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A Year In Pen Shipping


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#1 speerbob

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Posted 16 December 2010 - 19:29

Hi, I thought I'd write up something on pen shipping as I have a lot of experience. It's about the end of the year and I shipped about 2,200 pens this year. I hope this will be useful as I see a lot of questions about shipping on the various pen forums. This mostly is for those of us in the USA. We probably have one of the best postal systems in the world and it's cheap, at least compared to most countries. This is about the Post Office only as I rarely use FedEx and UPS, and only for some large items. They are just to expensive for small items like pens.

First off, use online shipping and pickup. If you're going to the post office you have too much time on your hands. The exception is registered mail and a few other reasons like large packages. The Post Office has great online shipping and package pickup. You just order the pickup online and they come get it. Also, if you ship more than 4-5 packages a week Stamps.com is fantastic and easier to use than the Post Office site because the application runs on your PC. They give you a free postal scale that attaches to your PC. Also you get free delivery confirmation on priority mail and it's only 19 cents on 1st class mail. The postage is also discounted over the price at the post office (as it is on the Post office site too) and their insurance is cheaper than the Post Office.

I have not lost a single package shipped in the US this year and lost one last year. You don't need insurance unless the pen is fairly expensive or it just makes you feel better. The US postal service is exceptional and they very, very rarely lose mail. I do insure pens over $150.00 or so, but am always wondering why I do it since I have not had an insurance claim on a package in the US in 10 years! Never use certified mail. I often receive pens sent certified and it does nothing for you at all, except take your money. If you're just worried about whether the person gets it use delivery confirmation. If it's a value issue, insure it. Only use registered mail for really, really expensive pens. Up to about $1,000 it cheaper to send it priority and insure it. While priority mail is a great deal, 1st class is about half the price or less and maybe takes 1-2 days longer at most. Remember for priority mail you can get all your supplies free from on the Post Office web site and they deliver them right to your door. Keep a small stock on hand.

I ship unboxed pens in PVC pipe I buy at Home Depot. It's cheap and strong so you can put it in a bubble envelope with no extra packing. Out of a 10' PVC stick (3/4" pipe) you cut 20 6" tubes and that cost about 6 cents each. If you don't need much borrow a PVC cutter from the guy at home depot and cut it up right in the store.

International shipping in a whole other story. I ship about 1,000 of the 2,200 packages a year international. It's trickier and more expensive as well as a little riskier. 1st class mail is a great deal. A single pen in a PVC pipe in a bubble envelope costs about $4.00-$5.00 anywhere. Half that to Canada. If you use Stamps.com you can insure it to anywhere and for only a few bucks. But you have to put the true value of the item on the customs label as the customs label and insured amount must match. 1st class mail is more likely to get lost. I think I lost 3-4 so far this year. Always they were low value so I covered the loss. You as the shipper are ALWAY responsible for an item until it is in the hands of the buyer. So even if the other party says they will take responsibility, legally you still are responsible until they get it. If they put in a claim with a payment service, you will lose unless you can PROVE they got it. Oddly 1st class mail is actually faster to many countries than priority as it gets right through customs with no inspection. I use a lot of flat rate priority envelopes also ($12.80 on Stamps.com). They can be insured on Stamps.com as well and again to be covered you have to put the true value of the item. This is not an issue for countries with real low customs duty like Japan, but some countries have really high customs tax turning a $50.00 pen into a $100.00 pen. If you don't insure it most likely it will get there fine, I lose maybe 2-3 priority flat rate international packages a year at most, but there is no way to track a flat rate package either in the US or outside the US. Regular non-flat rate and EMS can be tracked but they are MUCH more expensive. There are a lot of trade-offs to consider with international mail. I did find one really good way around the insurance/customs value issue. This is best for higher priced items. You ship it first class registered mail which costs about $20.00 for a packages with a few unboxed pens or one small boxed pen. Write a low value like $25.00 on the customs label but the actual value on the registered slip and be sure the person at the post office uses the true value higher value on the postage receipt. So now Customs only sees the low value but the receipt and registration receipt that you have show the true value. Now go home and insure the package using www.shipsurance.com for the full value. However they do not insure to all countries so check the list first. It's $1.50 per $100.00 of value.

