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View Full Version : Thoughts on Ukulele Shopping Online from an International Customer



whit
06-03-2012, 08:21 AM
I am fortunate to live in a town that has a shop that sticks some nicer ukuleles. While there is a decent selection of brands, they are a small store and never have large selection at any one time, so I will venture to the online sellers from time to time.

This is likely not a problem for most of you, but since I live outside of the U.S.A. it can be rather off-putting to find a uke, start to order, and then receive the notice "please contact us for international shipping rates". That usually kills it for me right there (which is probably a good thing). I'm not picking on any particular store, I've come across this situation on more than one site.

I'm not saying that businesses have to support international sales, entirely their decision of course. If you are however, the easier you make it for me to give you my money the more likely you are to get it. You may find the effort required to add a shipping estimator to your site pays for itself sooner than you imagined.

His Sinfulness
06-03-2012, 08:28 AM
Amen! Testify, Brother Whit.

Having no idea how much the shipping would be to Korea has been a deal-breaker more than once for me.

Moore Bettah Ukuleles
06-03-2012, 12:06 PM
Shipping internationally not only means the postage will cost more but because of the LACEY Act there be additional paperwork, permits and fees involved other than the normal customs declaration. That's the prime reason I stopped shipping outside of the USA. It's not easy to ship a stringed musical instrument across international borders any more, especially for smaller builders.

Plainsong
06-03-2012, 12:12 PM
UkeRepublic, a member right here at UU, is one of those that has that notice on his website... but I can attest that what he actually means is... "Contact me for international shipping rates." If you email him, he'll get to you with a quote that sounds like what it actually costs to ship. Sometimes it can just simply be that the checkout system used doesn't have accurate international rates.

I agree with you about the annoyance of many online stores not realizing that there are other countries in the world, but I can just say that in the case of a UU member's store, he just means to contact him. :)

Dan Uke
06-03-2012, 12:14 PM
I'm curious to know what percentage of sales is Int'l to US retailers? I'm sure if you really wanted a uke, you wouldn't mind emailing or calling.

1931jim
06-03-2012, 12:24 PM
Thank you for the thread whit and as a wannbe shopper in Ontario Canada, the Governments of Canada and the United States, certainly do not make the importing process in either direction very easy. The free trade clause (of both our Governments)from years ago was supposed to eliminate this. The statement, (shipping to USA only) whenever I questioned one company received this answer. "It is so much farther to Canada it is not worth the bother." This particular company who shall remain nameless were unaware that you have to fly over Canada to get to Alaska.

Plainsong
06-03-2012, 12:24 PM
I'm curious to know what percentage of sales is Int'l to US retailers? I'm sure if you really wanted a uke, you wouldn't mind emailing or calling.

Calling is a real pain. We're not all in the same time zone, so to reach someone, you might be needing to stay up really late, and that can suck if you have a job. Then what if English isn't your first language, and your accent tends to scare off Americans on the phone, and your address will be impossible for them to write down because they only speak English..

Email solves all of that, but if it's one of those "We don't do email companies" (which I'm having a hassle with myself right now), what they're saying is they don't really need your business.

That's not what the OP is going on about I don't think, but there is a good reason why calling isn't doable for many.

ricdoug
06-03-2012, 12:33 PM
Amen! Testify, Brother Whit.

Having no idea how much the shipping would be to Korea has been a deal-breaker more than once for me.

Do you have any friends over there in the US Army/US Airforce/US Navy? Lot's cheaper to ship to an APO/FPO. Ric

whit
06-03-2012, 12:51 PM
Chuck, if the stars ever align in such a way that you have a gap in your schedule and I can do justice to one of your instruments, then be assured I'll be knocking on your door to accept delivery (I usually knock on doors bearing scotch).

I understand the difficulties that time zones present, and have suffered through some pretty sketch phone connections. I have ordered many things from many countries, and even a recent order placed to Morocco had an online shipping estimator built into the website.

The sad truth is that the volume of international orders may be so low that it just isn't worth doing anything about, but the businessman in me feels like its leaving money on the table.

Just to clarify, this is not directed at builders. I can appreciate the difference in scale of that type of operation. Frankly, I would expect to be sending more than one email or phone call in such a case. For retail operations looking for a certain volume however, I'm left wondering why not implement what seems a simple fix.

Dan Uke
06-03-2012, 01:41 PM
As a businessman, it's to maximize profit and not to maximize revenue.

Rick Turner
06-03-2012, 01:46 PM
We ship overseas at least once a month. Ukes, guitars, basses, you name it. Yeah, it's a bit more difficult, but it's not all that bad. The Canadian thing, though...I am going to the Montreal Guitar Festival, and I just hope my instruments make it. NAFTA is all about corporate interests, and I'm hearing more and more horror stories about Canadian customs for small-time builders.

