PacMe FAQ

 

Browse through our Frequently Asked Questions to find answers to your questions and find out more about how PacMe works.

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Shopping

 

They might not tell you why they won't accept your order, but usually it is one of these things:

 

  1. They won't accept visitors from foreign IP addresses.  Use a VPN to "locate" your computer in the US.
  2. They might automatically connect you to their "international" store. Look for a dropdown list of countries and choose USA.
  3. They might still force you to use their "international" store.  Use a VPN.
  4. They won't accept foreign credit cards.  Use our concierge service and we will place the order.
  5. They won't ship to a shipping address that is different than the billing address.  Call the retailer and explain the situation.
  6. They won't ship to consolidators.  Use our concierge service (we will use our home address).
  7. They want to call you at an American phone number. Usually you can just use our warehouse number, 503-822-5522, but you can also purchase a Skype Number with a 503 area code.
  8. If all else fails, stick to Amazon because you won't have any of these problems.  But note how to enter your Amazon address.

 

And here's a few "don'ts" to make your shopping experience less stressful:

  1. Don't buy things you think you might want to return.  You are probably correct that the color on the website doesn't look anything like what you ordered.  You can return items, but it becomes a hassle when something goes wrong.  And sooner or later, it will. Something goes wrong = stress.
  2. Don't buy fragile items.  We can dubble bubble wrap them, but you'll likely pay extra for dimensional weight, and if they break, and sooner or later one of them will, it's a hassle to collect on insurance. Hassle = stress.
  3. Be wary of ebay or amatuer websites.  Sure, you are right and they are wrong, but it's still your problem.  Your problem = stress.

 

 

You can shop at any US online retailer, but if you are new to shopping in the US, we have put together several lists of our favorite websites.  When shopping online, make sure you navigate to the retailer's US website, not their "international" store! Check out our shopping tips and tricks.  Our main shopping page is duplicated below.

 


Women's

Baby

Kid's

Teen's

Bath

Kitchen

Home

Beauty

Shoes

Crafts

Toys

Party

Office

Travel

Music

Jewelry

Pets

Books

Men's

Electronics

Computers

Cameras 

Garage

Hobbies

Shave

Poker

Comics

Sports

Hike

Fish

Golf

Tennis

Run

Bicycle

Ocean

Lake

Amazon

Outlets

Dept

Winter

Food

Wgt Loss

Nutrition

Fitness

Wine

 


 

 

Besides finding exactly what you want, you are probably buying online in the US to save money.  The actual products are almost always cheaper in the US, but you need to factor in the PacMe fees, shipping, and GST/VAT to determine if it's worthwhile.  The PacMe fees are essentially capped at $40-50 per consolidation if you follow our go big strategy.  GST is what it is - you will either be paying it in the local store or at the border - but at least shipping to Oregon is tax-free, which will save you about 5-10% over buying it in a US store.  

 

So, it all comes down to the shipping expense.  There are 3 rules to maximize the value of shipping:

  1. Go Big.  PacMe fees are maxed out after 7 incoming packages. So, buy lots of stuff.  You have at least 30 days of free storage to wait for it all to come in, usually longer if we are not full.  Shipping 5kg costs $13/kg, whereas 30kg costs about $6.50/kg.  Shipping is half price when you go big. 
  2. Avoid "bad" Dim Weight (or learn how to manage it).  A box 40cm (15 inches) per side, even if it is empty, "weighs" a minimum of 13kg and would cost about $120 to ship to Singapore ($150 to Australia or Europe), which brings us to the third rule...
  3. Buy products of high $ value but relatively low actual and/or dimensional weight.  That 40cm box, which costs $140 to ship, could fit a single $40 plastic toy fire engine or $1,000 worth of clothes.

 

Do buy:

  • Name brand clothes have high value and never trigger dim weight.  Shoes are ok, especially if we remove the shoe box.
  • Books are heavy but price+shipping is often still cheaper than buying in your home country.
  • Electronic gadgets usually have high value and are expensive abroad but are pretty dense so they do not trigger dim weight.
  • Sports equipment, kitchen gadgets, office supplies, are usually all good.
  • Buy lots of things of different sizes and shapes.  Repacking reduces the dimensional weight considerably, but only if the items can fit together, like playing Tetris.
  • Rugs are good because they don't break and the actual weight usually equals the dim weight.  Rugs are ridicuously expensive in the countries where they are most needed.  An 8x10 foot rug costs about $150-200 to ship to Singapore, depending upon its thickness (a little more to Australia and Europe).
  • Suitcases, and fill them up with other stuff.

