“On Your Way” Brings the Amazon Shopping Experience to Lebanon

One of the things I miss most about living in the US is Amazon.com. More than merely a marketplace, it’s a treasure trove that sells absolutely everything under the sun (and then some). 

I’m not exaggerating. I used to skip the university bookstore, buying (and selling) ALL of my college textbooks via Amazon. Last Christmas, I stumbled across gorgeous Ivanka Trump navy blue pumps at a steal…on Amazon. Every perfume I have ever procured, from my very first bottle of Burberry Brit back in grad school, was through Amazon. Most recently, my son Stephen’s play pen, stroller, bottle sterilizer, bottle warmer, and organic bamboo bath towel were unearthed…on Amazon.

Yes, folks. Amazon is life, and nowhere do you appreciate its existence more than in Lebanon, where it is nonexistent. Here, if you come across an imported product, particularly clothing or electronics, it’s substantially marked up (been to Virgin Megastore recently?). Quite often, too, you won’t even find what you’re looking for. Which quickly becomes the bane of your own existence.

Up until today, I’ve been circumventing that hurdle by enlisting my parents to transport my wish list every time they fly in from LA. But the problem with that is obvious: they visit once a year, twice if I’m lucky, and they’ve got limited baggage space. Waiting months on end for their arrival is far from convenient, especially when I need something desperately (try finding women’s size 10 shoes around here – impossible!).

On Your Way

I recently discovered a service dubbed On Your Way, whose objective is pretty straightforward. You locate an item online that you want from the US or Europe. Either it's not available in Lebanon, or you can’t justify paying the steep price tag locally. Submit the link of the product to onyourway.io, including information like price and weight. Within 24 hours, you’ll receive an offer, including a calculated delivery charge. You’ll also be notified of a guaranteed delivery date, likely between two and three weeks, but never beyond four weeks.


Simply provide the link of the product you want,
and receive an offer of delivery date and shipping cost


Upon your acceptance, On Your Way will purchase the goods and commission one of their certified travelers to transport it in his or her baggage. Said traveler will drop the stuff off at a central office in Mar Mikhael, Beirut, from which you can arrange either pick-up or home delivery.

What’s comforting is that On Your Way will refund you the entire price of product plus delivery should your item arrive compromised in any manner. Their trusted travelers undergo a rigorous screening process once they’ve registered their trip and indicated how much space they can dedicate in their luggage (more on that later).

The advantages are self-evident: you can finally import whatever gadget or gizmo you’ve had your eye on at a price that’s sensible, transparent and up-front. There's even a nifty shipping price simulator on the website -- inputs include item price, weight, and size.



Compute shipping price by specifying item price, weight and size

 

Sure, international couriers like Aramex provide the same end-result, but have you seen their shipping rates from the US? They make the Virgin Megastore option look enviable, and that’s if Virgin even carries the latest Microsoft Surface Book you’re hell-bent on owning.


Testing It Out

It all reads fine and dandy on paper, er, onscreen, and user testimonials sound reassuringly positive. But I had to try it out for myself. Well, to be accurate, I’m currently waiting for the arrival of a pair of waterproof, silicone bibs for Stephen!



I first created an order by providing the product's Amazon link and filling out basic information.



My baby has recently graduated to solid foods, and let’s just say he’s a rather playful eater. I read about these miraculous, 100% food-grade silicone bibs that resist stains, don’t absorb water, and fit kids aged 6 months to 6 years. American parents are raving about them, rating them a cumulative 5/5 on Amazon. They sell for $19 a pair, and I’ve searched high and low for them in baby shops across Beirut, to no avail.

So on Sunday, June 10, I submitted the Amazon link to On Your Way, verifying price and weight. A shipping rate of $12 was estimated and confirmed less than two hours later, along with a delivery date prior to June 30. I immediately accepted the offer. Now it’s a wait and see game. Be sure you’re following me on Instagram to witness the outcome!



Within a few hours of my order, OYW proposed a delivery date and shipping cost


Registering As a Traveler

If you’re reading this from the US, UK, or France; are anticipating a trip to Lebanon anytime in the near future; and wouldn’t mind carving out some real estate in your baggage to help subsidize your travel fare; you might consider signing up as a traveler for On Your Way.

Fill out a basic questionnaire specifying your trip origin, arrival date, and how much space you’re willing to parcel out. On Your Way will then get in touch to conduct a background check, and if you pass, you’ll be sent a slate of items which you have 48 hours to approve or veto. The most popular product categories are electronics, shoes, clothing, cosmetics, and small automotive accessories. Products you authorize are shipped from recognized online stores to your address, to be packed and toted with you on your journey to BEY. Once you’re here, On Your Way comes by and collects the goods, compensating you in cash.


Register as a traveler with On Your Way, and make money carrying items in your baggage
(photo source: valtech.com)


It’s definitely worth looking into, because I’ve read that registered travelers finance on average 80% of their flight costs using On Your Way! Depending on the value and weight of what you transport, you could fetch $15/kg (or $7/lb.).

Let’s do some quick math. Most international flights permit you two luggage weighing 23 kilos apiece. An empty suitcase weighs around 6 kilos, so you can flesh it out with 17 kilos in goods. That translates to $255 with On Your Way. Even if the airline charges $100 for a second bag that you weren’t planning on carrying, you could stand to profit $155 by opting in to On Your Way. 

Lebanese students studying abroad, are you reading this? Easy moolah!


Outlook

I’m really excited about the potential of this service to fulfill orders (and dreams) from abroad. Its simplicity is uncanny, and if you really contemplate it, there’s a human connection on some level, as every order sponsors a portion of a fellow Lebanese’s trip home. No doubt as the network of registered travelers grows, delivery times will drop significantly, and shipping costs might follow, too.

Heck, with a sufficiently large pool of travelers, it’ll be as if Amazon finally landed in Lebanon. Well, veritably it will have, powered by a Lebanese wasta à la On Your Way!




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