More globalisation, please

A while back I bought the whole suite of Edward Tufte books: “The visual display of quantitative data“, “Envisioning Information” and “Visual Explanations“.

Today my copy of “Beautiful evidence” arrived in the mail. Actually a Belgian Post employee came to drop it off, because I had to pay 10 euro douane/customs. For a book of $52, that is an unpleasant extra 25%.

Beautiful Evidence: by Edward Tufte

The legislation that was printed on the back of the receipt states that any item from outside the EU, with a value higher than 22 euro, or not conform to ‘small letter mail of non-commercial kind’ (up to 45 euro), or containing goods from outside the EU should be presented to customs. Standard fee: 10 euro. I have just ordered a t-shirt from SomaFM ($50), I wonder what customs will think of that.

This means that there is still a big hurdle for purchasing stuff in between continents. For the Tufte book, I already payed $5 shipping fee (surface mail), and now an extra $13 in customs. So, in this case I pay more than 33% extra as a ‘punishment’ for not living in the USA. It may be a global market for buying stuff, but not for getting stuff.

I don’t think Edward Tufte is focused on huge turnover (it’s kind of a niche topic, let’s be honest), but for US vendors that are, they should investigate ways to not punish their non-US customers that hard.

  • for a book publisher: either sell through Amazon.co.uk (or .fr, .de) or set up a deal with an EU printer/shipment firm to fulfill orders from within the EU. For Tufte books: the only one you can get on Amazon UK is The Visual Display of Quantitative Information.
  • for custom t-shirts e.g. SomaFM): instead of shipping them from the US, create a European Spreadshirt store. As they correctly state: “Note: Yes, if you’d like to sell to both markets, you’ll need to register two different shops!”
    Spreadshirt Designer - Shirts selbst gestalten und bestellen!

2 thoughts on “More globalisation, please”

  1. A while ago I bought an Aibo on eBay. Because the value was quite high I took an insurancy. The insurance fee is a percentage of the total value. Because you take an insurance the value is written down on documents which makes it easy for customs to charge you on that amount. The 10 euros is a flat fee for smaller amounts, but if you import stuff with a value of >100 euro there is a percentage is used instead. Now, I’ve been thinking and didn’t take an insurance on the total amount because the chance that it gets lost is smaller than the chance customs would charge me. So I took an insurance on the half of the value. The package was shipped by USPC (United States Parcel Service) and arrived in Belgium after a few days where it got stuck at customs. Nobody could tell me where in Belgium the package arrived. The tracking code stated “Belgium: customs”. I started calling the major parcel services (UPS, DHL, TNT,…) and after about fifteen phonecalls I found out the package was at ABX in Antwerp. I drove to their office and finally got the package. I only had to pay 10 euros so I was lucky! I never received any form in my mailbox and I’ve never been told by USPS that ABX was handling my package in Belgium. This makes it an unpleasant, unreliable and medieval-style shipping experience.

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