Thursday, March 12, 2015

The Stranger's Ultimate Guide to Online Shopping in Thailand

If you know someone who tells you Thai malls are getting quieter by the day and are not doing well, they don't know their stuff. Yes, new malls are sprouting like wild mushrooms by the minute, and the economy isn't exactly rosy, but the truth is, much of the 'shopping crowd' has been removed by the groups running the malls themselves, through their extremely comprehensive online shopping portals.

Anyone who has read my letter for Noah for his 3rd birthday will know that he is still resisting toilet training. Couple that with the arrival of Ellie, it means that I had recently been forced to scramble around for the best deals for diapers. This exercise pointed me to the beautiful world of online shopping, be it through mall groups like Central and Robinson, supermarket giants like Big C and Tesco Lotus, or even independent online shopping portals like Venbi and Lazada.

The advantages are obvious. Better deals. Delivery to your doorstep (diapers are bloody bulky) as soon as the next day. Access to most items you can find in the malls. Creative modes of payment (payment on delivery is the mode I recommend). Delivery trucks that have built-in sorting drawers, freezers and chillers all at the same time.

A common scene in my house, how to not look for best deal?

However, things might not be as rosy as it seems. If you are tempted to start buying groceries online in Thailand, do take note of the following tips to ensure you do not get frustrated.

  1. Be prepared to wait the entire day for your items.

    Depending on your order quantity and company you order from, delivery might or might not be free. Some even give you the luxury to select the time period in which you would like them to deliver. But trust me, it is impossible for them to give you any promises.

    Most will deliver on the day promised, often the working day after you place the order, but none of my orders had been delivered within the time frame I preferred. Every truck might have up to 50 locations to hit a day, so be prepared to be stuck in 1 place to wait for your items then celebrate your new-found freedom when they arrive.

  2. Be prepared to speak Thai, or look for help.

    In your order form, you can give all sorts of instructions, to the point of giving details of the slight cracks on your door to aid in their identification of your house.

    But whatever the case, the driver will still DEFINITELY call you on delivery day to ask you how to get to your place, and he will DEFINITELY only know how to speak Thai.

    So, if you don't speak Thai, or don't physically stay near anyone who speaks Thai, or do not want to receive urgent calls from random numbers during working hours (and speak Thai), purchasing online might be a very frustrating experience for you (and the driver).

  3. Delivery staff are, well, delivery staff.

    Even though the delivery services are well-established and pretty mature in Thailand already, mistakes still happen. There is a possibility that wrong items are sent to you by mistake. Whatever it is, there is no point complaining to the delivery staff, as their job is to drop the items, collect payment and scoot off to their next destination. So, for online shopping, be mentally prepared to pay for the wrong item first, then contact the sales office again to request for the goods exchange. This is just how it works.

    And this leads me to an important sub-point that you should not leave your urgent items to the hands of these online shopping portals, because anything might happen and you might just not get your item on time.

  4. Scour around for the best deals, and don't forget to use the discount codes, if any!

    One of the best things about online shopping is that they often offer better deals than those you can get in the shops. Of course, it might need you to buy more pieces that you normally do, but they save you the hassle of carrying them home yourself.

    For the best deal, homework is required. Be diligent and go through a few websites, they will definitely be offering differing deals which might or might not suit you. Many will have special periodic promotion codes to give you good additional discounts, so please do not forget to use them!

I really wanted to write this post because I have learnt many lessons from my experiences with online shopping websites and I hope to highlight the things you should consider before making your first purchase.

I also want to emphasize again that even if the services are not perfect, I really do recommend online shopping in Thailand as a MORE THAN LEGIT way of getting products without leaving your house, especially if you know exactly what you want, and speak a bit of the local language.

Meanwhile, happy shopping!

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