sales begin soon.

This Holiday Season shop with confidence using OPAS and US Unlocked.


Celebrate Black Friday With Us!

Coming Soon: Black Friday and Cyber Monday

November is upon us, so that means the holidays are coming soon. Thanksgiving is holiday unique to Americans, but the sales associated with Thanksgiving are something savvy shoppers look forward to worldwide. Black Friday falls on the day after Thanksgiving and it was traditionally the biggest shopping day of the year in the US. Stores used to open early Friday morning to start the holiday shopping season. Surely you have seen pictures and videos of shoppers waiting in line for stores to open, and then the mad dash of shoppers as as they run into the stores.

BLKFA few years ago stores began opening at midnight after Thanksgiving, to get an even earlier jump on consumer’s Christmas gift money. Then even more recently stores started their sales even earlier! Some chains began sales during the day on Thanksgiving, considering the fact everyone had the day off. There has been some backlash to this “jumping the gun,” though. Many people who want to take advantage of the deals don’t want to give up time with their families on Thanksgiving Day. Large retailers also started requiring their staff to work when only a few years earlier they all would have had the day off. This resulted in quite a bit of negative press for especially the largest retailers, and some consumers even carried out campaigns to boycott stores open on Thanksgiving Day, and to only shop at stores that gave their employees the holiday off. Despite the great sales, bad press is never welcome.

Since all the big retailers also sell their goods online, many are avoiding the backlash of early Thanksgiving sales by having their sales online even earlier instead of only in their physical stores. As an OPAS member this is great for you! Stores are also learning that as shoppers are more aware of the timing of sales and special deals and that running out of popular products hurts everyone. Sales are spread out a little more to not overwhelm sellers. For example, in addition to Black Friday, “Cyber Monday” is becoming a new tradition. This is the first Monday after Thanksgiving, so this year it is November 28. Some stores have extended their online exclusive sales to a “Cyber Week” to last even longer. So it is a great time to be an OPAS member and to do online shopping at US retailers!


The Story Of Our Founder, Part 3

The following happened during the time I sold handmade jewelry as a street vendor in Geneva, Switzerland. I think I was around 21 or 22 at the time. One evening I went out around closing time to the area where the high class stores selling Rolex and Omega watches were lined up. From my bag I pulled out a large, table-top sized velvet cloth and laid it down by the street. I then arranged the necklaces and other jewelry I had designed on the cloth and sat down to wait for potential customers.

After a being patient for a little while, a young girl around kindergarten age and a woman who appeared to be her mother and another women who appeared to be her grandmother came by where I was set up. The little girl didn’t appear to be Japanese, but was very cute. The lovely woman whom I thought to be her mother also didn’t appear to be Japanese. However, I could quickly tell that the kind-looking grandmother was from Japan. It was clear there was something different about these three, and as I wondered who they might be, the mother started speaking to the young child in Japanese. “Which one do you like?” “How about this one?” she asked. Then they bought two or three necklaces. After the mother asked me where I was from and a few simple questions about Japan she wished me “Good luck,” in Japanese and they continued down the street.

Right after that a Japanese woman just a little older than me ran over to where I was sitting. “Don’t you know who that was?!” she asked. “That was Dewi Fujin! She’s famous!” She then ran off, possibly to chase down the popular TV personality and socialite. If I ever have another chance to meet Dewi Fujin, I would like to ask her if she remembers buying jewelry from a Japanese hippie in Geneva so many years before.


It’s Not Too Late to Shop For Halloween!

Halloween is only a month away. Have you and your little one chosen Halloween costumes yet? Although Halloween traditions didn’t start in the United States, it is a very big deal. Children dress up and trick-or-treat around their neighborhoods, and older kids and adults attend costume parties around this time. The costumes, decorations and food are a big part of these celebrations. On top of that, these traditions are growing in popularity around the world.

Pottery Barn Kids

http://www.potterybarnkids.com/sho  p/halloween/?cm_type=lnav1

Older kids often like to wear popular characters, like Disney princesses or Marvel Avengers, but littler ones look extra cute in traditional costumes that can be shared for years. Ghosts, spiders, witches…These are great outfits for getting the cutest photos opportunities.

Pottery Barn Kids has very high quality costumes that are safe and durable. Along with the Halloween classics, you can find their hip WWF animal series as well as the fuzzy and warm dinosaur and dragon get-ups. These are great for Halloween, but also for just playing pretend, and they won’t likely be put away after the 31st.

Williams-Sonoma

http://www.williams-sonoma.com/shop/halloween/?cm_type=gnav2When people think Halloween, they think Halloween candy. But the Halloween eating is more, and it’s easy to impress with some decorations and kits you can find at Williams-Sonoma. They have a very good reputation for high quality housewares and kitchen goods. The Williams-Sonoma Halloween Collection has expanded in recent years to include some amazing treats and bakeware.


