ASCII by Jason Scott

Jason Scott's Weblog

International Shipping Ends —

I’m no longer going to take international orders.

This is not a light decision. International orders are half my sales. But I have to do it.

So, here’s what’s been happening on the back end for a while: people order one of my documentaries, GET LAMP or the BBS Documentary. About once a week, when I have time, I ingest all the orders, print out labels, put them on packaged boxes for the documentaries.  If they’re domestics, that is, US-bound, then I have a nice stack of them in a box ready to go.

If they’re internationals, well, depends. If it was a couple months ago, I would fill out a relatively simple form, a one pager, that stuck to the box as well. I could print out the label for myself and the recipient, fill out a couple blank spots, and then it was done. I would then take these two sets to the post office locally, where I’ve built up a nice relationship with the gang, even waiting to the side if the lines are long, and then sending out my own set when the place would die down. Out it goes, everyone’s happy.

I knew I was on borrowed time with that simple green form – my post office buddies told me it’d been phased out for another option, and it was just usual post office overlap letting the “old” form still be valid when they wanted the “new” form. I asked if the new form was easier. The look in their eyes….

In January of this year, the Post Office changed their international (and other rates). And by changed, I mean jacked up beyond belief. A DVD box that cost me $9 to ship is now $15. Some of them are higher. or equivalent where they used to be $8. I used to have a flat shipping rate for “internationals” and let it eat into the price. Now it basically devours the price. And the form that the post office people warned me about is definitely up to its reputation, because I can’t use pre-printed labels anymore – I have to sit there and write on multiple copies (the pens don’t really go through worth a damn) and there’s much more to fill out.

I do not want to bore you with endless details about the research I did to show that it’s now intensely difficult to send all this out. I do not want your brilliant suggestion of how I can save money with all sorts of tricks and traps to sneak around it (media mail doesn’t work that way for this stuff, other services are just as onerous, and I’m not interested in working with ‘a guy’ in Europe). I’m telling you that it’s over – the problem isn’t that I can’t probably hack some solution together that makes it merely a time-sink and trap-filled – it’s that with all my duties at the Internet Archive and all my other projects, I just can’t devote hours to this packaging.

And it’s not like it’s the image of Good Ol’ Jason working on these documentaries in his spare time anymore. I get yelled at for not having tracking numbers, for it taking a week to get to people (or longer, as per the delay in doing internationals). People think of it as a business that’s just shipping out documentaries. Parts of my life are slipping because of this time sink. Something has to give.

What does this mean going forward?

First, again, no international orders. Those are leaving the order pages today.

Second, for the last year or something I’ve been predicting where things are going in the future for my next documentaries. The answer is going to be REALLY super deluxe packaging, like in the $100 range, that’s a physical product, or digital download/streaming. In other words, a push to the extreme ends, instead of a somewhat expensive nice package. People who want something in their hands will get it but it’ll be pretty costly, and most will not want that. The others will get digital copies, and those will be pretty low cost and available quite freely worldwide. I knew it was coming, and I’ll be refactoring my current films this summer to fit that new paradigm. And the new ones will have that regardless.

So there you go.

I expect to answer lots of e-mails going “WHY DO YOU NOT SHIP INTERNATIONAL” and “WHY CAN’T YOU SHIP TO CANADA AT LEAST” and so on. Hopefully this entry will be something I can point to.

Do I like this? No. Am I proud of it? No. But it’s reflection of where I am in my life right now – my inbox is FILLED, BURSTING with people asking me in the role I play at the Internet Archive and Archive Team to help them with projects and research, attend conferences, provide consulting, and save materials both physical and digital. That’s what needs me. Being The World’s Worst Amazon Seller is not the best use of me.

I’ve sold many thousands of these things. I’m sure I’ll sell a few more domestically and I’ll always endeavor to have some on my person at all times to be able to do transactions in person.

But it’s over. Internationals are done. Please forgive me.


