steveb144 said

Loving Teas hating Customs/Duty

Hi All,
I’m trying to get a straight answer regarding cross border online shopping.
I’d love to place an order for some teas BUT, the shipping is more than the price of the tea! BTW I’m in Canada, trying to get some really nice tea I received as a gift from the US (
Has anyone tried the get a PO box in the states and drive down to get it routine? If so, how’d you make out?

9 Replies
Kittenna said

I’m curious about this too. I’m only an hour’s drive, give or take, from Niagara Falls NY, and the cost to me to drive down there and pick things up from a PO box would be far less than most shipping I have encountered. Have been debating something like this for a while now… but I don’t know how long one can leave items safely in a PO box, and what the lovely people at the border would think…

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This intrigues me, because I was under the impression that the North American Free Trade Agreement meant there shouldn’t be any taxes or tariffs on goods purchased/sold between the US and Canada. Whenever we ship product to our Canadian friends, I always indicate that the tea was manufactured in the US for this purpose. (Though, technically, I guess the tea itself was not, but we blend it, flavor it and package it here). Hmmm. Anyway, up until last month when we got socked with a nasty postal rate increase for International mail items, we offered free shipping to Canada. I still try to keep our shipping charges low, as we have a lot of Canadian customers who love us. (How aboot that, eh?)

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I remember a Canadian tea chatter said she looked it up in the book and made sure there is no tea tax. So far I haven’t heard of tea being taxed at the customs of Canada yet. Canada customs does tax on other items, and often the “handling fee” is a lot more than the tax itself.

My understanding is, some businesses charge high international shipping because they are reluctant to ship overseas. Some charge a high flat fee because they are only willing to ship large orders, when the sweat is worth it. It’s more of a business decision than caused by real shipping cost, as shipping from US to Toronto is almost always cheaper than shipping from Toronto to Toronto (yeah ridiculous…), and shipping from east coast to Vancouver is sometimes cheaper than shipping from east coast to mid-west.

I think there are a number of factors at play here, and yes, I imagine sometimes it is just businesses making decisions that seem to make sense to them, but I also think some vendors are stuck on using a specific carrier (UPS, FedEx, etc.) which sometimes costs them dearly. I know that up until last month’s increase, most of our packages (we ship via USPS) cost only a little more to ship to Canada than to the US, and SOME larger orders were actually cheaper. Unfortunately, last month’s increase meant that the cost to ship to Canada almost DOUBLED for us. As much as I enjoyed being able to offer our Canadian customers free shipping, I simply could not justify the expense. As it stands, our shipping charges for our Canadian customers merely OFFSET our total postage costs. We charge $1.99 for the first pouch and $.50 for each additional, but it costs us $3.30 to ship one pouch to Canada, and that’s JUST postage.

I do find it interesting though, the way some vendors handle the shipping problem. It’s ugly no matter what right now, but it really DOES pay to do some research. I have a bunch of customers who live in Alaska and a few in Hawaii, who really appreciate the fact that we don’t charge them extra, but the USPS doesn’t charge US extra. (If we used UPS or FedEx or one of those other carriers, that might be different). Other vendors (and I’m really not trying to pick on the competition here, but it seems wasteful to me) don’t want to be bothered with this kind of thing at all and ship everything at a flat rate and use those flat rate boxes for everything. The flat rate boxes are good for some things, but lighter packages can be substantially cheaper to ship using First Class Mail or even Priority Mail.

I have spent a lot of time agonizing over this, because I want our customers to feel like they are getting TEA for their money, not shipping. But it really can by dizzying and headache-inducing. I also think it’s important, given our business model of creating a new blend every week, to allow people to purchase a single pouch of our newest creation without paying a ton of shipping charges. (It does help if I don’t have to pay a ton of shipping charges, and honestly, I do appreciate that many of our customers do end up purchasing more than one pouch at a time.) Anyway, yeah, there’s a lot to consider in all of this. I absolutely HATED having to charge our Canadian customers for shipping. I still wish I could find another way.

Off my soapbox now. lol.

I absolutely agree with you on USPS vs. other couriers. I only use USPS. It’s not perfect. But it’s a blessing to have a public service to blame rather than having crippled public service or privatized service only. When I buy stuff, I often resent it when the seller only offers private courier services. Last time when I bought some ginseng from Wisconsin, UPS is the only option, and the lowest charge (UPS ground) was almost $10 (for about 5 oz.!). It took ridiculous 9 days for the package to arrive, and actually it took 3 days for the package to finally exit the state of Wisconsin. With USPS, it would be half the price and arrive in few days with first class mail.

I didn’t do much research on private couriers and just would prefer to use USPS. So I don’t know what’s of other couriers that attract a lot of sellers. I buy almost everything online and rarely go to the mall. Many of my apparel and skincare items were shipped by the seller with UPS of Fedex. But they are not fragile goods at all, although some people say private services are safer on fragile items (even this, a friend of mine who used to be a UPS store manager says it’s pretty much a myth…)

I hope more people use USPS, so that they won’t have to raise postage very often, and so that USPS won’t eventually become as expensive as Canada Post :-p In the past a few years, our city has got a few USPS sites shut down, and sometimes it could take more than half an hour waiting in line to send out international packages. But it could be worse. If we want good public service, we’ve got to support it.

Half hour waiting in line to ship international packages? You need Endicia. I LOVE them. I can print domestic, international, even APO packages, easy-peasy.

I meant postage, not “packages”. Endicia lets me print the customs form and everything on one 4×6 label.

That’s good to know. Thanks! I will check it out.
Also I’ve noticed USPS international first class mail now has some real online tracking (more frequent and detailed than before). That’s some sort of progress!

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Plunkybug said

To the OP…I moved to Victoria, BC from Orlando, FL in 2007, and the first year, we had a PO Boooox in Port Angeles, WA. The box itself was over $100 for a year, and then we had to add in the cost of the ferry (and time). We decided that it wasn’t worth renewing, though to our advantage, we now have a friend living in Port Angeles, and, we have some family in the states that can accept packages. But we generally pay the extra. It’s just cheaper. But then, we’re not ordering stuff from the states all the time either.

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