Tag Archives: usps

More COVID-19 Postal Updates: Central Europe Edition

Time seems to drag on forever when waiting for a pen in the mail. Packages to central Europe are now traveling by ship, so expect several months of lag time.

Further shipping delays to central Europe have prompted me to check in once again with the United States Postal Service. A shipment to Switzerland is more than a month overdue. (Luckily for customers in the United States, the United States Postal Service is on time with their regular 2- to 5-day delivery.)

Thus, I spoke with an international mail agent at the USPS. We have long been accustomed to daily flights to and from Europe for the mail in all of its countries. COVID-19 has completely disrupted that service and forced the USPS to adopt an old 19th century way of doing things: SHIPS!

According to the woman I spoke with, the USPS is chartering a cargo vessel to service central European nations. It picks up all of the accumulated mail from about 10 nations it services in New York. Then it sails them to the Netherlands (for Switzerland, at least) and several other ports around The Continent. The packages from the U.S. go through customs in port and then get driven by truck or train to their final destination countries that sort them and deal with them as they normally would. The ship then sails back to the U.S. with all of the mail to be delivered here from central Europe.

The whole process takes about 2 to 3 months, it would appear. Once we have successfully dealt with COVID-19, the old modern way of using planes will resume. It appears that letters might still be going by planes but not packages.

For those looking for faster service to Europe, it looks as if DHL and FedEx are shipping at their usual times, but their rates are insane. Whereas it costs the USPS $45 to ship a pen in a small box, these other services are chargeing $150 to $200 or more, depending on the size and insurance levels.

International Shipping Delays

International Shipping has seen significant delays due to the lack of international air travel.

Several of our international orders lately have gone noticeably late in arriving. I spent more than two hours on the phone today trying to track down a shipment that was 28 days late in arriving. What I learned from the United States Postal Service employees that I spoke with is as follows:

• COVID-19 is having a terrible impact on international mail
• Most of my international orders are stuck in U.S. customs at O’Hare Airport in Chicago
• There are so few flights abroad that the mail is getting seriously backed up
• U.S. Customs will hold outbound packages for up to 45 days trying to find a flight out of O’Hare (the world’s busiest airport) to the desired country.
• After 45 days, the U.S. customs will return the packages to the United States Postal Service to take back to the senders with a full refund of their shipping expenses.
• Mail service to and from 106 nations is temporarily suspended as of June 12, 2020.
• Most European countries, Canada, Mexico, Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand still have mail service to and from the United States. However, it will be severely delayed.
• Once a package arrives in another country, often those countries’ customs agents quarantine incoming packages for 21 days before sorting them for customs duties and delivery.

I am terribly sorry for the inconvenience of these delays.

For American customers, so far, we are not having any difficulties with intra-U.S. shipping. Most orders are arriving within the usual 3 to 5 days. Priority Mail has slowed a little, but, so far, seemingly not by more than a day.

These are extreme and unusual times. Many of our shipping woes will vanish when the pandemic is outlasted. When air traffic returns to normal, international shipping will get back on track and the suspensions will be lifted.

Priority Postage Hike

As many of you have probably noticed over the past couple years, the United States Postal Service has raised its rates three or four times. Our payment processor, PayPal, has also raised its rates. We have resisted raising our shipping & handling rates for as long as we could, but, we finally had to give in for our U.S.-based insured, Priority Mail.

The good news is that we have not raised our rates for standard, uninsured U.S. shipping, and we have not raised our international shipping rates. To our friends in Canada and Mexico, please remember that we refund the shipping amount not used from our international shipping rates. Our programing only recognizes foreign and domestic, and we cannot, yet, identify which country gets which rate.

In spite of the rate increases, we have found that the United States Postal Service remains the most affordable and secure shipping option that we have. UPS and FedEx cost nearly double the amount for us to ship with them, and our company is still too small to qualify for their bulk discounts to be competitive. Furthermore, almost every time we have shipped a pen using UPS for a customer special request, UPS has either lost or damaged the pen. Out of the hundreds of packages we ship every year, the United States Postal Service has been nearly perfect now that they’ve added tracking to all of its parcels shipped.

Changes to International Shipping

Due to clever internet criminals figuring out a loop hole in transaction policies, we are forced to change the way we ship overseas.

Due to clever internet criminals figuring out a loop hole in transaction policies, we are forced to change the way we ship overseas.

For more than 7 years we proudly offered $15 uninsured global shipping. Everybody knew there was some small risk that the pen would go missing, but it wasn’t a problem. We have shipped pens to nearly 100 different countries, and the postal service only lost one of those pens! Luckily, it was a $15 Lamy.

I formed good internet friendships with people all over the world whom I’d have never met if it wasn’t for this website. And nearly everybody I dealt with was honest and a pleasure.

Well, sadly, it appears clever thieves have found a loop hole in the various international policies that govern our transactions. For the past four months, what first seemed to have started as a fluke, has now formed a pattern. Who’d have thought you could steal from an internet company without hacking their bank account?!

Unfortunately, for all of my wonderful international customers, it has forced a change in shipping policy. We can no longer offer $15 uninsured international shipping. We are now forced to charge $45 for global priority insured shipping by the United States Postal Service. It protects you and me, which is good, but it also costs $30 more than the majority good and honest pen collectors of the world used to pay.

CANADIAN SHOPPERS, priority mail costs less for you, but the program I use cannot yet differentiate between countries. Priority shipping for our northern neighbors typically costs $25 to $30 but the shopping cart still has to charge the $45. PLEASE REST ASSURED, we will REFUND any overage in shipping price.

EVERYBODY, I have investigated UPS and FedEx. They cost a solid $20 to $40 more per package than the United States Postal Service to ship overseas. Furthermore, it is well known in the U.S. that both of these alternative carriers use USPS trucks and planes to carry their mail. Thus, you are often paying extra for the same service you would have gotten from USPS. If you would still rather use UPS or FedEx because you have a shipping account with them, please feel free to contact us to use this shipping option. We will need your account number to assign the charges to you, but we will refund any money you were charged for shipping, if you ordered straight off of our website.

Again, I’m terribly sorry for the necessity of this change. It is such a shame a few dishonest people ruin a good thing for everybody.