View Full Version : Selling out of the U.S.

01-07-2002, 12:53 AM
Hi, I have been hesitant to sell outside the U.S. just because I don't know exactly what it might entail. What kind of business do you draw as compared with state sales. Do you get a lot of business?
What do you do about figuring shipping? I kinda like the immediate checkout availibility just after the auction ends, but you have to know the shipping to do that. My medium is watercolor and I usually sell unframed and unmatted and on the small side.
Any suggestions? I do have Paypal...is that the best way to get payment -or- how do checks and money orders work for you more experienced sellers?

01-07-2002, 05:16 AM
My suggestion is to find a standard "system" for shiping your work. For instance, I nearly always sell works on paper that can be sent in a mailing tube. This means I always know the weight and approximate postage to nearly any country. So I include it in the selling price (or auction price if you're eBaying it). (It's about 4 to send a painting within the Uk and 8 to the US from here - so all auctions have 5-6 added for postage.) To start just try it out with those paintings that fit the system. Larger, framed or unusually heavy work you can try later after you're more confident shipping abroad.

Before listing you can go take a tube with any old painting paper rolled up inside to the post office and ask for a price for shipping to Canada and the UK. (with insurance). The UK price should be similar to anywhere you'd ship in Europe. If they need a specific postcode/zipcode just take one from Toronto or something (look up any business in Toronto on the internet and grab their mailing address). For the UK feel free to use mine if they ask for it: SE13 5RN. It's London. Some shippers need that for their computer system to give a price. Then use those to give an exact price for shipping - many international bidders much prefer to see exact shipping. I know I do, and I buy a lot of eBay stuff from the US. Sometimes the postage will be a dollar more or less but it tends to balance out in my case so I'm happy giving that exact price.

I would also recommend you choose shipping to Europe, Canada and maybe Australasia (though I don't get many customers there). These are the easiest since there's no language difference at least. If you accept PayPal and stipulate that as your only payment method for international you shouldn't have a problem. I've never had a customer ask for Billpoint. You may want to mention in your listing that import taxes, particularly to Canada, could be high. Buyers should know but it's best to point out everything you can.

Remember that you may not get international bids right away, but it doesn't cost you anything to offer it. All my sales since Oct have been UK, and usually it's half and half UK/US. So it may be worth trying to get some international bidders. No promises, just my recent experience.

I dont' think it's too scary. :) Any other questions?


01-07-2002, 11:15 AM
Cathy, I offer sales to Canada, UK and Australia....but have only had buyers from Canada so far. It was no problem to ship with USPS. In fact the customer requested their service since they did not get good service in their area from UPS delivery. I ship my watercolors rolled in a tube also...and found the shipping was only a dollar more than had I shipped in the US.

I checked out the shipping costs online....but when I got to the P.O. they figured it differently...so you might want to take Tina's suggestion of taking a dummy package for weighing. Also, when I took another package in later, a different mail clerk told me a different price and I showed her my receipt from the prior package which was the same! Different clerks can come up with different prices!

You will need to fill out a declaration form of the contents and their value when you ship to Canada. That's probably true of other countries as well.

01-07-2002, 03:47 PM
Carly (or anyone else <g>), Within the US I ship USPS priority mail, insured with delivery confirmation. I was planning on using Global Priority to ship internationally. BUT they don't seem to offer delivery confirmation nor insurance! What do you suggest?

Also, how do I know when I need a customs form? I'm a bit confused on that. I'm thinking that it's only if it goes over one pound. Is that correct? :confused:

I'm thinking of implementing the PayPal only for international trade as well. That seems to be a good idea.

Thanks for your feedback, ya'll!!

01-07-2002, 05:11 PM
You may want to go to a Mailboxes Etc or similar shipping place. Over here they can ship regular post but they offer their own insurance for overseas (our UK post office wont' insure or track to the US so I use Mailboxes). So you just pay normal mail rate + their fee for insurance or tracking. It's 5 (approx. $7) for insurance for my paintings to the US - that's anything up to 500 in value. Check if there's a deductible though. You also might want to ask at the US Post Office. At the branch near my parents they were very very helpful, which was great because the USPS website is useless. Never use it for estimates.

The customs form is VERY easy. It's a little green form with a spot to put what it is, the value, tick if it's a gift or not, and sign. So simple it's only about 3" square. :) At least, that's the one I'm familiar with. Whether or not you need it will depend on the value and method you ship - letter post generally doesn't need a form because it's only for papers. Small packages (under 2lbs?) might not, can't remember.


