Although Amazon is finally gearing up to launch in Australia, we could see significant differences in both the range and pricing of items available through the local outlet compared to the Amazon mother-ship in the USA.
But if you regularly travel to the US, there’s a canny way to access the full Amazon product line – and avoid often-outrageous shipping charges to Australia, which for some items can be as much as the product itself – as well as letting you buy goods which the company doesn’t ship to Australia.
This is what I do ahead of each trip to the US.
First up, on an ongoing basis, add anything you’d like to buy from Amazon into your online ‘shopping cart’.
About one week in advance of your trip, revisit the cart and fine-tune the list – you might want to buy everything in the cart, or just stick with a handful of items while moving others off the list using the ‘save for later’ link.
One week is usually sufficient for free ‘standard’ shipping to arrive at your hotel, although you should check your order for items which are not being fulfilled by Amazon but instead have to come from a third-party retailer, as these can take longer to arrive.
Specify the address of your hotel for the delivery, listing your name and the dates of your stay on the top line, such as Jack Smith, guest: 22/3 – 25/3.
(Note the reserved US-style format of month/day rather than day/month).
If you’re offered free trial membership of Amazon Prime, take that up – it’ll give you two-day shipping so you can place orders closer to you trip and, depending on the length of your stay, even while you’re in the US. You can always cancel the trial Prime membership within 30 days, before the annual membership fee kicks in.
Be aware of how much you’re ordering: you’ll need to either leave sufficient room in your luggage or bring along a spare bag. I usually pack a collapsible ‘weekender’ bag inside my checked luggage.
If you’re in the US and the parcels are delivered to your room, you’ll be expected to hand over a tip of around US$2 per box.
Obviously if the parcels are delivered to your room, expect to hand over a tip – it’s typically US$2 for one item or a flat $5 for several boxes.
Note that some hotels will charge you – or at least attempt to charge you – on a per-item basis just for receiving your deliveries, especially if they arrive several days ahead of you and the items have to be held in the hotel’s security cage.
(This is one reason to time the deliveries to reach the hotel no more than a day before you check in, and ideally to land while you’re at the hotel).
This fee is especially common in popular convention hotels – doubly so in Las Vegas, where some hotels have outsourced their mail and package handling to an on-site Fedex branch.
It’s usually possibly to dispute the fee at checkout and have it removed, either entirely or in part – just make your objections know calmly, and keep them logical and fair-minded.
(For example, I once brought down to the checkout desk a small slim A5-sized document envelope for which I’d been charged a US$5 ‘holding’ fee as an example of how unrealistic the surcharge was – the receptionist found herself in agreement and stuck all the charges off.)