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10/23/2017

Best Way to Shop the USA from Anywhere in the World

best_way_to_get_goods_from_us

 

If you are an expat living all the way across the world from your country, I can bet you’ve faced the same dilemma I had. But even if you live in your home country, but like certain brands that aren’t available there, you will certainly find some helpful information below too. Most of this info is true for shopping any country in the world, not just the United States.


Here is a bit of background to help you understand what this story is about. My home is in the USA, in the beautiful Washington State to be exact. However, life has brought me to Kazakhstan, where I have been living for a few years now for work-related reasons. I have two kids who are here with me. Being boys, they go through clothes like crazy and I have to constantly shop for them. My favorite children’s clothing store has always been the Children’s Place (I’ll refer to it as CP in this story): I find that this brand fits my boys the best, lasts longer and is very comfortable to wear. Unfortunately, there are no CP stores in Kazakhstan. So I’ve been trying out different ways of shopping this US store and getting clothes delivered to me. Today I believe I can safely say that I’ve tried them all, namely:

how-to-get-goods-shipped-from-us-to-anywhere

In an attempt to avoid international delivery altogether, I have also tried finding clothes locally that would be of similar quality and fit, so we might as well include this method into our comparison chart.

I am writing this story to help other people in a situation similar to mine to save time and money by not doing the same research (and making the same mistakes) I did. I will list all the figures here so you can decide which shopping and shipping option works best for you.

For starters, let’s cross option #1 off the list, as not everyone has friends or relatives in the USA. For me getting the money over to my friends so they could pay for shipping has become a problem, therefore I’m no longer using this route. Let’s go through the other options one by one.

 

Children’s Place’s International Shipping Service

Children’s Place partners with a company that offers shipping to a bunch of countries worldwide, including Kazakhstan. You have to pick your destination first and then start placing items into your shopping cart. The reason for that is that prices are HIGHER when you shop with Kazakhstan set as your destination. I have found that the difference can come to as much as 30%. As if that weren’t enough, you can’t use coupons or rewards when shopping CP from outside of the USA, and I usually save at least $10 or $15 using coupons. The shipping fees seem pretty reasonable, but the price difference and lack of coupons eat up the savings.

'...prices are HIGHER when you shop with Kazakhstan set as your destination.'

 

Local International Shopping Service

There are numerous services in Kazakhstan that help you shop foreign stores and get stuff delivered to you. I did my research and found one that had the best terms and lowest fees. I placed my order back in November of 2016 and paid the full price for goods, services and shipping before anything was purchased for me.  As I am writing these lines, it is late August of 2017 and I still don’t have one of the items from my order. As it turns out, the service’s US forwarder may pack items purchased for one shopper into different packages, as they pack a few boxes at a time. My order ended up divided into 3 portions. I received one in early February, another one in late March and the last item is still en route. I guess I got “lucky”. The service charges 16% in fees and about $3 to $5 per item for shipping. That can come to quite a bit: a $7 T-shirt ends up costing $11 or more. But it’s mostly the long wait that makes me think I’m not going to use this service anymore.

'...The service charges 16% in fees and about $3 to $5 per item for shipping.'

 

Shopping within Kazakhstan

Salaries in Kazakhstan are quite a bit lower than in the USA and there are lots of inexpensive clothes sold everywhere. Clothes from China are usually the cheapest and are often of poor quality. I did try finding apparel that would be equal in quality and style to the Children’s Place clothing my family is used to, and I found some really great brands that are sold in Kazakhstan. However, prices on what’s considered premium apparel here aren’t that friendly. A pair of decent boys’ jeans can cost $30, $40 or $50. And I’m not talking about anything really fancy, just stuff that’s similar in quality to Children’s Place. I do go this route now and then, but I can’t afford to do it too often.

'...prices on what’s considered premium apparel here aren’t that friendly.'

 

Parcl Service

The last option, and as it turns out the winning one, is Parcl.com. If you haven’t heard of it, that’s okay. I hadn’t either until I came across the name in my search for a faster way to get stuff to me from the USA. Parcl isn’t just any forwarding service. It is basically a website where package forwarders from different countries sign up to bid on orders and shoppers can find a forwarder in almost any country. There are quite a few forwarders in the USA, so I had plenty to choose from when I placed my order there.

I was actually surprised when the shipping cost quoted by a forwarder was lower than the quote I got on usps.com even though it was for the same service – International Priority with insurance. I did choose to pay for additional services because I wanted to be sure I’ll get exactly the stuff I ordered. I paid about $13 total for the forwarder to check every item and verify the sizes and styles against my list.

