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Selecting a Mail Forwarding Service - one thing they don't mention
Old 08-21-2013, 09:15 PM   #1
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Selecting a Mail Forwarding Service - one thing they don't mention

This is about expats, mail forwarding services and the USPS

I've used 2 mail forwarding services. I read the mail online, maybe twice a year I have letters or a package forwarded. I've always used USPS because it's far less expensive than a private service. After USPS accepts the item from my current service, it ALWAYS takes 3 days to reach the center by the nearest international airport, regardless of item type or mail class.

This delay is of no concern to me. If I ever need something right now, I'll ship it direct by FedEx. Some expats might want a service closer to an international airport used by the USPS. Close isn't measured in road miles or as the crow flies, but in USPS days.
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Old 08-22-2013, 12:08 AM   #2
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Another issue in some destination countries is how good your US-based mail service is at getting things (untaxed) through customs. Some services seem to be better and more experienced at this.
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Old 08-22-2013, 02:43 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kramer View Post
Another issue in some destination countries is how good your US-based mail service is at getting things (untaxed) through customs. Some services seem to be better and more experienced at this.
Not sure what you mean. I see 2 ways not to have duty charged. First is some items are duty free, so if the shipper accurately describes the contents on the declarations form then customs doesn't charge duty. The second is the shipper intentionally makes lies, little white or otherwise, on the declaration and then customs doesn't catch the discrepancy. Am I missing some other explanation?
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Old 08-22-2013, 06:07 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ItDontMeanAThing View Post
Not sure what you mean. I see 2 ways not to have duty charged. First is some items are duty free, so if the shipper accurately describes the contents on the declarations form then customs doesn't charge duty. The second is the shipper intentionally makes lies, little white or otherwise, on the declaration and then customs doesn't catch the discrepancy. Am I missing some other explanation?
Yes, you are missing other explanations. It partly depends on how it is shipped. Sometimes it will just not be charged, even if it was supposed to be. And there are many items that are more ambiguous. It is not about lying about the contents. It is how they are described, how they are sent, and how they are processed.

Customs issues are a major hassle in many countries, especially those with a lot of corruption (e.g., Mexico, Philippines). It is more than just the issue of paying customs in the first place. Shipments that pass through customs often get delayed, unnecessarily charged, outright stolen, broken, or charged in excess. The claiming system can also be complex. If something must go through customs it will usually mean it is not worth sending in the first place.
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Old 08-22-2013, 07:42 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by kramer View Post
It is how they are described, how they are sent, and how they are processed.
(bolding added)

Unless a shipping service specializes in a country (which they do for the Phils), how can it be expected to know of any subtle distinctions between duty categories? For example, declaring them as 'work clothes' or 'uniforms' because they're assessed differently.

Quote:
Originally Posted by kramer View Post
It is how they are described, how they are sent, and how they are processed.
(bolding added)

I've never seen a forwarding or shipping service that decided how they were sent, that was the customer's choice. Unless a company specializes in a single country there is no way a shipper can be expected to know what works best for each country. For example, my mail service offers FedEx, UPS and USPS. Among expats in Thailand, conventional wisdom is a USPS shipment is less likely to be assessed duty and much less likely to be assessed a duty so high it's effectively ransom. Would you expect a shipping firm with customers in 30 countries to know that?


Quote:
Originally Posted by kramer View Post
It is how they are described, how they are sent, and how they are processed.
(bolding added)

Huh?
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Old 08-23-2013, 11:54 AM   #6
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I was just trying to add value to your post by stating that experience with customs can be an issue when selecting a mailing service. I have lived in several countries. I always ask the local expats about this. I don't have a lot of experience with this topic but here are some of the things the expats told me:

* Availability of the right express service. Many forwarders only work with a limited number of express services (FedEx, DHL, etc). For instance, many probably don't have LBC as an option to ship to the Philippines which can be superior.

* Service needs to be able to repackage and consolidate packages. Having an amazon.com box sent through customs is like eye candy to a customs official. Also, better to have one box than many.

* Filling out Commercial Invoice form properly and completely. For instance, in the Philippines this will mean filling it out completely AND filling in the remarks section otherwise chance of getting flagged goes up.

* Suggestions on labeling: household items, not for resale, return of goods, medicine vs. vitamins, value under $50, etc. -- I have friends who got burned on this.

* Specialized shipment avenues: For instance, there is a mail service in my town that specializes in getting US mail here to the Philippines. They ship everything twice a week via some bulk cargo service (both ways). This seems to work better for customs.

Presumably various mail services get very efficient with certain countries as they build up a customer base there and learn by trial and error and also learn from their customers. Other forwarders specialize in certain countries (esp. Mexico).

This can be a major issue for international mail for anything other than documents. One guy here even got a customs charge on a forwarded credit card due to a labeling issue. Once it is charged, there is really nothing you can do except pay it unless you want to go through the dispute process while they hold your packages. If something goes through customs it can get upcharged, disapppeared, delayed, broken, etc. and delivery will have to paid COD in person.

My friend lives in Hong Kong, which is basically a duty-free freeport, so he can order at will from amazon.com, ebay, etc. without having to worry about these issues.
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Old 08-23-2013, 11:58 PM   #7
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I use a mail forwarding service to ship packages to us here in Thailand sometimes. There are several important points to consider. These are probably specific to Thailand, but they may suggest things to research for any country.

1. Choice of carrier affects chances of charges by Thai customs: DHL and Fedex are the most likely to trigger charges, while USPS is the least.

2. When charges are levied on a shipment, all items in the shipment are charged at the rate that applies to the mostly heavily taxed item. In Thailand clothing is charged at 40% while books enter free. Possibly this means that bundling clothing and books in the same box will result in the books being taxed at the clothing rate.

3. The US mail forwarder will not falsify a customs declaration since he is a licensed agent of the carriers: USPS, DHL, Fedex, etc. and doing so would jeopardize his business relationship. Thai customs may pay attention to the declared value or they may use their own valuation.
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