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International Shipping

Posted: Jun 18, 2010 11:26 am
by Yankee

I'm not sure if this is the right place for this post, but I think so since it's related to the business aspect of your website.

In selling martial arts certificates and name seals on my website, I've pretty much exclusively dealt with domestic orders. However, I recently received an inquiry about selling to a customer in Germany. I'm willing to do so, but I wanted to ask you if you had any advice or could offer any insight as far as what to expect when shipping overseas in general and to Germany specifically.

I'm basically wondering if there's anything I should account for, such as added customs costs, taxes, red tape, etc., that a newcomer to the international market might not foresee.

Thanks in advance,


Posted: Jun 18, 2010 5:55 pm
by Gary
It should be no problem. Just declare them as "documents" and use a rigid envelope. There will not be any customs issues (except maybe in Italy).

The USPS has a flat rate envelope that ships virtually anywhere in the world for a commercial rate of $12.78
This takes 6-10 days.

The USPS also has what they now call "First Class Mail International" (everyone else in the world calls this "air mail" or "air parcel post"). A 5 ounce envelope goes anywhere in Europe for $4.60. This takes about 2 weeks, but once in a while can take 3 weeks.

To get the commercial rate for Priority Mail, you can use USPS click-n-ship:
You just print the labels and customs forms right from your laser printer. But you will want to get some of the label/document blisters for free from the USPS (you can order those supplies from the website). If you put the label and customs forms in the blister and attach it to the envelope, you can throw it on the counter at the post office (without standing in line) or just hand it to your mail carrier.

If you start to do a lot of FCMI (First Class Mail International), you might want to get an account from You can't prepare the FCMI labels via the USPS's Click-n-Ship (because and have lobbied them not to). It's $17.95 per month, so wait until your volume makes that worthwhile. Without, you'll have to take your hand-labeled packages and stand in line at the post office to get that cheap FCMI rate. Get a stack of the green customs forms so you can pre-fill those before you get to the post office.

FYI: Everything I noted for prices above are even cheaper for items sent to Canada.


Posted: Jun 20, 2010 11:19 am
by Yankee
Thanks, Gary.

This information was very helpful.


Posted: Dec 5, 2011 5:09 am
by csimmons
I would like to ask how you handle shipments on those countries which are known to heavily rely on import items to charge them with tax. I have experienced quite a number of complaints how some couriers charge them so much, even at times more than the amount they paid the item for. They certainly understand that that is beyond my control but they are asking for alternatives.

Posted: Dec 5, 2011 12:18 pm
by Gary
Use the mail instead of the corporate couriers. The postage will cost less, and they are less likely to apply large tariffs, duties, or VAT (depending on the country you are shipping to).

We slip through a tax loophole, as hand-painted artwork is duty-free in most western countries. Printed artwork such as posters will be taxed, but handmade artwork is not. Strange rules I know.