From Qatar with Love
We've long been both fans and users of the Aramex Shop n' Ship service (and no, they don't pay us despite our extensive coverage of them!) and with the festive season coming up we chased down an interview with Aramex representative Hassan Mikail.
An Interview with Aramex
How did Aramex shop n' ship start - who got the idea for it and how?
Well, basically it started a long time before the internet - in the late 80's. Essentially it was a concierge service, but when the internet came along we changed it into an internet service.
Could you explain briefly how your service works.
People are given a postal address in the US or the UK, from where we will pick up the goods and deliver it to their country. (See Qatar Visitor's Aramex review for extensive details of the service in Qatar.)
Why should people use your shop n' ship service?
Some websites charge a premium to send goods abroad, others just don't do it. We offer a cost effective way to shop abroad from your home.
Do you offer any guarantees - what happens if something is damaged in transit, and what happens if something goes missing?
We offer a warranty. Insurance is offered, and that's there for the customer if they want it.
That's at an additional price?
Yes, that's a value added service for the customer if they want it.
Is Shop n' Ship a growing service?
Yes, it's doubled over the last few years!
And has it been affected by the economic crisis?
Not at all, actually, it has done quite the opposite because a lot of the bargain hunters are online too.
How much business is it doing in Qatar?
Qatar, funnily enough, is our fastest growing and most promising business right now. It's catching up with Saudi and Kuwait. The population is switched on and shopping online and is very active and dynamic.
Tax paid on goods in Qatar seems a bit random. On what goods do you need to pay tax, at what rate does it start and how much do you need to pay?
What's applied is purely on a country level, but that's usually the GCC tax, which is around 5%. This is only applicable to goods with a value of over 100 dollars.
Is this on all goods or just luxury goods?
It's everything. I'm not sure about books, but certainly everything else.
I think I've been lucky - I am pretty sure I have ordered things in the past which have been more than a hundred dollars, and I haven't been charged tax!
Well, we can't complain about that then (laughs).
Christmas is coming up, and some people may already be worried that they have left it too late to order goods. If we are ordering presents for Qatar how long should we allow for delivery?
Right now we are advising our customers to start ordering already for Christmas, in fact many of our customers started a week ago.
So, should we allow a week or two weeks?
Give it a comfortable week. That depends if there is a weekend in between, so I would say anything from 7 to 10 days. It's usually here within 10 days.
Does it take a little bit longer to come to Qatar than to Dubai?
No, no, it's just as efficient.
If I order goods via Aramex and forget to pick them up or am not in the country, how long does Aramex keep them for?
They'll call you, and they'll call you - I think there's a holding time, officially, for 60 days. After that, you get notified, and if you still don't pick up the goods we have to just get rid of the gifts. Usually, though, if you can't pick them up we'll try to find a way to deliver them to you.
So you offer a delivery service?
It's limited in Doha, there are customers who have been us with for years and we try to keep them satisfied!
I like to use Paypal when I shop, as its faster and more convenient than a credit card. Unfortunately, it is not available in Qatar. What alternative payment system would you suggest?
There are systems out there - they are mostly registered in the EU. An example, I don't if you have heard of them, is ENTROPAY.com...
Can you set that up with a Qatar bank account?
You don't need a bank account to use them. You should check it out - they are very interesting, by the way.
There's money bookers as well.
Yes, that's the one I use, actually.
Do you have any secure shopping tips for Qatar internet users?
We always advise people to use popular websites, the well known websites which have been around for a long time, that have got a reputation. Or at least check on a website before purchasing from them, do a little bit of a background check.
How would you do a background check?
They have ratings out there for the different sites, security ratings. It's worth doing an enquiry about these sites, the security system they have in place. Issues will happen, because there is always going to be some kind of fraud somewhere.
Best websites to get bargains at the moment?
The only thing I can think of right now is Amazon! (laughs)
I mean, they have been around forever, I have been shopping with them forever myself. There are other sites, there's Ebay, but Amazon, you know, is quite consistent.
I don't know if the same thing happens in Dubai, but goods coming into Qatar are usually opened and checked at customs, so you have some idea of what is coming in. What is the weirdest thing you or your employees have ever seen?
I don't want to talk about this (laughs). You know, it's happened, people have been adventurous, we do work with customs in our facilities. I'd just advise people not to import anything in illegal.
Hassan, thank you so much for your time!
Any time - and give my regards to Doha!