Sunday, December 13, 2015

The Devouring Beast

I've received a goodly amount of feedback about not shipping anything I currently have on Ebay outside of the United States and Canada.  And by "feedback" I mean a lot of folks don't like it.  All of those comments and emails, without exception, have been unfailingly polite.  That's something I really appreciate.

What it really comes down to is dealing with the outrageous shipping, customs hassles, and potential VAT levies of the EU.  Half of my audience for Mythos and horror-related props resides there.  Believe me, I hate cutting everyone in Europe off, but I don't think there's another alternative.  In the past I've been more than willing to deal with shipping and customs problems, but I'm extremely leery of  the VAT rules.

As I understand it, and I welcome correction, I'm responsible for filling out an accurate customs declaration for any packages mailed to the EU.  That's not a problem.  The receiver is then responsible for paying any duties and/or VAT based on the declared value of the goods.  That varies based on their country of residence.  Here's where the issue arises.  Those fees can add up quickly, and if the recipient doesn't pay the item is sent to impound.  To both Ebay and Paypal that counts as non-delivery and entitles the purchaser to a full refund.

That's...less than optimal, particularly for the OOAK or short-run items I do. 

If anyone can suggest a better alternative I'm open to ideas.  


Oneiros said...

It's more of a lottery...

The threshold is £18 in the UK, or about $26 give or take on the exchange rate.

Not every parcel is hit. I've had stuff with a value of $70 delivered no problem, and I've had free items charged for because of a value having to be written on the envelope.

If it's sent with USPS and Royal Mail deliver, you might get hit, you might not. If it's DHL or UPS or any other courier service, you will get hit regardless what you do.

The 20% tax is not that much. The problem is the handling fees. a $30 item if Royal Mail charge, is about £4 tax, and £8 handling. Fed Ex once charged me £15 plus Tax.

One way round it, if you want $50 for an item, sell it for £50 domestic plus postage, but $25 and add £35 postage international. That way, we know you get the money and not the post office.

Or, when you write the value on the envelope, maybe writing the value of the materials it cost to make as opposed to the retail value? We know that the value of the item is in your skill and time it took to make, but a $50 gaff is still make with a $10 block of sculpy.

Just a couple of ideas there. ;)

Springinsfeld said...

Hi. I've bought from you before and I reside in the UK. The goods arrived without any problem, or being impounded. If they are below a certain value (about $25 US dollars I believe) they don't get stopped at our end, likewise if they are printed paper such as postcards or books. Generally the VAT fee is something we can put up with, but the Post Office here charge a massive (around $16 handling) fee (as well as the VAT) which I do object to. however I would like to think most UK buyers are aware of this before ordering and can take it on the chin. A lot of US sellers won't ship to Europe, which is most aggravating (I try and buy a lot of role playing miniatures from the States) and they are cutting off a huge marketplace.

Propnomicon said...

@ Oneiros

Thanks. I can't fudge a customs declaration, but I wasn't aware of the $25/$26 VAT threshold.

@ Springinsfeld

Again, my thanks. It seems like the key is to keep items below the limit with fixed pricing. Believe me, I hate the idea of being forced to ignore the EU.

Steve said...

Can you use Amazon for shipping? It might be easier to do the customs. I miss your stuff.

Anonymous said...

Does Etsy have similar rules? Or could you sell through Amazon?

Alternatively, you could partner with someone trustworthy overseas to print the paper products on their side of the pond, and ship them from there.

IDK if Yahoo Auctions are popular in Europe, I know they're still a player in Japan for some reason. Might be another avenue?


Propnomicon said...

@ Steve Dempsey

I looked at the "Fulfillment by Amazon" program. Unfortunately, you have to send stock to the Amazon facility for each country instead of one single EU shipping hub.

@ gndn

Etsy runs into the same non-fulfillment issue via PayPal.

I think the best option is shaping up to be doing short runs priced at the $24 point. That way people won't get hit with the VAT+ national mail service fee.

CoastConFan said...

eBay and I parted ways a few years back, due to their absurd business encumbrances. But back when I had a presence there, I seldom would allow foreign sales except by personal exception. Overall though, it just wasn’t worth the effort of poor shipping and accounting standards once they left the US postal system and the often ridiculous (my opinion) maze of exclusions, VATs, tariffs, and other duties imposed at the other end of the line. I just didn’t care for eBay basically making rules for my property and my business, so like millions, I voted with my feet and my wallet – bye, bye.

As far as my early background goes into international shipping and customs paperwork, I have a fairly long history going back to the late 1970s when I worked for an game company that shipped wholesale around the world to other wholesalers and game shops. So yes, I have shipped retail and wholesale into countries that had lots and lots of restrictions and paperwork. Did you know that in the 70s, that the Soviet Union had less import paperwork than Canada? Yep! Nonetheless things are easier now but I just gave up eBay than put up with their poor system of performance measurement, lack of checks and balances, worthless communication & etc. So now you known my opinion, that and a couple o’ bucks will get you a coffee and a doughnut – for what it’s worth.

Shannon said...

Australia doesn't have this problem. ;) We just have outrageously high upfront postal fees! Perhaps you could make an exception for Aus? :P

Anonymous said...

Since it sounds like many of your buyers are fans rather than strangers stumbling onto your auctions on eBay, you might consider cutting the middlemen, eBay/PayPal, out completely. Simply have them make payment to you through some other method, and once it clears mail their items, with the expectation that they will have to navigate their nation's custom procedures on their own. Back in the days when eBay worked like this, for the most part, I was happy to run international auctions, and made a lot of money selling rare/out of print CoC game books to people living in remote parts of the world. But once eBay started demanding that every little individual having an online yard sale operate as if they were a big box retailer with generous return policies and the expectation that you should just shrug off losses due to fraud and flakiness on the buyer's part, eBay became far more headache than it was worth. To me, at least.

Idiot/Savant said...

New Zealand also doesn't have this problem, unless the goods are valued at more than ~$400.

Unknown said...

Ebay's Global Shipping takes care of the hassle for you. The cost still remains for your customers, of course, but all you need to do is mail to the Global Shipping Center. From there out, it is the cost of the buyer.

Anonymous said...

Hey there,

I'm one of those guys who delivers parcels, so I might shed some light on how it's done in Switzerland (I work for Swiss PostLogistics).
On parcels, the critical value is CHF 60, or $60.37 atm (including postage!). You go above that, you pay taxes and a fee to the Swiss Post. If you're below that, it should cost nothing. Mind you, I had parcels which had a much higher value and I didn't pay a dime... guess I was lucky...
Generally, if the sender forgets to declare the value of the sent items, the Customs Office will send a letter to the parcel's receiver and will ask for a bill of purchase, so the can do their maths. I had this happen to me once, so I just sent them my online receipt. That was sufficient and I got my parcel in the end. Nothing should be impunded or sent back right away.

Have a nice day!

Edward Pearse said...

Then there are those of us living in Utopias where anything under $1000 is exempt from GST (though if you send tobacco, you can be they'll hit up the receiver for duties). Since we and our neighbours in New Zealand probably only make up a small percentage of your buyers, I would implore you to let us back into the fold. I've bought a few things from you in the past and would love to be able to do so again.

christian lehmann said...

I've bought tons of things from the US and have had them sent to France. Customs and VAT is very arbitrary but under 50 euros ( or dollars), packages come through with no hassle. Over that limit, you never know. A big Sideshow statue may slip in with no taxes and fees, and a smaller package around 120 euros will get hit, which always is a bummer. Small items like magazines, or postcards, printed stuff, books, arrives without a problem. That's my two cents