Overseas Shipping

by Bart on October 3, 2011

Here at Experimental Musical Instruments, we use the United States Postal Service for shipping to our customers. There are several reasons for this choice. One is that for shipping within the United States the U.S. Postal Service has consistently proven to be admirably timely and dependable for us (contrary to the complaints of anti-government crusaders). Another is that its services are quite modest in cost, and we’re happy to pass these savings on to customers.

The story for overseas shipping is more complex.  The cost savings in shipping through the Post Office’s Priority Mail International service, as compared to private international shippers like FEDEX or DHL, are huge.  We’re able to ship a good percentage of our orders abroad for US$13.95 (that’s where our $14 shipping fee on overseas orders comes from), while shipping the same package with one of the private shippers would cost many times that at least. The problem is that the best that the US Postal Service can do is to deliver the packages to the recipient country’s customs service in a timely fashion.  That done, it’s anybody’s guess how long the package will take to clear customs. Some packages, we’ve found, arrive at the customer’s door halfway around the world in a few days; others take as much as a month.  The situation isn’t much different even when we use the Post Office’s more expensive Express Mail service.

And another drawback: more and more of our customers these days are requesting tracking numbers, which Priority Mail does not offer.  While Express Mail service does provide a tracking number, that number doesn’t do much to speed the package through foreign customs or provide detailed information once the package is in the hands of the recipient country’s postal service.

There is yet another level of service offered by the United States Postal Service in partnership with FEDEX. It’s called Global Express Guaranteed (GXG).  With this service, the US Postal Service delivers the package to FEDEX overseas, and FEDEX shepherds it through customs and does the actual delivery.  It’s a lot more expensive than our current $14, but still less than working directly with FEDEX or DHL would be.  The claim is that it offers good tracking as well as dependably timely delivery.  We are currently looking into this the strength of those claims. If it looks promising, we’ll consider offering overseas customers a choice of services – our usual, wonderfully affordable $14 overseas rate, with no tracking and the understood risk of delays, or a more costly but more dependable GXG rate. 

In truth, offering this choice will be quite a hassle for us. Revamping our website to offer a choice of shipping options will be a lot of expense for a business as small as we are, and managing multiple systems for order fulfillment will be a chore. But if difficulties continue with overseas delivery, the hassle will be justified.

In the meantime, our very affordable overseas shipping rates remain in effect, and we greatly appreciate our overseas customers’ patience in those occasional cases where delivery is slow.

This may be useful information: the countries where delivery tends to be slowest are Italy, Belgium and (surprisingly, for a neighbor) Canada. Deliveries to small developing countries also are sometimes unpredictable.

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