A bit of a horror story re buying and shipping stuff from India

#16 Feb 28th, 2009, 19:13
Join Date:
Feb 2009
Washington, DC/Delhi
  • jackstrawdc is offline
I have a close friend who purchased walnut furniture from a merchant in Goa a few years back. She's not on this site, but I'm quite familiar with the details.

She purchased the furniture after much haggling, but she bought it custom. (Yes, we can all start listing her mistakes, so hold your fire for a moment or 2).

In essence, the agreement said the items (dining room table, 8 chairs and a 7-foot tall side hutch) would arrive in 6 months. In reality, even she was expecting one year.

She paid via Amex. The merchant didn't take amex, but his neighbor jeweler did.

Long story short, she finally got her stuff after TWO years, and it wasn't entirely what she ordered. But, it mostly was. The chairs came in like 100 pieces each, in need of assembly. But, the order was not damaged. She's happy with what she got, but definitely regrets making the purchase due to the hassles.

Lessons learned:
1. Shpping charges are never inclusive. Unless you are an expert at int'l freight, there are more charges that you could ever imagine. Make sure you receipt says "unpacked in your house" or something like that.

2. Know the rules on your visa/credit card. Will you get a refund if you fight the charge? Yes, but there is a time limit! You might have to fight the charge within a few weeks, even tho delivery isn't expect for many more months. I believe you have to lock in the dispute process within a certain time period. Learn the rules!!

3. Damaged items: Is it your problem or some non-existent insurance company's problem? Again, the best advice I can give is to have it clearly written on the receipt that it is the merchant's problem, and that you get a full refund if there are problems.

4. Never trust Goa merchants. Period.
#17 Mar 8th, 2009, 02:30
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Jan 2009
  • peaceonearth1 is offline

Rip Off Shops All Over India

We saw similar shops, run by Kashmiris, in Madurai, Trivandrum, Mumbai, Aurungabad, Udiapiur, Jaipiur, Agra and Delhi this past month. One chain's name that cropped up in many of these cities was "Saga"

The stores are very well maintained, well air conditioned and sell VERY EXPENSIVE items with high pressure tactics and always offer you tea and a rooftop view.

Their stock does seem to be of high quality but the value they offer is poor as you can always get much the same item for a lot less elsewhere.

Luckily we did not succumb to their platitudes and did a lot of our shopping at the State Govt. emporia in Delhi and the govt. run Cottage Crafts Industries shops.

#18 Mar 8th, 2009, 05:13
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  • abracax is offline
The Kashmiri national motto: ABC (Always Be Closing). With apologies to Mamet.
New home for my photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/abracax/
#19 Mar 8th, 2009, 05:37
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Sep 2005
Abode of Glooscap
  • PeakXV is offline
You can have some great kawa in quality china at Saga .... if that's your cup of tea. Only looking no buying though cause most invoices from that store would choke a small elephant.
We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time. ~
T. S. Eliot

#20 May 9th, 2009, 17:09
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Sep 2008
Varies, currently in D.C.
  • dillichaat is offline
Best thing to do is to buy the goods and then contact a shipping company yourself to take care of the logistics, keeping shipping costs out of the other deal. It's a complicated business and you should understand exactly what it is you're paying for to avoid surprises.

In order to facilitate this a number of standardized contract terms have been drawn up, you can find the readers' digest version of these here and a more comprehensive explanation here

It's best to organize shipping with a reputed, big company that will take care of the export declaration and has contacts on the other side to clear the goods through customs (duty and VAT usually to be billed extra) and deliver them at your doorstep.

Usually letting the company that sold you the items take care of this is a recipe for disaster b/c they may not send anything at all, send low-quality stuff or skimp on packaging and included costs. That being said, I also once bought a Thanjavur bronze and had them ship it to my home (at the time in Europe) and everything went flawlessly. I was lucky but wouldn't do it again.
#21 May 9th, 2009, 17:35
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Oct 2008
  • LilBoy BigTown is offline
Last time I was in Kochi, our driver, who for most part was a fairly decent fellow, on the last day of our trip, finally succumbed to greed and took us to a massive store selling ridiculously expensive furniture and antiques.

As soon as I step in, the sales people, who have been until then sitting idly and cracking jokes, immediately sense a kill and descend upon me like a pack of shoals.

I immediately put on my worst behaviour and rudely tell them to leave me alone if they want my business. They weren't expecting it, but retreat and let me browse the store in relative peace.

