Postal Matters

General Information

Of all the lessons that have been learned by myself and others over the years when it comes to shipping packages during the holidays, the most important ones are:

  • Send your package early!
  • Get a tracking number from the post office!
  • Don’t even think about trying to ship raw (non-kiln-dried) wood internationally!

Note also that this is the busiest time of year for our respective national postal services. The sooner you get your package in the mail the more likely it will be received in time.

Packages containing metallic objects that noisily rattle around inside the box tend to be set aside for extra scrutiny by postal employees the world over. So pack them carefully and well to ensure safe transit.

Domestic Parcels

Domestic parcels (i.e. those sent to someone in your own country) should be sent with a delivery confirmation tracking number from your postal service.

Please send the tracking number by email to the Elf Wrangler so he may monitor the parcel’s journey on your behalf.

Allow at least one extra week beyond the “normal” delivery time period for your package to arrive.

International Parcels

ALWAYS allow at least one month for your package to reach its destination. For packages being sent from the US that means you have to get it in the mail on or before Thanksgiving.

You have to fill out a customs declaration form at the post office of origin describing the contents and value of the package. The recipient may owe tax to his government based upon the declared value of the package.

See also: Per-country US Postal Service regulations.

Parcels Sent To Canada

According to Canadian Postal Service regulations:

Gifts from friends and relatives, valued at $60 CDN or less, are duty and tax exempt. In cases where the gift is valued at more than $60 CDN, the CBSA will assess duties and taxes on the excess amount. The gift must be sent to the recipient personally and include a card or other notice indicating that it is a gift. Items that do not qualify as gifts include:

  • tobacco
  • intoxicating beverages
  • advertising material
  • items sent by a business to a consumer in Canada and vice versa.

It has also been recommended to us that parcels sent to Canada from the United States should be sent via the regular US Postal Service because private shippers (e.g. UPS, Fed Ex) charge unduly high COD fees to the Canadian recipient.

See also: US Postal Service regulations for Canada

Parcels Sent To Australia or New Zealand

Postage to Australia or New Zealand from just about anywhere else will be very, very costly. Trust me, you will get sticker shock!

Here are some ways to deal with the high cost of shipping:

  • The least expensive USPS shipment methods are:
    • “Priority Mail International, Small Flat Rate Box.”
    • “First Class Package International Service.” Pricing is based on size, weight and insured value.
  • Buy tools online from a local tool dealer in that country and have them shipped domestically on your behalf to the recipient.
  • Send an e-gift card for a global company (e.g. Lee Valley, Amazon).
  • Look at eBay auctions in that country.
  • Send lightweight items (doh!)
  • NEVER, ever, send chunks of wood (they’re heavy and will likely get quarantined – see below).

See also: US Postal Service regulations for Australia and New Zealand

Shipping Raw or Untreated Wood

In brief: Don’t do it!

Here’s why:

When crossing international boundaries, packages bearing wood or other plant matter must nowadays bear 3rd party certification that the articles have been kiln-dried or fumigated so as to prevent the spread of potentially invasive pathogens and insects. Such certification is prohibitively expensive for the casual gift. Furthermore, packages lacking such certification are opened, examined and very often are quarantined at the receiving country. If they are found to contain living organisms (e.g. powder post beetles, fungi, mold) then the recipient is generally charged a prohibitively expensive fee to have the object sterilized. If the recipient declines to pay the fee, then the article is destroyed. In virtually all cases, the fees far exceed the monetary value of the gift itself.

This effectively makes the practice of sending even small chunks of local timber across the globe an expensive waste of time and effort.