Hippie Dribble
06-03-2012, 04:30 PM
Many makers who are in demand don't need to worry about customers who are afraid to send an email asking for a quotation for the availability and total delivered cost of a uke. If you wont do a deal because you need to send an email, the maker would be wondering what other simple thing would "break the deal" half way through the purchase process, when the maker has done most of the work. As a rule of thumb add $100 -$150 to the purchase price of a uke from another country (for delivery in Australia) when you are saving the cash and you will have enough money in most cases, it is not rocket science. It takes at least 30 minutes to pack a uke in a box for overseas postage, and then there is the postage and insurance charges. $100 is about what it costs in most parts of Australia for one 1/2 - 1 hour of skilled labour, so if you get a better price you are ahead.
totally agree with Bill on this one. Shipping is a killer cost to your order, but if it's a uke you really want, you just wear it. There's no other way...either you're willing to pay or you're not. I have bought EVERY decent uke I ever owned from overseas and been quoted prices ranging between $45 to $393. I've bought so many ukes international I just factor an extra 100 bucks into the original asking price, then I'm never disappointed when I receive the invoice. I've found USPS priority international to be the cheapest form of delivery to Aust, though those prices have gone up a touch too...I can normally get private sellers to deliver for less than 70-80 dollars, but often, when you buy from an online store it can get anywhere up to 120 and above. In the end it's about the level of demand you have....how bad you want the thing. If it's bad enough, you'll pay or go without. There's also a lesson here as a seller...I've shipped ukes that have really hurt me, two in particular cost around 150 dollars for me to send...sellers also need to know their shipping costs and cover their bums too...

scothut
06-03-2012, 05:12 PM
I am fortunate to live in a town that has a shop that sticks some nicer ukuleles. While there is a decent selection of brands, they are a small store and never have large selection at any one time, so I will venture to the online sellers from time to time.

This is likely not a problem for most of you, but since I live outside of the U.S.A. it can be rather off-putting to find a uke, start to order, and then receive the notice "please contact us for international shipping rates". That usually kills it for me right there (which is probably a good thing). I'm not picking on any particular store, I've come across this situation on more than one site.

I'm not saying that businesses have to support international sales, entirely their decision of course. If you are however, the easier you make it for me to give you my money the more likely you are to get it. You may find the effort required to add a shipping estimator to your site pays for itself sooner than you imagined.

We are also one of the online dealers that request that out international customers give us quick email so we can get them an accurate shipping quote. This can be done very quickly and the entire order process may only take a few minutes longer. We enthusiastically welcome all international buyers and ship our ukes anywhere in world on a very regular basis. Often the shipping charges are rather nominal such as our KoAloha's which we ship all over the world for maybe $50 or $60.

Mahalo,
Scott

whit
06-03-2012, 05:52 PM
Bill and Eugene: this thread was not intended to be about shipping costs. I'm certainly not complaining about that. It is more about simplifying a process.

The tools are available to help automate the process, just not used in all cases.

https://www.usps.com/business/webtools.htm

Personally, when I come across a site with a shipping calculator, I am given the impression that the store is used to dealing with international customers and values their business. As a result I am more likely to place an order. If asked to send an email, I am just as likely to look for another store. This may not be true for others.

My intent is not to point a finger at any particular store, but it has been weighing on my mind as a look at different sites. If it helps one store sell more ukes, great. If nothing changes, that's fine too.

b.

Hippie Dribble
06-03-2012, 06:11 PM
Bill and Eugene: this thread was not intended to be about shipping costs. I'm certainly not complaining about that. It is more about simplifying a process.

The tools are available to help automate the process, just not used in all cases.

https://www.usps.com/business/webtools.htm

Personally, when I come across a site with a shipping calculator, I am given the impression that the store is used to dealing with international customers and values their business. As a result I am more likely to place an order. If asked to send an email, I am just as likely to look for another store. This may not be true for others.

My intent is not to point a finger at any particular store, but it has been weighing on my mind as a look at different sites. If it helps one store sell more ukes, great. If nothing changes, that's fine too.

b.
oh, ok mate. apologies for sending things askew. Your method of shopping is fair enough. Weights do vary though and I'm not sure that shipping calculators arealways that accurate. For myself, I would rather send an email or telephone. Thing is, you can often negotiate terms of shipping sometimes this way and sellers sometimes will offer you a small discount on the basis of that personal contact. Just 2 more cents... :o

His Sinfulness
06-03-2012, 06:31 PM
Many makers who are in demand don't need to worry about customers who are afraid to send an email asking for a quotation for the availability and total delivered cost of a uke. If you wont do a deal because you need to send an email, the maker would be wondering what other simple thing would "break the deal" half way through the purchase process, when the maker has done most of the work. As a rule of thumb add $100 -$150 to the purchase price of a uke from another country (for delivery in Australia) when you are saving the cash and you will have enough money in most cases, it is not rocket science. It takes at least 30 minutes to pack a uke in a box for overseas postage, and then there is the postage and insurance charges. $100 is about what it costs in most parts of Australia for one 1/2 - 1 hour of skilled labour, so if you get a better price you are ahead.


