Navigating Mexico: Getting Those Hard to Get Products in Mexico
By JUAN DE JESÚS BREENE
How many times does an expat, or even a Mexican who lived for a time abroad, say, “I wonder who I know who is coming to my city so I can ask them to bring me…”
Mix that with the number of times you have heard, “There’s an app for that!”
Then, join the two and you have Grabr, a San Francisco-based company that since 2015 and with $8 million in venture capital, puts someone traveling together with someone who wants a product not available in Mexico or ridiculously marked up after importation.
Simply put, travelers get paid to deliver items to shoppers in another country.
Since the start of the internet, expat and other online communities have always helped each other informally as mules.
This app does the same, but formalizes the process and gives the carrier a fee for their troubles.
The cities most requesting items are Buenos Aires and Cordoba in Argentina and Sao Paulo, Rio, Belo Horizonte and Brasilia in Brazil.
Also Montevideo, Uruguay, Lima, Peru ,and Moscow, Russia, are big Grabr users.
These cities have huge variances in their official dollar exchange rate and the rate to sell or buy U.S. dollars outside of a bank. Some of these countries also limit the amount of dollars a citizen can purchase from a bank each month.
Yes, these cities have services like Amazon, but the prices in local currency might end up being double.
Other items are just so unusual, they are not even on Amazon!
Diplomats have long enjoyed embassy commissary purchases and diplomatic pouches, while flight crews always do their hard-to-get or crazily inflated-priced purchases at duty-free shops or when abroad.
But what about the rest of us? Grabr could be the solution, especially when you do not want to impose on a traveling friend.
Just like there are apps for people who wish to exchange homes, there is also this one for muling.
Shoppers create a “grab request,” aka, an order, and provide the link where the traveler can purchase the item locally.
Travelers list the dates of their travel, including cities, deciding to make an “offer” to procure the product.
A shopper must use their credit card to pay through Grabr for a traveler to accept the delivery of an offer. Grabr holds the shopper’s money until the delivery of the items, guaranteeing the safety of funds — similar to the way we pay all transactions these days.
The traveler is responsible for purchasing the item, and therefore in full control of what is packed and delivered.
All together, there are about eight steps. Grabr walks each user through the country-specific policies in customs, as well as ensures any additional customs fees are included into the cost of the product, along with best ways to do a handoff and the like.
Grabr, now traded on the stock exchange and with some 48,715 transactions a month, earns the company a cool $25 million a year in revenue. Its site also lists some of the more unusual and quite comical, but not illegal, items requested.
While it may not be for everyone, it is certainly an easy way to get an impossible-to-find item or earn some extra cash as airline tickets go through the roof.