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View Full Version : USPS to Kill International Shipments!!



southcoastukes
01-30-2013, 01:34 PM
I am in total shock!

It's that time of year for USPS to raise their rates. They give some advance warning generally. Things like:


Priority Mail Commercial Base (online postage) rates will increase by an average of 6.3% and will start at $5.05 (previously at $4.90)


There was nothing indicating what the rate changes would be on International shipments, however. Just this:


First Class Mail International packages will be renamed First Class Package International Service.


I can see now why they presented it that way. As it turns out, the new "First Class Package International Service" costs 60% more than the old rates. Obviously, they didn't want to publish a rate increase like that - therefore just call it something new.

To give an example, a 4 oz package that I sent to Finland last week for $5.34 will cost $8.88 today. The reason being given is "fuel costs". Haven't they been going down?

We really like our International customers, but now we don't know what to do. We have also always sold a lot of Ukuleles overseas - USPS was always cheapest by a long shot. Looks like that may be over. Fortunately, a private courier service brings our instruments up from Central America - I just hope they don't look at this and decide they might like an extra 60% as well.

Of course we're concerned about this from our perspective, but something of this nature is going to have a ripple effect. I'm afraid it will once again be small commerce that suffers. What a shame!

Hippie Dribble
01-30-2013, 01:50 PM
it's sure worrying for us consumers o'er the waters who depend on the US as our main source of ukes, strings, tuners, cases etc. USPS International Priority has literally saved me thousands of dollars over the years and made buying from the States an affordable and attractive proposition. Will be interested to see what the raw increases end up being with flow-on effects, does sound hefty.

southcoastukes
01-30-2013, 01:59 PM
it's sure worrying for us consumers o'er the waters who depend on the US as our main source of ukes, strings, tuners, cases etc. USPS International Priority has literally saved me thousands of dollars over the years and made buying from the States an affordable and attractive proposition. Will be interested to see what the raw increases end up being with flow-on effects, does sound hefty.

Hello Jon,

Probably as you were typing, I punched in typical weights and dimensions for a Concert Ukulele to Australia (coincidence - we've shipped over there a lot). It looks like Priority increases won't be so dramatic. I came up with a little over $80 for a Concert Ukulele with Priority.

So maybe larger items won't be hit as hard. Your tuners, strings, or in other words, anything small, are apparently the things getting the drastic hikes.

mm stan
01-30-2013, 02:23 PM
Best to put strings in regular business envelopes....for 96 cents...:)

southcoastukes
01-30-2013, 02:35 PM
Best to put strings in regular business envelopes....for 96 cents...:)

Not a bad idea, Stan ($1.10 now). We used to do something like that. The only problem was that some countries (European especially) must have some sort of processing equpment that would shred them up (irregular surface). Sometimes they'd be delivered damaged, other times they would just "disappear".

Worse than replacing them would be the inconvenience to customers who would wait on orders to be reshipped. Sometimes twice.

Thanks, though, for the suggestion.

Plainsong
01-30-2013, 02:41 PM
That woulda been me. I'm now trying to decide which strings should go on which uke. :)

Would not using a box reduce the weight, and therefore cost. I think all you can do is post a notice on your site with maybe a link. It is what it is, and will be going up for everyone.

Thanks for the awesome packaging BTW. My husband and I share a PP account, so that's why the name on the order might've been a dude.

Kem
01-30-2013, 02:45 PM
This is extraordinarily frustrating to Canadians. Southcoast Ukes has always been fantastic as far as shipping is concerned, but not all retailers have. It's always maddening to attempt order a single pack of strings and find that the shipping comes to over $30 (this happened to me the other day). Now it seems that this will become the norm. I'm not really sure why it should cost $30 to send a "package" that weighs about as much as a standard letter across the border. If it were easy to get instruments and strings here, I wouldn't complain, but it's kind of not.

Lalz
01-30-2013, 03:17 PM
(Note to self: save money for buying strings by cutting on weekly chocolate expenses. Priorities Lalz, priorities)

Tigeralum2001
01-30-2013, 03:29 PM
I understand the disappointment, but the alternative is stopping service (can a government agency go bankrupt?). USPS loses billions a year. They are talking about stopping service a day or two a week and other measures. Quite frankly, I would rather the rates be higher than the services cut.

