A lot of people would agree with me when I say that one of the best things that came out from the Internet is online shopping. Online shopping is convenient, exciting, and ADDICTIVE. Unfortunately, online shopping isn’t instant gratification: you still have to wait for items to arrive. For some, the waiting adds to the excitement of buying online. To some, the waiting is the most annoying part of online shopping.

I’ve been shopping online since 2002. My first purchase was for a 2nd laptop from an Ebay seller in the U.S. I got hooked after the first bid. After 8 years, I’ve learned enough lessons on doing international online shopping that now I’m listing these lessons Β in the following section. I hope they help you with your exploration into international online shopping.

Ebay.com

When buying from Ebay, make sure you log in to Ebay.ph instead of Ebay.com. By logging into Ebay.ph, you get the prices in Pesos, even if the items are not in the Philippines. This will help with the foreign exchange rates.

Check Seller feedback

If you do buy from Ebay, make sure to check the seller feedback. Based on personal experience, it’s safer to buy from a seller that has more that a thousand feedbacks and 99% of the feedbacks are POSITIVE.

Check payment options

Paypal is still the safest option to pay for international online purchases. If the seller requires money transfers or back deposits, think twice. A lot of people have already been victimized by scammers who require direct deposits and money transfer through western union and others.

Check Shipping options

Don’t bid or buy any item that won’t be shipped to your place. Common sense, right? Well, there are still alot of newbies that don’t understand this concept. They bid or buy, but when it’s time to pay they find out that the item will not be shipped to their place. So again, check shipping options. If you’re unsure, ask the seller.

Request for more photos of the item

Some sellers tend to post just one photo of their items. You can send them private messages to request for more photos so that you can have a better idea of the item you’re buying.

Important things to know about shipping

Here are some things to note about international shipping:

Items located in Hongkong and China

When the item you buy is located in Hong Kong or China, expect it to be delivered withing 3 weeks. And don’t expect it to be delivered to your doorstep. The item will be delivered to the customs section of the nearest post office from your place. You will receive a claim card from the Customs saying you have a parcel for pickup. You then need go to the customs office and present the small claim card and pay 40 50 Pesos (as of this posting) for small parcels. For bigger parcels from China or Hong Kong (bigger than an envelope), they can be sent to the Customs office in Pasay City (read more about it below).

Items located in US

  • Shipped by USPS
    If you bought stuff from the US through Ebay, the sellers will usually send the items by US Postal Service (USPS). Now remember this, if they do send them through USPS and it’s a small item, the parcel can and may be treated like that regular parcel from Hong Kong or China. BUT, if the item is bigger than an envelope, expect it to be sent to the Customs office in Pasay. When your item doesn’t arrive within three weeks, chances are it’s being held up in the Pasay office. The few times I’ve been there to collect parcels, I always experience corruption and red tape.
    First, they will interrogate you about the item you receive. If they believe that the real value was not stated in the customs papers, they will threaten to hold the item. They will charge you higher customs taxes. Unless you give enough evidence that the item doesn’t really cost that much, you won’t win the argument. They will gang up on you. Once you’re hopeless, and distraught, they will tell you that because they want to help you, they can cut down the customs tax but it won’t be reflected in the records—it will just be between you and you them: No receipts, no records.
  • Shipped by Couriers (DHL/Fedex/UPS)
    To have better chances of getting your items fast and almost hassle-free, use DHL/Fedex/UPS if they’re available as shipping options.
    The only downside to this is higher shipping cost—and higher taxes. Sometimes the taxes wouldn’t be stated in the original purchase because the tax will depend on the Customs office of the Philippines. These couriers will pay the tax first then before they release the items to you, you have to pay them the amount they paid for taxes.

Amazon.com

When buying hard to find books (not available in local bookstores), try Amazon.com. For other items, check Ebay for better pricing. One good reason for buying from Amazon is that they offer different shipping options for books. For non-book items, Amazon doesn’t always ship to the Philippines or other Asian countries. You can try their Amazon.com International Shipping site.

Based on my experience on buying from Amazon, the books usually arrive within 2 weeks. Sometimes it’s better to check with National Bookstore or Powerbooks if they can order the books you want and get a quote how much it would cost and how long it will take to receive the book. Then, check in Amazon to compare which option (Local bookstore or Amazon) is the practical option.

Adorama.com

Adorama is another great option for international online shopping. Β The site offers a huge collection of products and best of all they offer different shipping options, excluding USPS.

By the way, Adorama especializes in photography, computer, and consumer electronic products so don’t expect cooking ware or toys from their huge collection.

An alternative to Adorama, if you’re shopping for photography related products is B & H Photo video. But since I still don’t have a purchase with them, I can’t recommend B & H.

Alternative Shipping Option: Johnny Air Cargo Padala Retail

Johnny Air Cargo Padala Retail is a good and cheaper alternative to shipping items from the U.S.

The process is simple:

  1. You contact Johnny Air Cargo Padala Retail and ask them for an account. The account is basically a shipping address named after you but addressed to the Johnny Air Cargo office in the US. What does this mean for you? Simply put, it gives you a US ship-to address, hence, you’re no longer required to pay for international shipping, but only pay for local shipping.
  2. Ok, now if your item has been shipped to the Johnny Air Cargo US office, how will you get it here in the Philippines? Again, simple: Johnny Air Cargo will ship it from their US office to their Philippine office for a (most of the time) cheaper cost. You then just pay that amount plus any applicable taxes at their Philippine office, then you get your item. The shipping time is usually within two weeks after they receive the item in the US.

So again, if you have some stuff getting shipped from the US, before you finalize the shipping arrangements, check with Johnny Air Cargo Padala Retail first to compare prices.

I used them when we ordered all our wedding souvenirs from the US.

Summary:

  • When doing international online shopping, try to check Ebay,Amazon, or Adorama first for better price comparisons.
  • Always check payment and shipping options first before committing to the purchase.
  • Always go with established retailers.

I hope this lengthly post gives you a better idea of doing international online shopping. Good luck with your next purchase!