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End of sharing ink samples by post economically


A Smug Dill

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Today is 大年初一 , and this is one way to start the Year of the Ox on the wrong note.

 

Australia Post has just, or finally, announced that international Economy Air Letters containing Merchandise service is permanently discontinued, in a very loose interpretation of what constitutes an announcement. Not as a notice, not as an entry in the list of general or notable updates, but as a new FAQ entry sandwiched between piles of older FAQ entries, on its web site where there is no dedicated FAQ page or section. Furthermore, those FAQ entries are tacked onto the end of a page of international delivery updates that is subordinate to the list of general service updates, and if you searched for “faq”, “economy air letter” or “merchandise” using the site's search bar you wouldn't find it.

 

FAQ entry announcing the permanent end of international Economy Air Letters by Merchandise service

 

Prior to April 2020, it was possible to send an up-to-50g article with thickness of 20mm all up, containing such items as a fountain pen, sample vials of ink and/or other paraphernalia, using that service, at a cost of A$2.30 to our closest neighbour internationally or A$3.20 to far-flung places including Uganda, Ukraine and the US. Considering that it'd cost me A$2.20 to send the same thing to someone in Western Australia, or even just inside the greater metropolitan Sydney area, I think the postage charges were better than fair, and the cost burden trivial to make no-obligation giveaways the default.

 

Australia Post Economy Air Letters pricing as of February 2021

 

Using a 21g cardboard mailer/‘envelope’, of which I have a big pile for the purpose, I could pack up to six 2ml ink samples (including vials with screw-caps, and absorbent void fill material between them) — or more if I'm using smaller centrifuge tubes with hinged lids, to hold the equivalent volume of ink cartridges — then slap on a CN22 customs declaration form, and squeeze in under 50g in total weight. Or send a resin-bodied pen and a converter, in a slab of polystyrene foam to protect it, with a fraction of a millimetre to spare in the allowed total thickness.

 

It wasn't just a dodgy consumer hack, either; it was how staff at the local post office advised me to send small items for which I didn't require tracking, and there was little need or point in tracking the delivery of no-strings-attached giveaways to strangers who didn't incur any costs of their own. (So far, none of the packages have failed to be delivered, anyway.)

 

But, today, that literally won't fly any more. Furthermore, notwithstanding what the FAQ entry recommends as an alternative, Economy Air parcel service to everywhere continues to be either ‘suspended’ not ‘not available’ to all countries except New Zealand and China, and the pricing of (tracked) International Standard parcel service dictates the minimum spend: A$15.20 for NZ, and A$21.00 for the US, for the lightest weight class of up-to-250g. That's roughly 6.6 times what it would have cost a year ago to share surplus inks or items with foreign hobbyists in the name of fun.

 

Australia Post attributed the change to the new Electronic Advance Data requirements for international postal traffic. However, not all countries require it (and New Zealand is conspicuously absent from the list of countries that do). Moreover, Australia Post stated, ”EAD applies to any item requiring a customs form to be completed. This means all articles and express letters sent to the destination countries above will need EAD”, so it isn't a case of letter service being infeasible in the face of the new requirements, but just the conjunction of ‘economy’ and ‘letter’ service.

 

Oh well. 😡

39 Comments


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Correct, same as in Germany already since 1st January 2019:

 

Quote

Seit dem 1. Januar 2019 dürfen in Standardbriefen der Deutschen Post keine Waren mehr ins Ausland geschickt werden. In internationalen Briefen sind nur noch Dokumente erlaubt. Bücher gelten als Waren. Das Produkt "Büchersendung International" wurde eingestellt.

– English translation: As of January 1, 2019, goods may no longer be sent abroad in Deutsche Post Standard Letters. Only documents are allowed in international letters. Books are considered goods. The "Büchersendung [Book Post] International" product has been discontinued.

 

https://www.paketda.de/news-verbot-waren-im-brief-international.html

 

Same in Netherlands since 1st January 2020.

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A Smug Dill

Posted

@EdgarK Thanks for letting us know!

 

At least, back in 2019 when I last ordered anything from Fountainfeder, there must have been a commercially viable option for Stefanie to ship two 80ml bottles of Diamine ink to me in Australia (untracked) for just €4.00. I checked just now, and even though there is no clear schedule for shipping charges, I can see that the same shipping option has only gone up to €4.50 two years ago and through all the upheaval caused by the pandemic. (Tracked service is €8.60.) Sending two bottles in the opposite direction will cost me approximately €13.30 at the very least.

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Tinjapan

Posted

Same in Japan.  Here is the information sheet they gave me.

