Laora's Online Shopping Guide: International Orders
Buying online can sometimes be extremely stressful, especially when it takes ages for something to arrive, and you start thinking that its never going to make it through the post. So here are some useful things to know:
1) Customs Duties (when ordering from any country outside of the EU)
If you order anything outside the EU, it is important to bear in mind:
You may have to pay Customs Dury on goods with a value that exceeds £135.
You WILL have to pay Import VAT (at 20%) on goods with a value that exceeds £15 (UNLESS, the seller ticks "GIFT" on the package they are sending to you. If they do, you will only have to pay VAT on goods with a value that exceeds £40. This is useful if you are buying from ebay or etsy and you can give the seller selling instructions. Not all sellers will be willing to do this so remember to ASK!)
If you order anything above £15, you can expect delivery to be delayed by a few days (over and above the amount of time it takes the usual postage service) as it gets dealt with at UK customs. The customs charge will be 20% of the TOTAL of the value of the item you bought and any postage/insurance costs.
They will then smack on whatever the relevant customs charge is and leave you a note through your door with a number of options to make payment. Once payment is made, you will be able to arrange for your parcel to be redelivered or you can pick it up at the relevant Royal Mail post office.
Although it sounds like a chore, it really isn't all that bad. Despite all the scare stories, I have never in my experience had anything stuck at customs for more than a week.
2) US Delivery Services
USPS: This is the big one that most companies/sellers use.
Express mail (takes between 3 - 5 business days): For something that fits in a large cardboard A4 size envelope, you will have to pay $38.00 (approximately £24). Anything above that, is seriously overpriced, and so Priority Mail should be considered. TRACKING: Yes
Priority mail (takes between 6 - 10 business days + additional 1 or 2 days for it to be transported within the UK): For something that fits in a small 23cm by 15cm box, you will have to pay $16.95 (approximately £11). Even though it doesn't seem like it, small sized high heel shoes should fit in boxes of that size (you can ask the seller to put them in a smaller box if they don't). For larger boxes from 30cm by 20cm, you will be looking at $47.95 (approximately £30). TRACKING: No for envelopes and small boxes. Yes for larger boxes.
A lot of websites offer discounted international shipping prices. For example, Solestruck (www.solestruck.com) offers free international delivery on orders over $150, and express delivery for $35.00.
First Class mail (you never know when its going to show up): Prices vary but I would not recommend it. The item could show up at any time between 1 week to 5 weeks (or never). TRACKING: No
Even though these postage prices look pretty stiff, they may still be worth it, because you won't be able to get the same awesome item here in the UK (and even if they start importing it it won't be til a million lightyears later (re: Jeffrey Campbell shoes - they were out almost more than a year before in the US!), AND seeing as everything is much cheaper in the US, the item may still work out the same price as something similar in the UK (but less awesome).
3) When you want something and the seller does not provide International Delivery
In the past I have asked US sellers on ebay (who sell similar products or products from the same online/non-online retailer) to help me purchase items and re-sell them to me at a profit. They are usually really happy to help and won't ask for huge profit margins! All you have to do is ask!
Make sure if you ask for this kind of service to get them to list the item on ebay so you protect yourself from being scammed (ebay and paypal will refund you if they run off with your money and can't provide a proof of postage!). You will usually have to pay upfront before they place the order.