01-07-2002, 06:10 PM
Thanks Carly and Tina you have been extremely helpful! I ship the same way as kjss (priority etc. etc.) I haven't tried the tubes yet though. Can you mail Priority to Canada with insurance? I think I am going to try this one step at a time, US and Canada this time and then the UK eventually and so on.

Do you ever have any trouble with the tubes getting smashed or damaged? Do you put protective wrap or anything on the painting? I usually shrink wrap my stuff and have been mailing them flat in boxes or envelopes, shrink- wrapped with mat board backing or heavy weight cardboard.

When you roll a painting how do you secure it? I've got several ideas, but just wondered what you ladies do for a professional look.

Oh, here's another question... do you stick something in with your paintings that tell about yourself etc.?

Well I guess that's enough questions for abit!


01-07-2002, 06:53 PM
I don't do a heck of a lot with my shipping. <g> I'm already at a pretty low wage per hour with ebay, so I streamline as much as possible. This is one of the reasons I use Priority Mail. Here's what I do for US shipments (outside US I have to purchase my own tubes)

On USPS.com I order the supplies. I get the shorter tubes, which are triangular tubes. They deliver them right to my door. Plan ahead, they take there time. I take two sheets of newsprint for each tube. Crumple one and stuff it in the end. Then the painting fits, lengthwise, just curled so the edges meet, not really rolled completely. I slip that in with a printout of their purchase and then top with another piece of crumpled newsprint. I do use the Priority Mail tape (also free) to make sure the ends stay sealed, but other than that, that's all I do. <g> Now IF I have more than one painting I will put a sheet of glassine inbetween them but other than that, I don't do anything special.

So far, everything has arrived safe and sound. Those tubes are pretty sturdy.

01-07-2002, 07:38 PM
I was like you and still am a little but I've started selling and shipping to Canada and U.S. After finding out that the Canadian buyer is the one that has to worry about the custom fees & etc, I had a sigh of relief. (I'm sorry they had to pay em, but that's the way it goes). :(
Anyway. I ship the same size parcels most of the time so the charge is always 3.50 except to Canada then its about 8.00. I ship 16" x 20" canvas and make my own boxes.

I wish they did have delievery confirmation for outside of US but I can't do anything about that. One sale took a long long time to reach my Canadian buyer but it turned out ok.

I've had quite a few Canadian buyers. I also use U.S.P.S.

I also check off that it is merchandise, not a gift.

Also, on my Canadian sales, they had usually paid me by International Postal Money Order or they sent cash. Scary, but they did and I got it ok.

01-07-2002, 08:18 PM
Thanks Kjsspot and tammy, I think it is really good to hear how everyone does their shipping. Kjss, I use the Priority packaging as well. So let me clarify this; you can't use the Priority tubes or boxes if you are shipping to Canada...? I guess I need to check out the USPS website instead of bothering you guys for info I can find there.
Thanks for your input.

01-07-2002, 08:36 PM
Originally posted by CathyD
So let me clarify this; you can't use the Priority tubes or boxes if you are shipping to Canada...?

Nope. You can get Global Priority boxes, but they have a much more limited on their box selection. My works don't fit in their boxes so I have to buy tubes for shipping. I get a 4 pack at Office Depot for $4.50.

01-11-2002, 01:48 PM
I have read thru this thread with some interest.I am a 'Canadian" Ebayer that has done my share of buying from the U.S.I dont know what kind of packaging you can get or not get or from where but I can give you a bit of info from this end.<br>
Of the different methods of shipment available, USPS is the best. Its delivery time frame between surface and air is really not that much for the price of a few dollars. They say 3-5 days for air and up to 6 weeks for surface. I have used both and find that both arrive in about 1-1 1/2 weeks. Something to maybe pass on for $ savings to your buyers. UPS although may seem like a savings to begin with in that you may be offering a cheaper shipping cost, ALWAYS charges very high duty and tax fees. I know, not your problem. BUT, in the end it may be-as you know, the dollar value that an international buyer is looking at is not what they pay and that also goes with the shipping charges. An item that you may sell for $12 with an $8 shipping fee =$34.81 not $20 as what it may appear. When you mark that 'merchandise', they can get hit by another $10+ when it is delivered-making that $12 purchase now almost $45. Are they going to come back to you? Probably not. I guess what I am trying to say is that you may think that the shipping charges and duties and taxes and marking it 'gift' or 'merchandise' is not your problem, but it can make that buyer a repeat buyer or loose them.<br>
I have had sellers that think nothing of it, and I have had sellers that are...'sympathetic'. Not that Im looking for sympathy, but it is those sellers that understand and are willing to get that 'accurate shipping cost' and perhaps mark the green customs sticker as 'gift' that have repeated sales. Mailing to Canada is really no different then mailing to anywhere within the States outside of the sticker or extra paper. All Im saying is sometimes its how you handle the shipping will determine if you have a repeat customer. I hope some of this info helps you. Its just my experience....