 

Don't buy:

  • Fragile items require too much excess packaging, which triggers dim weight.  If we skimp, then sooner or later, something will break.  So, it will either be very expensive to ship or it will be broken.  Don't set yourself up for such unhappiness.  Sure, you can buy insurance, but making the claim is a lot of hassle.  If the claim is denied, then we will probably pay to keep you "not unhappy."  So please don't buy fragile items.
  • Plastic toys might seem cheap but they are very expensive to ship since they trigger dim weight.  ...and it will end up in the rubbish bin by February anyway.
  • Furniture usually doesn't make sense unless you are just dying to have that perfect piece.  As a rule of thumb, shipping costs about what the item costs since the nicer the item, the more packaging is required to keep it nice.

 

Check out our shipping calculator for real-time quotes.  Most online retailers will include the dimensions and weight of items (if not, check Amazon).

 

Our main shopping page is the gateway to over 700 stores to give you some ideas on where to shop.  We always start with Amazon since the prices are decent and ordering is hassle-free.

 

There is another "is it all worth it" FAQ posting here.

 

 

 

 

Our concierge service might be helpful if you run into a website that won't accept foreign credit cards or is reluctant to ship to an address that is different from the billing address on your card.  We will place the order for you (or even go to the store) and then you will reimburse us when we process your consolidation.  The charge for this service is 8% of the total purchase price (over half this fee is to cover the credit card fee we need to pay when you reimburse us).  It's not meant to be a big money-maker for us.

 

The concierge service works through the Expected Package function. If this is confusing, you can just send us a note in your My Account chat box instead, and we will set it up for you.

 

This is how you create a concierge order:

  1. Create an Expected Package.
  2. Enter the Retailer's name as the sender and tick the "Concierge Order" check box.
  3. Save the Expected Package.
  4. Click on the J number to open the package.
  5. Enter your concierge order into the package's chat box, including any URL, explanatory notes, etc.
    -or-
    Upload a screenshot of the shopping cart if it is easy to find the products on the website.  Upload the screenshot to the Expected Package's Documents tab.
  6. We will place the order for you and update the Expected Package with the tracking information. 
    When the package arrives, the "expected" package will be converted into a "new" package.

 


 Here are the above instructions in pictures...

  1. Create an Expected Package.

    Concierge 1


  2. Enter the retailer's name and put "Concierge Order" in the personal note. Then click "add package."

    Concierge 2


  3. Edit the package you just created.

    Concierge 3


  4. Enter your concierge order into the package's chat box (or upload a screenshot of the shopping cart).

    Concierge 4


  5. We will place the order for you and update the Expected Package with the tracking information. 
    When the package arrives, the "expected" package will be converted into a "new" package.

    Concierge 5

 

 

If the retailer cancelled your order (often without even contacting you), it's often because their fraud protection algorithm flagged the order and canceled it automatically.  It's usually best to reach them by phone to see if you can sort it out. 

 

If that fails, many "company" stores (e.g. The Gap) even sell on Amazon.  If you aren't accepted on Amazon, then you'll probably have troubles elsewhere as well. 

 

Lastly, or firstly, we might be able to make the purchase for you (see how to make a concierge purchase for more information).

 

Here is the "Red-Flag" check list with a few workarounds.

  1. The retailer does not ship to "freight forwarders."  PacMe is not on any blacklists yet, largely because we have had very little fraud (we diligently screen our customers), so we have not attracted the attention of any retailer's fraud dept that we know of. Some retailers are proactive, however, and check out all business addresses before shipping to them.  If they have a no-forwarder policy, then they won't ship. Contact us in your My Account chat box and we'll try to help.

  2. The billing address on your credit card and your PacMe shipping address do not match.  This address mismatch was a common red flag in the past, but most larger retailers now allow it.  If you can contact the retailer, they often just want to hear an explanation.  If you have multiple credit cards, you can set one of their billing addresses to your PacMe Address.  Chat with us before doing so, however.

  3. Your credit card was issued by a "foreign" bank and/or the billing address on your credit card is a "foreign" address.  The retailer probably just needs an explanation as in #2.

