Every once in a while in this hobby you decide to do something a bit crazy because, well, you can.
Of course, what counts as crazy will vary from hobbyist to hobbyist. For some people, crazy is flying 33,000 miles in a week. For others, it’s buying 1.25 million miles through pudding. For yet others it’s taking wheelbarrows of coins to the bank to generate miles. I could go on and on with stories of positioning yourself to strange lands to jump on cheap fares, flying in and out of a long haul destination on the same day just to try an airline’s new product (deliberately booking SQ’s oldest business class seat sounds mild by comparison) etc etc, but it’s safe to say that in this hobby, you can never be too crazy.
So when I tell you that I’m bringing back a few hundred cup noodles to finance an expensive meal in Tokyo, you really shouldn’t bat an eyelid…
Exhibit A: Nissin Nakiryu Dandan Cup Noodles
Can Michelin Star food be found in a Styrofoam cup? Well, that’s what Nissin is offering, in partnership with one-Michelin Star ramen restaurant Nakiryu in Tokyo. Since these babies were released at the end of May, they’ve been getting great reviews and hype up the wazoo.
“But they’re just instant noodles”, I hear you say. Well, yes, but they’re Michelin Starred instant noodles. A reviewer for RocketNews24 had this to say:
It had a mellow chicken flavor that was perfectly complemented by the sesame. There were also intermingling sour and spicy flavors that were distinct yet refined, for a solid blend overall. One of the more memorable parts of Nakiryu’s Dandan was the delectably textured noodles, and much to our reporter’s surprise the cup noodle version managed to somehow recreate that! Just like in the restaurant, the thin noodles trapped in the broth for an even flavor in each bite. It was magnificent.
Look, I have no idea how they taste, but the hype is going global and everyone wants to try them. Unfortunately, the noodles are currently only available in Japan, and buying them online incurs ridiculous shipping costs (not to mention they’re all sold out). Fortunately, I’m headed to Tokyo at the end of the month, which creates an interesting opportunity…
Exhibit B: AirFrov
My first option would be to buy back a few cartons of these noodles, list them on Carousell and flog them off. But then I’d have to arrange meet ups with individuals, travel all over and respond to messages like this.
Enter Option B- I wrote about AirFrov a few years back when they were just starting up and since then the community has really grown.
For those of you who haven’t heard about it, AirFrov is a P2P delivery service that lets you monetize the luggage space you’re not using when you travel. People post requests for items they want from overseas, you negotiate an acceptable price, buy the items and drop them off at AirFrov’s headquarters when you return. The requester pays 7% plus S$2 as a service fee; the traveler doesn’t pay anything.
If you enter the code UID53 when you sign up for an AirFrov account, you get S$10 of credit which can be used towards paying AirFrov fees as a requester (I get S$10 too).
This will be my first time using AirFrov, but I’m satisfied there are appropriate user protections in place (you can read more about it here, but TL;DR- once you’ve agreed to buy something on someone’s behalf, the requester deposits money into an escrow account by AirFrov which is released upon delivery. Once you’ve bought the item, the requester can’t back out) so I’m not worried.
Singaporeans go crazy for the latest Japanese food trend, and it’s no surprise that these Nakiryu noodles are one of the most requested items on AirFrov with over 244 requests (each request can be for multiple units) as of right now.
So it’s now just a simple matter of figuring out how many I can carry back. Which leads me to Exhibit C…
Exhibit C: SQ First Class Ticket
To get back to Singapore, I’ve redeemed my miles for a First Class ticket on SQ (I also used the stopover trick to add another trip to Sydney a few months down the road (hopefully with SQ’s new A380 cabin products), saving 40,000 miles in the process).
SQ gives First Class passengers 50kg of luggage allowance. As a Krisflyer Gold member, I get another 20kg.
When the weight concept is used, number of pieces is irrelevant. I have 70kg in total, which I can spread across as many bags as I wish. Each of the noodle cups weighs 140 grams. I doubt I’ll have more than 20kg of personal items, so there’s plenty of weight left over to lug noodles back.
Actually, the restriction isn’t so much weight but volume. The noodles come in hard packaging measuring 12x11x11 cm. So unless I bring along a few cardboard boxes, I might have to do some Tetris-style packing. But that sounds like a problem for future Aaron.
The biggest logistical issue I see is getting these noodles to the Narita airport. I’m not sure how many I will be able to fit into two large expandable bags plus a duffel bag carry on, but if all else fails I’ll just get a trolley to wheel some cartons as well. This may be an issue if I take the airport limo bus because apparently every customer is limited to 2 pieces of luggage (they say on their FB page they’re happy to take excess baggage if there’s space though). Taking an Uber to the airport would totally burn up any money I make on the noodles, so I’m going to have to be smart about this.
Putting it all together
This isn’t going to be a great money-making venture for me insofar as these instant noodles have a rather poor volume/profit ratio. The noodles themselves retail at 200 JPY (~S$2.50) per cup, and the lowest price I’m willing to buy them at is S$5. That means a profit margin, on average, of S$2.50 a cup*. My goal for this exercise is to generate enough money for one nice (non-instant) Michelin Star meal in Tokyo.
*My actual margins will be different once I account for 7% GST. Yes, you do need to pay GST on items bought for AirFrov buyers because they’re not for personal use. On the other hand, some people are willing to pay more than $5 a cup so it does balance out.
As of right now I’ve committed to purchase 111 units (generating about S$344 of profit) which should be a right barrel of fun to get to the airport.
I’m well aware that there are other things I could help bring back from Japan which would have much better volume/profit ratios, but buying just one type of item allows me to limit the amount of time I spend hunting things down. Besides, I love bringing food to people; I’m a giver that way. Also, the thought of building an instant noodle fort in my seat and doing the world’s first in-air taste testing of Michelin Star cup noodles complete with Krug and caviar gives me big boy feelings.
The other issue (which I probably should have mentioned first) is that the popularity of these noodles means they’re all sold out in stores. Fortunately, I know a guy who knows a guy who knows a guy, and a few phone calls were made. The catch? For it to be worth his while, I’d have to place a large order. Like 11 cartons large.
“That’s too much to bring home”, said brain.
“Shut it. This will be good for upper body development,” said biceps.
And that was that. That’s how 132 cups (11 cartons of 12 units) now sit in my hotel, awaiting my arrival.
And no, I’ve not forgotten about you, dear readers. Although the people on AirFrov will have to pay theirs the hard way, readers of The Milelion are a special, hunky bunch. So I’ve set aside 10 units for readers, to be given away in 5 sets of 2. No charge.
If you’d like to get your hands on a pair of Nakiryu instant ramen cups, simply sign up for the mailing list on the left of your screen AND leave a comment below and I’ll put you in the draw that will take place at 12pm SGT, Wednesday 30th August.
If you’ve already subscribed to the mailing list, congrats! Nothing for you to do but leave a note below commenting how monumentally stupid this idea is.
So yes. 132 cups of Michelin Star instant ramen. One SQ First Class seat. This’ll be fun.