Practical Ecommerce

Why can’t Australians purchase gift cards from U.S. merchants?

The Black Friday-Cyber Monday sales phenomenon is beginning to make an impact online and in brick-and-mortar stores, in Australia.

Five years ago, inspired by the U.S. Cyber Monday sales, Click Frenzy was launched in Australia with a wide range of online deals and exclusive offers from participating retailers.

Launched in 2012 in the week after the Melbourne Cup, a famous horse race, Click Frenzy was billed as “The Sale That Stops a Nation.”

But the only thing that stopped was the Click Frenzy website. It collapsed under the onslaught of visitors and received a massive public backlash.

Today, Click Frenzy runs online sales for one day each in May and November. Many brick-and-mortar retailers in Australia run massive sales at Black Friday.

However, Australian shoppers are now well aware of the Black Friday and Cyber Monday bargains to be found on U.S. websites.

Buy American?

Many major U.S. retailers either deliver directly to Australia under their own distribution system, or have arrangements with Borderfree, the global shipping firm. But many more do not ship outside the U.S. at all.

To get around this, keen Australian consumers use personal shopper services from such mail forwarding websites as MyUS, ShipIto, USA2Me, and ShopMate. The consumers fill out an online form stating the website, product name, product link, price, color, size, and so on. The personal shopper then purchases and ships the products to Australia.

Unfortunately there is a typical time lag of more than 24 hours for the personal shopper to accept the request and email the amount that must be deposited into the escrow account before the item is purchased.

This delay means Australians cannot take advantage of many Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales.

A surprising lack of online electronic gift cards also means we Aussies cannot easily purchase a gift cards for, say, a friend in the U.S.

For example, 10 days ago I searched on Google for high-end restaurants in Orlando, Fla. that offered gift cards. I wanted to give one as a birthday gift for a friend in that region.

I was amazed that the websites of two top Trip Advisor-rated restaurants didn’t offer gift cards. Another one offered them, but it accepted payments only from residents in the U.S. and Canada.

Then I found Open Table, an online restaurant reservation service. I filled out the gift card information, only to find the payment page was set up only for U.S. residents. So I couldn’t buy one of those, either.

Macy’s

Since my friend loves Macy’s — which, incidentally, uses the Borderfree program through which I spent hundreds of dollars on 2017 Black Friday — I thought I could easily buy a gift card on Macy’s website.

An electronic gift card from Macy’s had become my only option, with time running out. But a search for gift cards — it is not a tab on Macy’s main navigation bar, nor an entry in its footer information — revealed gift cards are “currently unavailable for international shipping.”

A 25-minute call to Macy’s customer service department was fruitless, with the representative telling me I would have to purchase a physical Macy’s gift card, thus missing my friend’s birthday.

She could not explain why I could not order an electronic gift card. And then the call dropped.

I understand the headaches involved with physically shipping something outside the U.S. But what about being able to pay for something outside the U.S. to be shipped — or even in the case of electronic gift cards, emailed — locally?

Why not Australia?

I urge retailers to consider that many American residents have friends and family living outside the U.S. who want to buy products and services on American websites.

Whether it’s my American friend’s birthday, or an anniversary, wedding, Christmas, or some other gift, we Australians would like to purchase something local — such as a special restaurant meal or, at the very least, an electronic gift card so our American friends can redeem it for what they wish.

As an ecommerce merchant myself, I understand fears about payment fraud from known high-risk countries.

But is it too hard? Or is the proportion earned from Australian sales too small to justify?

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