The other day, a tourist asked me “what do people here do all day?” and I laughed. Things that are simple, easy to do, or can be quickly done in the US, can be challenging here. A simple example would be grocery shopping. In the US, I would go to one store, maybe two if I was looking for a specialty item.
Here in lovely Grenada, grocery shopping can take on a life of its own (or day of its own). Michael or I usually start out by going to our favorite fruit and veggie seller, a sidewalk vendor, because she always has the freshest produce and the money goes directly to her and her family. Then I go to the local IGA supermarket because it is the one that has the most complete stock. After I’ve checked off what I am able to buy, there are 3 more grocery stores I can (and often do) visit to try to complete my shopping. Often, none of the stores will have everything and the offending items just get carried over to the next shopping list – and sometimes stays on the list for a month or more.
Once, I had powdered mustard on my list for 7 months. When I flew back to the US, I had mustard on my ‘to buy’ list. I bought a tin to bring back and wouldn’t you know it, all four Grenada grocery stores had mustard stocked on their shelves when I returned! Anyway, this is an example of a regular shopping experience. A major shopping trip can take 3-5 hours depending on how many places I need to visit.
And then there’s the specialty shopping event – like purchasing a new refrigerator ……
I started off by driving to five local stores to see what they had in stock for refrigerators. These local stores may have a website, but it doesn’t necessarily have everything that they have in the store. And the stock is usually pretty limited. They may have 3 to 5 refrigerators on the floor. If something sells, they may not have a replacement for a few months. I was looking for a French door refrigerator with a freezer on the bottom – only one of the stores had one in stock. Some never carry this model. One store said they sometimes have one in stock and thought there was one on order, but they couldn’t tell me what manufacturer or model it was or if/when they would get it in. IT CAN BE VERY FRUSTRATING!
At this point, we started researching online with the expectation that we would import a refrigerator directly. The voltage in Grenada is UK 220 – which is different than US 220. We found this out the hard way when we purchased our oven last year. Our oven uses 220 volt UK current for the heating elements (for cooking), but the electronics (for setting the temperature, etc.) are powered by 110 so we needed to rewire it to get the controls to work while still powering the oven elements with a different voltage! (Clearly another story, but one Michael will have to tell because the relevant details are way beyond my understanding).
We planned to buy the refrigerator in the US because we already have a relationship with a company that ships containers to Grenada. I began by talking to the companies you would normally buy appliances from – Best Buy, Home Depot, Lowe’s, etc. None of these companies carry UK 220 appliances but they gave us info on another company that does carry them. We spoke with them and then I researched other companies that also sold UK 220 appliances. In every instance, they had large type on their websites that said these models were for export only and they wouldn’t work in the US so I was confident we were looking at the right appliances.
During this research I was checking models, features and prices, of course, but I was also checking shipping costs to get the refrigerator to Brooklyn where it would then ship out to Grenada. Almost all the companies were located in the Chicago area which I thought was unusual. I never figured out why they were clustered there, in the middle of the country when they were being imported. I expected that they would be clustered on one of the coasts, near a port. I did find one company that was in New Jersey and they had free delivery to Brooklyn. This was a big bonus but they only carried one model. I updated my spreadsheet and decided to check the UK as well. If we were going to pay shipping charges to get the refrigerator from Chicago to NY in addition to shipping to Grenada, then shipping from the UK might be an option.
I emailed my good friend in England to ask her where she would buy a refrigerator and she gave a store name similar to a Best Buy in the US. She asked me what I was looking for and after I described it, she said ‘oh, you want an American refrigerator’! Funny that we call it a French door refrigerator but Europeans generally don’t buy that type appliance so they call it an American refrigerator.
The American/French model selection is much more limited than what you’d find in a US store as most Europeans have smaller houses and kitchens, so the fridges are smaller too – but they definitely had enough to make a selection. She said there would be no delivery charge to the shipping company and she gave me the name of the company she uses to ship things to Grenada. The shipping cost to Grenada was actually less expensive than shipping from Brooklyn which is surprising because the sailing distance is almost twice as far. My good friend went to the store and asked questions so she could recommend the best brands for me to consider. This was very helpful since some companies do not do business in the US and I wasn’t familiar with all the brands.
I now had 17 models to compare between so I created a spreadsheet and started checking sizes (to make sure it would fit in the space and through the doorways), cubic feet for the refrigerator verses freezer (I was looking for the largest refrigerator compartment as possible) and noting the differences between models like icemaker/no icemaker, size and number of drawers, width of door shelves, etc. and I was able to narrow the list to 10 models. For example, we don’t need an icemaker because we have a separate ice machine. It looks like a small college refrigerator and churns out that essential frozen delight in larger quantities than any regular refrigerator can. And, believe it or not, it still just barely keeps up with our ice consumption. One of the crazy things is that some manufacturers list ‘full’ cubic feet and other list ‘net’ cubic feet. Full cubic feet is the interior size of the space but it’s not necessarily usable space and the difference between full and net storage can vary by up to 25%. Buyer beware!
