ARAMEX GLOBAL SHOPPER REVIEW
If you’ve ever tried importing goods into South Africa, without the assistance of an expensive courier service, you and I are likely to have experienced much the same sort of fun and games.
You track your precious package excitedly for the first day or two, it seems to be moving quickly – maybe you’ll get it later this week?! It must be on a plane over to South Africa now. Oh look it’s in Jo’burg! It’s still in Jo’burg. Why is it just sitting there? Let me just call the Post Office and see if someone can help. Oh there goes all of my airtime! Weeks go by, many phone calls and emails later you rush to your local post office only to be stared at blankly. “Nope, nothing here. Maybe later this week.” “Are you sure? I’ve been tracking it and the site says it’s here now..” “Nope” “But it says it’s here” “Oh you mean this one?” Gah. Sound familiar?
I discovered and started using Aramex Global Shopper (AGS) almost a year ago. It is what it says it is – AGS is a shipping service that enables you to shop online Internationally. You simply have your pretty parcel sent to one of the 18 AGS hubs around the world (you’re given your personalised addresses on signup) and they then forward it to your very own South African stoep. Oh the places I’ve shopped! Oh the packages I’ve received!
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE?
I’ve had at least 10 packages shipped to me, from the US hub as well as from the German hub. I once had a box-of-happiness arrive just 3 working days after it had arrived at their New York hub and was swiftly forwarded on to me; on the flip side I once waited 3 full weeks for my goodies to get to me. I wouldn’t recommend using AGS for something you need urgently, they’re certainly reliable but remember they do still have to deal with customs on your behalf.
There is a $45 (currently about R630) membership fee. I initially thought this was a little steep considering that’s the equivalent of shipping a +2kg package with AGS but when you take a look at a similar service such as Net a Parcel, who charge an annual subscription fee of R695 (as well as charging slightly more than AGS per kg), the AGS fee is a once off lifetime membership fee and suddenly doesn’t seem so heavy. If you have international-shopping-lust like I do it’s likely to be worth it over time. They offer a money back guarantee if you’re not satisfied with their service within the first 12 months, so that’s always reassuring.
COUNTRIES YOU CAN SHIP FROM
AGS ships from 18 countries and their prices depend on which ‘Zone’ you’re shipping from.
US, UK, Canada, China, Hong Kong, South Africa, Germany , Italy, Spain, France, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, South Korea and Japan.
R175 first half kg and R99 per additional half kg
Turkey, UAE and India
R131.31 first half kg and R74.30 per additional half kg
They have a handy shipping rate calculator on their site which, I can confirm, is super accurate. Before I signed up, I thought it may have just been showing an estimate but it’s always been spot on.
I’ve seen a few mentions in forums about Postbox Courier, again offering the same sort of service as AGS and Net a Parcel – but with no membership fee. Their calculator tool quotes very similar prices to AGS to ship a parcel from the US to South Africa. Postbox Courier only ships from the US, UK and Hong Kong though. I haven’t used them personally but if you’re likely to only ever ship from those areas then they’re worth looking into – save yourself that initial $45 (AGS) or yearly R695 (Net a Parcel) fee.
According to the AGS site ‘A Clearance Fee of R50.00 per shipment will be charged for any Shipments with an invoice value of over R500.00 and a 2.5% Disbursement Fee will be charged when your shipment has incurred Customs Duties and VAT in excess of R1000.00‘.
You have the option to pay by card or via Paypal, which was a pleasant surprise. I love using Paypal but it’s just not that often that you’re given it as a payment option in South Africa.
There’s an ‘Autopay’ feature that gives AGS permission to, well, automatically pay any charges, saving you the hassle of logging into your account to manually make payments – I don’t personally have this feature activated but I’m sure it must come in handy for some. I’ve made payments by card and through Paypal and both methods have worked smoothly.
AGS covers shipments up to the value of $100 automatically for free. For packages over $100 you can pay $1 per additional $100 you’d like covered and can insure packages up to $2,500 in value through their site. This isn’t mandatory but it’s probably a good idea to cover those valuable shipments and great that they offer this service at all.
I’ve not ever paid for any additional insurance for any of my packages, but I’m happy to report that they all arrived in mint condition. They’re usually re-sealed with Aramex branded packaging tape, it makes sense that they need to take a look at what they’re shipping at some point along the way, but to date nothing has ever gone missing and nothing has ever been damaged.
Admittedly this is what got me really excited about using AGS. Their service includes paying any Customs charges on your behalf and simply uploading the charges to your account for you to pay before they make your delivery. So no unnecessary delays and no dealing with customs yourself. Within their FAQ section, the AGS site lists some common items and their respective Customs Duties. Helpful if you’re like me and want to be prepared for the worst.
It seems that getting anything through customs is still hit and miss though, even when using a service like AGS. I for one certainly don’t have the patience to decipher their calculations but I’ve had a few packages (of varying values, a couple over R1,000) go straight through with no hiccups or customs charges (stationery and paper products) but I’ve also been charged around 70% of the value of a package (clothing). Ouch.
USING THE SITE
I don’t have any serious complaints here. The site is pretty damn simple to use although it isn’t particularly sexy.
When you’re tracking a shipment as regularly as I do, a little drop-down menu to access ‘My Packages’ instead of having to access the full account dashboard each time and navigate to where I want to be, would be appreciated. Possibly just my impatience at play though, it’s just one extra click really. The FAQ’s section is a little irritating – instead of ‘What is my insert country here address?‘ being asked 18 times and having the same answer each time (meaning you have to click through multiple pages of what is essentially the same question and answer to get to anything else in the FAQs) this definitely could have been done in one step.
Once you’ve logged into your account you can access: a list of your personalized International addresses; track your packages and make any outstanding payments as well as see previous shipments; edit your profile, change your payment options, change your password etc; check service updates to see info on public holidays overseas and finally check the status of any queries you may have lodged.
WILL I KEEP USING AGS?
Absolutely. It’s easy to lose your patience over something sitting in customs for a couple of weeks and blame the meant-to-be-convenient courier service that you chose to use, but that’s not really fair. If customs hadn’t been a factor, all of my packages would have been delivered amazingly quickly.
The $45 membership fee the first time around was the only obvious downer but I’m glad I have an account now, I don’t think too much at all about ordering goods from overseas these days which is pretty damn cool. Here’s to future experiences being headache-less.
Have you used AGS? Please do go ahead and leave any comments about your experience for other readers to learn from. Thanks!
DISCLOSURE: I didn’t receive any compensation for writing this and have no connection whatsoever to any brands or products mentioned.