Being a travelling or expat mama leaves you with one distinct disadvantage over our peers with a base in the United States or United Kingdom – the ease of online shopping (first world problem, I know!)
While Amazon, John Lewis and even Target now deliver some products to Hong Kong, Singapore and the rest of the world, there are always some items that won’t ship to us, and if you want to buy a selection of items from small boutiques, you can forget about it – or be prepared to spend a fortune on shipping.
At least that’s what I thought until I came across PacMe. PacMe allows you to shop online anywhere you want in the U.S, and ship all your purchases to them. They then consolidate all your purchases, re-packing them into one box to make the shipping cheaper, and when you are ready – they ship it to you.
So no matter where you are in the world, you can still shop online in the US and receive your goods. As an added bonus, PacMe is based in Oregon, which means your purchases are tax-free (you are subject to customs fees when you import into your country though, if applicable).
There are plenty of companies offering a ‘forwarding’ service, whereby you can ship your purchases to them and they forward them straight on to you, but where PacMe really stands out, is that they unpack all your shopping and re-pack it into one box to save on shipping.
To understand how this works, you need to understand something called ‘dimensional weight’. We’ve all been there – you order something from Amazon, and it comes in a box five times the size of the item, and it’s full of padding… so while the item may only weigh 1kg, the box size means that the shipping company will charge as though it is 6kg – something they call ‘dimensional weight’. PacMe will remove all this additional packing and ensure all your dimensional weight is filled with actual weight, saving you plenty of $$$$ on shipping costs.
PacMe also have a load of cool added-value services, such as:
- They take photos of all your purchases so that you can check that everything has arrived, and see what it looks like.
- You can request additional specific photos – for example if you want to see how an outfit might work together.
- You can ask them to check the working order of an item before shipping.
- They can prepare a gift item for you before shipping – remove the tags and gift wrap.
The customer service is really fantastic, with requests and queries dealt with quickly and efficiently. Within your account you have a ‘chat box’ for communicating with the team at PacMe, and you receive an email whenever they leave you a message in your chat box.
So how does it work?
Step 1: Sign up for a PacMe account and receive your unique U.S shipping address.
Step 2: Shop shop shop!
Step 3: When a package arrives at PacMe, you receive an email to let you know. Log into your account and you can view photos of which purchases have arrived, and follow up with any requests (additional photos etc).
Step 4: Once all of your packages have arrived, you can consolidate your order – choose which items to include with your shipping, fill in your customs form and ship. PacMe will show you the actual weight of your purchases, the ‘dimensional weight’ and the estimated shipping weight after they have re-packed your items. PacMe provide you with an estimated quote for shipping based on your package weight and you can choose which service provider to go with (UPS, DHL, Fed-Ex, USPS).
How much does it cost?
- There is a one-time set-up fee for a PacMe account of $40 – but this is then credited towards your first consolidation.
- PacMe charge $3 per incoming package (includes scanning the invoice, taking photographs, and 90 days of free storage), which is capped at 7 packages.
- There is a $20 flat fee to consolidate and repack all your packages. This is reduced to $10 if you only have 1-3 small packages.
- All other fees are optional, but generally are only of value if you have a lot of packages –for example they can do the customs list for $10, or you can create it for free.
- The final charge is the international shipping charge, which depends on the package weight and dimension, the chosen delivery schedule and the destination. PacMe have negotiated substantial discounts with their shipping partners, which are passed on to you.
So for my 3 packages delivered to PacMe, the total cost was $29 plus international shipping. By re-packing my purchases, PacMe saved me 18lb – or $37 – in shipping costs (see the difference below between Actual Dim Weight vs Estimated Dim Weight).
- It’s best to wait until you have a lot of packages to consolidate before you ship. For example, 1kg costs around $45 to ship, whereas 15kg will cost just $90. So it makes sense to wait and ship more packages together, especially as you have 90 days free storage at PacMe.
- Buy lots of things! PacMe fees are capped after 7 incoming packages, so the more you buy, the more cost-effective it is.
- Good things to buy and ship: Buy products of high $ value, that are low in weight and dimension. Name brand clothes that are cheaper in the US, electronic and kitchen gadgets, books and sports equipment are all good examples.
- Bad things to buy and ship: Don’t buy large plastic toys as these take up lots of ‘dimensional weight’ – the majority of my shipping cost was taken up by a large plastic Octopod I bought for my son’s Christmas present (but you can’t buy this in Hong Kong and I couldn’t find anyone to ship it directly, so I decided just to suffer the expense of shipping).
- Also avoid breakables and furniture, which is expensive to ship – unless you find a ‘must-have’ item that you can’t find at home and are prepared to pay big bucks for the shipping.
Want to give PacMe a go? Well the kind folks at PacMe are giving one lucky Mum on the Move reader a $300 Amazon.com voucher so you can shop til you drop, then use their service to ship it to you! *This Giveaway has now closed.
If you don’t win the voucher, don’t worry because all Mum on the Move readers can sign up for free for a PacMe account – just enter the code MUMONMOVE and your $40 set-up fee will be waived.
Note: Mum on the Move was provided with an Amazon.com voucher by PacMe for the purposes of reviewing their service. This did not influence my review in any way, and all opinions expressed are honest, and my own.