(tl;dr at bottom)
wanted needed cards against humanity. Unfortunately the game is currently only available in the US and Canada and it appears they opted against global shipping by Amazon. The game itself is available as CC-BY-NC-SA, so I could have printed it locally. For three reasons I decided against that:
- From what I’ve seen and heard, it sounds like a terrific game. So why not support the creators?
- I wanted the extension packs, which are non-free.
- Most likely it would have taken several attempts and a lot of effort to get it printed nicely (i.e. rounded corners, durable and slip-proof coating, etc.).
My first attempt was to convince a friend who is currently in the US, but he was too afraid of being detained for smuggling (or maybe he didn’t want to have the hassle…, nah definitely being afraid ☺). Helpfully he pointed out I might use a “package forwarder” which I didn’t know existed. They basically provide you with an US address and forward your packages to almost anywhere if you give them enough money.
Choosing a forwarder
If you search for “package forwarder” you get a lot of companies that offer this kind of service. All of them have mixed reviews ranging from terrific to catastrophe and prices are comparable (less than $10 difference), so no help there either. Here’s the services I’ve looked at and why I decided against them:
- bongous.com – annoying to use tax/duty calculator,
- MyUS – setup fee,
- Shipito – only one package at a time or monthly fee,
- VIAddress – states “free” so often, that it’s probably not. The price comparison against other services on their front page is outdated or wrong.
In the end I decided to use borderlinx, but this has mostly been a gut decision.
Update: 2013-11-08: I can no longer recommend borderlinx. They sent me their newsletter, even though I am not subscribed. The support hasn’t been able to fix the issue for several weeks now, which makes me doubt their competence. I terminated my account with them, hopefuly this will make them stop.
Sign up is easy and you get your US/UK addresses right away. You don’t need to enter your home address or any financial information upfront, so it’s easy to just have a look.
I used their support service (chat) twice and it was helpful and easy to use both times. It took me a while to grasp the vocabulary used, so this might be useful to you:
gzip <package>, i.e. put it in a smaller box if feasible. Applies to individual packages only.
- consolidation (shipping only):
tar *.gz, i.e. send multiple packages in one go. Saves you from having to pay the parcel service’s basic fee multiple times. Each package is shipped individually though.
tar cz <packages>, i.e. putting all products into one box, which is then shipped. This is not offered by borderlinx.
Processing your parcels takes about one business day. So, say you order from two different vendors on the 1st (a monday). Let’s assume you get two day shipping, which means they arrive on the 3rd and will appear in your borderlinx account on the 4th, at most. Once that happened, you can have your packages shipped to you, which takes one more day for borderlinx to process. So, it takes about a week before your package is handed off to the delivery service again. Borderlinx offers DHL only and you can choose between budget (4+ days) or express (2+). I chose budget, but they screwed up and upgraded me to express for free. Clicking “okay” on a friday and having them on monday sure rocks. Funnily though, the two parcels were delivered seperately within the same hour. I have no idea how DHL managed to do that, given both parcels arrived at the final sorting hub at the same time.
Borderlinx claims to handle duty for you, so you don’t have to pay additional charges once the package arrives. In my case there weren’t any duties to pay, though, so I can’t tell how well this works.
Unfortunately I couldn’t use my Visa Credit Card because they force you to subscribe to “Verified by Visa” which puts the liability for fraud onto you (see this rant or this german article). I borrowed a friend’s PayPal account, which luckily worked.
For the things I ordered, their calculator produced realistic values. That being said, it’s still quite an expensive feat to use a package forwarder. As a general rule of thumb, I’d say that it’s cheaper only if you need to ship three or more individual packages from the US to Europe/Germany.
To give you an impression, here are the numbers for my orders. The cards against humanity shipping cost has been estimated because it’s not possible to ship it to Germany directly. The table is a nightmare to read, but this is how calculating the total cost actually feels. All values in USD.
|intl. shipping||US shipping||estimated||borderlinx|
|cards against humanity||38.03||free||35.00||17.10||43.80||24.45|
- shipping estimate: The biggest drawback is that borderlinx doesn’t allow multiple products per estimate which makes the shipping cost estimate practically worthless. It’s off by $17 because consolidated shipping isn’t taken into account. You can get a more realistic number by using the estimate for the most expensive parcel and add $5 for each additional one (cmp. their FAQ entry).
- tax estimate: Spot on, only off by $3.
which is cheaper? First calculate how much direct shipping would cost, i.e. sum the intl. shipping column:
38.03+26.70=64.73. When using borderlinx, you need to add up US shipping, borderlinx duty and tax, plus the final shipping. That would be:
0.00+35.00+17.10 + 4.76+5.00+10.70 = 72.56 # estimate (realistic shipping) 0.00+4.76+43.80+24.45 = 73.10 # what I’ve actually paid
So, I probably would have saved $10 if direct ordering was possible.
rule of thumb: It’s now easy to see how I came up with my rule of thumb from above. An additional international shipping would cost $25+. With borderlinx, it’s about $5 shipping plus $15 tax. Since you’d only save a couple of bucks, I’m not sure it’s worth the effort though.
- Using a package forwarder works and is surprisingly easy
- borderlinx has comparable prices, good customer service and an okay cost calculator
- Calculating your final shipping costs is a nightmare, only consider it for three or more parcels
- beware that they require you to subscribe to “verified by Visa” crap
parcels on tour
green: NeatoShop to borderlinx (using USPS), orange: Amazon to borderlinx (using Prestige), red: BorderLinx to me (using DHL).