I potter around for a while, get offered coffee and cold drinks, which I again rudely decline and a good 10 minutes later, exit the store without spending a penny.

Sometimes, it is our politeness that makes us vulnerable.
Last edited by LilBoy BigTown; May 9th, 2009 at 17:37.. Reason: typo
#22 May 11th, 2009, 22:17
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Jun 2003
State of Contemplation
  • Vasko is offline
How do these big shops stay in business? Do they really sell that much stuff abroad?
#23 May 11th, 2009, 22:24
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Oct 2004
Chennai, India
  • Nick-H is offline
I have no idea --- but they always seem to have a large number of staff, and no other customers!
Life gets aadhar every day.
#24 May 12th, 2009, 09:23
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Sep 2008
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  • dillichaat is offline
How do these big shops stay in business? Do they really sell that much stuff abroad?
I had asked myself the same question about some of the big Kashmiri-run emporiums here in Delhi.

First of all, their stuff is mostly cheap and -sorry- very low quality. They can afford to have lots of staff as those people make next to nothing (3500 Rs/month) except for the salesmen, who only make money when they sell b/c they're paid on commission.

Then of course they have connections to the touts in order to drag in the tourists. Here in Delhi, depending on the emporium and the skin color of the tourist, whoever drags one in gets paid, irrespective of whether the tourist buys or not. Prices vary between 100 and 400 Rs...just for bringing in someone (ok, someone white, indians fetch a considerably lower price). Then the high-pressure sales tactics start, complete with signboards saying 'fixed price'. If the tourist buys something the tout gets a commission (typically 20-30 pct).

The markups are enormous and especially as a foreigner you WILL massively overpay, whatever bargaining skills you have (nobody can bargain down to 5 pct of the original price) so if a piece of beautiful-looking junk is sold you've made their day. It takes only one or two buyers/day. The above makes abstraction of any cheating schemes they might try to pull (many a tourist walked home with marble inlaywork that's really soapstone inlaywork, sandalwood carvings that never saw a sandalwood tree or a gorgeous, synthetic shawl).

If you want to know the value of an item, just consider the cost of the material, labor cost is in most cases negligible. Generally I stay away from emporiums b/c I've yet to see one where you can buy quality goods, never mind the price.
#25 May 25th, 2009, 18:44
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Feb 2007
Perth Australia
  • LunavadaLad is offline
In my travels through India and Southeast Asia I have often been shocked by what tourist will pay for items at times without even bargaining. When compare to USD, Pounds or AUD they believe they are getting a good price. Also some people feel very uncomfortable with haggling over price so will pay the first or second price.
If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay home. ~James Michener
#26 Jul 13th, 2009, 20:25
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Apr 2009
Brighton, UK
  • mamagourmande is offline

Where to buy?

If one should avoid emporiums, then where is the best type of place to buy? We are going to Cochin in Kerala and Rajasthan next month and having never been to india before, will almost certainly want to buy carvings, shawls and other types of souvenirs
#27 Jul 13th, 2009, 21:00
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Jan 2009
Noo Yawk
  • Keshava is offline
Originally Posted by Nick-H View Post That is either not true of the shops on the tourist trail --- or at least they claim it isn't! I remember my tourist trips around these shops, and the offer of shipping, the assurance of experience, telling that they put lesser amount on invoice for tax, was copious.

Of course, it could have all been total bullshit!
Of course it's bukwas! I've been buying in India and shipping
to the USA for my music store for 12 years now. I have endless
horror stories about Bozos who are inept and clueless about
packing and shipping. Years ago I went to Monoj Kumar Sardar's
shop in Calcutta and purchased a bunch of instruments and
explained in great detail that they had to be packed well
enough to survive being flown half-way around the world
to my shop in NYC. I came back an hour later and they had
put delicate sitars in flimsy cardboard boxes with a handful
of filthy excelsior around them and tied them closed with
bakery string. They wouldn't have survived a trip around the
block - never mind in the hold of an airplane! It took two days
for them just to locate cardboard boxes that wouldn't turn to mush like a piece of rotten fruit. I had to pack everything myself. Now I have a Nepali gent who picks up everything for me in Calcutta and takes it all by train to Delhi to my guy there who handles the packing stuff. He's been shipping internationally for years - and still he gets lazy and screws up on a pretty regular basis. When it comes to packing and shipping out of India - never simply take a person's word for it when they say they know what they're doing. The more vociferiously they insist they are experienced and reliable - the more suspicious you should be.

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