Online shopping – the Swiss way

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Have you recently relocated to Switzerland and wondering how you are going to survive without Amazon? Don’t know where to shop on Black Friday? Don’t be discouraged, there are plenty of alternatives that will allow you to get what you need at the touch of a few clicks.

Online Grocery Shopping

In Switzerland, you can buy your groceries online from Coop and have them delivered for a fee to your home. There are often promotions for free delivery if you purchase more than CHF 200 of groceries. Migros offers a similar service called LeShop.

In France, you can pick up your groceries on your way home from school or work. You can either order online from Carrefour Drive (closest one to the school is in Segny) or Intermarché Drive (closest one to the school is in Gex). They will prepare your groceries and have them ready for you when you get there. While Carrefour Drive for now only offers pick up service, Intermarché Drive offers both home delivery and in store pick up services.

If you miss the frozen section of the big American groceries, you can order a variety of frozen food from Picard, a chain that specializes exclusively in frozen food which can be delivered to your front door. They have stores in both Switzerland and France.

Clothes and Shoes

While every major clothing and shoe store chain has online ordering options, Zalando stands out as one of the most practical ones with a wide range of selection for the entire family. One of the biggest advantages of Zalando is that deliveries and returns are both free, so order as many items as you wish to try on. Zalando can be deliver to your house or at a post office near you and unwanted items can be returned within 30 days at no charge in the same box to your post office or with a pick up service. They have recently launched an online discount designer outlet concept called Zalando Lounge which offers up to 75% discount on designer items.

If you like designer clothes, you can sign up to Veepee which offers 80% discount on a limited selection of designer items. You need to subscribe to the website to receive a weekly list of their limited offers.

If you are up to the challenge of using Google translate, have a look at a Swiss German site called Fashionette which offers great mid-season sales on designer handbags, shoes and accessories.

Electronics

The go-to online electronic stores are MediaMarkt and Fust, however there are other more specialized sites including Digitec, Conrad and Interdiscount. It’s worth taking the time to shop around and if you are an electronics enthusiast or looking for that unusual adaptor, plug or transform, Conrad is a good place to look.

Books and DVDs

The two largest online booksellers in Switzerland are Payot and Fnac. Payot offers a good selection of English books. Fnac, like Amazon, started off as a books seller, however has now grown into a seller of many other items including DVDs, electronics and toys. Other sites worth a browse are ExLibris, Lelivre, with a selection of English and German books and Chapitre which offers second hand books.

Alternatively, it is worth comparing prices with the British based Book Depository which offers free delivery worldwide on a selection of 20 million books.

Food from the US and UK

If you can’t find Hershey chocolate chips for your secret chocolate cookie recipe or want to taste the new Cadbury Dairy Milk bar with 30% less sugar, there are two sites worth visiting. For British food, My Expat Shop offers a great selection of UK products. The American Food Avenue is it’s US counterpart with a good choice of American snacks, canned pumpkins and other holiday necessities.

Other online services

A few other Swiss sites worth mentioning are Buyclub, Galaxus and Brack. Galaxus and Brack offer a wide selection of products from electronics to toys to clothes to furniture. Galaxus’ website is available in English.

Buyclub is an English language expat website that features daily restaurants, spas, & activities around Geneva at special prices. You can subscribe to get their daily email.

If you are not in a rush, China based Aliexpress is also an interesting option as items are often much cheaper than in Switzerland or even than on Amazon, so that they will not be subject to VAT. However, shipping times can be longer especially for larger items.

How to order from Amazon.fr or other non-Swiss sites if you live in Switzerland

If you still can’t find the item you are looking for on a Swiss online site, then you can always order from Amazon. However, the Swiss government is doing its best to make it very difficult to order items from Amazon.com in order to level the playing field for Swiss based online services.

In fact, Swiss shoppers have recently been restricted access to Amazon.com (they will not deliver to Switzerland) and can only shop on Amazon sites domiciled in the EU due to import duties in Switzerland. Your best bet is ordering from one of the Amazon EU sites such as Amazon.fr or Amazon.de and having your times either delivered to a French post office (for small items) or to a pick up service (for large items).

To have your Amazon.fr items shipped to a post office in France, simply add the post office address with your name as a delivery address option in your Amazon account. If the item is shipped directly by Amazon, you will get an email confirming it has been delivered. Once the item has been delivered just go to the post office with a photo ID and your shipping number to pick your item. If the item is not shipped by Amazon (i.e. by another reseller), then you will not necessarily get an email confirmation and have to guesstimate the delivery date and just go to the post office. The post office will keep your package for 10 days and then return it back to the sender. This is usually the best option for ordering small items.

The other option to ordering from Amazon (or other non Swiss sites) is using Self Box (there is one in Cessy) which usually charges EUR 5 per package, Point Relais (there is one in Divonne) or Relais Colis (there is one in Divonne) which is a service parallel to the French postal service but with pick up points. These services are a good option for ordering large items that the post office will not accept.

If you still feel the need to order from the US, you can use My US.com which creates a virtual US address which can be used for deliveries form US websites which are then forwarded directly to you by the service. While you will save on shipping, you will be subject to Swiss duties on your items.

A few warnings

If you order from outside of Switzlerand, be forewarned that there will be duties and these can sometimes be a nasty surprise.

Currently, online purchases from abroad that attract less than CHF5 ($5.01) in VAT are exempt. This translates into an upper limit of CHF200 worth of books or CHF62.50 of goods that don’t benefit from a favourable tax status. The Swiss VAT rate is 7.7% for most goods and 2.5% for certain items like books.

Happy online shopping and remember to think green! Reduce, reuse and recycle!

By: Karen Eugeni

Pictures courtesy of Pixabay.com

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