Monday, January 9, 2012

First Class Mail International, how it works

I use First Class Mail International shipping for all orders under 4 lbs. because it's the cheapest. I know my customers don't want to pay an additional $30-$50 for Priority Mail International. The only problem is the tracking of a First Class Mail International package is frustrating.

Here's how it works, I will ship an order via First Class International and it gets assigned a Customs Tracking number, it will be 13 characters long, always ending in US. This is created when I fill out the customs paperwork specifying what the contents are, their weight and value in US dollars.

I then hand it to my postal carrier. The US Postal system then takes it to a central processing hub and puts it on a flight to the destination country. At that point it is handed off to that countries postal system and our tracking abilities stop. Once we hand it to a foreign country, we do not have access to their postal systems computer network and the receiving country is then responsible for getting it through their customs and into the hands of their citizen. They have the legal right to inspect any package coming into their country from a foreign destination and hold it in customs for as long as they want.

All makes sense, right? The big problem is that once it leaves the US Postal Services system, I have no way to find out where the package is located. So after a couple weeks, most customers are anxious to get the products they paid for, of course. And when the tracking shows the package is still in a US sorting facility, it raises a red flag. This only means that it has gone as far as it can in our tracking system and is now in the hands of the destination country.

I estimate the current delivery time for all international shipments to be 30 days. If you have a valid customs tracking number, then you know the package has shipped and is in-transit. If you are anxious, just give your local Post Office a call and ask them to pull up the tracking number and if they can tell you how long it usually takes a package to get from the US to your country via First Class Mail International.

International shipping is a great concept and allows you to get things from other countries, but it also takes patience. I have had customers shipments show up as long as 90 days from the ship date and I've very rarely had a truly lost international package in the 8 years I've been shipping internationally.

Good things come to those who wait!

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