Shipping products far away can mean problems. But International orders have proven to be vastly more complicated and disappointing.
The tiny, little Calamityware Team ends up spending an inordinate amount of time babysitting international orders. This effort brings us little joy and much misery. Could we be more vexed? That’s why we limit our sales to addresses in the United States and Canada.
Below, you'll see two ideas for working around this problem, but first, let's review some of the things that go wrong with international shipments.
Vanished. As our package crosses borders, packaging tracking fails and the shipment disappears. Gone. That poor package is never heard from again. Even though we did nothing wrong, we must ship a replacement product and pay the shipping a second time. Ouch.
Boomerang. The package is tracked successfully and the recipient may or may not receive notice that their local customs inspector is holding their parcel. The recipient fails to go to the customs office in time and the package is returned to us. If the package makes it back to us, we must pay someone to inspect it to make sure it can be returned to inventory. Meanwhile, we have to pay for the shipping on the second attempt. Ouch.
Busted. Because the parcel is traveling great distances and is touched by many careless primates, the contents arrive chipped, cracked, or broken. No one takes responsibility and the companies that employ the couriers all have frustrating and disobliging claims systems that can eat up hours of our time. In the end, it is nearly impossible to get a reimbursement for the damage. Ouch.
Taxing requirements. Many countries impose sales taxes or value-added taxes (VAT). Calculating the appropriate tax for each jurisdiction is complex and wildly inconsistent. We are expected to pay those taxes on various schedules to various offices with various submission requirements. And the requirements can change at any moment You can’t count on being notified. Babysitting tax requirements never ends. Ouch.
Bureaucratic red tape. Even if we could calculate and collect the correct tax, there are places where we aren’t permitted to submit the taxes directly. Instead, we must pay a certificated international tax accountant a retainer to pass the taxes through to the designated bureaucrats. Ouch.
Arcane codes. Many couriers will not even pick up a package until you provide documentation that relevant taxes and customs duties have been paid. That process usually calls for a six-digit Harmonization System Code and/or Schedule B designation. These codes quibble over distinctions between a cup and a mug or between a knitted textile versus a woven textile. Even if you can get the code right initially, the designations can evolve as new rulings are passed down. So, wrestling with codes and updates can become a permanent struggle. Ouch.
Slammer for Don. If the bureaucrats, tax collectors, or administrators ever decide we have failed to understand and follow some opaque requirement, Don could be arrested and locked in the Bastille. While that might give me more time for whimsical drawings and tasty French cooking, there are bound to be significant disadvantages too. Ouch.
Therefore, we stopped accepting international orders on July 1, 2021. Sorry. But this is necessary to protect Don’s tottering mental health.
What can you do? If you live outside the United States and Canada, one of these two approaches might suit you.
1. Have your purchase shipped to a friend who lives in the U.S. and convince them to bring it to you on their next trip to your neighborhood. Or, order the product the next time you are here and lug it home with you.
2. Have your purchase shipped to an expeditor in the U.S. who will do all the paperwork and ship the product to you for a service fee. Borderlinx and Forward.me are examples.
I’m sorry for the inconvenience this causes my international friends. If we were a big business we could have our idle employees build an international shipping subsidiary. But, we’re a tiny team with better things to do. (Our whole staff can fit in one small booth at the diner.) And protecting our team’s mental health is a top priority. So, avoiding the irksome headaches of international shipments is a sensible and humane strategy.
If you have questions about this policy, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Don't ask them in the blog comments.
Don—Pittsburgh, June 25, 2021