I began checking the manufacturer websites of each of the target appliances to look at consumer reviews and found out that all but one model being sold in the US were already discontinued. Now I started to feel a little uncomfortable – We’re buying an international appliance built in the Middle East or Africa that has been sent to the US after it has been discontinued, to then ship it to Grenada, and the big question is ….. What if it doesn’t work? That eliminated 5 of the 6 US models and the other 4 models were from the UK store. I checked reviews and opened a subscription to Which?, a UK version of Consumer Reports, and found 2 models that had great reviews. I revisited each of the 5 models in detail and then presented each to Michael so we could make the final decision.
We picked the model we wanted and now all I needed to do was order it. Easy, right?
I called the shipping company to get their exact address and then tried ordering the refrigerator from the store by phone but was told since it was shipping internationally that I had to purchase via the internet. Ok, no problem, except when I tried to order the refrigerator off the store’s website, the site wouldn’t accept a US phone number for their required contact number. I finally just entered my friend’s UK number and I alerted her that she might get a call and not to question or cancel the order.
After completing the order and getting a screen message saying the order was completed successfully, I got an email a couple hours later saying the order was cancelled because my credit card company declined the charge. I call Capital One and they said there was no problem on their side and to try again, which I did and I got the same result. After the third failed attempt, I called the store and again they said they could not take an international order over the phone. UGH!
They suggested I try ordering via the website again, to call them after the order was placed and they’d see if they could force it through. I did this and, of course, it didn’t work. I’d now been trying to order this refrigerator for 3 days – 3 days! Finally, I spoke to someone who was willing to take a phone order AND they were actually able to put my phone number on the order so any calls would come to me. Hallelujah! I waited, holding my breath, for the confirmation email to come through and finally it did.
Now, I contacted the shipping company to place the order authorizing them to ship the refrigerator to Grenada and to let them know the fridge would be delivered sometime in the next month. Next month? Where is our US next day delivery? Do people really wait a month to get an appliance delivered? What if their old one dies in the meantime? I’m guessing it was because it was a specialty ‘American’ style refrigerator and the company doesn’t stock them in their stores.
Everything was in place and now it was just a waiting game. Finally, I got an email from the store that they were going to deliver the refrigerator but before I could call the shipping company, my friend called to say she had gotten a call that the fridge was being delivered. Don’t you wonder how they had her number when MY number was on the order? The original internet order was obviously floating in their system somewhere.
My friend suggested I call the shipping company because she said she had seen instances where product was delivered and it just sat around in the warehouse until someone called about it – even when the shipper’s order number was clearly marked. I called the shipping company and alerted them to look for the delivery. The next day, my friend called me again because the driver was calling her to get directions to the shipping company. Good friend that she is, she directed them to where they needed to go but it got me thinking about the line – it takes a village. I’m just glad that I can reciprocate by handling things for her here, in Grenada, when she is in the UK.
Now, the next part of the waiting game began.
|Time until the close date for adding orders to the container shipment||
|Days allocated to load the container ship before the ship departs the UK||
|The time the ship takes to sail to Grenada||
|Getting the order processed through customs||
2 to 3 days
|Delivery to our house||
|Total days from start of ordering to receipt of the refrigerator (9/09 – 11/2)||
Once we got notified that the refrigerator would be delivered to our house the next day, we emptied the current refrigerator, moved it to a different area of the kitchen and filled it back up.
We had changed part of the counter and only had about ¼ inch of clearance to get the old refrigerator through the reduced opening. I’m sweating, hoping I checked carefully enough that the new refrigerator would fit through the opening, ran to get the tape measure and whew! we’re fine. I was almost hyperventilating for a moment or two.
That night our old refrigerator wasn’t cooling right. The door wasn’t sealing and I think it was because the floor isn’t quite level. (This is an understatement) We made an adjustment and checked the frozen food and things seemed to be ok.
The new fridge arrived the next day, as promised. Michael and the driver muscled the monster through our arched doors and into the kitchen. It fit through the narrowed opening and mostly fit in the vacated space. We needed to pull off 2 minor pieces of wood and it slid right in.
When we went to transfer the food into the new fridge I noticed most of the frozen food had defrosted so we’ll be feasting on an abundance of shrimp, lobster and pork the next few days.
I think the new refrigerator was installed just in time.
So, if you are wondering, what do I do all day? Now you know.
I’m living the dream.