International Online Shopping: Careful what you wish for!

I love online shopping. For me, nothing can beat the convenience of sitting comfortably at my desk, looking at a large selection of interesting wares, being able to compare prices and quality and after having taken it all in, pressing that  “add to shopping cart” button to purchase the highly desired goods.

Unfortunately, there is just one problem. What if you find a really nice item, but the online shop is located in the wrong hemisphere? Let me give you an example. I am a huge fan of US-based online retailer Wayfair.com. For those of you who haven’t shopped there yet, Wayfair specialises in everything related to household goods and decor. Together with its sister company AllModern.com, the two sites offer an almost unbeatable selection of household objects, including furniture, decor items, light fixtures, kitchen utensils/china, appliances, art objects. Shopping there is amazingly easy and stress-free. If they say they have an item in stock, rest assured, they do and if you order it, it will be delivered promptly. If it’s not in stock, they notify you via email when it becomes available again (and if you so desire). Prices are reasonable and their return policy is straight-forward. Even better, for each purchase you make, you get “reward points” that you can apply without any further ado to your next purchase.

Recently, I found a cool piece of metal wall decor (by Moe’s home collection) on one of their sites. The price was good and from what I could see it fit perfectly into my daughter’s bedroom. Unfortunately, that particular bedroom is on the other side of the world – in New Zealand. Too bad? Not really …

Thankfully, I am not the only online shopper who buys “stuff” in geographies that are nowhere near to where the objects of desire are actually needed. To help international shoppers overcome that problem a number of services have sprung up over the last couple of years that permit you to buy abroad and have the purchased items shipped to your home address even if the online shop itself does not deliver internationally.

How does that work? The first step is to sign up with one of these shipping companies. In my case that was NZ Post. Once you have an account with them, they will issue you a local (i.e. close to the online shop) address (NZ Post calls it a “YouShop” address) that you are instructed to use instead of the actual destination. Apart from the physical location of the shipper’s US warehouse, this address includes your name and customer number so that they know to which of their customers the received items belong. Once one of your purchases arrives at the shipper’s warehouse, you are notified via email and asked to provide the shipment’s value, weight and final delivery destination. Based on your information you get the shipping invoice and as soon as you have paid that, your goods will be sent on to your final destination. If customs fees are due, additional communication may occur asking you to pay the fees online to clear customs.

In the case of my artwork purchase, all of this happened according to plan. Wayfair delivered to NZ Post’s warehouse. I was duly notified, paid my shipping fees to NZ Post (which were a bit higher than expected) and then simply waited for the art work to arrive. Within 2 weeks, I held the item in my hands (no customs fees were charged). Unfortunately, the art had suffered during transport and one of its metal disks had broken off. After debating whether I should fix it myself and/or send a complaint to Wayfair since the packaging appeared to be somewhat insufficient, I sent a quick note to Wayfair describing the case. I hinted, however, that I might be able to fix it myself and would merely expect some reward points as compensation if any.

Moe's home collection, Wayfair, damaged goods

First attempt: one disk (the one to the right) had popped off during transport.

Being Wayfair, they immediately replied they would look into the problem and promised to get back to me with a definite answer within 24 hours. Indeed within a few hours, they had resolved the case by dispatching a replacement which was sent off – of course – to my address with NZ Post.

Ooops.

Clearly, that was not what I had intended. Now shipping fees were due a second time. I decided, however, in the hope of getting an undamaged item to let it go and pay up. Interestingly, this time NZ Post only charged me half of what I had paid the first time around (I have no idea why).

Again, the replacement shipment arrived without any further problems. Full of positive expectations I unpacked it and … hard to believe, but unfortunately, true …: the replacement was damaged, too. Again, one of the disks had popped off, albeit a smaller one this time.

Wayfair, Moe's home collection, damaged artwork

Second attempt: again damaged … this time the little disk to the left did not manage to hold on!

I will now fix that one, and get creative with the other (maybe paint it to make it match the color scheme of another room?) …  In any case, I better do not bring this to Wayfair’s attention again ….!

What can we learn from this?

International online shopping is possible and it works rather well. In other words, we don’t need to limit our decor and furniture choices to domestic offerings any longer. (This may not be a problem in the US, but it certainly is in other countries!) Occasionally though, one may be in for a bit of a surprise: Even if all the parties involved try their best, there may be unintended (and potentially costly) consequences that simply arise because of the logistical complexities involved in making all of this happen.

Cheers, Sabine

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One response to “International Online Shopping: Careful what you wish for!

  1. Pingback: A Happy Accident | KaSa Global Interiors·

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