This bead bracelet blog brings some important updates regarding international shipping from our website.
Over the past month or so we've been making some drastic but quite forced changes to international shipping. Today we're going to explain why those changes are being made and the options for our international customers, most especially those in Europe, who wish to keep shopping via our website.
COVID-19 brought with it a lot of changes to our lives and from a purely e-commerce perspective, there have been massive disruptions to global logistics. These disruptions are ongoing and until all international borders open completely, they aren't going to stop. International shipping used to take anything upto about 8 weeks. We ship via First Class International which provides a tracking number. The tracking number for USPS mail is centered around a system called E-DELCON which is essentially an agreement between certain countries to scan international mail. This used to be a huge list of countries and over the past several months, the list has been reduced enormously as some regions have opted out. If a country opts out of this system, it means they are no longer scanning packages shipped via USPS from the USA. That in turn means that most of these packages receive their final scan as they exit the USA and neither us, nor USPS have any way at all of knowing where they are from that point.
We have had a lot of people contacting us telling us we need to ship with tracking numbers that start in LZ. To clarify, the type of tracking number you receive is not based on what we're doing. It's based on the country you live in. Countries that support E-DELCON receive LZ tracking numbers. Countries that do not, don't. We can't change that.
This alone is problematic but coupled with the increase transit times of mail, has been a huge problem.
Most mail - actually over 50% of mail prior to the pandemic - travels as cargo on passenger planes. When the borders closed, particularly between the USA and Europe, the passenger planes were grounded. This left mail backing up at distribution centers on both sides of the Atlantic as there were no flights. At the same time more customers than ever before were shopping online. Simultaneously staff working in distribution centers, in customs offices, in post offices, all had to adhere to new rules and regulations during COVID. Everything came to a halt.
Though the situation with the pandemic is easing within some countries, international borders are still not open and the backlog of mail is enormous. Planes are still not flying in anywhere near the number they used to and still more and more people shop online.
Shipping internationally now can take a long time. We have seen packages take months to arrive to their destinations. Reduced tracking to many regions, combined with increased transit times has led to a lot of complaints to us regarding orders.
For those of you in Europe specifically, beginning July the 1st all mail entering the EU from outside of the region is subject to tax, regardless of the value. These aren't country specific laws but apply to the entire region and they're quite certainly going to cause more delays with the mail as every single package entering the EU will be stopped for tax to be applied.
From our perspective all of these changes combined are making international shipping more and more problematic. To clarify very few orders actually get lost but plenty of them experience long shipping times. Ultimately we're a retailer and not a commercial shipping operation. We can't locate packages in countries where they are refusing to scan and we cannot speed up the transit times. Simultaneously most postal services in recipient countries are telling their customers (you guys,) to contact us and we can locate the packages. We can't and nor can USPS. We need them to scan the packages for us to know where they are.
Moving forward customers in the European Union who wish to continue shopping with us will need US forwarding addresses. For customers in the Asian Pacific region where E-DELCON is supported, we will continue to ship to you (and most countries are supporting it.) Customers in Canada remain unaffected. We have no idea if or when any of this will change.
Mail forwarding companies are commercial businesses that specialize in global logistics. They are efficient and they are dedicated to doing this. They provide you with a US shipping address and what's more, they'll combine packages for you. Many specialize in specific regions too, such as shipping from the USA to a certain European destination and this can mean you'll have access to customer support in your native language. You can find a huge number of these services on Google and they are extremely easy to set up. Usually you'll have a US shipping address ready to use in a matter of minutes.