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Hello New Zealand, Goodbye Hong Kong, International Shipping Dumpster Fire

International shipping in recent months has been a total disaster. Anyone who hopes we’re getting back to normal on this global supply chain stuff will be very disappointed. Between COVID-19 emergencies, a shortage of commercial airline flights to carry mail, customs clearance backlogs, and local destination transit service and postal system restrictions, most international shippers are experiencing major service disruptions. It’s especially bad for shipments sent by USPS First Class Package International Service, the cheapest available option and the one that most BMOW customers choose. FCPIS disruptions can sometimes cause unexpected delays of weeks or even months, and FCPIS shipments to some countries have been halted entirely. Pretty much every day I hear from a customer outside the USA asking “why is my shipment taking so very long?” Just how bad is it? A customer in Spain recently told me of an FCPIS shipment that had just arrived after four months. Ouch.

Since this post is specifically addressing people outside the USA, I should probably clarify that “dumpster fire” is American slang for a chaotic or disastrously mishandled situation. Because when things get really bad, we Americans apparently like to run around searching for open dumpsters full of garbage, then set their contents aflame while rubbing our hands with glee at the unholy mess. Which is a pretty good metaphor for international shipping today.

The US Postal Service “temporarily” suspended most mail delivery to Australia on September 3, and it remains suspended more than four months later. New Zealand service was similarly suspended on October 1. The lone bright spot here is the resumption of some classes of mail service to New Zealand on January 14. But on the same day, USPS mail service to Hong Kong was halted. Win some, lose some. Sorry Hong Kong.

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results

This is all becoming a familiar refrain. A search of the BMOW blog turns up many past laments about the difficulties of international shipping:

2013 International Shipping Hurts!
2014 International Shipping Meltdown
2016 Crikey! USPS International Shipping Costs
2018 International Shipping Struggles
2020 Sorry, Europe. International Shipping Woes
2020 The International Shipping Mess
2021 US Customs Export Control Says: I’m Screwed
2021 Temporary Suspension of Australia Shipping
2021 New Zealand Shipping Suspension

Something Better?

In an attempt to chart a path around this mess, BMOW has started offering some new shipping options. For most countries you’ll see an “Economy International” shipping option, which is priced similarly to FCPIS, and with a similar median delivery speed, but (hopefully) better worst-case delivery speed. It uses a crazy three-legged delivery scheme in which BMOW mails packages to a sorting warehouse in the USA, then a private shipping company applies a new shipping label with local postage for the destination country. Shipments going to the same country are batched together and sent in bulk by private shipper. Once the bulk shipment reaches the destination country, the individual parcels are dropped into the nearest mailbox for final delivery. If you’re wondering how this complex process could possibly be faster than simply mailing a package directly to the destination, let me refer you back to the FCPIS dumpster fire above.

For those customers who are willing to pay a little more for shipping, BMOW now also offers DHL and UPS shipping to most countries. This arrives in about a week, and is generally much more reliable than FCPIS, with better and more-detailed package tracking too. But it comes at a price: around 40 to 45 dollars, or more than twice the cost of typical FCPIS shipping. This might be acceptable for a customer who’s buying 250 dollars worth of hardware, but few people are willing to pay 40 dollars shipping on a 40 dollar purchase.

I’ll continue to hope that the international shipping landscape begins a return to normalcy later this year. Until then, thank you for your understanding as BMOW copes with this difficult shipping environment.

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1 Comment so far

  1. Chris M. - January 23rd, 2022 7:07 pm

    …and yet crap from mainland China makes it to my location via USPS in 2 weeks still.

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