I recently decided to buy a nifty new electronic gadget; a tablet. Due to the unavailability of the specific brand of tablet that I wanted in Qatar, I had to venture into the world of online shopping so I can order it directly from the United States. This sounded simple initially, but at the end of the day, the fact remained: I was planning to bring a small electronic gadget that I have never held in my hands across the Atlantic Ocean, over Africa and the Mediterranean, through the Arabian Peninsula, and through Doha’s traffic so I can use social media with style and watch YouTube as I fall asleep.
When I looked at it that way, I realized that numerous things can go wrong in this seemingly simple transaction. As I was not buying this gadget from a local retailer 10 minutes away-rather, several thousand kilometers away- I had to make absolutely sure that nothing goes wrong. I had to be careful.
I then had 4 steps to complete in order to successfully get my precious tablet: Selecting the appropriate model, placing the order (which includes paying for it), arranging for item delivery, and finally, receiving+ maintaining the item.
The first part is actually the trickiest one when buying electronic gadgets. If you are buying shoelaces from Taiwan, you won’t have much to worry about. However, in the case of purchasing a laptop, a tablet, a smartphone, or any other high tech gadget, the customer must keep in mind the potential for incompatibilities.
Being a devoted Android fan, I had my heart set on the new Nexus 7 tablet by Asus. I had done extensive research on this. The tablet attracted me with functionality, a great price, the latest Android O.S., and excellent reviews on top tech sites.
Now I had to make sure that there won’t be any issues to prevent me from making the final decision on getting this specific product. I started thinking of known issues and problems I’ve had previously with electronics. One common issue is voltage differences between countries although a large majority of countries–including Qatar- run on 220 voltage. My tablet purchase uncovered another incompatibility I still suffer from: Among other things, tablets are primarily for reading e-books. The problem was that the Google Play Books store is only available inside the United States, and my account is –naturally- registered in Qatar. This meant that I was unable to purchase books from the Google tore unless I can connect to a VPN with a U.S. IP Address. It would be wise to keep an eye out for more. My point is, quite a bit of research is required before finally selecting on the item of your choice when it comes to technology. Remember that shipping internationally means that you cannot get the same user support you would have gotten if you bought the item locally.
The second part is where vendor prestige comes into play. If you are buying from Amazon, E-bay, Apple, and other reputable companies, you shouldn’t be worried as they usually have a foolproof system with great security to make sure your financial transaction goes through smoothly. When I purchased my tablet with the credit card, I was surprised to find that they charged me only 1 USD. It wasn’t until about a few minutes later that they charged the remaining sum. The initial 1 USD charge is to verify that your account works and the transaction goes through, so don’t be surprised.
Shipping and Pickup:
Product delivery in Qatar varies from person to person with the deciding factor usually being the amount of patience one has. While many online retailers in the west offer international shipping, normal post can take up to around a month before it arrives. The popular solution in the Gulf is to get a membership with an international shipping agent such as Aramex which will then provide you with a U.S. or U.K. or China address to which you can ship your items, and the agent can bring it to your doorstep within a matter of days, usually 5. I was very excited to have my tablet and could not wait, so I asked to use a friend’s Aramex Shop and Ship account and received my item within 9 days of placing the order! Remember that spending 30 USD extra is worth it if you don’t want to risk shipping damage which is more likely in normal freight.
Finally, maintain what you purchase, and maintain it well. As I mentioned before, international shipping comes at the price of service support. Even if your item is functioning improperly or if the damage incurred is not your fault but the vendor’s, you will nonetheless have a harder time fixing or returning it across an ocean and a few countries.
Although the world of online shopping is an endlessly fascinating one as more and more shops open up their products to the international market, it is still a place you have to tread with care. Think very hard about what and how you buy that dream gadget you always wanted!