For items that exceed hundreds of dollars, they charge 15 percent of the product cost.
Since March of last year, travel restrictions for tourists have affected thousands of Mexicans who have visas and still can’t cross to the U.S. For many with double nationality, however, the Covid-19 pandemic has brought new sources of income to help face the economic recession.
Gabriela Vega, who worked in the U.S., has always helped her relatives by bringing essential goods from San Diego like food and clothes. But since October she and her husband have been asked to do the same for people out of their family circle. Later on, they turned this into a business called “Compras Personalizadas Tijuana.”
According to her, this is how their business emerged. “Persons we did not know started to contact us, people spread the word and they offered us money to do it.” Suddenly, this common practice between relatives that was mainly done as a favor turned into a business opportunity.
“At the beginning, people use to ask us for just essentials; food, clothes or even their mail, but now we deliver Smart TVs or other kinds of electronics,” she said. “For Christmas, the majority purchased things online, so we also took packages from personal PO boxes, crossed them to Tijuana, and then delivered to an address or one of the four points of the city where we hand them to the customer.”
Along with her husband, they make about 15 orders per week. Gabriela is the one that organizes the deliveries they get from Facebook or WhatsApp and her husband does the shopping. In the beginning, the fee they charged was $15 USD when essentials were purchased but for items that exceed hundreds of dollars, they charge 15 percent of the product cost. This, plus the fee that Mexican Customs authorities have for the importation, which they pay at the border when crossing back to Mexico.
Another example of this border-crossing delivery startup boom, is Lord Compras. Their staff developed this service focused on the male market of Tijuana which, according to one of its founders, had a big demand of products available on the U.S. side since before the pandemic. They delivered things like cologne and men’s clothing.
Now with the outbreak of Covid-19, a founder says demands for their services increased, but now with 80 percent of their clients being women. And the women order groceries or other essentials. “Now some of my best clients are women. This pandemic has affected a lot of people and we are glad to help them stay at home,” he noted.
Valentina Rivera is one of their clients. She used to bring most of the food for her family from the U.S., but as thousands of Mexicans who still can't cross with their tourist-visa, she has found this service pretty convenient.
"I have a 20-year-old vegetarian daughter and what she eats is either too expensive or does not exist in grocery stores in Tijuana.” She pointed out. “I really like this service, it’s so useful. I think that whether the border reopens soon or not, I’ll still ask them to deliver my stuff because even with the fee you save lots of time by not crossing the border.”
As a weekly average, the Lord Compras staff delivers 25 orders. They say that despite the health risk with the pandemic, it's better to have one person purchasing instead of those 25 individuals. “We had to deliver important documentation. The other day we crossed and sent an importation permit to Los Angeles. We have even delivered to Tijuana people’s mail from PO boxes in the US. Some had months of it piled up.” Both Lord Compras and Compras Personalizadas Tijuana founders believe that their startups are made to last even after traveling restrictions withdraw because a lot of people prefer to pay instead of waiting in long lines to cross to the U.S.