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.
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.
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. 😡