For most people in Ghana who want to buy items abroad and have them delivered, the modus operandi is to call a friend, relative, or acquaintance abroad who may be coming to the country soon and ask them to get it for you. Then, you wait until they are ready to travel; that could take weeks or even months. Also, it’s not like you can put pressure on them because you’re not paying them and they’re doing you a favor. The same scenario applies to Nigeria, and most African countries to be frank. The alternative would be to use a service such as UPS or DHL which could cost a lot.
Shypmate identified this problem and decided to be the middleman. So now, instead of being limited to just your circle of friends, relatives and acquaintances, you’re exposed to everybody’s friends, relatives and acquaintances. These are people traveling back to either Ghana or Nigeria from the United States who have extra luggage space and are willing to carry some items in order to make some extra cash.
I first heard of technology startup Shypmate earlier this year in January when they were featured on TechCrunch. I thought to myself ‘Oh, that would be really nice and convenient’. I wasn’t buying anything at the time so I stashed it away under ‘useful sites’. Fast forward a couple of months and I needed to purchase some memory for my machine. My first point of reference was calling friends, relatives, and acquaintances to see whether anybody was coming down to Ghana from the United States anytime soon. That was a dead end. So I decided to give Shypmate a try after doing some research online. Just in case. I checked reviews, tweets about them. You know, the works. Here’s how my first Shypmate experience went down.
Stage 1 : Ordering and Payment
You have two options when you want to order items from an online store via Shypmate. Either you send them an email containing a link to the item(s) you want to purchase or you sign up on Shypmate’s site and use their web app to do so. I chose the latter. Signing up was pretty straightforward. You enter your basic details (name, phone, email and password) and that’s it, you’ve just created a Shypmate account. . Regardless of whether you are signed in as a web user or not, you can also paste the link to the item in a form provided on the website and get a delivery estimate.
Once I chose the sign up option and had my Shypmate account, I proceeded to fill an order form with the details of the item I wanted to buy: URL, price, weight, name, quantity and description. After that was done, I clicked the ‘add to cart’ button. Pretty straightforward. That was the only item I was ordering so I moved to the checkout page. On the checkout page, you can view the items you have in your cart and edit, delete them or complete the checkout.
You’re then taken to the payment page where you also enter your delivery details. There are two payment options for Ghana: Paypal and ExpressPay. Paypal (still) doesn’t work in Ghana, so ExpressPay it was. I paid using my Visa card. There were other options available: Mastercard, Tigo, MTN and Airtel Mobile Money. Again, pretty straightforward.
Stage 2 : Waiting Phase 1 (Purchase and Delivery to Shypmate)
The tagline on the landing page of Shypmate’s website is: “Buy products from any online store in the United States and get it delivered in 5 – 10 days.” Which would’ve been great except for, you know, the fine print: “From the date your item it delivered from the merchant”. Personally, I didn’t have a problem with this because I understand the system but here’s a breakdown of the timeline just in case you’re wondering about efficiency and how long it takes to receive your purchase.
– Ordered and paid for the item.
– Received email confirmation from Shypmate.
– Received email from Shypmate informing me that my item had been ordered.
– Received an email informing me that my item had been shipped from the merchant.
– Sent an email to Shypmate requesting an update.
– Received an email response informing me that the item had not yet been received from the merchant.
– Received an email informing me that my item had been delivered by the merchant and had been matched with a traveler.
– This is when the 5-10 day delivery guarantee actually begins.
Stage 3 : The Delivery
– The 10-day delivery countdown begins.
– Received an SMS from E Market Innovate informing me that they had received my package from Shypmate and would deliver it by August 25. (Well within the 10-day delivery guarantee).
– My package was delivered to my doorstep (or more specifically, my workplace doorstep).
In all, it took exactly 20 days for me to receive my items. I am pleased with their services because Shypmate delivered on their promise of delivering within 5 to 10 days after receiving my purchase from the merchant. You always have to read the fine print when the promises seem too good to be true, and in this case, it fit the bill. Also, their price was way cheaper than the estimates I got from other shipping and delivery services like DHL – a bonus for them in my book as a young professional.
One thing that’s bugging me is why they don’t use Amazon Prime and get delivery time cut down substantially. I know not everybody orders from Amazon but within my circles, most people do. Hopefully I get an answer from them on that. I’ll be sure to update this review if I do.
Another area of contention for me is their communication channels. I was able to communicate easily with them using email and Twitter, but with the online support chat window on their site, I wasn’t able to. I only got one response from them and that was a ‘hello’ after which there was radio silence. If that channel of communication doesn’t work, I don’t think it should be available on the site.
As a first-time customer, my final rating for Shypmate is 8 out of 10. And no, I don’t have a marking scheme for this. Are you planning on using them or have you used them and have a similar or different experience? Let me know down in the comments section below.
Written by Mohammed-Hanif Abdulai
Circumspecte offers insights and perspectives on business, development, lifestyle, culture, careers and human interest issues related to Africa and Africans.