Wednesday, January 23, 2013

International Shipping Changes

The Background:

We hear from a lot of our international (outside of the US) customers that our shipping rates can be high. That is true, compared to domestic rates. But we've researched all of the shipping carriers and for the size business that we are, USPS has long been hands-down the cheapest way to ship internationally, especially smaller items like pens and bottles of ink. Around this time every year, we hear of price increases from USPS, which is currently the Goulet Pen Company's sole shipping carrier. Domestic rates are going up a bit, as we knew in advance, but we aren't making any drastic changes with those rates right now. We're absorbing them for the time being. But international rates are a different story.

What's Changing:

We were told about a week ago to expect "significant increases" from USPS, regarding international shipping rates. We just found out what the new rates will be, and they were right, they are rather dramatic. First-Class mail is the most dramatic, particularly for low-weight packages. We had to raise the price of our international Ink Drop from $12.50 to $15.00 (for all countries), because we saw an increase of about $3 of shipping on these small packages (notice, even with our price increase, we're still absorbing some of that cost!). For Canada, the increase was even higher for these small lightweight parcels.

Prices for Priority Mail and Express Mail will also go up, in varying degrees based on weight. The changes in rates will vary by shipping class, weight, and country location, so we can't give you a detailed breakdown here. Everything will be calculated real-time on our site as you add items to your cart. Just understand that international shipping prices for anyone shipping USPS are going to increase by a noticeable amount, starting this weekend. So if you're outside of the US and had your eye on some products from GouletPens.com or any other US retailer that ships by USPS, you will probably want to go ahead and move on it in the next few days to avoid these price increases.  I expect most packages will see an increase anywhere from $3-15 based on the shipping class, per package shipped. It will likely be around a 20% increase on average, but for some situations, it could go as high as a 50-70% increase. It just depends on what you're ordering and where it's going.

How to Maximize Your Shipping Savings:

The best way to save money on shipping is to consolidate your purchases into larger orders. The bulk of the shipping cost is in that first pound. Once you get over a pound of weight, the incremental cost to add more items drops dramatically. So, hypothetically, it might cost $30 for that first pound of products, but then only cost $2-4 more for each additional pound. You would end up spending $60 in shipping if you did two small orders, but only $34 if you combined them. If you don't have enough items you want to order at once, consider a group buy with a friend who lives near you and sharing the costs of shipping.

Also, Express Mail is only slightly more expensive than Priority Mail, but offers the benefits of faster delivery, including an expedited track through customs. First-Class is by far the cheapest (and only available for total order weight under 4 lbs including packaging), but can take several weeks.

In Conclusion:

We don't like to be the bearer of bad news, but that's pretty much what we are here. There's no sugar-coating it, prices will just be high for shipping anything outside of the US. Fedex and UPS aren't any better (in terms of price), and we're not even set up with them to be able to make a transition right now if we wanted to. We fully recognize that the new shipping prices will make it much harder for some of our international customers to shop with us, and for that, we're really sorry.  We'll continue to offer the best prices that we can, and to pack as well as we possibly can. But with increases like these, we have no choice but to raise international shipping prices.

Thanks so much for continuing to support GouletPens.com and the various things we do (like Ink Nouveau, our YouTube channel, Facebook, Twitter, FPN, Reddit, Pinterest, etc), we hope that you will continue to remain active and engaged in the writing community even if the higher shipping prices mean that you will shop with us less often.

Write On,
Brian & Rachel Goulet

23 comments:

  1. You've always had the cheapest shipping rates of all the companies I try to do business with in the US. Sadly, the USPS has been squeezed by a Congress that is trying to sink it because they want it privatized. What's really happening is that they're squeezing companies like yours because people like me (outside the US) simply can't afford to order from the US any longer :-(


    Cheers --- Larry

    ReplyDelete
  2. Be careful when consolidating orders! international orders over 4 lbs are CRAZY expensive. And that's before the increase. it will probably be completely unrealistic to mail large packages with the new rates.

