international shipping - some thoughts

Right now I'm torn about shipping my pouches internationally. Up until the past two months I have had no trouble with packages arriving at their locations in a reasonable amount of time. But then, out of the blue, there have been a few orders that have not arrived after a month and a half, which is way too long in my opinion - if you have experienced this I'm so sorry! It's usually just things being held up in customs, and those things are so unpredictable.

How I ship now internationally:

+ All bags, 12" pouches, and clothes are shipped via priority mail with insurance. This does not include tracking but it includes insurance so you are covered for loss or damage. Depending on the country this will cost anywhere between $32-45. I have never had a problem with these items arriving at their destination. USPS gives an estimate of a 6-10 day arrival, and I have found that that is generally accurate, but I have seen it take a month before.

+ All pouches (5" & 8") are shipped in a priority flate rate envelope. This does not include insurance or tracking and costs between $14-16. I would add insurance to these but USPS does not allow you to insure flat rate envelopes. USPS gives an estimate of a 6-10 day arrival. I have found sometimes packages arrive in 4 days (wow!) and then sometimes a month and a half. I've never had anything not arrive (still crossing my fingers for a few MIA ones!) but it just takes too long.

I used to ship parcel post for international packages, but that took even longer and seemed less reliable, which is why I switched to priority in the first place. I think priority still works fine for the larger items since they can be insured, but I have no idea what to do about the pouches. My only other option is to ship them in an express flate rate envelope which I can insure - but that costs as much as the pouch, and I know I would never pay as much for shipping as the item I'm buying, and I doubt others would either. It's crossed my mind to only ship the pouches domestically, but I hate to turn away international customers!

As a side note, I have considered switching to UPS (already have an account) as I know they are a more reliable service, but I'm still such a small business that I'm not certain it makes sense for me. Plus, the regular PO is just a few blocks away from me, so with no car it would be a pain to drop off at a UPS location - I know they do pick up, but, again, my shipping schedule is too random for this. (And if anything I assume UPS international shipping costs are more than USPS....)

Anways, if you have any thoughts or suggestions on the matter I would very much appreciate it!


Ilmarie said...

Altough paying as much for shipping as for the item itself is kind of "Oh, okay, I have to think about this twice" not selling your pouches internationally would be an absolute pitty :(
I am just waiting for mine ;)
What about Fedex? I just now that they're next to UPS very reliable.

metrode said...

I've been told by post office employees that shipping priority mail international actually takes slightly longer than first class, and is not guaranteed. pretty much, the post office doesn't offer guarantees on international shipping. interestingly, they don't actually handle express mail shipment (the safest/fastest option)- fedex does it for them. if you are shipping very often internationally, I'd really consider UPS or fedex, for the benefit of peace of mind(I haven't made this switch myself yet, I should add.)

julia / rennes said...

Marie - Thank you for your suggestions! Trust me, I definitely don't want to stop shipping internationally, about a third of my customers are from overseas and plus I love being able to send my work all over the world! It's just hard being in a situation where an item doesn't arrive in a designated time and I need to give a refund. I'm definitely going to look more into UPS and fedex...

Caitlin - You know, I've often wondered about that - I've also been told when you send something registered so you can get tracking it takes even longer! It seems there's something majorly wrong with our PO system - when I hear how seemingly easy it is to get tracking in European countries for items being shipped here, I'm completely blown away because I'm like wait, why don't we have that?!

erica said...

this is exactly why i'm wary of ordering things now that i'm in canada! i'm tempted to get a PO box in buffalo and drive down to collect my packages.

jen said...

I've been having a similar problem lately with my international shipping as well. I just had two skirts take somewhere around 35-40 days each to reach Australia when the quoted shipping time is 6-11 days. Last year this time I sent things to that area and they actually got there in 6. Luckily my customers have been very understanding thus far. I've also not had much luck sourcing other shipping methods. I detailed estimate with FedEx revealed it would cost $95 to ship a $114 garment...SO frustrating!! If I figure out any great shipping methods I'll be sure to let you know!

Belinda [simple things] said...

I can see how this must be frustrating for you. To be honest, the price of shipping is the main deterrent for me with regards to buying internationally (I'm in Australia).

What Caitlin says makes sense - when I have things shipped via first class from the US they arrive really quickly, usually around a week, but priority takes much longer. And I've only ever had one package sent from the US to me that has gone missing - and it was registered and insured. It just disappeared. No problems with first class, though.

Have you thought about offering 2 options for internationals - first class and priority, making it very clear that the buyer uses first class at their own risk and that you recommend priority with insurance instead? I usually request first class with less expensive items, but if I were buying one of your sensational duffles, for example, I would go for insurance.

infusionfibers said...

It's somewhat of a relief to read this. Like you, I had never had an issue with shipping internationally (and I had been shipping all of my international orders via First Class Mail) but all the sudden, about a couple weeks ago, I have started hearing from my customers overseas. I had a couple packages take 2 months to finally arrive! Some are still MIA. I feel confident they will arrive, but can't help but wonder what is going on? I have since shifted most all of my international shipping to Priority Mail, but I know this is a deterrent since the cost is so high.

Great news though... I heard from my postal clerk the other day... USPS is working on their tracking and pretty soon they will be changing the system so we are able to track our intl orders. I sure hope that's true! It's ridiculous how flaky the "tracking" is at this point.

dfsaf said...

My loca Po worker told me priority mail (international) takes way longer because it is "under lock and key" the entire way there... it has to be accounted for at every step of the process. That being said, if it still taking upwards or a month, I am not sure it is worth it. Perhaps shipping should be the customers choice? Like you must sign off on it if you choose first class. I know that I would live to purchase your items, but shipping is just too mch :(

Closet Cupcake said...

Because I sell clothes on my website, I'm constantly shipping packages, often internationally and I always do it via first class international. Fingers crossed, no packages have ever been lost, but I had the same problem as you where 3 of my packages were held at customs. When my buyers inquired about them, I knew the routine by then, and told them to go pick it up at their local post office. On top of that, there's the whole customs tax issue, which is such a pain for the recipient!

jennifer said...

i think that sending your small pouches via usps first class mail might be the best bet, for now anyway. there isn't tracking, but if the package weighs less than 13 ounces, you can ship it at a very very reasonable rate. i've never (knock on wood) had a problem with lost of delayed international packages with first class usps. it would be a shame if the entire world couldn't enjoy your work! xo