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[BKARTS] shipping options



Today's class will be on international shipments -)

When goods cross borders into other countries the government of which the
goods are entering wants to collect taxes on these items - understandable.
This is true for goods coming into the US, as well as goods entering just
about every other country around the world.  Think when you travel overseas
and you go through customs; when you come back into the country you are
asked to fill out a form stating what you have purchased and the value of
these items.  So this documentation and monitoring is happening at every
level, meaning personal travel, as well as for shipping companies.

On shipments that are sent by mail into the US and Canada, typically they
clear customs in an informal manner, and goods that are valued under $1000
come through without additional duties and taxes due to the receiver.
Though I believe this is in the process of changing.  When FedEx or UPS
carry a package through customs since they are not a government agency they
must clear customs in a more formal process, and they actually act as
customs agent on your behalf (for which they charge a fee) and whatever the
government says is due in terms of duties and taxes they pay to the
government and are supposed to then collect this amount from the recipient
upon delivery.  In Dave's case this was not what happened, but it is the way
it is supposed to happen.  However if the recipient does not pay this
amount, and FedEx or UPS fail in attempts to collect this amount from the
recipient they will turn around and bill the shipper for this amount many
times months after the fact.  And as the shipper you are obligated to pay
this amount, it is part of the terms and conditions you agree to when you
ship an international package with them.

So with FedEx, UPS, and other carriers there is a clearance fee, as well as
duties and taxes.  Carriers can easily tell you what the clearance fee will
be (and even if there isn't one Randi) it does not mean there will not be
duties and taxes charged - they are separate entities.  The clearance fee is
what the shipping company is charging to act as your customs agent, the
duties and taxes are charged by the government into which the goods are
entering based on the harmonized code of the item(s) that are being shipped.

Harmonized codes are standardized codes under which all goods are
classified, and each government sets different import rates (taxes) for each
category of harmonized codes.  In theory it is possible to understand what
these taxes will be knowing the harmonized code is and the rate of taxation,
but many times countries outside the US and Canada are quite corrupt and the
tax laws are left intentionally vague, allowing customs officials to levy
taxes of 50%, 100%, 200% of the value of the merchandise being shipped.
This is not the fault of the carrier but of the corrupt government into
which the package is entering.  The problem is that you don't want to ship
by mail to these countries either, as the customs officials open packages
and keep the merchandise for themselves when it isn't being carried through
by a currier such as FedEx.

As a shipper to countries ALL over the world, and trust me we have some very
exotic places we ship to, it is for these very reasons that in general we do
not like to ship by mail.  We certainly give people the option, and trust me
if you are in a corrupt country like I mention you are aware of the
shortcomings of the mail service, and most will have us send it by currier
as it is worth them spending the extra money to insure delivery.  But if you
are in Canada, or other countries where you know the reliability of the
service, just ask we'll be happy to ship by mail for you - we have a
scheduled pickup with the post office every Friday.

As Alicia mentioned with regards to shipping by mail online, this is what we
do, but directly on the USPS web site.  It's the easiest as our package
volume is small with this carrier (about 10-20 packages a week.)  However I
am not sure how a third party insurer handles claims on international
shipping.  When you ship an international package online by either Global
Priority or Global Express mail you get a tracking number.  However on just
about all packages we have shipped this way you can plug in that tracking
number on the USPS web site and the only information you get is "package
information received."  This is true for packages that have even been
delivered!  However when you think about it, it makes sense.  The USPS has
their own scanners to scan packages at points in their travel, but what
happens when it leaves the USPS domain and goes into another country?  Do
you think that all mail services around the world have standardized their
equipment to interface with the US Postal System and feed data back on the
updates of the package?  Basically once it leaves US borders it's in unknown
territory.  Maybe a few systems are integrated, between major countries in
Europe and Canada, but surely not a majority of the world.  

One time I called the USPS (after hunting down a telephone number) to find
out information about a package that never reached its destination overseas,
providing them with a tracking number for the shipment.  Their response was
that they will send a postcard to the country to find out what the status
was, and would then send me a postcard back once information was received.
A POSTCARD!  Needless to say two years later I still have not received my
answer.  And in terms of paying a claim, I can see the USPS stating that
they did nothing wrong as they delivered it to the postal service of the
destination country, and it was lost in their system.  And you're caught in
the run around.

All I can say is be careful shipping by mail, it can be a slippery slope.

Regards,
Aaron Salik
 
Talas
20 West 20th Street
New York, NY 10011
212-219-0770 Phone
212-219-0735 Fax
http://talasonline.com

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