One of the biggest surprises when I came to Brazil about two years ago was how little online shopping is a thing here. This has changed since then, but it it still far from the easy and fast process many Europeans are used to. Maybe one of the reasons is that there is no Amazon or Ebay in Brazil. Even though I have a very ambivalent relationship to Amazon, as I do to every tax-evading multinational cooperation with bad working conditions, I have to admit the Amazon has set some standards when it comes to online shopping. Nowadays it is quite usual in Germany that you order something online and it will be delivered to your house within 2 or three days – overnight delivery costs extra. Payments are made with credit cards or by direct debit, which means the company is allowed to collect the money directly from your country. It’s easy, fast, no hassle and people are used to it. Once again I found out that Brazil is different.

Shopping online in Brazil

Don’t get me wrong, shopping online is not impossible in Brazil, even though it doesn’t seem as popular as for example in the US. There are price comparison portals like submarino or buscape there is the eBay equivalent mercadolivre.com.br and all the big chains have online shopping websites and offer home delivery. But it does not quite reach Western European standards. Let me give you two examples.

Buying things online – prepare to wait

Twice I have bought business cards online and once a FC Santos jersey. Both times it seemed cheaper and more comfortable than going somewhere in Santos to buy these things in person. The online stores were absolutely professional, fast and easy to use. You had to register to buy your goods, but that seems rather normal, I only know very few stores, where this is not necessary. And while shopping seemed easy, the delivery times are crazy. On average I had to wait between 10 and 18 working days – which means 2 to 3 and a half weeks – for the products to be delivered. That is after the payment was received by the vendor (which can also take some time). In a country where your groceries can be delivered to your home by the supermarket at the same day, this seems ridiculous. But that is not the only problem. Because there is the problem of paying your bill.

The problem with paying your bill in Brazil

Buying something online is easy, as long as you use a credit card. This way you enter you data, you are billed almost immediately and things are good. (If you have a Brazilian credit card you can also chose to pay in instalments, but that is another story). But that is not always the cheapest way.

The product I bought online was a bit expensive, so it made sense for me to look for the cheapest option. It turned out, that the cheapest way to buy was via the online store of a big chain, paying everything at once (no instalments – I hate them anyway). To get the 15% discount on the normal store prize I had to pay via bank transfer. In Brazil this means you have to print a bank transfer invoice with a bar-code on the bottom, you have to use your online banking or the bank’s ATM to scan the bar-code (alternatively enter a number with at least 30 digits) and this should do the trick. It should, because this is not as easy as it sounds. Because the scanners on the ATM’s do not work (and try to enter this really long number without messing up, because if there is an error, you have to start from the beginning again), there are long lines at the banks sometimes (because everybody needs to pay their bills) and, let’s face it, sometimes things just don’t work at all.

So the problem with e-commerce in Brazil is not that the shops are not prepared, it is the complex payment system that you have to live with (oh, did I mention the up to unethical 160% of annual tax you might have to pay when you fail to pay one of your instalments or a bill?) and the incredibly slow delivery. I am wondering if Brazilians actually enjoy and use online shopping, because at the moment it seems to be quite the contrary to what it should be: it is difficult and slow.

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