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Want Something from Abroad? Hire a Mule!

March 18th, 2011 | Categoría: Technology, Travel

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Have you ever wanted something that you just couldn’t find in Argentina?

Ever been jonesing for some pancake mix or syrup or some cool item like an iPad 2, a Zoom microphone or a Canon EF 55mm lens?

The Mule Pool hopes to be your solution.

The Mule Pool is an online exchange that connects buyers with travelers (mules) so you can get what you want. You pay a mule to bring it to you. Or, say you’re traveling and want to make some extra cash. You could mule something back for somebody else. How does it work?

1) You tell The Mule Pool what you want.
2) Mules review open requests and determine how they can help.
3) You (the buyer) put your money into an escrow account. The Mule Pool guards the money until it’s sure your product was delivered.
4) You arrange to meet the mule.
5) Once you confirm to The Mule Pool that transaction has been carried out, the mule gets paid.What’s in it for The Mule Pool? They get a 15% commission, which covers transaction costs, bank and exchange rate fees, etc. The Mule Pool accepts PayPal and is currently exploring other means of payment.

The site is the brainchild of Buenos Aires-based expats Morgan Friedman and Daniel Karlin.I spoke with one of them, Daniel Karlin, and asked him about the site. ”It’s exploding,” he said. Traffic to the site, which is less than three weeks ago, has been growing rapidly thanks to Twitter and word of mouth.

Karlin said the first mules are currently working on completing the site’s first transactions. But those initial transactions could blossom quickly into the thousands if the concept takes off.

And while the initial aim of the site was simply to help people get hard-to-find goods, it could end up leading to much more than that. For example, it’s easy to see how the site might connect people with similar interests and thereby foster new friendships here and abroad.

If you’re an Argentine and you want an unusual kind of tennis racket, it’s entirely possible that the mule bringing it to you might share some kind of interest in tennis. Voila! Instant rapport.

One question that arose on Twitter relates to the legality of the site. Argentines, wary about the $300 customs limit at the EZE airport, wanted to know if paying a mule to bring back, say, an iMac, would be legal.

Well, if you paid the customs tax it would be.

“We strongly recommend that everyone abide by all laws,” said Karlin. “We are total sticklers about ensuring everyone follows all relevant laws and pays all the taxes.”

If you wanted a mule to bring an expensive item into Argentina, you’d have to calculate the value of them item, plus customs fees, into the transaction.

Let’s say you wanted a US $100 distortion pedal for your guitar. You’d have to pay $100 for the pedal, a pre-arranged fee to the mule, and then 15% of the total as a commission to The Mule Pool. You set the fee you’re willing to pay the mule. The higher the fee, the more likely someone will bring it to you.

One last thing. The Mule Pool isn’t just for Argentina. You can use it from anywhere in the world. You live in France and want White Tea only found in China? No problem. Just ask for it on The Mule Pool.

The Mule Pool is a new project and will surely evolve as its founders improve it and receive feedback. Would you use The Mule Pool? Check it out here.

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9 Comments

Dave JNo Gravatar says:

Ten years ago I took a Camcorder, a Blackberry and an IPOD back to Argentina every time I travelled and that was just for friends. Now every year when my wife returns she takes a Sony notebook and changes it for something. Last year it was two dental implants. What is that called, Trueche?

MarcosNo Gravatar says:

Close, but is trueque.

BeatrizNo Gravatar says:

This is great, thanks! They are not argentineans, but their creativity is. It’s a typical argentinean idea. :)

haroldoNo Gravatar says:

The legalities of this sort of thing are complex. I wouldn’t want to be the mule trying to explain to customs what I was doing. In addition, I wouldn’t want my name (person who made the order,) known to customs either. It could become very nasty. Scary to me but an interesting idea.

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jj says:

Why would you want to be a ¨mule¨ and only make a few bucks when you can buy the items and then resell them instead of just deliver them. You could make a lot more money reselling your purchased items in new condition than just delivering to someone else. The idea doesn´t make sense.

samNo Gravatar says:

Who’s watching over the “escrow account”?
Anyway — I have resorted to trying never to tell anybody I am going to the U.S. because everybody has a shopping list —- and I hate shopping almost as much as I hate checking a bag on a flight. I try to do both as infrequently as possible. I don’t understand all this need for “stuff” — never have and probably never will.

JulianNo Gravatar says:

haha, very clever idea!!
eMule 3.0!!

lili nealonNo Gravatar says:

Good point about the escrow account. When my money is in escrow, i want to get the details. I just completed a transaction, as a mule, for only $60 , and rather than getting paid immediately, I am told I have to wait about five days. This transaction was a test for me and it has not worked. You deliver to someone you never met, a product which could be worth thousands of dollars. In return, you get a code, and walk away with nothing! Unless the mule pool can arrange for immediate payment through paypal, at the same time you deliver your product, I will not do this again. Beware!

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