Tarot by Post: How to Order Decks from the Other Side of the Globe
One of the most frequent questions I get is where I get my tarot decks. There aren't a lot of new age-y type stores here in Manila, and while we're lucky that Fully Booked branches carry a shelf of varied tarot decks every now and again, the choices we have are nowhere near as expansive as that of the US, Australia or Europe. When it comes to buying decks and not just your ordinary tarot deck but the kind that really makes an imprint on my wishlist, someone from the other side of the world needs to adapt a "when there's a will, there's a way" mindset!
The Internet. I'm pretty sure everyone will agree that going online is the easiest, quickest way to find a plethora of specialty tarot decks. Amazon offers incredible discounts and is the first place I turn to when I want to see how much a typical mass-produced deck is going to cost me (Bonus points for anyone with a Prime subscription because you get it super fast). Etsy, however, is the site I turn to for most of my deck purchases, because I am a sucker for independently produced rarities that aren't stocked in big box stores. Specialty stores like Two Sides Tarot (love her!!!) are also great for hard-to-find decks. I got in touch with her because I wanted a backup of my Dame Darcy first edition and she was the only one who still had it.
Hurdle: Customs at the Post Office. The dream would be to order from Amazon and Etsy and have everything sent straight to my doorstep (YouTube tarot reviewers who talk about how they see the USPS truck driving by gives me major PO envy! :P). Where I'm from, items hardly ever get delivered to your doorstep. Instead you receive a pick-up notice, you head to the Post Office, and have to contend with customs.
Now, I live in a developing country so rules and regulations aren't as black and white or clear cut as they would be in, say, the US. This is primarily why most of us here are turned off by ordering via post—you never know what surprise "rules" lay in store for you at the post. A lot of times, people get taxed double or triple the cost of whatever item it is they have ordered and there's never a fixed figure.
Solution #1: Send the deck to someone in the US and have them bring it home. To avoid any unnecessary spending, my first recourse was to scour the States for friends and family who are taking a trip to Manila. This sometimes means having to wait a couple of weeks or months before a deck finally gets to me, but it's worth it, knowing that you're skipping the harassment / hassle of dealing with undue charges.
Solution #2: Finding a forwarding service. The quickest workaround when it comes to online shopping is a forwarding service. Sites like Johnny Air and My Shopping Box allow you to shop and send your package to a US address. For a fee, they ship the items either via freight or air to Manila. Johnny Air offers easy pick-ups at their different locations around the city (pretty convenient!) and My Shopping Box can deliver straight to your doorstep. Yes, you pay an extra P900 or so (about US$20) but a fixed price offers more peace of mind than unspecified charges at the post office. It takes about a week and a half for your item to arrive via air (patience is a virtue).
Solution #3: Befriending the folks at your local post office. The first deck I ever ordered and had sent straight to Manila was the Light Grey Tarot. I wanted to test the waters, so to speak. Sometimes, you have no choice but to have the deck sent to your own address (as opposed to a friend's home in the States) because some sites don't allow deliveries to addresses that don't match your credit card's billing address. My Light Grey Tarot purchase went smoothly—I paid less than P100 (about US$2) to customs.
This then gave me the confidence to try again, and that's when I got into trouble. Duck Soup Productions was almost out of the first edition of Tarot of the Zirkus Magi so I panicked and thought, what the heck, I'll just order it and see what happens. The cost of the deck + shipping went a little over $50, and when I got to the Post Office, they were charging me upwards of P1500 for customs (about US$30). I would have been willing to pay for it just to get it over with, but I thought that things were a little shady. They told me that anything over $50 would cost more than the standard fee, but there was no set rule or table for taxes. I asked if they would be willing to issue an official receipt for the transaction which they kind of hemmed and hawed about—and that made me doubt the legitimacy of the whole thing. It just felt like someone was going to pocket the extra cash.
Luckily, there was an old lady on guard at the post office who recognized me from my other pick-ups (the Light Grey Tarot and some other small items I'd ordered from Hong Kong before) who said that she'd take care of it and I didn't need to "overpay." God bless her (I actually began reading her cards for her every time I stopped by the post office and she told me that she was about to retire).
Solution #4. Free international shipping sites. Last year, I made the precious discovery that sites like Book Depository and Wordery don't charge shipping for international orders. Yes, their discounts aren't as big as Amazon's but the post office charges (and I must admit they're a lot more transparent and official about customs charges these days—about P112 for any orders up to P10,000 is worth it) are about 1/10th the price of using a forwarding service. If you're willing to wait about 2-3 weeks for a deck to be delivered from the UK to Manila, then this is a pretty good solution.
If you're lucky, you may also have the pleasure of getting your deck delivered straight to your door. I have no idea how and why this happened that one time, but every time I put in a Book Depository order, I cross my fingers that I'll find my luck again.
Hope this helps anyone who's getting ready to start tarot collecting! :)