Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Things to Buy and shopping in the USA

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Shopping in the USA

I've googled around to figure out what to buy when traveling to USA, or when a friend is going to the United States of America, and what to pesan (order). There are quite a few forums and blogs out there, mostly mentioning the most common items, namely Coach bags. I'm pretty sure there are so many more things which you can get a good deal, or which you can't find back home which you'd find in the States. So here's my list of To-Shop and also, a little of what not to shop.

This entry is part of a Travel Tips series.

1. Amazon
Yes, shop before you get to the States. The benefit of this is, usually you are on a tight schedule when you are in States (unless your main purpose of the trip is a shopping spree :) ). So there are a lot of stuff you can pre-buy on Amazon or other online sites, and get it shipped to either a friend's house in USA first, or the hotel you'll be staying. Make sure to inform the hotel you'll be expecting some packages. Most hotels (if you've got a confirmed booking) will be ok with this I'd say. Ok plan out for the shipments to arrive at the hotel when you've arrived in the States. With this you'd have completed alot of your shopping even before getting to States.

Benefits of Amazon - accepts international c/cards. They drop off at houses / hotels and don't require people to be at home (might be common in USA as usually in Malaysia most parcels are have to be signed by recipient). They have a good customer service and an excellent return policy.

I would say one of the hardest thing to find in Penang, or probably in Malaysia is a decent hammock. I've looked around, found one at Padang Besar, obviously cheap, RM5, but lasted 10mins before the first string broke. You can actually get a huge option of Hammocks from Amazon .

Basicallly I would say there are two main categories, one with a frame (usually wooden) so your hammock is already spread. More suitable for couples to easily sit together or elderly. Check the lenght of the wooden frame first, to find out if it'll fit into your luggage to carry home.

Another one is the basic string or canvas or cotton hammock that you'll need to spread before getting on it. This one would be lighter to carry back, and cheaper mostly.


You'd probably need to consider buying some straps or 'buckles' to tie your hammock to an anchor. I am not yet that familiar with this terms so can't explain much.


KitchenUtensils. This is one of the best places to perfect your kitchen accesories. Yes the utensils like the knives are a little more expensive then the basic knife you get here, but they are usually sharper and last longer. For exampleVictorinox 47508 3-1/4-Inch Paring Knife, a tomato knife (to cut soft fruits / vegetables) etc . Not the most romantic gift for your better half, but when they start using it, they'll appreciate it.
.

Handphone Mobile Pouches is another good thing to buy. Especially for brands or models not common home. Look also for your Samsung tab or iPad casings.

Also check out HDMI cables, you can get them for as low ~USD3, and back here probably the cheapest you'll get is for RM30. Amazon

Probably before you buy stuff (namely electronics), compare back home at websites like Mudah, Lazada, PC Depot, Lelong and the ever favourite Lowyat.net (click on Lowyat PriceList)

2. Electronic Stores like Fry's and Best Buy.
Here you can get a plethora of IT gadgets and toys. Usually the latest stuff is a little cheaper in the states, and once it has become common, like a USB Thumb / Pen Drive the prices are not that much different. Another item alot of people buy back is Garmin GPS navigation with free world wide maps. Most of this shops do have good sales when it comes around, also a good return / exchange policy. If you are a collector of DVD or BlueRay movies and songs, the ones on sales are really cheap as well. Even sometimes PS3 or Wii games on sales are quite cheap, but you'd need to know your games well to find out if the ones on sale are highly rated or not. I did find though that some electronic stuff is cheaper in Amazon, especially if you are not paying taxes (depends on which state you are sending to - check your invoice before you check-out your cart from Amazon), things like this BT headset is quite cheap on Amazon.



Another plus point on Amazon is you can read alot of customer reviews for reference before you make your decision.


3. Outlet Malls
This is one of the places foreigners have as a must do / must go in their lists. Prior to going to the outlet mall, a few things to consider

-Go to the outlets website, one of the largest outlet mall franchise is Simon Group's Premium Outlet Mall. Register and get the voucher book coupon and download the related coupons. You can collect the voucher book at the outlet information centre. If you do not pre-download but go to the outlet counter straight to get the coupon book they'd charge you around USD5. Places like SawGrass mall only sell this.So do the math.

