I’ll Take the Case

Life in the islands has managed to instill some embarrassing hoarding tendencies in me. I never used to feel the need to stockpile everyday items, but now that I know they’re not available at the ready should I run out, I can’t help but buy things like shave cream in shameful quantities as though I’m preparing for the End of Days. We all have our little crazy secrets. A storeroom, stocked like my own personal drugstore, is mine.


The general stores in the British Virgin Islands leave much to be desired. While they do cover the most basic of basics, I am unable to find most anything in my arsenal of preferred personal care products locally. Granted, I can be a tad high-maintenance when it comes to the things I use on my body, so some of it is more of a matter of preference than availability. I made the switch to natural makeup and toiletries years ago and refuse to go back to a chemically-laden existence for mere convenience alone.

Over the years, I have become quite an adept importer. We maintain forwarding addresses in both the US Virgin Islands and Florida for all of the companies who do not ship here (which is to say, most all of them). For the life of me, I can’t figure out how some companies can have shipping options set-up for someplace like Uzbekistan but refuse to include our much more westernized country on their list. Seriously – who in Uzbekistan is shipping in organic deodorant? I really do want to know.

No matter. After much research on FAQ pages and mind-numbing phone time spent with apathetic customer service reps, it’s a non-issue. I am now able to find everything I need online. To all those who bemoan their inability to get stuff here – you’re simply not trying hard enough, my friend. I ship in vitamins, toucan toys, face creams, mineral makeup, mints/gum, protein powder, teas, toothpaste – you name it. And I’m not alone – I know a woman who even ships in tampons because she can’t find her brand here. Some things are just not worth the compromise.

Even still, I much prefer to buy locally when I can. It’s much easier to get the item in hand instead of waiting weeks for it to arrive, and it is also nice to bypass all of the exorbitant shipping charges and Custom’s fees* we have to pay on most anything we import.

*Random bitter side note:  The whole Custom’s thing is a major peeve of mine. I can understand if the item was available here and I was still carelessly shipping it in – fine, charge me all you want – but when I ship in something the country refuses to make available to me, is it so wrong that I feel I shouldn’t be charged? Is it?? End rant.

If you prefer to buy locally, there is one island shopping rule that most newbies eventually figure out: when you do find whatever it is you want actually available here, BUY IT ALL. If your favorite brand of shampoo magically appears at your grocery store, ask the manager for the case and consider yourself lucky. Savvy island residents know that just because something appears in your store once, doesn’t mean you will ever see it again. Even if you think you don’t need it now, just grab it all up or live to regret it. I once purchased an obscene amount of almond milk; finding storage space for it was a predicament, but there’s nothing like the satisfaction of knowing that the Kashi cereal I also found in bulk months before will be completely covered for the year.

bulk bananas_WWLOR

But before you get too at ease with this concept, I must warn you: because we are in the islands, a one-off rule such as this cannot always be counted on…

A year or so ago, a friend of a friend was delighted to find his local grocer had started carrying his favorite energy bars. He hadn’t had them since he was stateside and all-to-familiar with the island shopping rule, he snatched up all four boxes on the shelf without hesitation. His excitement continued when he found more the following week, again buying up every box available. This continued over the next month and experiencing a false sense of security that the store would now be regularly stocking his cherished bars, he munched away with abandon, going so far as to even give some away to friends. Once his supply dwindled, he visited the store to re-stock but the bars were nowhere to be found. In their place was another less desirable brand. He checked back week after week, but his bars had officially disappeared.

One day, he finally got the opportunity to speak with the store manager responsible for purchasing. He inquired about the bars, asking if/when they would be ordered again.

After some back and forth descriptions, the store manager was able to remember the brand.

“Oh, those? Yeah, we couldn’t keep those on the shelves. Too much hassle. We had to stop ordering them.”



“We’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.” said the Cat.

“How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice.

“You must be,” said the Cat, “or you wouldn’t have come here.”

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Chrissann Nickel

About Chrissann Nickel

Chrissann’s home rock in the British Virgin Islands feels bigger to her than it actually is. Though after spending five years on a teensy one acre island, the current 13-mile long rock she’s residing on now IS ginormous, at least by comparison. As with everything in the tropics, it’s all about perspective.

