International Shipping Stories – Happy, Sad and True

Every week we ship quite a few packages outside the US – mostly to Canada, Australia, Great Britain, New Zealand, Germany, France, Japan, Spain and also to Romania, Poland, Mexico, South American countries and other places where there is a love of Native American jewelry, Cherry Hill’s horse books and DVDs, and vintage Dooney & Bourke Handbags.

international map

In the over 10 years I have been working here we have had great success with international shipping using the United States Postal Service (USPS)  – which, by the way, delivers 40% of the world’s mail. Here are 3 international stories – even if you are a US customer, you might find these interesting.

The Man in the Maze

One customer purchased a Man in the Maze pendant from us in early summer last year and the pendant went to him in Great Britain. With most customers, there are the original set of order emails, an email to tell the customer of the tracking number and usually an email from them, saying they received the item and love it !! However with this customer, there were already 20 email exchanges before the pendant even hit the shores of the UK. Then the pendant sat in London for 30 days while there were 20 more emails and it was returned because the customer did not pick it up. When I wrote the customer that the pendant was on its way back to us, he begged me to reship it as soon as it got back here. He sent the money to do so. A month later the pendant arrived back here, we repacked it and shipped it back to him.


Deja vu all over again………… arrived in London fairly quickly, but then sat there for 30 days. During that time there were more than 20 email reminders and replies from the customer showing great frustration on his part trying to locate his package……….so I even googled the Parcelforce package number for him that is assigned once the package arrives in Great Britain and gave him the website there in UK and contact info. It was there waiting……….yet……….he did not pick it up.  So it came back here in January. 100+ emails, two shipping charges, 7 months and the customer had no pendant.

I don’t know what really happened but either London is just too big, he couldn’t figure out how to pick up a package or he just didn’t have the $$ to pay the duty to pick up his package.  Each country has its own way of handling international packages and each country has its own tariffs and duties for goods arriving from abroad. Some countries charge no duty if items are made in the USA while others charge high tariffs no matter where something is made.  I’ve heard from customers in Great Britain and France that their import taxes and duties are quite high.

The Christmas Spirit

During the Christmas rush this past year, a postal employee accidentally affixed the wrong customs forms on two boxes. This resulted in a man in Australia who was expecting a beautiful Dooney & Bourke bag for his wife receiving instead 3 medicine bags. And a man in Canada who was expecting 3 medicine bags for his kids for Christmas receiving a handbag.


After heartfelt apologies on our part for the post office’s mistake, we found we were dealing with a couple of really nice customers. Luckily we had 3 more medicine bags we could send the man in Canada. So he was taken care of right away. But to have him ship the handbag back to us and us then ship it to Australia just wasn’t going to happen in time for Christmas so the man in Australia decided to cancel that order for a full refund plus extra to return the medicine bags. He carefully and promptly packaged up the 3 medicine bags and sent them back to us for which we were so grateful.


Interestingly, the man in Canada loved the handbag he received by mistake and asked if he could purchase it – perhaps a last minute gift for his wife or girlfriend !!  So the snafu had a relatively happy ending.  Mistakes happen!

Higher Rates – Higher Blood Pressure

Recently the US Post Office drastically increased the cost of Priority International shipping – by an average of 15% but some countries more and some less.  For example, a shipment today of a 3# handbag package to Australia that used to cost approximately $38 US now cost $48 US and that does not include insurance. When you add insurance and then consider that the seller pays extra fees to accept international payments and the buyer might have to pay duty, international shipping is costly on both sides of the transaction. But it is not something we have any control over; they are the charges we have to pay and our customers have to pay.

For years we’ve posted this on our website for our international customers. It, along with all of our other policies, are listed on our Shipping and Policy page.  

In order to place an order, a customer has to read and agree to the policies. Here’s what it says……….

Our shopping cart’s figure for international shipping is an estimate. Your actual charge will depend on your country, the weight of the parcel, the size of the box required, the value of your items, the cost of insurance and so on. That’s why the shopping cart might charge you too much, too little or the correct amount. We will promptly refund any excess shipping charged by the cart. If additional shipping costs are due, that amount will be automatically added to your credit card as a reference transaction. If you have paid by PayPal, we will send you a request for payment.

When placing an international order, if you select USA shipping in error, by placing the order you authorize us to charge the correct international shipping cost which will be added as an auxiliary transaction to your original form of payment.

So recently when a customer from Canada chose US shipping ($7) but requested we ship her 4# box to a Canadian shipping address (cost of $35), I did what I always do, and that is add the balance due, in this case $28 to her credit card transaction. In every case over the years except this one, that resulted in a happy customer receiving their package. It’s business as usual.

screaming woman

Well in this case, the customer blew a fuse. When I politely tried to explain what had happened her reply was that she was annoyed and I owed her an apology. Here in the Colorado Rockies, we don’t apologize when someone else makes a mistake and especially when they try to turn the tables, so I cancelled the transaction completely.

We have no control over international shipping rates, insurance rates, duties, taxes, tariffs.

We just sell good stuff, wrap it very well, and provide excellent customer service.

Read our Customer Feedback Page.

I’d love to hear your international shipping stories from both sides of the transaction. Please feel free to leave your story in the comment section.

4 thoughts on “International Shipping Stories – Happy, Sad and True

  1. Hi

    I have heard from a very good trusted source if you buy in Britain the things are hard to return if faulty etc, from another country because of customs rules and regulations. There seems to be some problem getting them back in.

    Never tried for myself though.


  2. Hi Paula, I’m not clear on why the post office is the one to affix the customs labels on your packages, as in the 2nd story. How would they be able to tell what is in which box?

    On another topic, I used the people you recommended to do repairs on Native American jewelry, and they did a fantastic job! Thank you for that.

    • Hi Kerry,
      Well the customs forms go inside a plastic pouch and it is easier to put the forms in the pouch and then stick the pouch to the box. The clerk has to write a few notations on the forms and also stamp them with the red round date stamp. So to make it easier for the clerk, we used to bring a box in with the person’s name written on the box where the pouch would go and then we’d rubberband the pouch and labels to the box so the clerk could do her thing. Well during busy Christmas, she just got mixed up even with the names on the boxes because we asked the customers to peel off the pouch so we could find out what name was written on the box. That is how we figured who got what by mistake. As I said, those customers were so nice to work this out.
      To make this long story longer !!……….NOW we put the pouches and forms on ourselves and the clerk has to take out the forms, do her thing, and wrestle them back into the pouch. It is harder for her but she says that is what the post office wants employees to do anyway.

      I’m so glad you found Old Town Trading as good as we do – in fact I just received a batch of repairs back from them AND I just sent them two more items on Friday. They are very good and Diane is a treasure !
      Thanks for your question and comment.

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