    ReplyDelete
  3. It should be noted that Express Mail International, while considerably faster, may result in higher receiving end fees: in Israel, for instance, the postal service charges a fee that can reach approx. USD 20 on top of the shipping charge. This makes this service almost not worth the added speed...

    However, I appreciate your fantastic service even to our little neck of the woods...

    ReplyDelete
  4. AFAIK, USPS has never stayed within its budgets, that's why it's sinking. I can't think of a single other private business that would still be in business with the amount of debt USPS has run up. Instead of cutting back on expenses, they just keep running them up and passing on the costs of congressional-subsidized mismanagement to customers.

    I hope this doesn't impact your business too much, but it's crazy to think it won't. Just the rough economic times alone make things like this feel like insult added to injury.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Dang, there goes the Clairefontaine notebooks for me. Costs waayyy too much for me to ship over to Canada :(.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Another method that could help international customers to save cost is to use Freight Forwarders.

    I stay in Singapore, so there are a couple of US Freight Forwarding service such as Comgateway, Borderlinx and etc. So Gouletpen just need to send to the Freight Forwarders via domestic mail (since domestic charges are lower) and Freight Forwarders' rates are USUALLY more affordable and cheaper.

    However, Freight Forwarders charge either by the volumetric weight or actual weight depending which one is higher, usually it will be the box.

    So if the packers at Gouletpen can try to pack the items as compact as possible into a smaller box, the overall charges from Freight Forwarders will significantly be lower. In MOST (not all) cases, that will be more cost effective than shipping(international) direct.

    Disclaimer: the above is based on my previous purchasing experience, do read your own Freight Forwarders' T&C and rates.



    :)

    ReplyDelete
  7. To be fair to USPS, they have fewer options when it comes to cutting back expenses. For example, when it comes to unprofitable routes, a private company might choose to limit service (e.g., deliver just a few days a week), charge higher prices, or nix them altogether. The Postal Service cannot. By law, they must deliver to and receive mail from all US addresses, and they must always charge the same prices. That's good and right for people who live in remote areas of the country, but not so good for the Postal Service's finances.

    What's more, drastic price increases to domestic mail always causes a big stir on Congress (not to mention among the citizenry and businesses), but no one really complains when international prices rise. Congress certainly doesn't care, because the vast majority of complaints are from foreigners who can't have a say in who is (re)elected. Thus, international mail always gets the short end of the stick.


    I bring this up not to be an apologist for the Postal Service, but to encourage the Goulets to share their unhappiness about these changes to your elected officials, particularly since it affects your business. I certainly don't want to get too deep into politics, and hesitated a long time in writing this comment. But, to be honest, unless Congress realizes that these changes have an impact on American businesses, the international price hikes are just going to keep coming year after year...

    ReplyDelete
  8. There are definitely a lot of factors at play here, but the important thing to note is that there are alternative...UPS and Fedex, that we can pursue is the USPS prices get too high or service is bad. In our experience, their service, though not perfect, has been quite reliable. As far as prices go, both domestically and internationally, USPS has been far cheaper than the other two carriers. Even with these prices going up, there isn't a cheaper alternative for smaller products like what we sell. I understand that there are political factors at play with a quasi-government entity like USPS, but frankly I really didn't start my business so that I could be a political activist, I just want to run my business as efficiently and effectively as I can. I have considered UPS and Fedex, but a change like that isn't a simple one for my type of business.

    The tough thing about the way we ship is that we have a LOT of smaller items, single pens and bottles of ink....so those would definitely not be cheaper with UPS/Fedex. If we were to incorporate UPS/Fedex for our larger packages (which would be cheaper), it would not only require setting up commercial accounts and changing our whole box structure (USPS supplies boxes for Priority Mail), but also our computer system. Right now we run everything on Macs, and UPS/Fedex only have shipping software that runs on PC's. It would literally require a fundamental change with our entire computer/network system, which would also include integration with our website and training on the part of our entire staff. Things would have to get REALLY bad before we'd actually move forward with a change in shipping carrier. It's really hard for us to estimate our costs with the others, too, because UPS/Fedex aren't as straightforward as USPS with their pricing. They have all kinds of volume discount levels, fuel surcharges, rural route fees, and the like that make it impossible for us to actually know what our costs of switching to them would be without computer software....and that we can't get until we get PC's....so yeah, it's not an easy choice.

