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international shipping tips

sample disclaimer (.doc)
new fedex commercial invoice for ground international FROM canada to USA(.pdf) (in case you use fedex)
new fedex commercial invoice for ground international FROM USA to canada (.pdf) (in case you use fedex)
new fedex pro forma invoice for ground international FROM USA to canada (.pdf) (in case you use fedex)
old fedex commercial invoice (.pdf) (in case you use fedex)

disclaimer: trade at your own risk. if you follow any of the suggestions below and they don't work or you get into trouble, you're on your own.

sorry if this is a bit scattered. i add a little whenever i get more info, which can be helpful but also a little disorganized. i'm also in the process of adding info on some of the new fedex forms, which i've not yet used. let me know if you have any questions.

pack as you normally would, maybe just a touch of extra care since it'll go through an extra few sets of hands, and we really don't want those customs folks to hear any liquid inside. i always include a note inside the box and on top that says "collectible glassware - contents not for human consumption". i've seen other people do something a little fancier, including a blurb about how the value of the bottles outweighs the contents.

when you fill out the customs forms, never list it as beer or food of any kind. it doesn't seem to be a big deal coming in to canada as i've received boxes labeled as "non-perishable jam/preserves". the first box i ever sent to the US got stopped at the border when i listed it as "infused olive oil", saying that the FDA needed to approve anything like that. i always list it as "collectible glassware", which matches the note in the box. this has worked out well for me. there's a lot of people into breweriana, which is what i always say i'm sending.

shipping usually comes down to personal preference, but here's a bit of info:

  • i strongly recommend against UPS. UPS has really expensive brokerage fees, and they go up fast with the value of the box. then they tack on several other fees for processing the COD and a premium since they prepaid for you. and all of that is before they add in any duty (and even if there's no duty, such as with a gift). based on my experience they also charge this EVERY time a box comes through. two recent boxes i received through UPS were both duty free, but i got charged $8.37 worth of tax and the other $31.33 to UPS for the first and another $3.48 in tax with $18.13 going to UPS. that's almost $50 to UPS just for them walking the box through customs. considering that fedex charges a buck or two, this is just nuts.
  • Fedex is much better, with a lower brokerage fee that only seems to get charged some of the time (and with lower value boxes they often slip right through). however, shipping internationally without an account can be a pain. if you go into a fedex location they only ever quote the incredibly expensive express option and don't offer you ground. with an account you can easily do fedex ground international for a much more reasonable rate.
  • regular old USPS scares some folks, but they rarely ever have any fees (brokerage or otherwise), they're cheap, and fairly reliable. just ALWAYS make sure you have some kind of signature confirmation and/or tracking to make sure it doesn't disappear. i know several traders who swear by USPS/canadapost.
  • i generally use Fedex since it's close, convenient, and so far has worked great. fedex ground international also to default to billing the sender, and lately i've seen these charges (when applied) are only in the $2-3 range. i always list the contents as a gift and include a realistic value, which generally ends up being in the $20-35 range.

no matter how you ship, some kind of shipping documentation will be necessary. sometimes the staff at your shipping location are less-than-helpful and may tell you that you don't need any documentation. that is absolutely 100% incorrect. press them for info, make them ask other staff if necessary. customs will definitely not allow a package to cross the border without info about what is inside. for USPS/canadapost it's usually just a little slip that sticks on the front of the package. for fedex international ground you need to include 4 copies (yes four) of their "commercial invoice". the other shippers likely have similar policies. should be pretty straightforward, but if you have any questions with it, let me know.

if you are EXPORTING from canada to the US you might need a "H.S. Commodity Code" (fedex asks for this on its forms). 70131000 is the code for "Glassware of a kind used for table kitchen, etc of glass-ceramics", which is about the closest thing i could find to collectible glassware.

if you are exporting FROM the US to canada, they ask for a "Harmonized Code". "701310 - Of glass-ceramics" seems to be the closest match, and is pretty similar to the canadian version. you need to include either the commercial invoice or the pro forma invoice (i've always used the commercial version, the pro forma version seems new). you'll need 5 copies of this (one for you, 4 to include with the package). you can process these online when you print your shipping label and it'll tell you to print 4 copies.

if you have any questions/corrections/comments, just let me know.

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Last Modified: Monday, 31-Mar-2008 20:33:10 MST