If you’re new to the Israeli retail scene, it is worth becoming acquainted with the Israeli online shopping sites which offer significant discounts on a wide range of new (and discounted) and used products. These sites have become increasingly popular in Israel: One of the most frequently visited sites, www.homeless.co.il, had about 100,000 hits a day back in 2006; in 2009 that number has tripled to about 300,000 hits a day. Israeli surfers, who currently number about 3.9 million users, are using no less than 70 different online bulletin boards and finding online everything that they need, from apartments to cameras, bikes and diaper bags.
While you might not be used to doing your shopping this way – and may not be crazy about doing it in Hebrew – there are many advantages to buying locally and online. If you are focused on finding quality items at below retail prices, this is a good option – and may be easier than buying on Amazon or Target and waiting for friends or relatives to bring your purchases overseas. In some cases, you can use these sites to bid on home appliances like dishwashers and washing machines, purchasing them at half or a third of their retail value -- and they are delivered directly to your home with full warranty.
Some of the More Popular Sites
One of Israel’s most popular sites for online purchases, www.homeless.co.il, has been around since 2000 and provides information about properties, cars, a job board, a business directory, roommate searches, pet services, Chugim (after-school lessons for the children), etc. They have an extensive section on used items, offering everything from beds and bicycles to membership at local fitness centers. While this isn’t the place to purchase new appliances and furnishings, the site covers so many products that it’s definitely worth having a look.
www.yad2.co.il, almost as popular www.homeless.co.il, covers property sale and rental, a job board, a business directory, an extensive section about academic degrees and courses, everything for pets, babies, alternative healing, etc. Despite its name (which means “second hand”) and in contrast to www.homeless.co.il, this site offers both new items (in the “Kniyot” category) and used items (in the “Yad Shniya” category). You can find many household items on this site including furniture, electronic devices, air conditioners and children’s toys, some of which are sold significantly below the retail price. The directory also allows you to search by location, so that you can look for items that are available in driving distance of your home.
www.madas.co.il is another online site that deals with cars, apartment rental and sale, hovalot, etc. This site has an online, interactive map that allows you to search properties for sale in a given area. It seems to be primarily focused on real estate, though the site does offer used items for sale. It does not offer new items.
www.olsale.co.il is a smaller site but it offers great deals on home furnishings, home appliances, electronic devices and children’s toys. Items that are listed are new (not used).
www.zap.co.il is another site offering discounts on computers, home appliances, home furnishings, etc. This site does the market research for you and allows you to view prices from different vendors, so that you can comparison shop. It seems to offer a narrower variety of items but the prices that are listed – and this is for new items, not used – seem significantly reduced from the prices one sees in the stores.
Of course, there is always www.eBay.co.il, which lists products sold internationally. While eBay has advantages over local sites, one has to factor in the additional cost of shipping to Israel over and above the actual cost of the product.
www.hameir.co.il is a more specialized site that focuses on new electronic appliances only. The site is known to have excellent prices, and - perhaps more significantly - it offers a high level of customer service. One recent shopper ordered an iron through this site, and received a phone call the next morning; the sales person let him know that the model he’d ordered was out of stock, gave him a number of alternative options, and had the updated order processed that same day. The iron was delivered to his home a mere 24 hours later.
Some Tips for Purchasing Online
Before plunging into the Israeli online shopping scene, here are some words of advice to consider:
- Know the retail value of the item: Don’t be fooled into thinking that all items on a discount site are discounted. Find out how much the item you’re buying costs in the stores, before browsing online.
- Read other people’s comments: Check out the ratings or comments written about a particular store. In some cases, the price is right but the service is inadequate. Some companies, for example, while sell an item but deliver it way after the promised date.
- Do market research: In addition to checking out the stores that are advertised, you might also want to research the product itself; browse shopping giants like Amazon to find out what people outside of Israel are saying about your product.
- Phone up the company before you make a payment: Check that a real human being answers the phone; and get a sense of whether this seems like a bona fide company - or just someone working from his or her living room.
- Save on shipment: If you’re buying an item from a local store, you may be able to save the cost of shipment and delivery by picking it up yourself.
- Warranties: Check whether you receive a warranty automatically, or if you need to sign up separately in order to activate it.
Enjoy bargain hunting and good luck!