  4. The order was placed from a computer in a "foreign" country (they can check the incoming IP address).
    Use a VPN to get around this.

 

 

Use a VPN (Virtual Private Network).  

 

Many websites reject orders made from computers with IP addresses outside the US.  Other retailers might direct you to their "international" store, where they often increase the prices and limit the availability of many items.  

 

Since you are actually shipping your purchase to your US address at PacMe, a simple solution is to use a VPN service that will make it look like you are actually ordering from a computer located in the US.

 

Most VPN providers require you to download their software and install it on your computer. You then launch the VPN program and log into one of their servers located in the US (use Portland Oregon if available).  That's it.  You can now minimize the app and just surf the Web normally.  All of your Internet traffic will flow through the VPN provider's US-based server.  To the websites you visit, it will look like you are located in the US.

 

From time to time, the big retailers might blacklist certain IP addresses that are known VPN providers.  In such a case, just try to log into one of the other VPN locations (most VPN services provide 10-20 US locations). 

 

Most all VPN services will also encrypt the connection from your computer to the Internet.  In fact, whenever you log onto the Internet from a public access point (e.g. Starbucks, airport free wifi), it is a good idea to use a VPN.

 

VPN'ing might not solve all your problems.  The retailer might not accept foreign credit cards or mismatched billing and shipping addresses.  Read the other tips in this FAQ section regarding those issues.  At some point, you might just want to give up and move on.  ...but using a VPN service comes in handy all the time so it's useful to have. 

 

Here's a list of a few VPN providers:

VPN Reviews:

 

P.S.  Here is an example where a VPN comes in handy.  If you navigate to http://nike.com, they will notice your IP address and route you to the web store for your country (e.g. Singapore).  You don't want that.  You can click on the flag in the upper right corner of the home page and navigate to the US store.  It even has an official URL (http://www.nike.com/us/en_us/), whereas many sites do this only with cookies and don't provide a URL.  That nike US URL, however, is not that sticky (maybe the cookies aren't fully baked), so the next time you navigate to the nike.com website, you might be shown the your-country page and have to do this all over again. Even if you log in with your "US" account, it doesn't matter.  If you use a VPN, then you don't have to worry about this.

 

Use your PacMe address as your both your billing and shipping address.

 

Retailers are often nervous about shipping to addresses that are not the same as the "verified" billing address on the credit card that was used to make the purchase.  Some bad guys steal credit card numbers, and can't log into the account to change the billing address, but they can ship to any 'ol drop off location.  Online retailers are wary of this, particular if the credit card's billing address is overseas.

 

If you want, you can use your PacMe address as your billing address for your card.  Please ask for electronic statements, however. As a general rule, we discard all mail unless you sign up for the "Package+Mail" plan.

 

 

 

Navigate to the US store.  You don't want a retailer's international store.  This is exactly why you are shopping in the US - to avoid the international store!

 

If a retailer has an international store, the availability of products is often limited, prices are higher, exchanges rates are bad, and international shipping is usually too expensive.  If you are buying one or two things, then sometimes it makes sense to go direct, but beware of the tricks.

 

It's easy for websites to know the country of your incoming Internet connection.  They might purposely route you to their international store.  See if you can find a way to their US store and make sure you are in it when you make your purchases.  Look for the US flag or even "en" or "us" in the URL.

 

If that fails, use a VPN to act as if you are coming in from the US.

 

 

 

You can use our concierge service.  Or maybe ask a friend or relative to add your name to their US credit card account.

 

It is getting increasingly difficult for non-US residents to obtain US-based credit cards. Banks are required to "know thy customer" and usually need to confirm a physical residential address before issuing a credit card.  Perhaps you can use your friend's or a family member's US address. It is worth a try since, generally speaking, a credit card is better than a debit card when shopping online.

 

There are a number of pre-paid debit cards that will work, however.  The fees are quite expensive if you don't use it regularly, but it will at least get you shopping until you sort out a better solution.

 

Lastly, you can use our concierge shopping service and we will use our own credit card.  You would reimburse us by credit card or through your virtual account, which you can fund by wire transfer, PayPal, or bitcoin.  We charge 8% for this service.

 

 

 

Use our concierge shopping service.

 

Some retailers will not ship to "freight forwarders" because of past fraud in the industry. This is why PacMe is hyper-diligent about screening our customers and requiring validation of all accounts. 