Once upon a time she used to care about things like matching her purse to her pumps but these days, any activities that require a bra and shoes go under careful, is-this-even-worth-it consideration. If island life has taught her anything at all, it’s that few things are more rewarding than time spent in the pool with a cocktail in hand.

As the Editor in Chief of this site, she spends her days working from home with her blue-eyed sidekick, Island Dog Diego, writing, editing, and cultivating content in the hopes of bringing some laughter and lightness to her fellow island souls. She recently published her first children’s book, When You’re a Baby Who Lives on a Rock, and is pretty pumped to share it with all of the island mamas out there. Her days off are typically spent boating, hiking, and meeting up with the neighborhood's imperious roadside goats, who she shamelessly bribes into friendship. While normalcy was never listed as one of her special skills, Caribbean life may indeed be responsible for new levels of madness. She attributes at least a smidge of her insanity to the amount of time she spends talking to drunk people.

If you’re somehow still reading this and feel inclined to find out more about this “Chrissann” of which we speak, you can also take a gander at her eponymous website, www.chrissannnickel.com, or follow her daily escapades on Instagram @womanonarock.

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12 thoughts on “I’ll Take the Case

  1. Tsk, tsk, tsk…he screwed himself over by buying all of them bars up…lol.
    I hoard products when they are on sale at St. Thomas Kmart or when I go to the states.
    My linen closet is full of health & beauty products. Same in my bathroom cabinets.
    Paper and cleaning supplies are filling up under my sink and entry door closet.
    I love sales whether it be clothes, something for the house, my bf or me.
    I’m running out of space and I have a lot and I mean a lot of space to store “stuff.”
    I think I’m a hoarder…lol!
    I might need better organizational skills and a good house cleaning, including purging.

  2. So glad to know I am not crazy! OK I am crazy but not on this topic. Our family moves in June and for 6 months I have become a horder. Spices, glitter, batteries, good water bottles, tomato paste to name a few. Oh and I went on amazon and accidentally bought 1000 tampons. Looking forward to our move because on our visits these past months it looks like the islands have my kinda crazy everywhere.

  3. Hey Chrissann, I was wondering what natural cosmetic products you use? I live on a rock close to yours, and don’t wear much make-up in general but when I do it’d be nice to have an option without chemicals.

    • Hi Ale, For make-up, I mostly use Bare Minerals (and they ship to my VI box via http://www.beauty.com ). I use an array of other natural hair and skin care products. The best spot to look up the safety to you/the environment when it comes to cosmetics is: http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/ – you can search products in their database and see what types of ingredients you should avoid. Hope that helps, cheers! 🙂

  4. Haha Chrissan this was going to be my first post!! It is EXACTLY the same in the Seychelles. We have been burned so many times with this! With this coming under the continent of Africa shipping here is ridiculously hard/expensive as companies see it as a risk/dangerous/too much effort!

    • How funny, sounds even trickier than what I go through! I just picked up my latest care package from a friend only to find the post office rats had beat me to it and eaten the cookies. LOL #islandgirlproblems 😉

  5. Haha Chrissann this was going to be my first post!! It is EXACTLY the same in the Seychelles. We have been burned so many times with this! With this coming under the continent of Africa shipping here is ridiculously hard/expensive as companies see it as a risk/dangerous/too much effort!

  6. Guilty as charged. We have already started the hoarding.
    I learned this from a BFF that moved to Tobago. My husband and I helped her pack her container before she moved, it was unbelieveable how much we stuffed into it.
    I now blame her for all my hoarding tendencies! :p

    Although this stash will not likely go south with us, when I heard that Target was closing in Canada, I ran to each of the 3 stores in my area to buy the Archer Farms Dark Chocolate Bars. I found a few at one store, no luck at the second and scored a full case at the third. It’s just chocolate, but it’s yummy and has a toasty natural chocolate taste.

  7. Guilty of hoarding glass jars ………

    Carried chile sauce made in Asia from Australia, and found the same, even larger at our, get this, Gas Station!

    When friends are coming … I order from Walmart.com and have it shipped to their homes (no comment)


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