What to buy at the outlets. So many choices. The favs are Coach, Corningware, Gap, Baby Gap, Guess, Vitamin's from Vitamin World - Glucosamine, Fish Oil, B Complex. Also branded watches.  Probably weight gain formula as well. A heaven...with a costly impact to your credit card allowance.

Ps- The Simon's Group Premium Outlet is the same company that setup shop in Johor - Johor Premium Outlets (JPO). I haven't been there yet, but kudos that we have a Premium Outlet just down south. 


-Distance to outlet. You might have a couple of outlets at around the same distance you're willing to drive, then consider tax. Different states have different taxes, varying by a few percent. And then you have Oregon, Alaska, Maryland, Montana and New Hamspire with no sales tax if I'm not mistaken.

- Time : this places are mostly outdoor with some shaded walkways leading to each store. The places are huge. So if you have less then 1 hour to shop and are not sure what to get, it'll probably be a challenge.


Remember most stores close early on Sunday's and Public Holidays. Check before you go, as this outlets tend to be a drive away, just like our JPO.

You can probably compared prices with our Zalora which has a good variety of branded deals. Some brands like Aldo, where there is a sale back home it is actually cheaper (sigificantly) then the outlet price in the States. So take note to compare before you buy.

3. Baby Stuff
Two main stores are BuyBuyBaby and BabyRUs. Below things are usually cheaper

  • Stroller
  • Carrier
  • *Baby Camera (audio and / or camera).
  • *Breast Pump
  • Baby food. Here's a good example,
Below HappyMelts Organic Yogurt Snack is RM23.90 per pack in Malaysia. 

Now if you buy from Amazon, it is USD31.51 for a pack of 8. Which comes down to less then USD4 per pack, or less then RM13 per pack. So if you just buy they 8 pack, you have saved RM80. Ridiculous isn't it. 

*Most of the electrical / electronic items there come with a 110/120V power supply. So if you're from Malaysia (or similar countries) that use 220V, consider your cost to buy a power transformer that is not really cheap and could get quite hot. I've had friends who managed to buy products that cater for both 110/220V, but make sure you check.
Otherwise get a product which uses a common power jack or USB powered. 



4. Wholesale HyperMarkets 
COSTCO and Sam's Club are two very big retailers that require membership to enter / purchase, but is open to end / retail customer. They have their own homegrown brands, which are real value for money. Sam's club is owned by Walmart. I know Costco has expanded in Asia, but haven't heard of any news of Costco opening up in Malaysia. Costco's own brand Kirkland is REAL value for money, ranging for mixed nuts, to delicious relatively cheap chocolates and supplements. Costco on accepts American Express, so either get whoever's taking you to help pay first, of if you have the Maybank AMEX card that'll work as well (note AMEX is notoriously known for its higher FOREX rates I hear). If you did your MBA or related course, pretty sure you'd have read about them in how they do business, or enhance customer experience.

Things you'd consider buying
  • Luggage bags
  • Assorted chocs for friends and family (the fun size ones)
  • Nuts
  • Whatever you fancy.

 5. WalMart & Target 
Above are like our Tesco's and Giant. They do have a good selection. Clothes here are of good value and not overpriced but usually not branded.

6.Macy's and the likes
This is like our Parkson. Macy's does give discount for foreigners, so check with them. Hmm there's a Macy's in KL right.


Other things to consider
Luggage space ? Check you airlines allowance on number of lugagges and sizes. Flights thru the Americas and not usually have different allowance.

Which Credit Card to use? Some people say that rates are fixed by MasterCard and Visa. Usually hear AMEX is the highest (they might have additional chargers on top of the conversation rate) But I did read somewhere it is bank dependant too. My experience? I used UOB and Maybank, Maybank had a VERY GOOD conservation rate. Also google online, last I checked, other bloggers also agreed that Maybank currently has the best FOREX, at least for USD.

Foreign Exchange (USD $). Suggest change in Malaysia first to take along some FOREX, as you'd get the best rates in your home country. Need some info on where to change currency, click here



 

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