Jon Westfall remembers well the time he wired $1,000 (about Rs41,000) to a man in Dubai whom he had never met. His contact had access to an iMate, a small hybrid of a cellphone and a PDA that wasn’t available in the US.
“He told me, ‘There’s no reason for you to trust me, but if you really want one, Western Union me $1,000 and I’ll send you one.’”
Westfall, a contributing editor for?PocketPCTHoughts.com who lives in Marblehead, Ohio, had to have one. “It was the first model they ever released. This one was just the Cadillac of PocketPCs,” he said. “About three or four weeks later, he was able to get me one.”
Anyone who has ever wanted the smallest, quickest, slickest or simply the newest gadget knows the feeling. The solution had been to search the world, wade into the riskiest online bazaars, grapple with manuals written in foreign languages and live with the lack of manufacturer’s support.
This is still true, but the first adopters willing to pay a premium for exotic notebook computers, cellphones and tech toys can turn to any number of businesses that specialize in finding objects that are not sold in the big-box store near their home. “We love to have the newest thing that no one else has,” said Eric Ralls, the president of RedOrbit.com, a website that sells electronic goods from around the world.
His products are found by Dynamism.com, another importer of the unavailable. Dynamism has agents in Japan, South Korea and Europe who watch the stores for new products from the local manufacturers, large and small, that are not exported to the US.
Douglas Krone, Dynamism’s chief executive, said the firm not only imported the products but also customized them by translating manuals and installing local versions of the software if it existed. If there are problems, Dynamism offers a “rescue warranty” that pays for unlimited support and overnight shipping for repairs.
The manufacturers, for a variety of reasons, decide a product is not worth exporting. It may be that its size or sensibility is not quite right for foreigners. The product may be a limited edition, made in numbers too small to justify export, or perhaps all the bugs have not been worked out. Often, firms simply conclude that there is not a mass market for the product in the US.
E-Bay continues to be a popular source of the hard-to-get products. There are risks, as there are with many things you buy on the big auction site. If something bought online breaks, it’s very difficult to get service, Krone said.
Opinions vary on whether the gadget gap between America and the rest of the world is closing, but Krone said that Dynamism’s window of opportunity was always small. “Most of the products we’re selling do get mass-marketed here, and we discontinue them.”