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Customs Charges between US & Canada
FedEx vs. UPS vs. USPS

 3:40 pm on Mar 1, 2008 (gmt 0)

I've been shipping orders into Canada from the US through FedEx for a few months now and a lot of my customers are refusing to pay their duties/taxes/fees, etc. The government charges aren't so bad, but the brokerage fee that FedEx charges seems outrageous.

Does anyone have any advice on whether we should change to UPS or the USPS, or stick with FedEx? Are there any great differences in the fees they charge?



 3:25 pm on Apr 16, 2008 (gmt 0)

Canadians wonder why I don't ship to CA... the next time I get that complaint I'm going to refer them to this thread.


 5:46 pm on Apr 16, 2008 (gmt 0)

Canadians wonder why I don't ship to CA... the next time I get that complaint I'm going to refer them to this thread.
I wonder why not, too. Shipping to Canada is simple with USPS postage-printing software. The merchant has the added burden of adding customs information (takes maybe 30 seconds), but the software handles the rest. And your mailman will pick-up Canadian-bound packages along with the others.

The Canadian customer must simply be informed of the $8.50 customs-clearance fee, in addition to GST/HST, which they already know about and expect to pay.

Canada is actually the easiest and lowest-cost foreign destination to ship to, aside from Puerto Rico (a US territory) and APO/AFO.


 7:30 pm on Apr 16, 2008 (gmt 0)

We ship outside the US using only USPS Priority Mail International. We've got a UPS account, that we use for large, heavy, or high dollar orders domestically; but way too much trouble and far too expensive for international shipments. Haven't run any tests on their international shipping lately but past experience has been terrible.

In addition to tracking issues, difficulty collecting on insurance claims, and slower delivery times, you also cannot file all customs declaration paperwork electronically.

Yes, their 'tracking' is still completely worthless, even after the addition of the their 'scan acceptance form', which is one of the most pointless 'upgrades' that I've ever seen. The insurance, if foolish enough to buy it, is worthless also. And they can be certainly be slow, though international speed of service has improved tremendously in the last year or so.

They have recently revamped all of the international shipping options and so the problem of customs forms seems to be eliminated. No more filling in forms manually; no more lines. (Given what we spend per week, we should never have stood in line anyway.) With rare exception we just back the truck up to the back door and chuck the day's packages on the racks.

It's all quick and easy online now. One of the few credible and genuine upgrades that that I've seen USPS make has been the recent changes to the internationals - a huge improvement. A few copy and pastes, declare the goods, and print it all. (Don't know if this applies to international insurance, which was always a real hassle as well with USPS, but we don't buy it anyway, so can't say if that was included in the upgrade.)


 7:36 pm on Apr 16, 2008 (gmt 0)

Customers routinely ask us to violate trade laws by checking "gift", and threaten to take their business elsewhere if we don't. We tell them, "Au revoir".

We get these requests regularly. I understand from the perspective of the customer. It is my understanding that they can get hit with fees, duties... But, I can't stress enough how incredibly stupid it would be for a legitimate business to participate in the practice.

In know that it is almost the norm for some companies, and have seen too much of this first hand, but refuse to do so myself.


 7:52 pm on Apr 16, 2008 (gmt 0)

And your mailman will pick-up Canadian-bound packages along with the others.

Unless after a few days he realizes that you are shipping very bulky packages that fill up his truck... Then he may conveniently forget. :)

...even after the addition of the their 'scan acceptance form', which is one of the most pointless 'upgrades' that I've ever seen.

Agreed! Do any postal carriers have a scanner thing like UPS/FedEx use? I have never seen a postman/lady carrying one. I don't think our local office even knows what the SCAN form is when we hand it to them.

Also, quick update from the past few weeks since I've switched completely to USPS for US-to-Canada shipments -
No complaints from customers so far, and nothing has been returned to us due to unpaid fees.
It's hard to compare delivery time between FedEx and USPS, because they seem to be about equal, but FedEx sometimes takes 3 times the "normal" amount of time to deliver to rural areas of Canada, whereas I have not seen this happen with any of the few dozen packages that have gone into CA via USPS/Canada Post.
It took a few days to get used to the USPS.com interface, but it is just as simple (if not simpler) for me as FedEx.com was for Int'l shipping. It appears that switching to USPS will be worth it in the long run.


 4:12 pm on Apr 17, 2008 (gmt 0)

So, will USPS take packages that are 100 pounds... or greater? Much of what we sell would fill up their truck quickly, and require a hand truck. I think we would be stuck with FedEx/UPS and I don't want to go there.


 9:34 pm on Apr 17, 2008 (gmt 0)

You'll get crushed in costs with USPS at that weight. If you can't get a deal with UPS/FedEx then you are looking at shipping with an international freight company (slow boat). We do this for one customer because their orders are usually 4 or five boxes, each around 70 pounds; to GB. They make all the arrangements on their end and the freight company picks it up. I'm out of that loop though, so can't provide details.


 10:11 pm on Apr 17, 2008 (gmt 0)

We've switched all our shipments to Canada and Europe to go through a third party.

We display prices and charge customers in Canadian Dollars, Euros, or British Pounds (depending on where they are), and charge them for shipping, taxes, and duties at the time of the sale.

We ship the goods to a warehouse in New Jersey and from there they are packaged with orders from other vendors and air freighted out to warehouses in Canada and the UK for the "last mile."

The customer receives the goods to their door with everything paid - no COD surprises, etc.

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