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A guide to smart online shopping in Israel

Some helpful tips to avoid coming out an e-'freier'
Online shopping (Online shopping image via Shutterstock)
Online shopping (Online shopping image via Shutterstock)

Sometimes you just have to buy it in Israel. Other times, it’s more practical. You can’t take a refrigerator with you on the plane. Let’s talk about smart online shopping within Israel!

In the Beginning, There Was CNet

When it’s time to replace an appliance that’s older than Yoda, I start researching on CNet. I’ve been reading their reviews since 1995. The goal is to learn the basics of what you’re getting into. What has changed in the world of refrigerators, home theater systems or smartphones since your last purchase? Decide what features you need (a microwave that specializes in reheating pizza) and what you can do without (disco lights in your refrigerator).

Head to the Amazon

CNet lets you narrow it down by features – look for this on the left. I end up with 2 or 3 models that I’m interested in and head to Amazon. You should never trust one consumer’s opinion, but you can trust thousands. Amazon has terrific consumer reviews. You can even search within the reviews for keywords (“slicing vegetables on my tablet”).

Zap the Price!

Now that I know what the experts and consumers think, I’m ready to zap away! Zap is an Israeli directory of almost every product sold here, organized by price, features and popularity. It’s like Amazon, only Zap doesn’t sell anything. One advantage of being in such a small country is that there is a finite number of products sold here. Sometimes it’s too finite! Zap is a lot easier to wrap your hands around than Amazon.

Zap has consumer reviews in Hebrew. For popular categories, you will find enough reviews to know if your candidate is a clunker. Zap lets you filter by features. If you’re shopping for a laptop, you can “tell” Zap that you want a 17 inch screen, Intel i3 processor, 6GB memory and more.

Zap doesn’t stop at gadgets. They have thousands of products for your bedroom, kitchen and office. A few years ago, it helped me buy a wall closet with a sliding door. A friend at work uses it to buy video games for his PlayStation 3. Why donate money to the expensive stores in the malls?

BYOD to the Store!

In the US, people are going to showroom stores like BestBuy, checking out TVs and then ordering them on Amazon from within the store! This is a great example of BYOD – Bring Your Own Device to the Store. It shows you how the Internet is leveling the playing field for the consumer. You can do the same thing in Israel – go to one of our expensive electronic showroom stores (*cough* Shekem Electric), check out the TV and buy it from a cheaper store on Zap.

When it’s time to put the money down, I visit the store and let my spider senses do their work. I don’t expect a 5 star showroom, but I want to make sure it’s not a shady budke next to the Tel Aviv Bus Station.

One last tip – save those receipts! I have a folder for every year since 2008 and save receipts for everything that costs me more than 150 shekels. I also save the user manuals, though today that’s less important as they’re online.

Can’t Buy Me What?

The Israeli shopping experience has improved faster than the speed of light since the late 80s. Do your research, “use the force,” (go with your instincts) and you’ll come out ahead.

Like the Beatles song, you can’t buy me love, but you can buy some pretty cool stuff in Israel!

Read Start-Up Israel to keep your finger on the pulse of Israeli high-tech and innovation!

About the Author
Kenny Sahr is a startup marketing executive. His first startup, founded in 1996, was featured in Time Magazine and on 60 Minutes. Kenny moved to Israel from Miami, Florida. In his spare time, he is an avid music collector and traveler.
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