Categorised as: documentary | housecleaning | jason his own self

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26 Comments

  1. Mat says:

    Sorry to hear of the problems.
    Glad I have my copy of Get Lamp sitting here on the shelf, fond of the coin too. Some things are better in physical than a digital download. Fully understand your reasoning though.

  2. Steve says:

    This is a real shame, Jason. I can certainly understand your rationale here, though. But even so, I do hope that in the future you are able to find a solution, I was looking forward to placing orders on your upcoming films! Maybe it’s about time you hired some staff!

  3. Elpinoino says:

    Damn shame, damn shame. But if you decide to give out an project after the kickstarter pack. And I guess we are talking maybe and years now. I hope that things have changed. And by all means, make an over the top deluxe package with insanly high shipping, enough that it would be cheaper to fly over myself and pick it up, and I`ll still buy it :)

  4. Simon C. says:

    Ugh, what a headache. I don’t blame you at all — and not just because I already have a copy of both documentaries.

    Just to clarify: will the super-fancy physical package(s) of your upcoming film(s) be U.S.-only too? If I’m spending ~$100 on something awesome, an extra ~$15 for shipping to Canada would feel reasonable to me. (And if not, I have friends and family Stateside who don’t mind occasionally being middlemen for stuff like this.)

  5. Johan Herrenberg says:

    A logical and inevitable decision. But boy, am I glad to have my copy of GET LAMP plus coin here in faraway Delft, the Netherlands!

  6. Darren says:

    Really sad blog post Jason, but I always remain positive that there is a way… even if that way is emailing you with a ridiculous offer that you can’t refuse just so that you make that trip to the post office for me :)
    For now, I’m just grateful that I have my copies of Get Lamp and BBS, and I’m still looking forward to the next 3 films. All the best, Darren.
    (P.S. I thought that the packaging on Get Lamp and BBS was beautiful, so now I’m excited at the idea of super-deluxe packaging on the next films!)

  7. Joey says:

    They’re supposed to tear out the last page and give it back to you as a receipt. So who cares if it’s legible. I shipped hundreds of packages successfully with the middle page also mostly illegible. I also gave myself hand cramps filling out the damn forms and trying to press down hard enough before I learned this.

    The really insane thing is, the postal workers have to enter the information from that form back into their computer system. Of course this makes the lines even longer, especially if you’re shipping to someplace without the latin alphabet. Several workers told me they would have to enter the data after closing time.

  8. simon says:

    It’s a shame that the situation has changed, and of course we can’t expect you to do all the extra work and swallow the costs…. I guess that ‘we’ have to track you down at conferences and pry copies from your hands… or find a ‘broker’ in the US willing to do the leg work.

  9. ultramage says:

    Hm, I wonder if it’s an opportunity to look into that amazon.com thing again? If people were willing to pay exra to offset the fees…

  10. Alan Ralph says:

    As someone who has backed several Kickstarters over the last year or so, including yours, I’ve noticed the cost of international shipping going up on recent projects for physical products, and heard of the hassles and delays that project organisers have had to deal with, so this news doesn’t come as a huge surprise. For these reasons, I’ve opted for downloadable rewards over physical products unless the product is really worth the extra money and wait.

  11. Ewen McNeill says:

    As an international purchaser I both understand your decision, and wish it hadn’t been made so difficult for you.

    Possibly the answer is to refer international buyers to one of the services that will accept delivery (in the USA) and reship at the purchaser’s risk? At least some of those will also consolidate packages into one box for on-shipment, which can sometimes reduce the overall shipping charges enough to offset the labour component. (Such services used to be called “friends in the USA”, but these days some companies have realised there’s a market opportunity there.)

    Ewen

  12. Chris M. says:

    Form 2976 or 2976A? You can fill it out online: https://www.usps.com/ship/customs-forms.htm

    I had to fill one out once last year by hand, very annoying and tough to fill all the info on such a small form. The clerk at the post office said that the form I filled out was only valid for a few shipping options. My response was “whatever is the cheapest that doesn’t require me to fill out another one of those awful forms!” Needless to say, if I ever have to ship internationally again (I also tend to avoid it due to cost), I’ll be filling 2976 out online!