Home Depot

http://www.homedepot.com/b/Holiday-Decorations-Halloween-Outdoor-Halloween-Decorations3

Outdoor decorating used to be mostly a Christmas tradition, but these days outdoor decorations for Halloween are becoming more extravagant and exciting. Trick-or-treaters get an extra thrill from animated decorations often equipped with light and sounds. Houses with extra special decorations also have a reputation for extra special treats, so brave souls will venture through zombies and graveyards for their candy reward. Outdoor decorations don’t have to be creepy, though. Homes attracting younger revelers will use goofy setups to bring in the little goblins.

Home Depot is most famous for tools and building supplies, but this time of year it is hard to miss their giant Halloween section. From giant inflatable pumpkins to animated light shows, Home Depot carries a wide variety of weatherproof outdoor decorations.

Order soon to make sure you are prepared for October 31! And you will save big on shipping when you consolidate your orders with OPAS.


10 Online Stores You’ve Never Heard Of

One of the most difficult aspects of online shopping can simply be that there’s SO many options! The presence of online giants like Amazon can also be overwhelming, and sometimes based on that, shoppers may miss out on some of the less-known stores. One of the greatest benefits of OPAS membership is limitless access to all of these great stores, so we’re going to help you out with some recommendations from our staff and members!

We hope you love the stores we recommend in this list, if you have any other great resources to share with us, please do so in the comment section!

10 Online Stores You've Never Heard Of

Yvng Pearl is a line of pins, nail decals, apparel, and more! Influenced by rock n’ roll and feminism, Yvng Pearl is the perfect combination of badass and classic.

MAKE believes there are no beauty rules. That each individual is driven by an artistic approach to their own personal reality. All products are paraben-free and never tested on animals. 10% of sales are donated to the We See Beauty Foundation, supporting women-led, worker-owned cooperative businesses across the Americas. Free shipping to your OPAS US shipping address on orders over $25.

Arro Home, your home would love these fun and affordable home goods, from fabulous bedding to durable cotton rugs, your living room will thank us.

Bean bags are always pretty cool, but the ones at Woouf are sure to impress even the most jaded of bean bag aficionados.

Trying to update your home or need a temporary home decor pick-me-up? Hygge&West helps you create a a cozy, beautiful environment where small, everyday moments can be enjoyed. From permanent wallpaper to removable wallpaper tiles, plenty of choices!

Alite makes “going outside simple” with its selection of outdoor equipment to take with you when you head off into the great outdoors. Explore the great outdoors!

Need a hip dog bed to show off your furry friend? Head over to Waggo, with a great collection of pet-friendly gear! Your four legged friend will be much impressed.

For the cutest clothes you have ever laid eyes on and a great resource for costumes, head over to Wild Things.

If you are looking for unusual, cool and affordable gifts take a look at BlueQ, from cool socks to a hip lip balm, they have you covered.

Throwing a party but don’t want to be stuck with a mountain of un-recycables? Sucre Shop has the cutest bamboo party gear!


Package Forwarding Plans For Every Shipping Need

Finding a package forwarding plan that works for you and your shipping needs doesn’t have to be a challenge with our straightforward membership plans!

Let’s take a look at the package forwarding plans we offer.

Free Package Only, with this membership plan you can receive packages at your personal US package forwarding address at our warehouse in Oregon (added benefit: Oregon is a 0% US sales tax state) and have them shipped to your home when you are ready. You get access to our personal shopper service, this comes in especially handy when you want to shop at a store that has challenging policies with regards to package forwarding.

On top of all these features you can have us consolidate your packages for a flat fee of $10. Consolidating your packages can truly save you a bundle. Shipping companies charge fees based on the three dimensional size and weight of your package. So creating the smallest package possible is our goal when consolidating packages for you!  Last but not least, due to OPAS’ founder’s roots in Japan, you also get a free Japanese package forwarding address. This might not be on your radar right away, but you will be pleasantly surprised by the many unique items you can shop for on Japanese online stores.

Premium Package & Mail, the next step on our membership plan ladder. This plan offers you all the same features as our Free Package Only account above, and much more;  With your Premium Package & Mail plan you can also receive regular mail, this comes in very handy if  you are currently an expat living abroad and do not want to burden your family with your mail or have a post box somewhere, overflowing with mail.

This plan also gets you a discounted shipping rate, ànd discounted access to our personal shopper service. It also allows you to add multiple users to your account (family friendly) and gives you FREE package consolidation. 

PREMIUM Plus NuSkin/Distributors, this plan is uniquely designed with the NuSkin Distributor in mind but also works for other similar MLM companies.  This membership plan has many of the same features as our Free Package Only plan, and allows you to receive and ship packages. It also gives you access to our personal shopper service, discounted shipping rates and FREE package consolidation. The PREMIUM Plus NuSkin/Distributors plan allows you to service your entire network with one account and gives you access to your own shipment planner dashboard.  

package forwarding membership plans

In short, if you are going to be sending yourself a few packages here and there, with not a lot of need for package consolidation our free package only account is a good place to start. However, if you feel like you will be sending yourself frequent packages for more than one vendor, it is worth getting our Premium Package & Mail for obvious reasons, the main reason being savings. With this account you get free package consolidation and very friendly shipping rates.

