March 7, 2011

What's the South African Alternative to Amazon.com?

I know this is not what you're expecting to hear, but the answer is: Street vendors.

Yes, there is Kalahari.net, but it is not convincing. The prices are high, the selection limited, and I don't even want to know how many packages get lost in the black hole of the South African Postal Service.

My "tacky" new pink iPhone cover
But you know how you tend to always end up on Amazon after fruitless efforts to find a particular item in multiple stores? And you wonder why you didn't check there in the first place? That's exactly how it is here with street vendors (the ones South Africa fear mongers will warn you about). After finally getting my iPhone to work here in South Africa (see previous post), I immediately borrowed Zax's iPhone "skin", one of those rubbery covers that would have kept the glass from cracking had I had one when my phone was new, until such time as I could buy one for myself. But, as so often in South Africa, my simple plan to go to "Look and Listen" in Fourways Crossing and buy one there didn't come to fruition. Turns out they only have iPhone 4G covers, not 3G, since that is such OLD technology.

I searched through at least five more stores with the same result. I was pretty much resigned to the fact that they didn't exist in South Africa, but then, as I was driving home from Sandton City, where I had even had no luck at the huge new Apple Store, I idly glanced over at one of the ubiquitous street vendors, and what did I see him carrying? A big cardboard sheet with a range of cell phone cases pinned to it. And lo and behold, he had iPhone 3G covers. Not exactly what I wanted though, so I kept going, and only three vendors further up the road I found what I wanted. Not quite the quality of Zax's cover, to be sure, but good enough for my purposes (Noisette thinks it's very tacky looking), and so effortlessly obtained (if not exactly cheap for about $10 - these vendors never carry - or never admit to carrying - any change, so your bargaining power is somewhat restricted). In fact, I resolved right then and there to drive up to the nearest street vendor the next time I can't find something, and place my order, to be picked up a few days later. I'm sure it will work like a charm. I won't be expecting much of a warranty on anything, but as it is very hard to return anything bought in South Africa, even at a regular store, it doesn't make much of a difference.