Colo. man helps local residents save money

Posted: Monday, August 30, 2010

A Colorado businessman has been trying for two years to save Alaska and Hawaii residents, along with people who live in America's Pacific territories, money when buying online.

Darrell Houghton formed Aloha Forwarding two years ago as a shipping option for people in these states when buying merchandise online. Individual buyers have their purchases sent to the office in Denver, where they are forwarded to buyers through the Postal Service.

Houghton said the advantage is many online retailers only offer shipping here through UPS or FedEx, which can be more expensive than the Postal Service. He also said in some cases, retailers won't ship here at all but will to the lower 48 states.

"It's surprising a lot of them won't ship through the post office," he said. "It sometimes seems like a prejudice against people living away from the mainland."

He said Aloha Forwarding's purpose is to take case of problems associated with both costs and availability.

The cost of the service is dependent on the shipment's weight. He gave an example that a two-pound item can cost more than $36 dollars through UPS but only around $8 with Priority Shipping, which the company uses. Houghton said it also gives the option of Parcel Post, which is even less expensive, but can take longer.

The website www.alohaforwarding.com has a feature that allows potential customers to calculate shipping savings according to package weight and ZIP code.

There is a handling fee which is also determined by the weight. Houghton said this his rates are significantly lower than UPS' or FedEx's, even with the fee..

However, Houghton said the business has been slow to pick up in its targeted Alaska regions. He said he's surprised more people in places like Juneau haven't used his service since online shopping is quite popular here and a variety of items aren't sold locally.

He added he was also surprised Aloha Forwarding has gotten most of its responses from Guam.

Houghton said that those who have used Aloha Forwarding have been very satisfied and have often gone back multiple times.

"We've gotten e-mails saying we saved them $60," he said.

One of these customers, Kristie Nelsen of Anchorage, has done just that. She said purchasing non-local items sometimes can't be avoided and any chance to save money on them helps.

Nelsen said she's found while it appears to be getting more rare that online vendors won't ship here, it still happens.

She cited Target's website as an example. She said she has run across items from its website that will not be shipped to Alaska while other items from the site would be.

Nelsen said such limitations are often spelled out in "the fine print" on online order forms.

Houghton said he developed the idea for this business after living in Hawaii for five years, during which time he learned how much people outside the lower 48 states can sometimes turn to their computers to merchandise from there.

"We really learned to buy online there," he said.

He said after learning that offered shipping costs can get so high, sometimes exceeding the cost of the purchase, he wanted to offer an alternate shipping plan for when the sellers would not.

• Contact Jonathan Grass at 523-2276 or jonathan.grass@juneauempire.com.



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