    ReplyDelete
  9. It's very important to know what your country charges for import taxes, too...many people are not aware that there are duties/fees to pay when buying merchandise from another country, or that many of the thresholds have been lowered over the last couple of years to make up for income deficits for many governments. There is no way for us as a retailer in the US to predict what import duties someone may pay in a given country, and the rules change all the time.

    ReplyDelete
  10. There are some people that use these, and it's just a whole other element that needs to be factored in when considering the cost.

    ReplyDelete
  11. First-Class and Priority Mail include a tracking number, but the number isn't used outside of the US. You'll usually see that the tracking stops in Sandston, Va, Chicago, Il, New York, or somewhere in Florida...and then it doesn't track after that. That confuses people a lot...but really, there just isn't tracking available for those mail classes. I understand that USPS is going to work on delivery confirmation outside the US, starting with Canada and expanding to other countries, but that still won't track its progress along the way. Express Mail is the only class that does track along the way, which is part of why it's more expensive.

    ReplyDelete
  12. You certainly won't get any argument from me about the dysfunctional relationship between Congress and the Postal Service! It's something I try not to think about for too long, or I start going crazy.

    Obviously, the Postal Service needs reform. But I can't have any confidence in Congress doing so seriously and responsibly until it removes franking privileges for itself (and I'm not holding out much hope for that). But as long as Congressional offices are exempt from paying full prices on postage, that means two things:


    1. We will continue to get millions of pieces of marginally useful mail from our elected representatives, while USPS' budget woes grow.


    2. The price of postage

    ReplyDelete
  13. The FedEx software is PC-only? Wow, I didn't know it was 1995 again!
    So why am I at work instead of in 7th grade, learning fractions?
    Seriously, FedEx, go find a time machine.

    ReplyDelete
  14. We currently have 24 different ink brands, some of which have multiple different bottle sizes...so with that many different sizes and shapes of bottles, it's nearly impossible to say how many will fit in a given box. And then if there's one pen or notebook in there, too, that can throw everything off. We do the best we can when packing, but honestly, every package is just so vastly different from the next it's impossible to say ahead of time how something is going to fit in a box.

    ReplyDelete
  15. It's not your fault Brian =), no need to be sorry.

    ReplyDelete
  16. international courier servicesJanuary 28, 2013 at 2:39 AM

    its better if it is cost effective for everyone

    ReplyDelete
  17. 41.3% increase!! E.g. for the small flat rate box (was USD16.95 - now USD23.95).
    This price hike makes shipping ink international totally unattractive :-((.

    ReplyDelete
  18. I am more than happy to pay a little bit more for the shipping, but I am still waiting for my Ink Drop since the 2nd of January. I am in Italy and I know for sure that customs are slow, but I have not info at all about the package also using the tracking code. I don't know how long the shipping usually takes, I know that I often buy from the USA and I never waited so long.
    Can you help me? Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  19. Thank you! Trust me, this certainly isn't happy news for us, especially because we're not even getting any of the benefit, it's a cost that passes right through us and goes to our shipping charges :P

    ReplyDelete
  20. I know, and I'm really sorry about that! That's what it costs though, we're not just inflating these costs, shop around and you'll find other retailers are experiencing the same sticker shock when shipping out of the US.

    ReplyDelete
  21. That's a long wait for an Ink Drop, longer than most, but not at all unheard of. The best thing to do would be to email drew@gouletpens.com, Drew is our shipping manager and can help you out.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Great stuff. Glad to hear services of theirs still growing strong.
    Storage Container

    ReplyDelete