IMG_2937.jpeg

IMG_2938.jpeg

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A Smug Dill

Posted

The EAD data entry and submission process itself is time-consuming but not incredibly onerous (but if Australia Post's MyPost web facility actually worked, that would have been less painful); I've had to do one for a return of a pen to the Netherlands a couple of weeks ago — thank Hermes for PayPal Refunded Returns! — and it wasn't that bad.

 

Moving from handwritten CN22 Customs Declaration forms to data entry for electronic transmission isn't the problem here, but the fact that posting small items cheaply in an untracked (but still legitimate) manner is no longer an option for Australian senders. I'd be quite happy to do the EAD thing if I could still send something overseas in a tiny cardboard mailer that fits within the dimensions of a ‘large letter’, with a label weighing all of 2g (as before) that bears the QR code or barcode for the EAD reference number, so that customs officials could just scan the item, check their screens to see what I as the sender said are the contents, and proceed with whatever analogous processes are for dealing with such letters (with handwritten CN22 Customs Declaration labels attached to their exterior) in the past.

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Tinjapan

Posted

It’s an added task.  Additionally, do want people to know what you are mailing and receiving?    

 

My history of shipping stuff between mainly the US and Japan is almost 30 years long.   In that time I have witnessed ever increasing difficulties, intrusions and costs mailing stuff between the two countries and more recently from Japan to other countries too.  Preparations for coming to Japan as a student twice and then as an employee involved packing what I would immediately need in my suitcases, what I wanted as soon as possible but could not carry with me packed in one or two small boxes to be sent via air and heavy, bulky stuff shipped surface mail.    At the end of my two times here as a student I would do the same from Japan to the States.  I can not imagine doing that now with international surface mail from the States discontinued.  

 

The discontinuation of sea mail from the States several years back put an end to my parents sending gifts from the States for my kids and instead they just sent money.  It also ended the shipping of my books and photo albums etc. from my parent’s home to mine here in Japan.   Shipping anything big or heavy is just plain too expensive for us now.  

 

Several years ago, all of a sudden the postal rates from seemingly all merchants in the States shot up to a minimum of $58.!  Order a single “Sunshine Cloth” from anywhere and the cost of the product was them $3. With $58.  Shipping and handling!  No matter what I wanted to buy from whomever in the States, $58.00 was the minimum cost for postage.  Even with International Surface mail from the States no more, shipping by air from the States still took at times months despite the high cost for the service.  Buy a single pen from the States and postage cost $58 and more than once it took 3 months to arrive.  On one occasion, the seller sent a second order, which I received before the first eventually arrived.   Order a pen from Iran, paid like $3. Postage and had it 4 days later.   I no longer shop from the US, well no where as much as I used to.

 

Then EBay USA instituted the Global Shipping Program that added unknowable costs after purchase, EBay UK followed suit.  I no longer shop on EBay.  

 

I used to buy ink here in Japan for friends on FPN.  No problems at first and then, suddenly, I could no longer ship liquids to Singapore.  I was almost stuck with $300 of ink, saved only by my FPN friend in Singapore having a family member in the States I could send it to.  I did and they brought it to Singapore when they returned on vacation several months later.  I am told by another FPNer that it has now become difficult and expensive to ship ink to the States.  

 

International Postal Money Orders (IPMO) used to be the only safe way to get money to Japan.  Always time consuming to cash them, over the last 15 or so years it progressively took more time and required more and more documentation to cash them.   A couple a years ago I could no longer just go to the P.O. And cash them.  The IPMO had to sent to they main P.O. To be approved.  If approved, I would get called in to pick up the money at a later date.  Thus ended gift giving between my family inn the States and those of us in Japan.  IPMO between the US and Japan has also been discontinued as of a year ago.  

 

Ironically, starting about 10 or 11 months ago, it was all but sea mail that was suspended for packages that contained goods except for commercial shippers.  Not only could I not send EMPTY pipettes to a FPNer by anything other than by sea mail, back in May of last year they could not guarantee they would arrive in the US by the end of that year, then 7 months in the future.

 

And now this.  Postal service has long been going both through a process of degraded service at increasing cost.  Now one needs a computer or “smartphone” and a printer to mail a package overseas.  Incredible.

 

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A Smug Dill

Posted

@Tinjapan Irrespective of one's views and feelings about privacy, with regard to what he/she is sending or receiving, by postal or courier services, I think it is a given that it would be mandatory to declare and/or disclose the contents to Customs authorities — at least on the receiver's side — when consignments cross nations' borders. This is where I actually think EAD could actually afford senders and recipients more protection of their privacy, if the implementation is that the casually visible customs declaration label or paperwork is replaced by a QR code, and only duly authorised personnel would have access to the electronic database in which sender-submitted information about each consignment's contents is held. Your local postman tasked with ‘last–mile delivery’ of packages sent to you would then not be able to see at a glance what they contain, and neither would your housemates, or company's or condominium's mailroom attendants even if they sign for the packages on your behalf.