01-11-2002, 08:10 PM
Wow, Caron, thank you so much for that info!!! I had no idea that there was that much added in addition to the shipping. I for one do not like to pay any more costs than necessary, so I am more than sympathetic.

Marking it as a gift is good.... after all isn't anyone who is lucky enough to obtain a piece of our art receiving a gift? LOL! I just looked up in the dictionary the definition of gift... it says; 'A thing given'.... it didn't say it was free! Lol! Oh and just so we have it totally straight, the definition for 'give' is this; 'to bestow: to hand over: to pay: to impart: to yield as a product or result. So I guess we could take the definition of gift as "to hand over a thing". That works for me, LOL.

It's amazing how much difference the use of one word over another can make.

01-12-2002, 07:29 AM
Don't mark as a gift unless you can eat the cost if you're giving it a lesser value than insured for. Remember: insurance protects the SELLER, I recommend always making sure your work is insured for shipping. If it goes missing or is damaged you will have to refund the buyer. For this reason, marking as gift can get problematic. Also, gifts are only valid up to a certain value, so above that it won't help on import tax anyway (the value is GBP35 here, so probably something similar there. I think it's about US$50 to the states.) At the end of the day we are running businesses (unless you're not claiming your art sales on your income tax, which I know many artists aren't because they aren't selling enough yet). I know I can't afford to refund a customer out of my pocket. :(

But I do agree about shipping USPS to Canada, all the Canadians on the ebay boards say UPS has horrible fees!


01-12-2002, 09:51 AM
Yes Tina, I agree with you, there are circumstances that do call for marking it 'merchandise'. Im not saying dont.I believe the insurance is an extra $1 for $100 coverage. And here is another thing of interest. Im not huge on Ebay, but I have done enough-I have a a feedback of 79-most being buying versus' selling, and out of that number I have had 1 go missing, 1 arrived broken(uninsured) and 1 broken(insured).The one that went missing, well I figure it was either on one of the planes from 9-11, or my seller never shipped it. Only because after when reading her feedback, there were others that had packages not arrive at that time and then suddenly they did and then she was removed from Ebay.She did refund me and in that circumstance I think she should have. It was not insured but it was obvious she was taking money and not giving merchandise. The second that arrived broken was not insured and even if it had been, the post office would not have covered it becuase it was his packing job of the seller that broke it. The one that was insured was a purchase from last April10. It STILL has not been paid by USPS.He(the seller) did refund me finally in September but I just recieved the paperwork from USPS the week before Christmas! I filled it out to the best I could remember and sent them back. I informed him I had done so and wished him luck. In this curcumstance I think it created more of a hassle and hard feelings between the buyer and the seller.
As far as the marking it 'gift' or 'merchandise' goes, these are just my thoughts and views, but if a seller is not selling as a business but just making extra 'cash', then treat it as such. As they are out to make extra $$, the buyer is out to get a good 'deal'. Its suppose to be a 'working together thing'. Check out your options and do what is best for BOTH of you. As I have said, it could make or break a repeat sale.
If you are selling as a business, and treating it as such, then it is up to you to mark it what you feel is appropriate. In that case, a buyer should expect the ticket to be marked 'merchandise'.
Sometimes the marking doesnt make a difference and you pay no matter what it is marked according to what the seller put the value down as. And that is another issue. The value fee is important! I once bought an item for $5.99 but my seller marked it down as a value of $30. I paid the duties, tariff and taxes on the $30 which I am a little ticked at. See there, I didnt understand that. If that package had been lost, does that mean I would have gotten the value price back? or would he have made some money??
Its just all important and something for a buyer and seller to think about.Now selling from Canada is a bit different again...I could tell you about that!....;)

01-12-2002, 11:18 PM
Marking a package as gift or not.... sorry I sounded abit punchy on my previous gift comment , got carried away with lol... guess that's my way of saying I'm not serious!