'I was actually surprised when the shipping cost quoted by a forwarder was lower than the quote I got on usps.com'

 

What was great about using Parcl is that I got the same privileges I’d get shopping the store from the US. That includes being able to use discount coupons, free shipping to the forwarder’s address and the lowest prices available to US shoppers only. Another thing I liked about Parcl was the fact that there was a live person in the USA: I could discuss order details with them, tell them exactly how I wanted things packed and what I wanted listed on my customs declaration. I loved the experience so much that I have since placed 2 more orders through Parcl: one for ink cartridges for my US-bought printer and another for some gifts for my Kazakh friends. These were all placed at different times, otherwise I could have combined all of these into one package and saved a lot on shipping. My Children’s Place package shipped using Parcl arrived to me within 10 days (yes, less than 2 weeks all the way across the globe!) and everything was packed just the way I wanted.

'My Children’s Place package shipped using Parcl arrived to me within 10 days (yes, less than 2 weeks all the way across the globe!)'

 

Just so that you could visualize the difference between these options, I’ve put together a comparison table with some numbers for you:

 

Option 1:

CP’s Intl Shipping

 

Option 2:

Local Intl Shopping Service

 

Option 3:

Buying Stuff Locally in Kazakhstan

 

Option 4:

Parcl.com

 
  The-Childrens-Place-international-shipping traditional-package-forwarding-company local-shopping-in-kazakhstan parcl-shipping-from-usa-service
Cost of goods*

$228

$180 $380 $158
Cost of shipping*

$90

$150 0 $109
Additional expenses

Since CP will specify the exact amount you spent on goods, you may have to pay import taxes when you get the package if the amount spent exceeds the allowed limit for your country

Fees charged by the service for their assistance ultimately come to about 25% of the goods cost

None

Any additional services you order, such as package consolidation (useful when you shop at several different stores), contents check, etc.  But you don’t have to order any additional services if you don’t want to.

Pros

- You shop straight from the CP website

- The shipping service is authorized by CP, so it makes you feel secure

- The service is local, so you can always call them if things don’t go right

- Refund is guaranteed if the package doesn’t make it from the US to Kazakhstan (i. e. gets lost), although you have to wait several months to get the refund

- You get good quality

- You can try things on before buying and make sure they fit right

- Inexpensive

- Live personal helper

- You can combine packages from multiple stores into one

- Forwarders compete for your business and you can choose the lowest bid

- Fast delivery

- You can fill out the customs declaration yourself to make sure things don’t get held up at Customs

 
Cons

- Store prices + about 30%

- No coupons

- PayPal not accepted

- Have to use a Kazakh CC

 

- Exchange rate is unfavorable

- Items may sell out between when you make the payment and when things get purchased for you

- Delivery takes up to several months!

 

- Very expensive

- Had a PayPal issue (that got resolved with the forwarder’s help)

Would I recommend this route? Yes, if higher prices don’t scare you, you have no coupons you wanted to use, and you have a credit card issued in the country where you are shipping to. Probably not. Even though there are some pros to this route, the cons overwrite them for me. Yes, if you are rich and don’t mind paying a lot more for quality clothes. A definite YES! Having had 3 orders shipped through Parcl I experienced no major problems. My packages arrived quickly and everything was in perfect order.

* To make comparing these options easier, I calculated what it would cost to purchase and ship the same set of items: 4 pairs of boys' jeans, 8 T-shirts, 2 packs of socks, 2 packs of undies, 2 PJ sets and 2 sweatshirts. This is approximately what my package from Children’s Place would normally contain

 

Item

Quantity

Cost per item

Total cost[T1]

 

 

Option1

Option2

Option3

Option4

Option1

Option2

Option3

Option4

Jeans

4

$13

$10

$35

$9

$52

$40

$140

$36

T-shirt

8

$8

$6

$10

$5

$64

$48

$80

$40

6-pack of socks

2

$12

$10

$15

$9

$24

$20

$30

$18

7-pack of boxer briefs

2

$16

$14

$30

$12

$32

$28

$60

$24

PJ set

2

$14

$11

$18

$10

$28

$22

$36

$20

Sweatshirt

2

$14

$11

$17

$10

$28

$22

$34

$20

TOTAL:

 

 

 

 

$228

$180

$380

$158

 

Conclusion    

Besides the fact that with Parcl I paid less than using any of the other three routes and got my things faster, I’ve got other reasons to recommend this service. The experience of dealing with a live individual on the other end of the globe (who was extremely helpful and accommodating), being able to shop several stores and combine all my buys into one package, the fact that you stay in full control throughout the shipping process (getting to pick the forwarder, the shipping method, what to write on customs forms, etc.) – all of these things have helped me decide that from now on I’m only using Parcl to ship my US buys for me. I’m really glad I found them. So if you are in the same situation, needing to get things shipped from stores in other countries, do give Parcl a try.

 
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Comments

G
Gerald D. Belanger
9 months ago
Why are some items cannot be shippedto Canada
Helen
Helen
9 months ago
Gerald, the reason why many US retailers don't ship to Canada is that shipping cost combined with duties and taxes is extremely high. Canada has one of the most stringent policies for its citizens: they are only allowed to import $20 CAD via online shopping without paying additional duties. This is why many US stores don't offer shipping to Canada.
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