As with pretty much everything else in the Philippines, buying and selling here is….different. In this first half of a two-part article on “Buying and Selling in the Philippines,” we’ll be concentrating on selling, leaving the vagaries of buying for later in the week.
Plane Tickets are Expensive!!
I try to get back to the United States every year. It’s a nice break, gives me time to see my mom and dad, talk to friends and do some shopping for things that I can’t readily source in the Philippines. I also use it as an opportunity to buy used electronics (usually high-end used-but-excellent-condition Samsung and Apple phones and laptops) and sell them for a profit when I return to the Philippines. Ostensibly it goes towards paying for some of my flight costs, but ultimately the money usually goes to our charity projects. In fact, the $450 that Michell and I donated last year to the Kid’s House Construction actually came from the profit that I mad selling a few phones and laptops here that I purchased in the US. (Yes, I know it’s technically a no-no to do this, but hey, it goes to a good cause!) This is basically a carryover from when I used to buy low and sell high on Ebay and Craigslist by going to estate sales and the like when I lived in the US.
The biggest challenge one faces in trying to re-sell in the Philippines is the lack of money that a good portion of your customer base possesses (or doesn’t, in this case). The vast majority of Filipinos are not as affluent as your typical westerner, so your “pool” of buyers is rather limited. A good number of Filipinos get around this by purchasing counterfeit/replica goods, including the latest model iPhones (which look just like the real deal but actually run an Android OS), clothing, bags, shoes and all the like. Appearances is very important to Filipinos, but with limited budgets, most of what you see them wearing or chatting on aren’t the real deal.
Whether it’s the wet market, an ukay-ukay (used clothes) store or even a RUSI motorcycle outlet, tawud is a huge part of Filipino life. As with getting the most “bang for your buck,” getting the most “pop for your peso” is rule number one in the Philippines. Even if you state that you are selling for a “fixed price” and mention that – oh, I don’t know, five or six times in the ad – be prepared for Filipinos offering you 5,000 pesos for a fixed price 20,000 peso iPhone. Yeah, it’s a totally unrealistic offer, but they don’t seem to mind asking. And even if the Filipino agrees to the fixed price, when you meet up, he or she will likely still try to haggle you down. It’s so prevalent that I no longer go out of my way to meet up with local buyers. If they seriously want it, I tell them to meet me in a public location about three minutes from my house. And when they send the “What time should we meet?” text, I always reply “Five o’clock. Just text me when you get there.” Due to a variety of reason, Filipinos will often be late and sitting out in the heat inhaling diesel fumes isn’t on my top ten things to do in the Philippines.
Read the Ad!
I take a good amount of time to put all the details of the item I am selling in the ad – most of the time in painstaking detail. Despite this, once you start texting back and forth, the conversation will go something like this:
Buyer: Good morning, sir.
Me: Good morning.
Buyer: What is your last price on the item?
Me: 20,000 pesos fixed price. It’s noted in the ad.
Buyer: Ah, OK sir. How much RAM?
Me: 4 GB. As noted in the ad.
Buyer: Does it have any defects?
Me: It is 100 percent smooth. No defects as noted in the ad.
Buyer: Is the battery OK?
Me: The battery is new. As noted in the ad.
Buyer: Ah, OK. Would you take 5,000 pesos. I have cash in hand.
Me: No. And it’s a good thing you have cash as I don’t take personal checks….
Buyer: Ah, I see. Sir, would you take 5,000 now and I will give you the other 15,000 in two weeks when I am paid?
Me: Sure. Give me the 5,000 as a down payment and I will hold the laptop until you have the rest of the money.
At this point, your prospective Filipino buyer will usually stop texting – or, as it more accurately is described – wasting your time.
As noted above, Filipinos will sometimes try to have you do an installment plan with them. Since I am not a bank, I usually refuse such offers. I do – however – offer them a “layaway” plan where I will take their down payment and hold the item until they have the balance. For some reason or another, they will often seem to ask for installment plan but then refuse the layaway offer.
Huh. Go figure.
Who the Buyers Are
If you are selling high-end items such as the latest iPhones, Airbooks or the like, your buying demographic will usually be limited to other foreigners or filthy-rich Filipinos who don’t want to pay full price for a brand new item. Most of my sales have gone to foreigners – Americans, Koreans and Japanese for the most part. With the foreigner contingent, you usually won’t get many headaches and the transactions are pretty straightforward: You meet up, show the item and the exchange is made. With Filipinos-of-Means, you’ll tend to get into a bit more of a protracted process. For example, I have had a handful of items purchased by Filipinos. All of them were in the National Capital Region (Manila) and all required Skype calls so they could talk to me face to face to go (yet again) through a series of questions and view the item that is for sale. For some reason, they also like to get copies of your ID – in my case, I sent them photos of my Philippines driver’s license. Even then, they were concerned (naturally) about getting scammed, so in three of the cases, I actually listed them on my Ebay account so that they could get buyer protection and make their payment through Paypal. They seemed pretty comfortable with that, they paid a little extra to cover the costs of Ebay and Paypal’s fees and I shipped them off through LBC without any issues. Happy campers one and all. Cool beans.
Where to Sell
The internet is the only real storefront for selling what I sell in the Philppines. Sure, you could just go out and try to sell shiny Airbooks and iPhones out on the street, but other than the excitement that might bring, you’re likely not to have much luck.
As for digital venues, you’ve got a few options. Ebay Philippines exists but it is rather austere and lacking in product (Out of stock, sir!). You can access it through your Western Ebay without any issues and this is where I sell higher-end items to buyers who live outside of my immediate vicinity. (Ebay is also a great place to buy from sellers located in Hong Kong and China but we’ll cover that in our next blog entry.) Olx.com.ph is another popular site to buy and sell in the Philippines, but they have recently initiated a policy where they want you to pay to renew your ad after a week which is kind of a pain in the butt. Facebook is also a very popular place to buy and sell and just about every Philippine city has its own little page for doing just that. Just keep in mind, that local Filipinos in smaller cities won’t have a lot of capital at hand – a good amount of the stuff for sale there is replica/counterfeit phones, clothes and bags, food products (mango float!) and rusted out Honda C70’s with about 250,000 kilomters on them. Cheap stuff for low prices, in other words. Craigslist – THE go-to buying and selling site in the US – is also present in the Philippines, but like Ebay Philippines, it doesn’t get a whole lot of use. Filipinos simply like to use Facebook and/or olx.com.ph for online shopping.
Yes, you can make a small profit by bringing over high-end “gadgets” to sell in the Philippines, but keep in mind that doing so brings about a unique set of challenges – especially when dealing with Filipinos. They are TOUGH customers, canny and very effective hagglers. It’s a headache at times, but keep in mind where you are – and that like with all things, It’s More Fun in the Philippines!
Finally, here’s a picture of a feral cat that joined us for a dinner a few months back at Gabby’s Bistro.