Why shop alone if you can spree? - Mar 31, 2008 (ST)

BackMar 31, 2008

The Straits Times / The Business Times News On SPH

Why shop alone if you can spree?

ST701, the online classifieds arm of SPH, and online shopping service Comgateway will launch a portal for spree-seekers in the second week of next month.

Mar 31, 2008
The Straits Times

Websites pooling Net orders to cut shipping costs and get bulk discounts are growing popular.

DRAWN by the prospect of big savings, a growing number of Singapore Internet users are banding together for online buying binges.

Industry players have seen an increase in so-called shopping spree websites that let netizens pool their orders and get big discounts on a raft of online buys.

A Straits Times check found at least 15 active Singapore Internet forums geared towards sprees. Many more smaller blogs have also issued a call to arms for online shoppers looking for clothes, bags, cosmetics and even food.

At any one time, up to 20 sprees are open on each site, some closing once the orders hit a cap of $400. That is when the 7 per cent goods and services tax sets in.

Spree participants said buying in big groups means they save money on shipping costs and get bulk discounts.

The process is fairly simple. A spree organiser posts a thread or blog entry calling for other participants to join the mass order, usually for an overseas website. Buyers write in with their wish lists and send the organiser their money via online banking.

Within three weeks or so, the items arrive and the organiser mails them to participants or meets them to dole out bigger items.

While sprees have become popular, there are dangers to handing money over to strangers.

One Singapore spree organiser was arrested last year for fleeing with participants' money. Chew Kiew Cheng was collared in October following a scheme in which buyers were cheated of $11,245. In February, Chew was jailed 24 months for the offence.

The Straits Times also found some dodgy sprees organised by overseas websites that sold pirated bags. Two such sites hawked imitations of popular brands such as Chanel, Gucci and Hermes.

That has not dampened the enthusiasm of many online shoppers.

Lawyer Elizabeth Xue, 25, said sprees are hassle free and the good variety of sprees on one website suits her busy schedule.

'The organisers do everything for me. I don't have to liaise with overseas websites, which can get very troublesome,' she said.

Spree organisers here are not looking to make money but want to save on their own online shopping, according to five who spoke to the The Straits Times.

Student Ler Kar Leng, 19, started 10 blogs with different spree themes because she 'loves to shop for different things from many sites'.

Such sprees are so popular, ST701, the online classifieds arm of Singapore Press Holdings (SPH), and online shopping service Comgateway will launch a portal for spree-seekers in the second week of next month.

Called ST701 Spree, it will be hosted on and plans to offer 'a few hundred' online American merchants for a start.

ST701 said the website will come without the risks of spree-ing with unknown parties.

Said Ms Elsie Chua, executive vice-president of SPH's classified advertising department: 'Often, the shoppers don't know the real identity of organisers, who could run away with their money. ST701 offers online shoppers a secure platform.'