You know how some trips abroad just automatically turn into one huge shopping spree? Between you, your tita, your best friend, your mother’s office mate and the sweet woman who lives in the apartment across yours, you inevitably find your hands (and bags) full.
Next thing you know, you’re buying an entirely new suitcase to fit everything in. That or you pay extra to have your haul shipped separately. And on your next trip out, everyone just can’t wait to ask you for more pabili since you’re only more than happy to oblige.
The thing is you could actually get paid for just grabbing that list of pabili, going through it, and coming home with the goods—which is exactly what professional personal shopper Joy Puntawe realized. A shopaholic herself, Joy’s regular trips to Hong Kong started to accumulate a steady clientele with a pretty busy shopping list.
A “glorified pabili” system
“It started with my relatives and friends… they’d always ask me, ‘pabili naman…’ then I realized lugi ako sa luggage ko!” said Joy, as she explained how the personal shopping business started in the first place.
Back in 2009, she started visiting Hong Kong regularly to stay with her boyfriend who is based there. It was he who suggested that she transform her little errand runs into something more profitable. And so Your Personal Shopper in Hong Kong came to be.
Some may think that having a personal shopper is a luxury that comes with expensive attachments, but given the nature of Joy’s specialty—and of Joy herself—it’s actually a very budget-friendly endeavor.
Just to give you an idea, her “checking fee” (the rate she charges if you just want to see how much something is and you can’t find the price online) is just 150 pesos; and that 150 is enough for her to check every branch if she has to. Expert shopper that she is, she won’t settle after just one try.
“I try and check it here [in Manila] and then pag sa Hong Kong na… iikutin ko talaga yung mga branches kung pwede lang,” said Joy on her commitment to finding the items on the list.
“Most of the time i really don’t think about the kita… mas gusto kong masaya sila…” she added. She gets a “high” when she finds what her client is looking for and if she does not find her clients’ requests, she becomes “devastated.”
In her own words, “broken-hearted ako na hindi ko siya mahanap.”
The skill set of an expert shopper
With Joy, it helps that she sees her shopping list as a fun adventure and not just a bunch of errands to finish. Her background in production design and in running a specialty online shop, Purple Cow’s Attic, have given her the extra oomph that comes with knowing how to spot nice things.
Apart from that, here are some other skills she deems important in a personal shopper (if you’re aspiring, you should take note):
- Patience – this is the first thing she blurted out, so it must be of the essence
- Profiling – “It’s better siguro kung magaling kang mag-profile… kasi you can tell kung anong ugali nila, kung ano yung taste nila,” said Joy.
“You have to know their taste kasi you can’t… go to a shop and… present everything… you don’t want to bombard them with a lot of options,” she continued, indicating that it’s important to filter your choices so when they get to the client, they only have the best to choose from.
- Style – “If most of your clients are fashionistas, nakakapressure rin… they have to trust you,” said Joy who, clad in her perfectly coordinated purple-and-white OOTD, showed that she can indeed be trusted.
- Money savvy – put simply, “dapat magaling ka ring maghawak ng pera”
- Time management – enough said.
- Customer service – “ma-PR ka with your clients… you have to be friendly with them… magaling ang customer service mo dapat,” said Joy as she stressed the importance of customer satisfaction.
The seventh skill is one she has yet to develop.
“Syempre kung Hong Kong… I want to learn how to speak Chinese,” admitted Joy, whose plans to study another language are in the works.
However, for the meantime, she seems to get along well on sheer shopping brilliance. That, plus the help of her handy dandy survival kit (see figure above)
Being a personal shopper is different from being a stylist. Most of Joy’s clients already know what they want before they ask her to buy it.
“Ayokong tanungin nila kung “anong bagay sa akin” kasi it’s very subjective lalo na if i haven’t seen you in person,” she said, pointing out that someone once asked her to “buy me a dress” following it up with a cryptic “you know my taste.”
“Hong Kong is a very big place so… I need to ask specific colors… their size… their preference… what they don’t like… and then it’s up to me to look for options… Ideal talaga if they are very specific… meron yung masipag na they will even show me links… i appreciate that,” said Joy.
Her most memorable clientele are memorable either because they are very easy to work with or the complete opposite.
“Yung isa… i love her kasi very easy to… transact with… kasi even right on the spot, buy na siya agad, no questions asked,” said Joy of her most hasle-free customer.
On the other hand, she has a client who is, although difficult, very amusing to work with.
“She always makes it a point na basta every trip ko kailangan niyang magpabili… naprepressure siya na gumawa ng list niya,” said Joy, laughing as she explained the peculiarities behind this particular client’s behaviour.
Joy went on to explain that this client tends to request a lot of hard-to-find items which end up getting forfeited off the list because they simply are not available.
“Actually sa kanila ako natututo… kaya na memorable sila… kasi they request for things na… “uy ano to!” so natututo din ako,” said Joy.
Hers is a passion rarely found hand-in-hand with work. “Nagiging hobby na siya… ang advantage nun is I get to go out and explore,” mused Joy.
“Andun yung high… especially for the hard to find… andun yung high na parang, “uy nahanap ko siya!”
And the feeling is mutual. If a personal shopper is happy just buying things, what more the client on the receiving end of the shopping cart?
Check Joy Puntawe’s website: http://purplecowsattic.com/