Guide to online shopping in Zimbabwe: shipping primer

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shipping-companiesWhen making an online purchase it is critical to have at least a good idea of what the total landing cost of the product you are buying would be. You can then compare this to the price being charged by the local sellers of the item you are attempting to purchase and decide whether it is worth the trouble of making the online purchase. Often enough the product you are attempting to buy may not be available on the local market and in this case you will have to use your judgment. Whatever you do in order to come up with an estimate of the landing cost you still have to have an appreciation of the shipping costs.

Americans can be queer folks. Despite leading the world in most things they have obstinately stuck with an imperial system of measurement. One of the things that you need to appreciate when buying online is the pound as a unit of measurement. It is used by most shipping companies and often crops up when making a purchase. If you prudently assume the pound to be around half a kilogram you will be spared a lot of problems.

You will also have to note that the first pound is the most expensive and fixed rates are added to this “base” price. For example if you ship through you will be charged $45.95 for the first pound (or anything below)  shipped to Zimbabwe, $55.90 for 2 pounds, $65.85 for three pounds etc i.e. a fixed variable cost of $9.95 is added for each additional pound that you purchase.

If you are making multiple purchases, it would be a good idea to use their repackaging service that will turn your multiple packages into one package for a price of around $5. This can save you a lot of money in shipping costs. Also unless there is a special reason, such as when buying from multiple sellers some of which do not ship to Zimbabwe, when buying from a seller who ships directly to Zimbabwe have the item shipped directly to Zimbabwe by that seller as most sellers enjoy discounts with couriers so that would probably be the cheapest option.

In the courier world a one pound bag of diapers can weigh more than a five pound computer tablet. This concept is known as volumetric/dimensional weight. The rationale is that since items are shipped on a plane and they take up space that could have been used for something else they have to pay for that space if they are oddly shaped. To do this, the actual weight of the package is compared to the volumetric weight. For items shipped to Zimbabwe the volumetric weight is calculated by finding the volume of the package in square inches and dividing by 139. For example if it is a cuboid L x W x H (cubic inches) / 139 = Dimensional Weight. The greater of the dimensional weight and actual weight is used for billing purposes unless the seller enjoys some kind of discount with the courier. Try to find the package dimension and usually lists this for each product.

It is customary to also pay insurance when shipping items. However if the item’s value is less than $100 paying insurance would be superfluous since most couriers provide refunds of up to this amount if your shipment is damaged.

Some sellers provide free shipping. In most cases this takes longer than Global Express guaranteed shipping (GxG) so if you want your item to arrive to you in guaranteed time you should pay for expedited delivery. Sometimes free shipping does not come with tracking capabilities which means it might take a while to know the progress of your shipment. This might be a problem when it comes to custom clearance so if you do not want to see your laptop in three months you have to pay for expedited delivery.

Due to various laws, some items cannot be shipped to Zimbabwe. This includes coins; banknotes; currency notes (paper money); securities of any kind payable to bearer; traveler’s checks; platinum, gold, and silver (manufactured or not); precious stones; jewelry; and other valuable articles are prohibited in all classes of mail. Firearms except under permit, honey, lottery tickets or circulars relating to lotteries and perishable infectious biological substances.

All contributions on the subject are welcome.


  1. anthonysomerset

    i should also note that in some cases US companies like fedex will later bill you export duties so be prepared for possible extra charges