Kem
01-30-2013, 03:33 PM
I understand the disappointment, but the alternative is stopping service (can a government agency go bankrupt?). USPS loses billions a year. They are talking about stopping service a day or two a week and other measures. Quite frankly, I would rather the rates be higher than the services cut.

Well, okay, but rates for you are increasing by about 6%. Rates for us are increasing by about 60%. It's less "disappointment" and more "goodness, where is that money going to come from?".

Tigeralum2001
01-30-2013, 03:41 PM
I understand, but then again the US tax payers are subsidizing those cheap international rates.

I could very well be that USPS doesn't want to deal with international shipping. If anything it smells like an opening for Fed-Ex and UPS to exploit... or an error?

Kem
01-30-2013, 03:54 PM
Sorry, but I'm just wondering what "cheap international rates" you're referring to. It was stated earlier in this thread that a uke could (even under the new rules) make it from the States to Australia for about $80. I often pay about $60, and I live next door to the States. I've often simply not ordered strings or other small items because the shipping would be $20 or $30. 60% on top of these rates seems...extreme. I ordered a pennywhistle today, and the shipping was $12, but that was the American rate (the seller sorts out international shipping after the transaction has been completed); I expected to have to pay at least twice that and was pleasantly surprised when the package, which will be very small and very light, shipped without any price adjustments. I understand that domestic shipping must be the priority, but for those of us who are used to searching in vain for places in our own countries that have instruments and strings in stock, it's all a little...aaaaargh.

Rick Turner
01-30-2013, 04:17 PM
USPS has another major advantage for international shipping, and that is what overseas customers have to deal with when it comes to customs. UPS and Fed Ex go through brokers which raises the customer's final cost considerably. With USPS, we're shipping using one national post office to another eliminating a very expensive and time consuming middle man. Look at the customer's landed total cost, not just the USPS rates. Also, keep invoices under $2,500.00 for lower paperwork hassles.

We ship to Australia, Germany, England, Hong Kong, Singapore, Indonesia, etc., and I use USPS for as much as possible.

BTW, if they'd stop giving such great rates on junk mail, they might not lose so much dough...

Tigeralum2001
01-30-2013, 04:24 PM
BTW, if they'd stop giving such great rates on junk mail, they might not lose so much dough...

LOVE this idea! Let's raise junk mail rates 60% (or more).

mm stan
01-30-2013, 05:25 PM
Not a bad idea, Stan ($1.10 now). We used to do something like that. The only problem was that some countries (European especially) must have some sort of processing equpment that would shred them up (irregular surface). Sometimes they'd be delivered damaged, other times they would just "disappear".

Worse than replacing them would be the inconvenience to customers who would wait on orders to be reshipped. Sometimes twice.

Thanks, though, for the suggestion.
Aloha Dirk,
I guess I was Lucky, all the strings I sent got to their destinations okay...hee hee

southcoastukes
01-30-2013, 06:58 PM
Aloha Dirk,
I guess I was Lucky, all the strings I sent got to their destinations okay...hee hee

I have the feeling you have always been lucky, Stan. Karma, as they say. (I must have led a bad life).

In trying to make sense of this, the only thing I can come up with is that "if it doesn't fit through a big flat-bed processing machine, we're going to charge it almost like it were a big box". After all, as you can imagine, our "boxes" are pretty small - the weight is actually not an issue - it's the classification as "package".

Maybe that's the way it needs to be, but either they were undercharging a lot before, or they've decided this is an area where the competition is slight, and they can make up some of their deficits. Whichever, whatever, it's not really right, in my opinion, to hit customers, people who depend on your product, with that sort of price hike out of the blue.

Imagine if some other segments of their customers were hit like this. If it had happened to the bulk mailers, it would probably be front page news.

Plainsong
01-30-2013, 09:29 PM
UPS is the biggest guilty party for that in this country. FedEx isn't too bad, but of course USPS-->Posti (Itella) is the best option.