I had one insurance claim this year for an international package (the other lost ones were not insured) and it was $75.00 for a package to China. It was insured with Stamps.com and they quickly paid the claim. You do have to think a bit about where you ship. US, Canada, Western and parts of eastern Europe are really good EXCEPT Italy! Italy has really bad mail! I have had more loses over the years and much longer delays to Italy than to any other country in the world. Japan, South Korea, Brazil, Hong Kong, Singapore are all low risk. High risk are countries like China, India and Russia. For the most part I won't ship to China and India as last year I lost 50% of the packages sent to them so I just stopped if they won't pay for insurance.

One last thought is time. In the US a packages rarely takes over 2-3 for priority and 4-5 days for 1st class. But sometimes 1st class can take longer. International is all over the map. I have had 1st class packages get to Germany for example in 4 days and priority packages take 45 days. Most of the time priority is 15 -20 days at most but if it gets stuck in Customs or it's the holiday season it can be longer. I wouldn't start to worry about a package until 30 days, even for priority. What I do is after 30 days I give the buyer a refund and ask that if it shows up they send the money. Most of the time when I do this they end up getting it and sending the money back to me. Basically most people are honest.

So, I hope this is useful info and welcome your experiences, ideas and feedback. Cheers, Bob




Edited by speerbob, 16 December 2010 - 19:36.

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#2 thaugen

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Posted 16 December 2010 - 19:40

Thank you Bob! This is very helpful. I recently received a pen from a seller on this forum shipped in a pvc pipe and thought that was a great idea.
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#3 riff raff

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Posted 16 December 2010 - 19:48

As soon as I saw your post's title I thought, "I wonder how many feet of PVC Bob goes through in a year?" :clap1:
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#4 whichwatch

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Posted 16 December 2010 - 20:05

Very helpful to hear from someone with as much experience as you have. Thanks so much for sharing your knowledge.

#5 Ghost Plane

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Posted 16 December 2010 - 20:11

Thank you for sharing!

#6 ethernautrix

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Posted 16 December 2010 - 20:23

Thank you for sharing your experience and advice, Speerbob. I found it very useful and reassuring.
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#7 FrankB

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Posted 16 December 2010 - 20:40

Thanks, Bob. It sounds like good, competent advice.

#8 mrloco

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Posted 16 December 2010 - 21:22

Great advice, Bob. Thanks. I've shipped a few pens in the cardboard tube from a wire clothes hanger. I cut to length, then split all the way down so the pen fits snug without forcing, leaving the clip sticking through the split. Works for the one or two pens I ship periodically but if I shipped in larger quantities I'd go get some PVC.
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#9 Robert Alan

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Posted 16 December 2010 - 23:30

So, I hope this is useful info and welcome your experiences, ideas and feedback. Cheers, Bob



Yes, it is indeed helpful! Thanks so much for this terrific post. I have been your customer a number of times and have always appreciated your excellent service--from Thailand & the USA! I sell on eBay, too, but I haven't had any problems with mailing packages to Russia, Italy or China. However, I have nowhere near your volume of packages (only a few to each country every year and all insured).

Happy Holidays!
/Robert

Edited those darn typos!

Edited by Robert Alan, 16 December 2010 - 23:31.

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#10 speerbob

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Posted 17 December 2010 - 15:55

Hi, Great, glad this was all good info. To clarify, I'll pretty much mail anywhere and do ship to China and Russia as long as it can be insured. I'm just relucant to do it if not insured. Cheers, Bob
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#11 kuno

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Posted 17 December 2010 - 16:35

As soon as I saw your post's title I thought, "I wonder how many feet of PVC Bob goes through in a year?" :clap1:


same here :P. let's see...2200pens/20 = 110ft?

#12 pelman

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Posted 17 December 2010 - 16:44

Thanks Bob,
Very useful information. I have only shipped one pen but received a few. :rolleyes:

#13 ljwahl

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Posted 17 December 2010 - 17:09

Thanks, Bob-- very interesting and useful.

