Thought I'd start giving a few reviews of on-line resources that other expats, either here in Cairo, or elsewhere, might find handy. Long-distance 'trial and error' with on-line shopping is a true pain, especially when your local 'post office' can be an hour away, not open on weekends, and repacking materials can be difficult to locate. I appreciate tips from experienced friends, and think that I should share the goods now that I have become a more experienced expat myself.
I wasn't sure where to start, as I have several stores that vie for the 'most favorite' spot in my heart. I will start collecting a list of websites for quick reference (I'll probably use it more than anyone - I like link pages with all my favorite stuff in one spot) I guess I will just go with the one who got my recent shopping to me first. Fair?
J&R Electronics. I do not have a little icon for them (I've asked though - they have an official affiliate program and I'm not really interested in the paperwork - it's hard to manage with a foreign IP address sometimes), but I'll add a link to the site. Why electronics? How important is that? Not something people in the land of Target, Office Max, Sears, Radio Shack, etc. think about. If their DVD breaks down, they can hop in the car, go to one of many stores (electronics, department store, mall, whatever) and choose from 100's of new players - all at reasonable prices. Oh, and at the end of all their searching and comparison shopping, they can go to the register and actually BUY their new toy.
Shopping for a new bit of electronics overseas can be harsh. Not only can the prices be incredibly high compared to what we are used to back home, the selection may not compare, and the only thing available may not be multi-system.. ie. it may not be usable when we move back home. I don't believe in 'throw away when you move away' goods.
Shopping for electronics on-line can add the bonus fun of being treated like an international criminal of some sort. Oh, most on-line stores will let you shop.. let me tell you, there's nothing like spending hours shopping (and yes, with our crappy internet, shopping can take HOURS of page loading, lock-ups, and restarts) only to arrive at your 'shopping cart' for checkout... content that you found the product of your dreams, at a good price, with all the accessories you need, and be told "Sorry, we do not ship this product to APO/FPO addresses". What?! Grrrr!
For those who are not familiar with the terms, APO or FPO are the 'city' codes for various military and diplomatic mail boxes. They are VALID U.S. addresses! Postage for mailing a 1st class letter is the same as anywhere in the U.S. The post offices take U.S. currency, checks made out to 'Postmaster' - same as anywhere. Now, the only time restrictions makes sense to me, is if the product is large or heavy. Some APO/FPO addresses have size restrictions. Understandable. But what if the product is a DVD? Or a DVD player that comes in a box smaller than a telephone book? An added aggravation is knowing that the store WILL ship some items to APO/FPO addresses, but not other items, and the only way to find out what will be allowed, is to get to the check out and try to buy it. (I don't go back to on-line stores that waste my time like that.)
Enter J&R Electronics. Not only do they have an amazing selection of anything that plugs in, has batteries, or is associated with such items, they offer these products at a great price... AND they ship to APO/FPO! Fast. With reasonable S&H - meaning, I've seen 'cheaper' rates, but as everything we've ever ordered has shown up fast and in perfect condition, I know that there is truth behind 'you get what you pay for'. As the prices are so good, slightly higher shipping hardly matters. (If you're in the 48 contiguous states, you can often get free ground shipping - meaning, if UPS can get to you, you might get it free). Questions are answered quickly by friendly customer service, and with a recent response, I was invited to call them if I'd seen a better deal on the product and we could work out a deal. (Like I could find a lower price?!)
I cannot tell you how they handle returns, because we haven't had to return anything. I find that I am not concerned. I have confidence in their business. They are now a Upromise store as well too... so great prices, good stuff, and money back for your kids' college. What else do you want?
We have purchased iPods and accessories, DVD players, DVDs, specialized batteries, home health products, and the most awesome blender in the world. I'm probably overlooking some things, but this is what comes to mind. We usually look around and do our comparison shopping at several on-line locations, but we invariably purchase from J&R. I believe that they will continue to get a lot of our business, even when we return from overseas.
BTW - Update to Smarter than your average smartphone - I decided to go with the Treo 650. It offered more frills than a basic PDA, but seemed not as over-whelming as the Nokia 810 might prove. I think that once I figure out what I use the thing for, I might have fun upgrading to a customizable internet tablet, but not yet. Besides, J&R offered a refurbished 650, with a 60-day warranty, at an awesome price.