Can a seller find out the actual costs to the buyer including taxes and tariffs before the item is sent, or is that something the buyer just gets stuck with? I find the best way to get repeat business is to let the customer know everything up front, so they are not surprised with extra charges.

Thanks for your comments Tina and Caron, they are very helpful.

01-13-2002, 04:14 AM
Finding out what the charges are could be difficult. For instance, I've been trying to find out about import/duty when travelling to Canada. I asked the travel agent, they sent me to the airlines, who referred me to the Canadian Embassy, who no longer have the customs office and had me call BELGIUM!!!!! Needless to say I'm still not sure what, if anything, I'll be charged.

Posting may be different but personally I think that if a buyer is buying from another country they know it'll come through customs. I buy a lot from the US, from small items to a $2500 robot, so have been hit with my fair share of fees and taxes and don't expect the seller to figure these out for me. Is it really worth our time to research duties on a $25 item? I'm hardly getting minimum wage out of it as it is (if that). :(


01-13-2002, 10:36 AM
Thank Tina. You would think that information like that would be accessible. I am with you, I think we don't need to spend our time researching something like that if it adds hours to what time we are already spending. I was hoping there would be an organized rate chart that might be obtainable.

I appreciate your input I am learning a lot!

01-13-2002, 11:07 AM
Hi everyone, Im back:D This thread seems to be getting complicated when I dont think the whole thing is.
Duties and tariff and taxes are not an occurance that happens each and everytime. The way I look at it is sometimes you may get an inspection officer that is...lets just say 'having a bad day' and kinda nabs everyone they inspect, and sometimes you may get an officer that, well, could have 'got it'(excuss my bluntness!) and are in a great mood! There really is no rhymn or reason to who is going to get hit and who isnt or when. I can have 2 packages come here from the States-identical and one will get it and the other wont. The buyer should be aware that the possibilities are there and SHOULD expect them. Its just part of purchasing internationally. As sellers, it not your responsibility to run around trying to obtain this info, and especially if it may not apply. I guess my previous input was saying if a seller can do what they can to try and avoid the additional expense for their buyer, AND the buyer is aware of that, then that will make for a good relationship and possible repeat sales. I have been hit with those fees even though sellers have done what they could so that I do not incure those fees and I do go back for repeat purchases Because I KNOW they did. Its when its obvious that the seller is not 'sympathetic'(I hate using that word but its the only one I can think of..)and I get hit that I wont back. Am I making sense?
When you take your package to the post office for shipping, they will let you know if the green sticker is enough or if the paperwork needs to be included.
As I have been reading thru this thread, it sounds like its getting much more complicated then what it actually is. I dont know about shipping to other countries if it is the same process as for shipping to Canada.
Having your international buyers use Paypal as a quick check out is a great idea. They want to get it overwith as quickly as you do. After all, they are anxious to receive their purchase. As far as not knowing what to charge, the first few you do internationally(at least to Canada) will have to be done manually until you know what the shipping fees will be THEN set it up for quick check out.But I wouldnt worry yourselves with the other fees that may be applicable at the other end.
I do know that going thur UPS, those fees can be determined and paid in advance. If you really want to know what they will be, you may want to check there...

01-13-2002, 04:00 PM
Just my two cents' worth: as a Canadian, I know that there might be taxes and duties at the border. That MY problem and I keep that in mind when I buy from the States. I don't think the seller should concern himself with this because let's face it, every country is different, it would be a never-ending quest to always have that information. Besides Caron is right, sometimes stuff comes across the border with no problem, and sometimes you are asked to pay tax. You just never know.

01-13-2002, 04:13 PM
Thank you Sumafra for adding that in. I was starting to feel alone.....I would hate to think that those wanting to sell internationally are being turned off thinking there is all this complexity to it when there is not. Its just common curtiousy and awareness.
I myself will often email a seller and ask if they will ship to Canada even though they have posted that they will only ship to the States. But sometimes I dont have the time to go thru that extra step and end up bypassing. Im probably missing out on a lot of nice things, but they are missing out on a possible sale as well.I think it is a good habit to get into to list 'internationally' or at least other countries. It really will open up your ability to sell your work. Besides, wouldnt it be nice to say or at least know, your work is known and/or collected worldwide?? I know I would! Now there's something that can raise your starting price!!:clap:

01-13-2002, 11:44 PM
I am glad it is not that complicated. I appreciate all the effort that has been made to explain selling out of the U.S. It's immensely helpful and when I finally do sell something to another country, at least it won't be foreign to me (no pun intended... well on second thought... maybe!)

Thanks to all!