  13. Lewis Collard says:

    I’m sorry to hear this. I have both LAMP and BBS, and I’m a little sad that I won’t have physical copies of your next three. But I understand that you would not do this lightly and that there is only so much asshattery one can take before you just gotta throw up your hands and say “fuck it”. I do still hope that there’s a solution out there that you’ve not thought or heard of yet. Good luck.

  14. I just found the same issue sending off some DVD sets to Canada (footage from a retro TRS-80 Color Computer show held this past weekend in Chicago). I don’t blame you.

  15. Not sure if this helps or not, but I’ve heard lots of people use Fedex, DHL and similar services because it’s both simpler and more secure, although way more expensive. I’m not sure if Fedex in the US works the same as it does here in Brazil, but when I had to use it at my job it was a simple matter of filling a *small* form online, scheduling when *they* would come to our address to pick up the package, and paying the fee. Why don’t you look into it? I guess most of your potential international customers won’t want to pay $40+ for shipping, and you’d get some e-mails asking whether it couldn’t be cheaper, but a few among them would pay, and you could always reply with a “no, sorry”. ;-)

  16. Aww man! Now I regret I never got around to ordering your so-fars in the last few months when I finally could. Will you be able to make downloadable versions available of them retroactively, at least? Or am I just completely out of luck? (I can’t begrudge you the decision, though… things are as they are.)

  17. wouterdewaal says:

    Yes. US of A needs to reduce their foreign trade deficit so they make it harder, much harder, for their people to export.

    Makes sense, eh?

    It’s been more and more difficult to get anything from stateside. I use a remailer in Florida, it works well but it’s not cheap. The big thing is that they consolidate parcels.

    So if you get a whole bunch of wannabe-orders from South Africa, lemme know and we can ship them all in one big box.

  18. s says:

    There seems to be a couple of Amazon vendors selling to international customers. The catch is, price is $90+shipping. Triple… LOL.

    Are you one of the vendors, Jason? Pretty clever profit maximizing, if so. No problem with it here I ain’t no commie. Not gonna pay $90 either, though.

  19. asfi says:

    Fixed-price listings on eBay, perhaps?

    Wildly variable (and expensive) shipping costs? There’s a shipping calculator for that….whatever it costs, the customer’s paying, not you.

    Customs forms? eBay’s shipping tools spit them out too.

    Want something in return for the extra steps involved? Include a handling fee.

    Just my $0.02…..

  20. Anna G. Pratt says:

    Here’s a workaround I use………….

    When you sign up with BPM, you get local shipping addresses in 6 countries.
    Drop points include: USA, UK, Germany, France, Belgium and Luxembourg. You then use these for buying from whom you want, regardless

    of where the seller ships or not.

    You then have all your purchases combined into one, even from the different countries, and use the parcel mail forwarding service to have

    everything sent home in only one shipment, wherever you are in the world!

    Membership for renting these addresses and using the service is only 5€ per month.
    You can check it out on http://www.bpm-lux.com.

  21. iPadCary says:

    Jason ….
    Wo bist du?

  22. Sarah says:

    I’m not trying to whine however as someone who enjoyed the hell out of BBS Documentary and lives in the UK is there going to be an option for me to get my hands on future works? Obviously not a physical package because of the ball ache of shipping but some for of digital download/stream/etc?

    And trust me it’s as much a ball ache for us to ship stuff to America as it is you guys to ship stuff out.

  23. Drew Wallner says:

    Jason, I came across this recently while doing some ebaying, it sounds interesting but I haven’t looked into the details. Could it possibly factor in, in some way, to your dilemma?

    http://pages.ebay.com/sellerinformation/shipping/globalshippingprogram.html

    (obviously ebay is obnoxious in various and sundry ways, and involves fees, but I’m curious whether those might be a wash considering the recent postal changes and what other options might cost)