Help me understand US Postage

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#1 Posted by AlisterCat (8089 posts) -

I need to send a book for the UK to California and have it signed, then have that person return it to me. It's my girlfriend's favourite book and I've been in contact with the author but getting it to her is more challenging than I thought. I can't pay for US postage through our postal service. Has anyone here mailed things from the US to England? Do I have to fill in customs forms?

It costs £4 to send it there. Using the USPS website to calculate the cost of a label, it says it will cost $34 from California to England using the cheapest method. This can't be right, can it? The website is so confusing I wouldn't be surprised if I messed up.

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#2 Posted by clagnaught (2136 posts) -

Which site are you using? This is probably the best resource for the United States Postal Service (USPS):

For customs, the main thing you need to declare is the estimated value of the item. With a book, I assume the value is pretty low, so that shouldn't jump up the price. The biggest cost is probably the shipping method (how fast) and the size of it (is it in an envelop or a box). If you can fit it in a large envelope that will be relatively cheap. Eyeballing the site, the price jumps up considerably when you go from a letter or envelope to a box. For a box, $34 doesn't sound too out of line. There are other mailers, like FedEx and UPS, but I imagine that will be more expensive than what you can get out of USPS.

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#3 Posted by Stonyman65 (3809 posts) -

International shipping ain't cheap. I believe it's mostly weight and size based, so a book won't be much but still in the $50 range usually, give or take.

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#4 Edited by MrGreenMan (222 posts) -

Try shipping stuff to Canada Even from the U.S. even though it's not that far or even that expensive to ship the item itself but customs can sometime be as much as 2/3 if not more than the price of the products value.

There have been times where I sent something as simple as a art book, nothing to big a few lbs and shipping was about $14 but customs was an additional 35$ plus tax. It's gotten so ridiculous and expensive that unless you buy in bulk it's not worth them offering any kind of cheap or free shipping so it's on the customer to have to pay those fees.

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#5 Posted by Big_Denim (841 posts) -

International Shipping can get pricey. Have you looked at 3rd party delivery services? Sometimes those are the better route.

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#6 Posted by htr10 (1060 posts) -

So wait, it’s over 5 times as expensive to ship an item back from The U.S. than it was to ship that same item to the U.S.?

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#7 Posted by Rigas (842 posts) -

Yeah, shipping from the US to over here is surprisingly expensive. My mother in Law occasionally sends us a package and I'm always shocked at the postage on it.

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#8 Posted by AlisterCat (8089 posts) -

@clagnaught: I have tried using the USPS website. It can be very confusing.

@rigas: @big_denim: @htr10: Yes, it is very expensive. From the UK it isn't expensive, but paying USPS to ship it back is $34 vs £4.

@mrgreenman: Yeah I've been hit by customs charges many times, including GB. This shouldn't be much of an issue here as I'm not ordering goods, I'm sending something to get signed but I don't know the nuances of customs.

I have since realised I will need to fill out customs forms for both parts of shipping (in the EU you are not required to fill out any customs forms)

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#9 Posted by OneDollarWilliam (65 posts) -

@htr10: NPR's Planet Money actually did a podcast about this a few months ago.

Tldl; Because of international agreements individuals pay for postage based on rates set in the country of origin and the US has higher postal rates than other countries. (There's a bunch of stuff about competition and international law, but that's the important part for this conversation.)

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#10 Posted by AlisterCat (8089 posts) -