How do people usually buy big box stuff in European cities?
October 6, 2010 10:19 AM   Subscribe

How do carless people usually buy big box stuff in European cities?

Coming from Seattle, where the procedure is mostly "drive to Best Buy, throw it in the trunk, drive home", I'm a bit lost on how I would, for example, buy a large printer (in Zurich specifically, if that matters), given that:
I don't have a car
It's a bit too bulky to carry home on a tram (or walk a couple blocks with it)
I'm not home and there's no leasing office for my apartment to receive deliveries
It's not big enough (like an appliance) to justify staying at home just to receive it

I can see a few obvious solutions to the problem (get a cab, bite the bullet and lug the box around, etc), but I'm more interested in trying to find out how locals would typically do this.
posted by qvantamon to Shopping (32 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Not Europe-specific, but when I lived in NYC, the protocol was basically (1) avoid buying large items whenever possible, then (2) stay home waiting for the delivery guy on large-enough items like TVs, fridges, etc.

In this case, I'd say either (1) buy a smaller printer you can carry home on the train or (2) get it delivered and be home to recieve it.
posted by Oktober at 10:24 AM on October 6, 2010

Nowadays there is also ZipCar and other car-sharing services.
posted by alaijmw at 10:27 AM on October 6, 2010

That's true, I do tend to use those now in Chicago, but I have no idea what the availability in Zurich is.
posted by Oktober at 10:30 AM on October 6, 2010

Speaking as a European:

(1) avoid buying large items whenever possible, then (2) stay home waiting for the delivery guy on large-enough items like TVs, fridges, etc.
posted by Omnomnom at 10:32 AM on October 6, 2010

I'm carless and live near Amsterdam. For really heavy/bulky stuff, I suck it up and pay delivery fees (this particularly applies to Ikea).

For mid-range stuff, I typically suck it up and lug it home, even if it's difficult. In that situation, I try to use as much public transportation as possible (e.g. take the bus to the metro, take the metro to the train station, take the train to my home city, take the bus to my apartment), and avoid going during peak travel hours. It's funny, you can probably haul more stuff on foot than you think when you have no other choice.

Also, many European cities are more bicycle-friendly than American cities, and having a bike makes it easier to haul things (even if you're just resting a big box on the seat and walking the bike). A little bike trailer helps even more.

And if you're lucky enough to have a friend with a car, you can always offer dinner and beer in exchange for a ride.
posted by neushoorn at 10:33 AM on October 6, 2010

I've carried à microwave on the bus and taken à 40 inch TV in à cab.
posted by Iteki at 10:36 AM on October 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

go to the store, make your purchase, call cab, have it drive you both back home; alternatively, online stores.
posted by 3mendo at 10:37 AM on October 6, 2010

Another New Yorker who (1) avoid buying large items whenever possible, then (2) stay home waiting for the delivery guy on large-enough items like TVs, fridges, etc. and (3) if it's a must, take a cab.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 10:37 AM on October 6, 2010

If online ordering and waiting at home is not an option I usually opt for taking a taxi. Sometimes I will call upon the services of a friend with a car in exchange for beer and/or dinner.

I only occasionally use a hire car/van. This is usually when I have a number of large items to buy (and maybe I'll go and do something else that requires a car while I'm at it, like visiting friends or a nature reserve or whatever).

If I can find a place that's within walking distance and the item is not TOO bulky, I use a hand trolley to wheel the thing home on.
posted by jonesor at 10:41 AM on October 6, 2010

I lived in Seattle for a long time without a car. I'd just call a friend who has a car and then take them out for drinks and dinner.
posted by halogen at 10:46 AM on October 6, 2010

Several solutions: get ebay guy to deliver, wait in for delivery guy, ask a friend to drive, hire car or van/car club, make a friend dinner in return for helping carry it onto the bus/train, taxi from store, hand trailer.
posted by turkeyphant at 10:50 AM on October 6, 2010

Nothing's too bulky to carry on public transport. It's a pain in the ass for you and other passengers, but you'll soon perfect the apologetic semi-smile-with-raised-eyebrows necessary to get through the situation.

Or Amazon.
posted by djgh at 10:52 AM on October 6, 2010

I got a futon on the bus from IKEA in London once, although I don't recommend it.

When I bought wood for bookshelves, though, I asked a friend with a van to drive me (and bought him dinner afterwards).
posted by vickyverky at 10:58 AM on October 6, 2010

I live in Dublin and am carless. I bought a bookcase from IKEA and did exactly what 3mendo did. It was cheaper than IKEA's delivery service too!
posted by Logophiliac at 10:59 AM on October 6, 2010

When I was in Paris and I needed a new washing machine, I ordered one at Darty and they delivered it. They carted away the old broken one too.

The IKEA in Berlin Spandau has (or at least had) pickup truck rental, so you could buy some stuff, rent a truck to take it home, return the truck, then go home on public transit. Of course that requires having a license, which is a lot harder to obtain in Germany than it is in the US.
posted by brianogilvie at 11:01 AM on October 6, 2010

depending on what country you are in (as far as norms go) and more specifically depending on your relationship with your landlord, and their capacity for this sort of work, you can ask you landlord to take care of it for you. tip him.

also in those type of cities the delivery services could be more reasonable. I am in Istanbul, the European side- and I've had an air conditioner installed and a sofa delivered- only the product was charged, delivery/installation was free, and the landlord let them into my apartment while I was at work
posted by saraindc at 11:40 AM on October 6, 2010

I live in Edinburgh with no car and hereby join the "I put an IKEA bookshelf in a cab" club. It was nailbiting stuff as it only just fitted in, but the driver was a gent and carried it to the door of my flat without being asked, for which he was obviously showered with gratitude and tippage.