#14 Lloyd

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Posted 17 December 2010 - 17:18

Thanks for the excellent information. Could this be made into a sticky on top of this subforum?
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#15 kcunvong

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Posted 17 December 2010 - 17:22

Wow, excellent post. Thank you.

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#16 Readymade

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Posted 21 December 2010 - 04:27

[size="3"]Japan, South Korea, Brazil, Hong Kong, Singapore are all low risk.


As a Singaporean who, because there are few vintage/used pen options here, has to buy and sell online --thank you! :)
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#17 Russ

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Posted 23 December 2010 - 01:31

Bob, thank you for posting this. It is very helpful, indeed!

#18 haywoody

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Posted 23 December 2010 - 02:37

What a great post. Thanks for the tips Bob!

Happy holidays,
Woody

#19 Ernie Wayne

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Posted 23 December 2010 - 03:12

Much appreciated, Bob. Thanks a lot and happy holidays.
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#20 Bronze

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Posted 23 December 2010 - 11:49

- Thank you for the post!

I will also add that the items I bought from you arrived surprisingly quickly, well packaged and for a very reasonable shipping cost, (international).

#21 Mox

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Posted 23 December 2010 - 12:23

Bob, that was very nice of you to take time to write such a long post. Very helpful.

#22 krokens

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Posted 23 December 2010 - 13:23

Great job. :thumbup: Very interesting. Thanks for your time and sharing. Merry Christmas

#23 Sunburst

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Posted 23 December 2010 - 16:07

That's a great reference material on shipping. :thumbup:

#24 Ulsterman

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Posted 23 December 2010 - 16:20

Not only great advice, but having been on the receiving end of several of Bob's Pilot 78G pens, I was as heartened by the packaging detail as I was in the line variation of the double B stub nib. Safe shipping and a pen that is full of pleasant surprises, which goes to show that the real value is at the business end, where the nib meets the paper, all else is floss.

#25 watch_art

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Posted 23 December 2010 - 16:50

+1 on Italy having lousy post. My 149 took a week to travel 40 miles (according to the postal tracker) (but it probably sat somewhere waiting to be scanned) and then sat in Milan for almost 3 weeks before it left for the US. Once here it took 2 days to get to me from around the NYC area.

Edited by watch_art, 23 December 2010 - 16:50.

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#26 minnman

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Posted 24 December 2010 - 01:04

One of the best posts I've read on here in my five or six years hanging about. Nothing beats practical advice from someone speaking from experience. I've bought a half-dozen pens or so over the years from Speerbob from when he was back in Thailand and never had anything but great experiences. I for whatever reason have lots of 1" pvc laying about and have used it to ship quite a few pens over the years and it is unbeatable. Put a kleenex in each end and a strip of scotch tape around it all and it'll survive a nuclear war.

#27 minnman

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Posted 24 December 2010 - 01:07

And, regarding the us postal system, I sign ten things a day and put them in the mail and receive that same volume. Never anything lost. In 20 years, I really believe the US post office has only 'lost' two or three pieces of my professional correspondence. The only time I hear about US mail problems within the usa is when I am asking an ebay seller what became of my package.

#28 jniforat

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Posted 25 December 2010 - 02:21

this needs to be pinned. i'm gonna ship monday, and wanted to seehow speerbob would do it.

#29 oneill

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Posted 26 December 2010 - 08:37

Great advice as could be expected from one as wise as BOB, I hope this policy is adopted by the forum as being standar practice, I find too often sellers take advantage of buyers by insisting that they ship to the buyer with all of the trimmings at the buyers expense of course, in many cases the cost of the pen does not warant such a procedure, lots of us are quite prepared to wait until the pen arrives we dont want it sent by lear jet. I have had many instances where the seller has insisted on me paying for priority mail and the pen has still taken in excess of two weeks to reach me and I might point out that is during the normal postal year not holiday periods.I have never been overcharged by Bob for shipping to Australia and I have always received the pens I bought from him in good time. Thanks for taking the time to share with the forum your experiences and all the best for 2011 Bob. regards. Bryan Australia

#30 jniforat

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Posted 27 December 2010 - 21:14

you say singapore is low risk, but shipinsurance.com does not cover singapore