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Tinjapan

Posted

3 hours ago, A Smug Dill said:

@Tinjapan Irrespective of one's views and feelings about privacy, with regard to what he/she is sending or receiving, by postal or courier services, I think it is a given that it would be mandatory to declare and/or disclose the contents to Customs authorities — at least on the receiver's side — when consignments cross nations' borders. This is where I actually think EAD could actually afford senders and recipients more protection of their privacy, if the implementation is that the casually visible customs declaration label or paperwork is replaced by a QR code, and only duly authorised personnel would have access to the electronic database in which sender-submitted information about each consignment's contents is held. Your local postman tasked with ‘last–mile delivery’ of packages sent to you would then not be able to see at a glance what they contain, and neither would your housemates, or company's or condominium's mailroom attendants even if they sign for the packages on your behalf.

That’s not the issue.  Having it electronically shared and stored is the issue.  No one can hack hand written customs declaration forms that are read and soon disposed of.  Having this information accumulate on servers around the world is not a good idea.  For example, the pen I ordered from Iran.  Did I violate some embargo?  Don’t know and don’t care.  However, if my parcel sending and receiving history is sent and stored, someone back in the States can easily find out that I ordered something from Iran.

 

Ever been called into the P.O. To explain an IPMO you bought and sent 5 years previously?  I have.  Has a tendency to change one’s outlook on such things.  

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RoyalBlueNotebooks

Posted

Sorry to hear that!

It seems like New Zealand Post is still reasonable..

 

NZPost_2021_03_24.png.4840e0203ed5d6503f4eaa52354c289e.png

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I'm wondering about zip-lok [sic] bags hypodermically part-filled with ink as "cushioning" material in an envelope or small package as a means of getting around the new regs. Send a letter or pencil or somesuch that isn't restricted, with the inkbag as cushioning material, and voila? 

 

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A Smug Dill

Posted

26 minutes ago, Just J said:

Send a letter or pencil or somesuch that isn't restricted,

 

 

https://auspost.com.au/sending/send-overseas/customs-forms-regulations

Quote

 

To be considered a letter or document, your package must:

  • weigh less than 500g
  • only contain printed material with no commercial value if you're sending overseas
  • have a rectangular shape
  • be no larger than a B4 envelope (260 x 360 x 20mm)
  • be no thicker than 20mm.

 

 

So, no, I can no longer put a pencil, bags or tubes of ink (no matter how well and securely they are sealed), or void fill material such as foam packing ‘peanuts’ or polystyrene blocks inside an envelope or cardboard mailer, and send the article as a (large) letter by Economy Air Letters service from Australia internationally. It's not that I'm prohibited from sending inks and such to hobbyists overseas; I can send those items, and sample vials (or even full bottles) of ink, by standard international parcel service, which costs a minimum of 6.5 times more — thus not very economical if all I want to do is send a total of up to 12ml of ink as samples.

 

I'm in the process of organising one shipment of ≥40 ink samples to someone, in which case the average per-vial shipping cost is the same or less than sending a maximum of six 2ml samples as an up-to-50g large letter. Add the cost of sample vials, and perhaps a case for holding so many vials together securely for the long international journey tucked inside the external shipping carton, and the minimum commitment is about A$30 and two or so hours of ‘work’ for the entire exercise. I can imagine doing it once, or even twice, for prolific and well-regarded ink reviewers in our midst in the name of the hobby, but it certainly not the kind of thing I'd be doing in the name of some sort of forum community game with a bunch of strangers drawing names out of a hat.

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Tinjapan

Posted

8 hours ago, A Smug Dill said:

 

I'm in the process of organising one shipment of ≥40 ink samples to someone, in which case the average per-vial shipping cost is the same or less than sending a maximum of six 2ml samples as an up-to-50g large letter. Add the cost of sample vials, and perhaps a case for holding so many vials together securely for the long international journey tucked inside the external shipping carton, and the minimum commitment is about A$30 and two or so hours of ‘work’ for the entire exercise. I can imagine doing it once, or even twice, for prolific and well-regarded ink reviewers in our midst in the name of the hobby, but it certainly not the kind of thing I'd be doing in the name of some sort of forum community game with a bunch of strangers drawing names out of a hat.

Don’t blame you.  

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Honeybadgers

Posted

While a bummer, I do need to point out that I've never been able to ship ANYTHING that wasn't a FLAT, flexible envelope internationally out of the USA for less than $14.17. You being able to do it that cheaply for so long is kind of amazing.