USPS has another major advantage for international shipping, and that is what overseas customers have to deal with when it comes to customs. UPS and Fed Ex go through brokers which raises the customer's final cost considerably. With USPS, we're shipping using one national post office to another eliminating a very expensive and time consuming middle man. Look at the customer's landed total cost, not just the USPS rates. Also, keep invoices under $2,500.00 for lower paperwork hassles.

We ship to Australia, Germany, England, Hong Kong, Singapore, Indonesia, etc., and I use USPS for as much as possible.

BTW, if they'd stop giving such great rates on junk mail, they might not lose so much dough...

LifesShort
01-31-2013, 02:22 AM
I can see a day when, because of the dramatic rate increases, a ukulele string black market develops. You'll have people smuggling strings across the US/Canada border. There will be guys in Canada selling uke strings out of the trunk of their cars. Before long, the mafia will get involved. There will be turf fights and killings. This is just the beginning! :biglaugh:

ralphk
01-31-2013, 03:27 AM
Dirk: your string envelopes are a bit of an odd shape. Have you check different envelopes for international shipping, or use envelopes with a thin bubble pack on the inside? There might be some way to fool the system

smellofstrings
01-31-2013, 04:59 AM
bad news for me... :(

Louis0815
01-31-2013, 05:08 AM
Best to put strings in regular business envelopes....for 96 cents...:)

Not a bad idea, Stan ($1.10 now). We used to do something like that. The only problem was that some countries (European especially) must have some sort of processing equpment that would shred them up (irregular surface). Sometimes they'd be delivered damaged, other times they would just "disappear".

Dirk: your string envelopes are a bit of an odd shape. Have you check different envelopes for international shipping, or use envelopes with a thin bubble pack on the inside? There might be some way to fool the systemThat would've been my suggestion: use padded or Tyvek envelopes (Ken Middleton uses padded ones for his strings which always arrived in perfect condition).



I understand the disappointment, but the alternative is stopping service (can a government agency go bankrupt?). USPS loses billions a year. They are talking about stopping service a day or two a week and other measures.I don't have any detailed knowledge, but these losses have for sure not appeared out of the blue in 2012... Being the national postal service provider is for sure a hard job as you are obliged to cover the whole country somehow (whereas any commercial carrier always has a choice not to cover certain remote areas). The root causes must be analyzed and solved, just increasing rates will not be enough in the longer run.http://www.greensmilies.com/smile/smiley_emoticons_2cent.gif

southcoastukes
01-31-2013, 08:12 AM
This whole thing took me by surprise (as it was unannounced), and while I posted the news mainly to let everyone else who ships or receives international packages know what was going on, I also appreciate the input into our particular situation.

Well, some serious number crunching. It's actually worse than I first thought, as with a 5 oz rate, pretty common with us, the postage rate alone is $11.48 (that's with our small commercial discount).

I actually did look back at the bubble/padded/tyvek options. Our little boxes are adjustable as to size, and only weigh .6ozs more and cost $0.30 more than the envelope options. With the higher rates, now those figures do make more of a difference than before. Just not much of a difference.

The envelopes would end up being able to save people less than $1 after everything, and on orders over 5 sets, we'd need to use the boxes anyway. With this significant a price hike, the extra $0.88 seems worth it for the better packaging. Sooooo - looks like no way around it, allowing for some worst case scenarios (4.1 oz pays 5 oz rate) we'll have to pretty much double our current flat rate International fees.

Being basically an International outfit ourselves, we really hate to have to do this. We've "been on the other side" of this situation many times. We have had some inquiries for overseas distribution. As our margins aren't all that high to begin with it wasn't really worthwhile. Maybe now that's something we'll need to look at some more. Will depend on bulk shipment + foreign domestic postage, but one way or another, we'll keep trying to "cross the borders", no matter the obstacles.

mm stan
01-31-2013, 08:50 AM
When I sent my strings I took them out of the outside packaging and just cut the label out and put just the individal packages of strings folded inside a 8 X11 size letter paper
it is thin and flexiable enough for it to make it through so far for me...

southcoastukes
01-31-2013, 09:19 AM
When I sent my strings I took them out of the outside packaging and just cut the label out and put just the individal packages of strings folded inside a 8 X11 size letter paper
it is thin and flexiable enough for it to make it through so far for me...