I wasn't referring to a custom build - certainly then I would be happy to email or call for details. I was referring to volume retailers.

In my case, I need to order just about EVERYthing. Korea has yet to really discover the uke. For example, even if I just want strings I have to order online (I do find Aquillas now, in some stores).

Right now I'm looking at getting my first banjolele and I'm also shopping for a baritone. I will order strings and a Snark at the same time. Having some idea of what shipping will add to the order would help me decide where to order from.

AndrewKuker
06-03-2012, 08:25 PM
We help people worldwide - over 800 USD is free and under 800 is connected to our USPS account to give realistic rates. We ship nearly half our ukes to other countries. But I do understand why some stores don't. Time consuming paperwork, hardships with customer communications, import taxes you have no control over, and of course the occasional return or exchange that really kills any semblance of profit. But over all, customers from other countries are extremely kind and even thankful. More than your average American consumer, though uke shoppers are pretty much the best natured people you will find.

Booksniffer
06-04-2012, 01:24 AM
Personally, when I come across a site with a shipping calculator, I am given the impression that the store is used to dealing with international customers and values their business. As a result I am more likely to place an order. If asked to send an email, I am just as likely to look for another store. This may not be true for others.


Same for me.

Especially when I'm just browsing, trying to get a feel for what I want and what I would have to spend, it is incredibly helpful to be able to see shipping costs easily.
I understand they cannot always be accurate, but at least it gives some idea (and sites charging $35 to ship, say, a set of strings are quickly taken off my list).

I have had online stores (not of ukuleles, but of other stuff) sometimes getting the idea that I was all ready to buy after a quick email about shipping, when all I wanted was to compare prices etc.

Also, nothing puts me off like having to create an account somewhere before being able to see shipping charges.

Kem
06-04-2012, 03:19 AM
There's also the "all countries that aren't the US count as overseas" problem, wherein certain retailers charge flat rates for international shipping. It's nice if the shipment is going from, say, Michigan to Sydney, but it's not so nice if the shipment is going from Michigan to Toronto, since it means that the Canadians buyer, who lives closer to the seller than the majority of American buyers, is subsidising the Australian one. Yes, shipping across the border is going to cost more, but Canada is not "far away" from the United States. Canada is actually next door to the United States. Unless you count the Great Lakes, there are no major bodies of water separating Canada and the United States.

Part of the problem is with the inequality of supply and demand. There are rather fewer people in Canada than there are in the States. I've often seen Canadian companies charging reduced shipping rates for Americans or even identical Canadian and American shipping rates, whereas the same thing almost never happens the other way around. I've paid less--much less--for shipping from England than I have for shipping from just across the border, a two-hour drive away.

The "Contact us for shipping rates" thing does tend to put me off, especially when there's no e-mail address.

Plainsong
06-04-2012, 04:05 AM
Oh Amen to having to create an account just to see shipping costs! Why do they choose these checkout systems? For the maximum annoyance to the customer?? Think, people! Stop choosing these "You have to create an account to see anything" setups! Why would you want to piss off the customer? Makes no sense.

No, the ones I love are the ones who only use UPS, so when you calculate the cost, you see something that costs 5 times the uke, and it doesn't cost but 80 bucks max to send. Again, it's like, come on, son. The definitely would rather you not order.

(And like the OP, I'm not talking about small custom builders. Just online shopping in general.)


Same for me.

Especially when I'm just browsing, trying to get a feel for what I want and what I would have to spend, it is incredibly helpful to be able to see shipping costs easily.
I understand they cannot always be accurate, but at least it gives some idea (and sites charging $35 to ship, say, a set of strings are quickly taken off my list).

I have had online stores (not of ukuleles, but of other stuff) sometimes getting the idea that I was all ready to buy after a quick email about shipping, when all I wanted was to compare prices etc.

Also, nothing puts me off like having to create an account somewhere before being able to see shipping charges.

1931jim
06-04-2012, 05:29 AM
Hello Kem,
Just in case you miss this parallel running thread at the moment.....
""Flea clone for 33 bucks ? ""
Regards
1931jim