[Amps] Shipping Costs

Manfred Mornhinweg manfred at ludens.cl
Wed Mar 1 14:03:05 EST 2017

Despite being a tad off-topic, I will add my input to this thread, from 
the point of view of someone living in Chile, and often buying stuff in 
the USA and many other countries. This might be useful information for 
those shipping to Chile, and to some other countries.

The decision between using the postal service, or any of the private 
shipping companies, is an easy one in my case: All the private companies 
will only deliver to urban street addresses, and I live on a rural 
property. So, UPS, FedEx, DHL, TNT and all those others can't deliver to 
me. As simple as that. To use any of those carriers, I have to get the 
seller to ship to one of my friends in a nearby city, and ask that 
friend to receive the parcel for me, which usually involves paying when 
it arrives. It's cumbersome.

Instead postal shipping works well, to my P.O.Box in the nearest city.

When a parcel for me arrives in the post office, they place a notice in 
my P.O.Box, and also notify me by SMS. I drive downtown to the post 
office, take that paper from the box, go to the counter, and retrieve my 
parcel. I have to sign a receipt at that time, and if the parcel 
contains merchandise above a certain value (about 100 dollars), I have 
to pay the import tax (6%) and VAT (19%), plus a small handling fee of 
around one dollar. For parcels valued less than that limit, or private 
parcels of no commercial value, I don't have to pay anything when 
picking them up.

Instead when something arrives via any of the private carriers, they 
ALWAYS charge for the taxes, even in cases when the item is legally 
tax-free! They must be pocketing the money. In addition they charge a 
high service fee, that often is higher than the total taxes! This fee 
varies according to the company and the service chosen. Some of these 
companies offer services that are very cheap for the sender, often 
cheaper than shipping by mail, but then they charge the real, expensive 
shipping to the receiver of the parcel! They don't mention this to the 
sender. This has caused much conflict between sellers and buyers. Some 
Chinese sellers offer free shipping by UPS, TNT, DHL, etc - and then the 
carrier charges a hefty fee at delivery time!

While I still lived in city and used private carriers more frequently, 
two times FedEx tried to charge me twice: Once when delivering a parcel, 
and then again, months later, by letter! Fortunately in both cases I 
could provide evidence that I had already paid. I don't know if they did 
it due to incompetence, or deliberately to extort some more money.

All this trouble just doesn't happen with the postal service.

The good side about the private companies is the speed. They typically 
take just 4 to 7 days to deliver. The postal service instead takes 
anytime from 2 weeks to 3 months, with most of the delay happening in 
postal customs processing. Even legally tax-free parcels often are 
delayed a long time until being allowed out of the customs office.

About reliability: In 30 years placing orders worldwide so far I have 
had no loss with any of the private shippers, while roughly 2% of the 
postal parcels got lost. The lost postal parcels have all been small, 
cheap, non-tracked items. There doesn't seem to be any specific 
countries that show a higher loss record to me, so I suppose that most 
parcels that are lost, get lost in the big heap at the Chilean postal 
customs office. Downwater of the customs office, ALL parcels in Chile 
are tracked, even if tracking was not requested by the originating 
postal service.

Everything sent by any trackable postal service, from anywhere in the 
world, has finally arrived, except for one parcel from Ukraine one year 
ago, and another parcel from the USA about 25 years ago. In both of 
those cases the tracking showed that the parcel left the country of 
origin and never arrived in the country of destination, and in both 
cases the insurance covered the loss.

I have had a higher number of problems with sellers not shipping, after 
having get paid. The largest percentage of non-shipping sellers, for me, 
have been from the UK. Maybe that was purely bad luck, I don't know. In 
contrast all items I ever ordered from Russia, Germany, China, and many 
less often ordered-from countries such as South Africa, Australia, 
Lithuania, Denmark, Norway, Bulgaria, were promptly shipped. The USA is 
a special case in this regard: Several times the sellers have pulled 
out, not shipping the item, but in all those cases they have promptly 
issued full refunds. Specially regarding ham radio items, I have had a 
number of cases where stores that clearly advertise that they do export 
sales, pulled out and issued a refund after I placed online orders, 
without giving explanations as to why they won't sell to me, and why 
they keep advertising export orders on their web sites.

The US postal service offers several different services. What I find 
works best for me is "International Priority Mail", and cheapest among 
this category is the subclass that uses standard-size boxes. This 
service is quick, reliable, and reasonably priced. The next higher 
service, International Express Mail, is more expensive and doesn't 
really work any better, while the next lower one, "International First 
Class Mail" is cheaper, but slower (often MUCH slower), and the boxes 
sometimes show up pretty battered. To be used only for non-urgent, not 
too expensive, robust or very well packed items. The Chilean postal 
service handles all three kinds in the same way.

In most other countries things are simpler: People simply ship items "by 
airmail", registering them to make them trackable, if so desired. That 
works well.

Finally one more note: 20 years ago I ordered from the USA more often 
than from all other countries together, because I got good prices and 
good service. Nowadays I order many more things from other countries, 
specially China but also several European countries, mainly for the MUCH 
lower shipping cost. Even postal shipping from the USA is more expensive 
than from most other countries - and many USA sellers are unwilling to 
ship by their postal service. Also many USA sellers refuse to ship to 
P.O.Boxes, even when shipping by mail. They claim a higher risk of lost 
parcels. I have never understood the reason for that, given that P.O.Box 
delivery is safer and more reliable than home delivery by the mailman! 
Maybe this is different in some other countries?

In any case international commerce by hams and other private people has 
become far easier and convenient than it ever was, thanks to the 
internet. Sellers and buyers can set all the restrictions and 
preferences they want, and still in most cases it's easy to find a 
matching buyer for something one has to sell, or a willing supplier of 
something one needs.

Manfred, XQ6FOD

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