 

You might be able to use our concierge shopping service.  If we make the purchase on our own account, sometimes the retailer will ship to our warehouse.

 

 

 

You can use our warehouse phone number (503-822-5522), but since we are not you, most retailers won't let us deal with your account.  It is probably best to get something like a Skype Number so that you will have a US-based phone number you can attach to your billing and shipping information.

  • Skype Numbers cost around $60-70 per year, but are often discounted if you also by other Skype services.  Incoming calls to your Skype Number are free.  You answer the call within your Skype account (e.g. on your computer), or you can send incoming calls directly to voicemail or forward them to another phone number.
  • When signing up for a Skype Number, choose USA, Oregon, area code 503, and Sherwood.  That way, your phone number will exactly match your address location at the PacMe warehouse.

 

Make your online shopping go smoothly by lowering as many red flags as possible:

  • Use a VPN when surfing your online shopping sites so that you appear to be coming from a US Internet node.
  • Use your PacMe mailbox as both your billing and shipping address.
  • Get a Skype Number and attach it to your address.

 

 

 

An Amazon Prime membership costs less than $100/year and gives you free domestic 2-day shipping on hundreds of thousands of items listed as "Prime" on the Amazon website.

 

Products marked as "prime" also are more likely to be vetted by Amazon since they either own the stock themselves or hold the inventory on behalf of other vendors that they have vetted.

 

There are other benefits (e.g. free streaming movies), but not all of them are available to international customers, though you can always log in through your VPN.

 

For anyone who does a lot of shopping on Amazon, Prime is a great deal.

 

The main reason to shop on Amazon, however, is because it is so easy and hassle free.

 

 

 

There are 2 technical issues with running USA appliances in other countries: voltage and frequency.  Appliances that simply create heat usually work better than appliances that have a motor.  Here's why.

 

Stepping down the voltage from your country's 220-240V outlet into the 110-120V USA appliance is relatively easy. Think of voltage as "pressure" so reducing it is like putting a bunch of branches in a raging 240V river (adding "resistance") to slow down the flow of water to a comfortable 120V. Easy.  Note that putting 220V of "pressure" into an appliance expecting 110V will blow it immediately.  That's why you need a transformer to "step down" the voltage.

 

The bigger issue is the frequency of the alternating current. The USA runs at 60Hz and most of the rest of the world runs at 50Hz. Think of the bicyclist who normally pedals at 60 RPM is now allowed to peddle at 50 RPM, but in the same gear.  She will go slower and not have to work as hard.  Power output is decreased 20%. Anything with a motor will run 20% slower.  Blenders, mixers, cooling fans, sewing machines. But they will still run, except for some highly technically, fined-tuned motors.

 

The final consideration is the size of the transformer that you will need. This is based on the power requirements of your appliance (watts).  You should overbuy by about 50-100%.  For instance, buy a 500W transformer for an appliance that consumes 300W of power (see the list below).

 

A 500W transformer will cost about $50, weigh 3kg, and measure 13cm per side. Larger-capacity transformers don't cost that much more but the weight goes up about 1kg for every 100W.  It's probably going to need a permanent location anyway. Here is an example of what they look like (though our favorite Singapore brand is "PowerPac," which you can get at Home Fix):

100 Watt Transformer:

  • Baby Monitors
  • Telephones
  • CPAP Machines
  • DVD players

 

300 Watt Transformer:

  • Blenders
  • Coffee Grinders
  • Computer Monitors
  • Fans
  • Humidifiers
  • Sewing Machines
  • Xbox, play station

 

500 Watts Transformer:

  • Mixers, blenders, juicers (though wattage varies widely)
  • Bread Machines
  • Desktop Computers
  • LCD/PlasmaTelevisions
  • Musical Amplifiers (varies widely)
  • Stereo Systems 
  • Power Tools

 

1000 Watts Transformer:

  • Anything with a heating element...
  • Coffee Makers
  • Laser Printer/Copiers
  • Food Processors
  • Grills/Panini Makers
  • Irons
  • Meat Slicers
  • Pasta Makers
  • Popcorn Poppers
  • Power Tools
  • Stand Mixers
  • Toasters
  • Waffle Makers

 

2000 Watt Transformer:

  • Espresso Machines
  • Frying Pans
  • Kettles
  • Toaster Ovens
  • Vacuums

 

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