Have also - enjoyed the kindness of friends who've offered to drive me; got the bus; got stuff delivered to my office so I could receive it during office hours (better than waiting in at home) then got bus/cab home with it.

But usually a cab. If you don't own a car, you have to remind yourself frequently that you're saving plenty of money as a result, and the payback is that you get to treat yourself to cab trips from time to time without feeling like you're being too spendy. (Also, taxis here are like this so have plenty of space in the back).

(Ooh, and that picture almost has my block of flats in it. When I look out my window, I can see the island that's right behind the cab in the picture. Love Edinburgh.)

posted by penguin pie at 11:44 AM on October 6, 2010

I''ve lived in San Francisco for almost twenty years now without a car. I have a cart similar to this one. My printer fit in there, along with a large flat-screen monitor that I use for watching movies. I used it to move most of my stuff from my last apartment to my present flat. I use it when I buy giant bags of dog food, too.
posted by trip and a half at 11:50 AM on October 6, 2010

Second trip and a half's suggestion. If you're moving something like an office printer, you could get a similar office roller with the bungee cords instead of the basket. I see people use these all the time on public transportation in Vienna.
posted by chrisulonic at 11:58 AM on October 6, 2010

Delivery charges might seem expensive up front, but they amount to far, far less in the long run than the cost of owning and operating a car.
posted by randomstriker at 12:10 PM on October 6, 2010

Ack. I had a very nice foldable cart in the US, but forgot to pack it.

I asked this just to check if there was a silver bullet solution that I was missing... I suppose I'll try the cab, then.

Thanks guys
posted by qvantamon at 12:37 PM on October 6, 2010

What I have seen and done here in Zurich is a combination of most of the above. There are cheap hourly cars (and larege vans) that you can get through Mobility that work well, you call a taxi, or you can have things delivered. If it gets delivered through the post office, you can pick it up at your nearest location at your convenience with some friends or a two wheeled cart thing.
posted by Schismatic at 12:40 PM on October 6, 2010

Argh, borked the link. Anyway, I see that Schismatic is saying that there is something similar in Zurich - worth looking into!
posted by coraline at 12:53 PM on October 6, 2010

Do you have a very big suitcase? I can fit most things in my biggest rolling suitcase that I used to be able to fit in my old folding grocery cart. Obviously this may or may not work with your printer, depending on the size and shape.
posted by mskyle at 12:55 PM on October 6, 2010

What about a version of a rolling shopping cart for medium sized items? I have a picture in my mind of seeing these in some foreign movies, but i know some people will use them at open markets here in the U.S.
posted by annsunny at 12:59 PM on October 6, 2010

In Chicago I've got a folding dolly and bungee cords. I always remember the Seinfeld scene where Kramer is lugging the cigar store Indian around on the subway and figure I'm doing better than that. Not to mention the guy with a full drum kit on a flatbed I saw trying to get off the L here during rush hour.
posted by cmoj at 1:06 PM on October 6, 2010

What neushoorn said (except that I live in central Amsterdam). I get most larger things delivered, eg printers come from the local equivalent of Office Depot. I just don't really shop at big box stores (with the exception of Ikea) as I don't know where they are, they are too far away, and there are perfectly good smaller shops closer to where I live. I bought a washing machine and fridge recently and ordered them online.

Most of us in Amsterdam have houses or apartments with crazy stairs anyway so you need to have things like washing machines delivered so that you have pros to get them into your house - a dolly alone isn't much use.

Things that are delivered by post will typically either be left with your neighbours or at a local shop if you're not home, or else you can pick them up from the post office or they'll come back in the evening. I would ask a local shopkeeper if they would accept the package for you.
posted by rubbish bin night at 1:53 PM on October 6, 2010

i live in new york (basically a european city for your purposes) and take the subway, bus or ferry to ikea, buy a bunch of stuff and then either call a man with a van or a car service to bring me and my stuff home.
posted by lia at 4:46 PM on October 6, 2010

I live in Tokyo, and most stores offer some kind of inexpensive home delivery service. For some items the store will throw in free shipping to entice customers. For example, when I bought a 37 inch LCD TV earlier this year, the store included free shipping in the price.

I'm going to Costco this weekend, and while I sometimes just take a large backpack and use the train and bus, I decided to rent a car this time. However, they do offer a flat-rate shipping service for 500 yen per 10 kg (IIRC). IKEA, which was known in Japan for having outrageous shipping charges in a country where such things are dirt cheap, recently lowered their rates (probably by switching to another shipper), and a lot of carless people use it.
posted by armage at 6:07 PM on October 6, 2010

Online, or find a friend who can drive and rent a van.
posted by mippy at 8:46 AM on October 7, 2010

If you can walk, try a regular wheelbarrow.
posted by mrgrimm at 3:31 PM on October 7, 2010

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