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Tinjapan

Posted

On rare occasions, a few pens sellers in the States would send me a single pen for as little as $6. With around $12. Being more common.  These were dealers with whom I had an established history with.  It was when the prices jumped that I had to stop buying from the US.  

 

While I have been able to get pens shipped for far less they have been from less affluent countries.  I too am surprised at how inexpensive international m,ail from New Zealand is.  I wonder if it is still so inexpensive.  As I understand, a main reason for the changes to international postage is that international air travel has ground to a halt between many countries and is limited between others.

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RoyalBlueNotebooks

Posted

On 3/29/2021 at 7:27 PM, Tinjapan said:

 I too am surprised at how inexpensive international m,ail from New Zealand is.  I wonder if it is still so inexpensive.  As I understand, a main reason for the changes to international postage is that international air travel has ground to a halt between many countries and is limited between others.

Ooh. It could be because NZ is covid-free, so Air NZ can travel to the postal hubs seamlessly. Sounds like a reasonable assumption? :ninja:

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silverlifter

Posted

On 3/29/2021 at 7:27 PM, Tinjapan said:

I too am surprised at how inexpensive international m,ail from New Zealand is.

 

I am assuming you meant "to New Zealand". It is ludicrously expensive posting tracked parcels from NZ to just about anywhere else in the world.

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Tinjapan

Posted

27 minutes ago, silverlifter said:

 

I am assuming you meant "to New Zealand". It is ludicrously expensive posting tracked parcels from NZ to just about anywhere else in the world.

I misunderstood.  I thought it was someone in NZ mailing from there.

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Tinjapan

Posted

45 minutes ago, RoyalBlueNotebooks said:

Ooh. It could be because NZ is covid-free, so Air NZ can travel to the postal hubs seamlessly. Sounds like a reasonable assumption? :ninja:

Not so sure that is true.  I occasionally listen to a NZ radio station.  There have had several lockdowns within the country after declaring it beaten.  Do not remember when the last mini outbreak was but it was not too long ago.

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A Smug Dill

Posted

On 3/24/2021 at 8:49 PM, RoyalBlueNotebooks said:

It seems like New Zealand Post is still reasonable..

 

But,

 

https://www.nzpost.co.nz/personal/sending/sending-internationally/international-air-letters

 

Quote

Sending by International Air

International Air items must contain paper-based written or printed documents only.

 

which would preclude sending ink samples (in either liquid or powdered form), fountain pens (with or without ink), etc. as letters to take advantage of the low rates, notwithstanding:

 

Quote
  • Letters generally do not require a Customs declaration form. However, if the letter contains a declarable value (e.g. a calendar) then the appropriate Customs declaration form must be filled in and attached to the letter*.

 

 

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RoyalBlueNotebooks

Posted

On 4/1/2021 at 2:14 PM, Tinjapan said:

Not so sure that is true.  I occasionally listen to a NZ radio station.  There have had several lockdowns within the country after declaring it beaten.  Do not remember when the last mini outbreak was but it was not too long ago.

Poor Auckland sometimes is on lockdown because of community transmission, yes. As long as there 1 case of community transmission, the city host is down. But this is off-topic, I apologize for having brached the topic myself. If you'd like to hear more about what's going on here in NZ, I'll be glad to talk through PMs. :)

 

On 4/1/2021 at 2:30 PM, A Smug Dill said:

I skim-read and missed those parts, oh no! We're also screwed then :sad:

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Naoki NISHIKAWA

Posted

Partial Revision of International Postage Rates

https://www.post.japanpost.jp/int/2021fee_change/index_en.html

 

Revision of international postal rate zones classification

Old
Zone 1 Asia
Zone 2 Oceania, North America, Central America, Middle East, Europe
Zone 3 South America, Africa

 

New
Zone 1 Asia
Zone 2 Oceania, Canada, Central America, Middle East, Europe
Zone 3 South America, Africa
Zone 4 The United States (including overseas territories like Guam)*

 

 

W
e
i
g
h
t
Zone Zone 1 Zone 2 Zone 3 Zone 4
Area Asia Oceania, Canada, Central America, Middle East, Europe South America, Africa The United States (including overseas territories like Guam)
Up to 100g 690 790 820 1,150
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A Smug Dill

Posted

42 minutes ago, Naoki NISHIKAWA said:

Revision of international postal rate zones classification

 

How interesting the specific change! Thank you very much for sharing that! :D

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Tinjapan

Posted

Why does it cost ¥360 to send to the US than it does to Canada?  

 

Nishikawaさん、ありがとう。

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