We like to say that we offer the best way to ship international because “best” doesn’t mean the same thing to everyone. We are waiting for some shoes to arrive in Nigeria right now, but back to that story in a minute. Now shipping international is expensive. This is most apparent to people who are trying to return items they may have purchased on Amazon. They weren’t aware that the item was coming from China. Now that they have the item they may want to return in, but the cost of shipping it back is more than the value of the item. We see this all the time. How can that be? You might ask. There is a special arrangement with shipping items from China. The cost of shipping from China can be pennies. I won’t go into the details here. The result is that some sellers in China can make money on free shipping selling items really cheap and you can’t return them. For those shipping from the US shipping is expensive. The least expensive is the US Post Office. There are many reasons that this is the most popular way to ship internationally. But best doesn’t always mean cheapest. For example the US Post office generally gets the items to their destination, but then sometimes doesn’t. The least expensive shipping through the post office only tracks the item to the border (or customs) after that the item is not trackable. This means that the item is lost, sometimes forever. The other dark secret why the postal service is desirable is that taxes are hidden. Technically the taxes are the responsibility of the receiving party. Somehow the postal services gets a pass when collecting taxes. All the other carries will collect the tax before they will let the receiving party collect the package.
The real downside to using the postal service is that sometimes packages will be delayed mysteriously or will never arrive. With the other carriers (DHL, FedEx, UPS) we will always know where the package is and they will take responsibility for the package until it is delivered. I just helped a customer from Cypress, CA send an anniversary card to her parents in Indonesia. She paid $60 to send the card. She has sent a lot to her parents over the years including prescription medicine. There are other places which mail packages in Cypress but she always comes back to us because she knows the service we provide. She also knows that if she sends that card through the postal service it might no arrive. Personally a card I am going to use the postal service, knowing it might not arrive. But she used DHL (which we discount in order to encourage people to not use the postal service) because she wanted the card to arrive. It was important to her. Now when she sends more important packages there is no question she will not use the postal service.
Shipping international also requires that you follow a lot of rules. The rules are so varied and complex that there is no way to know them all. Now we are aware of some important ones. There are websites dedicated to laying out all the rules but they do not catch all of them. For example we just sent a box to Nigeria with 4 cell phones. DHL caught the package before it left and informed us that packages could only have 2 cell phones. No where on their website does it say this. We went to DHL retrieved the package and broke it into 2 packages each with 2 cell phones. Now if the customer had used the postal service those packages would have been rejected at customs, returned to us (hopefully) with no refund on the postage.
There are two countries where you have to use the postal service. Iran and Cuba. There are a lot of restrictions on what you can send there. For example you cannot send more than one package per month to Cuba. But you cannot use the other carriers.
Of all the carriers we prefer DHL. They are the best to work with when their are problems. They also seem to be the most reliable for getting packages where they need to be without excuses. We will use FedEx when the items need to be insured for a high value.
There is more to shipping internationally. We could write a whole book on shipping large items like cars. It can all be done, but you have to be aware of the rules and what best way might mean.