Stan, we do domestic shipping in heavy Kraft String/Mailers. We pay a $0.20 surcharge because the shape (square) makes them "nonmachineable" (USPS terminology). The other thing, however, that will cost you the extra $.20 is if the letter has "items that cause the surface to be irregular" or "not uniformly thick". In other words, strings. We actually went to the square envelopes in the hopes that Postal Workers would not machine process them.

I wish I had saved some of the pictures customers have sent me when our mailers got machined anyway. When something gets snagged in the belt, it's all over. Still, that only happens on rare occasions - less than 2% damgage. Paying the $0.20 is cheaper than the extra packaging and postage it would require, and the "special handling" gives us an excellent survival rate for our shipments.

We originally used the same method for overseas, but found out quickly that the special handling we were getting on domestic mail wasn't happening once they went to another country. Some places were worse than others (Germany!!), but our losses were closer to 10%, and to us, that was not as bad as the inconvenience and aggravation to our customers. When these things get damged badly enough, they just get "lost". Nothing worse for the customer than waiting - waiting - waiting. Then we give up - reship, and believe it or not, it has sometimes happened twice to the same customer. More waiting - waiting - --.

So as far as paper envelopes, well, first they're not technically legal at a letter rate to begin with (and sometimes they will get returned!), and the sort of results you get are just not worth it to us or our customers.

Beau Hannam Ukuleles
01-31-2013, 09:25 AM
I have used these guys a few times -excellent.

https://www.ship2anywhere.com.au/

they are basically a middle man/company between you and DHL, fedex, etc etcetc-

Simply put in dimensions and weight for a quote- i shipped a guitar from Australia to Scotland for about $120 got there in under 2 days .

I shipped 3 ukes from Oz to COlorado for $90 with DHL!!!

whepper
01-31-2013, 09:51 AM
USPS has another major advantage for international shipping, and that is what overseas customers have to deal with when it comes to customs. UPS and Fed Ex go through brokers which raises the customer's final cost considerably. With USPS, we're shipping using one national post office to another eliminating a very expensive and time consuming middle man. Look at the customer's landed total cost, not just the USPS rates. Also, keep invoices under $2,500.00 for lower paperwork hassles.

My experience with receiving ukes shipped from the USA to the Netherlands, using FedEx, is excellent. Their handling fee for customs is 40% lower than what the Dutch postal service charges and there's no delay, because they do the custom clearance at a later moment. About 2 weeks after receiving the package they send an invoice for the customs & handling fees.

If something is send using USPS the Dutch postal service will do the custom clearance; but it can take between a few days and two weeks.

PeteyHoudini
01-31-2013, 10:26 AM
USPS to Canada is my favourite way to order things from the US. Almost never been charged duties or brokerage fees that way... as for Fedex and UPS... those brokerage fees made me stop ordering from the US unless the business ships USPS. Just my two cents + $80 in brokerage fees! hehe

Petey

Plainsong
01-31-2013, 11:45 AM
Oh lucky! They're not so efficient here. Here, FedEx treats all customs clearance shipments as special cases. Only, since the cost of shipping is added to the value of the item, and th customs ceiling is something like €45, that makes nearly all shipments special. They call, then tell you to email them your receipt for the package. Then you have to give them your payment details, then they release the package. Usually it's faster to call them. You'll wait some days otherwise. They're nice people, reliable, but sheesh there has to be a better way.


My experience with receiving ukes shipped from the USA to the Netherlands, using FedEx, is excellent. Their handling fee for customs is 40% lower than what the Dutch postal service charges and there's no delay, because they do the custom clearance at a later moment. About 2 weeks after receiving the package they send an invoice for the customs & handling fees.

If something is send using USPS the Dutch postal service will do the custom clearance; but it can take between a few days and two weeks.