The PREMIUM Plus NuSkin/Distributors is perfect for NuSkin distributors but is equally beneficial to other MLM distributors. If you have any questions about how to set up this particular account and how to add multiple users to your account, we are at your service. 

There are many reasons to choose OPAS, besides all the features mentioned above, we offer world class customer service. Don’t just take our word for it, read our testimonial page.

All the features you need. OPAS makes it easy to shop the US and receive your items at home.

International Shipping Solutions For Online Businesses

Here at OPAS, we think it’s worth pointing out that our US mailing address forwarding service is great for businesses as well as individuals, and understanding that could help you get more from your time online – and even help your business in the process.

We receive, package and send your stuff for the lowest possible price.

International Shipping Solutions For Online Businesses

If you’re not convinced that a US mailing address forwarding service is worth it for businesses, think about some of the following uses.

  • Online retailers who want to expand their businesses over borders can use OPAS to do just that, send your products to our warehouse and we receive, package and send to your international customer.  
  • Ordering supplies, products, and other similar things can cost businesses a tremendous amount of money. But you can avoid a lot of those higher costs when you order business basics online with your US mailing address forwarding service.
  • Point your international shoppers to OPAS and the US mailing address forwarding opportunity that we provide.

As with a personal use US mailing address forwarding service, OPAS works in a very efficient way. Our team will help set you up with a US mailing address and a digital VISA card that is connected to it. You can use both to shop as much as you like online, using your US address where prompted in order forms.

International Shipping Solutions

We can tailor a set of procedures for receiving, storage and shipping that will fit your requirements, and we can offer competitive rates with discounts based on volume, simply put our international shipping solutions for online businesses can help you grow your business.

Once that your shipment arrives at the US address, our team collects it and then forwards it to you, wherever you may be. This lets businesses shop online and access all the great sales and specials that US customers can access without any hassle at all. And by taking steps like parcel consolidation, you can keep your shipping costs even lower and bring a US mailing address forwarding service even further into your life.

Simply put, you and your business can both benefit in a big way from our US mailing address forwarding service. If you’re ready to start shopping like you deserve to be able to, our team is here and ready to help make it happen. Contact us today and we’ll help you get started with a US mailing address and your VISA card. You can be taking advantage of great prices for your business before you know it.


The Story Of Our Founder, Part 2

We continue with our entertaining series of blog posts written by our president and founder Toshiyasu Abe.

Today, I’d like to share a story from my youth, when I was traveling the world.

I was only 19 years old when I visited Europe for the first time.  Just like my trip from Japan to the U.S., I traveled by ship from New York to Southampton, England, then took a train from there to London, and stayed at a youth hostel for a few nights.

founder and president OPAS Toshiyasu Abe

 

While I was in London, I remember reading that the most beautiful town in the world was called Edinburgh, in Scotland. (Very effective marketing from the Edinburgh tourism board!)  Since I had no particular plan to go anywhere, I decided to visit Edinburgh and see “the most beautiful town in the world” for myself.

By the time my train got to Edinburgh, it was almost evening. I did think the town was lovely at first glance, but as I got off the train, something rather peculiar happened; a group of strangely-dressed children approached me, evidently begging for food. I didn’t have any, so I apologized and went on my way.

I then saw several other groups of children who were begging as well, who were also dressed oddly, in my opinion.  When I stepped outside of the train station, there were even more children panhandling. I was definitely confused, I didn’t know why Edinburgh as such a beautiful town would have so many poor children begging for food, and it made me very sad.

After spending two nights in Edinburgh, I went back to London.  I did not see any children begging there.  The beautiful but poor town of Edinburgh had made a strong impression on me. From time to time I would recall the little panhandlers I saw, and shared this experience with my friends.

It wasn’t until perhaps seven or eight years has passed that I understood. I was telling one of my friends the sad story of the children in Edinburgh.  He then asked me what time of the year it was when I had visited. Although I had told the story numerous times, this was the first time someone had asked this specific question in response.

I remembered it was very cold at night; so cold that I had to sleep in layers of my sweaters and blankets to keep myself warm.  I told him it was either October or November.  “Oh, it was Halloween!”, my friend said with a laugh.  It sure was!  The “poor, strangely-dressed children” were trick-or-treating for candy, not panhandling!

I had never heard of Halloween when I lived in Japan.  Even after I moved to the U.S. and learned a bit about the holiday, I never really put the children in Edinburgh and Halloween together.  I still find it funny that for many years I had carried these children in Edinburgh as a sad memory!

Edinburgh was a beautiful town and definitely memorable, even outside the Halloween misunderstanding.  I always share this story whenever I get a chance, I feel like it is a representation of what made me want to travel, and to learn about other places and people in this great wide world.

Connecting with people from different places and connecting them to each other has been a goal of mine, which is a big part of why I chose to work and start my business in the field of international shipping and commerce.

I also had another experience in Edinburgh that sounds like something from a novel or movie, but that’s a story for another time.