In my previous post I wrote about my frustration in searching so hard for the Chadwick chair (my dream chair) and how it seemed to be so elusive. I had already resigned myself to getting a Wilkhahn Modus Chair (which I emphasize is a very good chair, just not the perfect chair for me) when I chanced upon something that changed everything.
Here’s part 2 of my story.
Deus Ex Machina
Just a bit of background info; I’d been following the tech blog ‘Tech in Asia’ for a while now and it’s been a really invaluable resource to discover new apps, online services and other tech related stuff relevant to the region.
As described in the article, ShopandBox is a “Melbourne based e-commerce platform” with a simple premise. In this age of globalisation many things can be bought in your own country that originated from somewhere else but are way more expensive than if you had bought them from their country of origin in the first place. Here’s a good example of that:
A Kitchen Aid in Singapore would easily cost you $799 SGD to purchase in a department store. But the official cost in America (from the Kitchen Aid website) is $349, or roughly $450 SGD, which is roughly a 75% markup(!)
What ShopandBox essentially does is enable you to get the things that you want from another country at a much cheaper price by cutting out the middleman.
You can imagine my growing excitement when I realised that this just might be what finally helps me to get my chair…
The ShopnBox Experience
When you sign up on the website you can start uploading items you want to purchase to you wishlist. This includes a basic description of the item and can be supplemented with images and even the URL of the website where it’s listed. ShopandBox (SnB) will then link you up with someone in that country (termed a ‘Boxer’) who will then help you to purchase the item and ship/mail it to you. The only cost that gets added to your purchase is the SnB fee and the postage which can equal to quite a substantial saving.
The website lists some examples of popular items. A quick browse reveals that most of them happen to be small electronics, cosmetics and some articles of clothing. In fact in the Tech in Asia article the author purchases a soft toy, some kit kats and a small luggage bag. What about a piece of furniture?
The Chadwick chair isn’t huge but it’s not the lightest and smallest of items. I was skeptical but having nothing to lose I filled in the form and uploaded a picture of the Chadwick Chair and proceeded to go about my usual business.
You can imagine my surprise when within 10mins I received an email indicating that Lily had been selected as my Boxer and would be helping me with my item.
The great thing about SnB is that within the order screen there’s a dashboard at the bottom where you can communicate in real-time with your Boxer and boy was she a lot of help… in fact at one point she sounded more excited about my shopping item than I was.
She asked me about the specifics of the order, the colour, the finish etc etc and then to my amazement recommended a website with a much cheaper price. I’d listed the official page on the Knoll website as my choice in the order where the chair is priced at $689 USD and she had recommended Madison Seating where the chair was on sale for $399 USD instead.
That’s exactly the kind of help you need when shopping in a foreign country; someone who knows exactly where to go to find good deals!
I checked out the alternative and deemed it ok except that I couldn’t see whether the wheels were hard or soft castors. This matters because my study has a tiled floor and hard castors (designed to roll on carpet) could potentially scratch the tiles. I messaged her with my concern and she offered to give Madison Seating a call to check what type of wheels they were.
A short while later she messaged back confirming that they were indeed soft castors which wouldn’t be a problem to my floor, and would I be proceeding with the order?
At this point I couldn’t believe that this was finally happening. I mean, I’d been searching for almost 4 months and had nothing to show for it. Now all of a sudden here I was conversing with someone halfway round the globe who was actually going to make my dream of a comfy chair a reality. I felt so elated and yet oddly disconnected from the entire experience like it was some happy dream I would soon wake from. It helped that I was 100% sure that I wanted this chair; it was now or never.
I clicked the confirm order button.
Now for the more technical side of the transaction.
SnB divides the payment into two parts.
Once the order is confirmed you will be issued with Invoice 1 which is the cost of the item that a local would pay to order and have it delivered to their house. The total cost for me was $474.99 USD due to a $75 domestic shipping cost.
SnB charges a small service fee on top of the order fee and you can view the rates here. This fee came up to $51 USD based off of the $399 chair price. What impressed me was that Boxer Lily had no incentive whatsoever to find me a cheaper price as the fee is pegged as a percentage of the cost. (The fee isn’t even calculated with the domestic shipping included!) She would have benefited from just letting me purchase it from Knoll store instead but went the extra mile to not just find me a better price but to make sure I was comfortable with it before I purchased it.
The international shipping and service fee make up Invoice 2 which you pay first before the item gets shipped out.
12 days later and the chair had arrived. Boxer Lily helpfully sent me a link with a photo of my chair to keep me excited. She then worked out the DHL Express charges to send the chair all the way from Washington DC to Singapore.
Here’s where ordering a 50kg package probably wasn’t the smartest thing as the charges came up to $286.83 USD which is a whopping 60% of the item cost. But bear this in mind, up to this point the total charges were $761.82 USD (~$990 SGD) which is 50% of what I was going to be charged if I’d bought it in Singapore.
I made both payments by credit card but there’s also the option to pay with Paypal instead. At no point did I pay directly to the Boxer handling my shopping item but all payments were sent direct to SnB.
Just a side note to all Singaporeans. Any online purchases delivered to Singapore with a cost exceeding $400 SGD will be subject to Goods and Services Tax (GST) at 7% of the CIF Cost (Cost, Insurance and Freight). I was charged just over $70 for everything.
In total I paid $1130 SGD for the chair and got it in 18 days from the moment I confirmed the order and here you can see it sitting at my place.
This compared to a $2000 dollar price tag and a 12–15 week delivery schedule that Knoll was offering me is an absolutely, mind-blowingly, good deal. The entire process was in fact really straight forward.
Making Online Shopping Fun
Would I recommend SnB to everyone? You betcha!
The best part about SnB to me is not just the savings but the social element. You feel in control over your shopping as you make the purchase and can get to make special requests along the way meaning you get exactly what you want. I can’t stress that enough as often I feel like I’m dealing with a machine all the time. Amazon has a great return policy and will even refund you the amount you pay for postage to return your unwanted items but let’s face it: Shopping online requires a lot of patience.
It’s different from shopping in a brick-and-mortar store because there isn’t that element of immediacy; you see what you like you pay and you leave with the item immediately. So it sucks when you buy something (like I have before) only to find that it’s not what you wanted and then you have to go through the process of returning it, getting the refund and then finding it all over again. Being able to ask questions to a human being greatly assists the process and reduces stress as you wait for it to arrive.
My Happy Conclusion
It’s been about 2 weeks now since I got my chair and I’m enjoying everyday of sitting in it. My back doesn’t hurt as much and I feel more comfortable when I’m working at home. I’m sure I would have been happier getting any of the other chairs on my list but it feels really satisfying knowing that despite all the odds I found the chair that I wanted all along. Plus I just love the way it looks so much more.
I have been telling all my friends about SnB and cannot recommend it enough. Like me almost everyone has a tale of wanting something that they cannot get and I hope that SnB serves them as well as it served me.
For now I’m content to sit and wile away the hours at my study table, wondering what my next purchase will be and knowing that despite my physical limitations as long as it’s available for sale in one of those countries served by SnB there’ll be a Boxer there to help me get it.