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Shopping Before Arriving

Warning: techie stuff ahead. Those technophobes in the audience may wish to skip this post altogther.

As you probably know, Intel has several major plants in Israel. Some of those plants house very talented R&D teams that are somewhat parallel to teams here in Oregon and elsewhere. As such, even without this current relocation, I have occasion to work very closely with a lot of Israelis. And I have forged some very effective business and personal relationships with those folks. They are constantly popping over to the States for various business trips and relocations. When they do come over and pass through the customs/passport desks and into USA terra firma, I imagine for them it’s like walking into a giant mall with an infinite number of stores and excellent parking. I get this impression because one thing I’ve had to do a few times is serve as somewhat of a “mule” for various merchandise. One time a coworker ordered an iPod Touch from Amazon for his kid’s birthday and asked me if he could have it shipped to my place, so that a friend of his who was on a business trip here could pick it up and take it back. More recently, a coworker who was on a business trip to the US ordered some merchandise online and had it delivered to his hotel, but the delivery was late and so he asked me to pick it up from the hotel and carry it to Israel for him when we come over for our relocation. So now I’m carrying two beard trimmers instead of one. Hope they don’t bust me…

The reason for this behavior is twofold. First and foremost, cost. Electronics and almost everything else is ridiculously expensive in Israel. Tracy did some comparison shopping on the Ikea website here versus the Ikea website there, and found the price ratio expressed in dollars was something like 1.8x. Our expat friends who have preceded us across the ocean have reported that cell phone salesmen rather apologetically suggest not to buy cell phones there. In the cell phone store. It’s that bad. Part of this is due to the very weak dollar. Most of it is just that the Israeli economy is kind of a shambles right now.

The second reason is availability. Many online vendors will not ship to the Middle East, including most of Amazon and Amazon Marketplace. This is “the big suck.”

Tracy and I had to get new phones recently, as a direct result of a) relocation to a foreign country, and b) Apple’s insistence that your hardware is not your own to control. This is in the sense that iPhones with certain firmware versions are difficult/impossible to unlock (depending on who you ask). I’m sure AT&T also had something to do with this crass abuse, but Apple didn’t have to cave when every other manufacturer of phones hadn’t caved in such a way. Anyways, a story for another blog. Tracy and I both have new phones that are carrier-unlocked and are not iPhones. This meant that one of our favorite apps, Runkeeper, had to be installed on our new phones. We use this app to track our running progress in a really user-friendly and useful way. The phone accompanies us on our runs, riding in an armband. This way we can also have musical accompaniment if we so choose (I do often but not always). Well, our new phones won’t fit in our current armbands. We couldn’t find any brick-and-mortar store that carries armbands for our phones, despite the AT&T salesman’s suggestion that he got his at Target. Furthermore, we would be departing too soon to receive any shipments from an online retailer.

I did manage after some difficulty to find an Amazon vendor that would ship to Israel and that had relevant armbands, but the shipping cost 110% of the price of the armbands. Oh, well. I had a bunch of credit on Amazon anyway due to our dumping the change jar into a Coinstar machine and electing to receive Amazon credit instead of cash, to save the 9.8% surcharge. So I went through with the order. Ouch.

Now for the immediate future, I’m the one looking for an American to act as an electronics mule… So if you are a good candidate, let me know. There’s some excellent hummus in it for you.

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Categories: Uncategorized
  1. bairbutte
    September 8, 2011 at 19:41

    Hee hee – I started reading this thinking it was Tra writing and got really confused by the beard trimmer comment! Tra with a beard – new things all the time! 🙂

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