So you have just brought a guitar for the U.S. and a week has passed and you have not seen your item. Should You Panic?
Postage can be very painful for you the buyer (the wait is always a killer) and also from the sellers end (Not knowing if it will arrive or not). Before i touch on some of my experiences there are some things you can do to minamalize any stress you may have over postage from the U.S.
The most important thing to do before you buy is to check the sellers feedback to see if they have a history of postage problems, general bad or neutral feedback. What i look for is things like 'seller sent to wrong address', 'seller did not send item', 'seller sent wrong item', 'item was not as described', or 'item was damaged because of poor packing'. Also i look to see how willing the seller is to refund your cash if the s**t hits the fan! Most sellers are honest and will go way beyond the call of duty to make sure you are happy and you get what you paid for. Then there are the sellers who do not care once they have your money, leaving you to roll the dice with PayPal. Read the listing to the point where it is imprinted in your brain, so you know what your buying. I am ok with 'AS IS' items, but if the listing states that 'No Refunds If Postage Is Lost Or Other Wise'. This worries me and i try to avoid these sellers. This more or less means that if you item disappears you will have no recourse to get your money back. You can try a PayPal dispute.... Good Luck! You need to ask the seller questions about the postage like: Cost, Standard International or Priority, Courier Service, How Many Days Will It Take, What happens if..... And so on. A good seller will inform you as best they can and a bad seller will give you sweet F.A. Also make sure the seller fills out all the relevant U.S. declarations as well as the Australian Declarations to avoid your item being sent back to the U.S. as a violation of Australian mail! It Does Happen! Make sure the seller packs you item well because if you have seen the Youtube video of United Breaks Guitars, you will need to understand that it is not just United that has idiot baggage handlers with the attitude of 'Well It's Not Mine'! I have seen some major damage and gone through the painful processes of trying to get a refund, partial refund or replacement.
USPS (United States Postal Service) provides the following services to Australia.
Global International Guaranteed is the fastest 1-3 day time frame to get your guitar in your hands. Sound great until you see the price, have a heart attack and die! But you do get your item within a few days protected against, loss, damage and fully insured.
Express International has a time frame of 3-5 days and has many of the features as Global including the hefty price tag.
Priority International is the common postage of choice because it is somewhat reliable and much cheaper in price. The USPS website states that it is a 6-10 day time frame, this is somewhat true.
Here is a brief description of some stuff i have brought from the U.S. that ended up being painful, this will prepare you for what can happen. There will be no naming and shaming of sellers!
B.C. Rich Bich body and neck project (No Hardware). Purchase price was $130USD and the postage was $120USD Express International. This was at a time when the Aussie dollar was not that far under the U.S. dollar so it was around the $275AUD mark. The seller offered $80USD for priority and $120USP for express, so i went with express because i was impatient and wanted it quickly. It ended up taking almost 20 days to get to me and when it did i noticed that the seller had sent it priority for $71USD. I complained to the seller and had to open a dispute. The seller refunded $20USD, it was obvious that the seller was not going to refund me the $49USD he should have so i took what i could get and closed the despite.
B.C. Rich Mockingbird purchased for $150USD with $69USD Postage (Around $240AUD All Up) via Priority International. $69USD is more than reasonable and it only took 7 days to get to me, but when it did the neck was broken and the body damaged due to poor packaging. The seller refused a refund but said they would replace the item if i sent it back. The cost to send it back was going to cost me around $90AUD so i decided not to waste any more money on it and to leave neutral feedback and keep the item for parts. This is an old trick because most sellers know that most people in Australia will not send an item back unless its value is worth sending back! If the guitar is only worth $300 and you paid $240 including post, you not going to waste another $90+ sending it back unless it was on principle!
Kramer 300ST Striker purchased for $102USD with a postage price of $89USD Priority post. All up around the $230AUD. The guitar was well packaged, as described and only took 7 days to get to me. This is an example of when things go right. This is a usual time frame for priority in my experience. 7-14 days.
Kramer 100 Series 610 purchased for $150USD with a postage price of $130USD Priority post. All up around the $280AUD mark. I did all the checks, and talked in depth with the seller before bidding. After paying the seller i asked for a tracking number (Always ask for a tracking number so you can keep track of the item yourself), the seller did not respond. A few days later i asked the seller again for the tracking number with no reply. After 3 more attempts to get the tracking number a disgruntled seller contacted me and gave me the tracking number. It was if i had inconvenienced the seller by pestering them. If the seller had just given it to me when i first asked i would not have keep sending them messages. When i checked the USPS tracking (10 days after purchase) i was able to see that the item was not posted until 7 day after the purchase and had been listed as 'Your item left the United States from FOREIGN CENTERJERSEY CITY'. I assumed this ment it was on it way to Australia. By the 18th day i contacted the seller to ask if they could find out where the guitar was. This request was made everyday for 4 days untill the seller eventually made contact and just quoted the USPS web site info. I expected the seller to ring USPS and make inquires. 24 days after purchase and unhappy with the sellers lack of interest in where the item was, i contacted USPS, then Australian Customs followed buy Australia Post. Australia post were really helpful and looked into the matter on my behalf. Australia post were at a loss to explain why USPS were reporting that it had left the U.S. but it was not in Australia. The postal worker told me that the item was still in the U.S. and i needed the seller to get onto USPS and get it sorted. Well i knew asking the seller for any help would be a waste of time as i had asked before. So once again i found my self begging the seller to find out what was going on. 26 days after purchase USPS reported the item was finally in Australia. But on the same day i found this out, Australia post made a follow up contact and told me that the seller had not addressed the item properly and had not filled out the correct paper work and the item had been returned to the U.S. as a violation of mail. By this time i was so annoyed i contacted the seller, gave them all the info and demanded my money back. The seller responded with 'When we get the item back a full refund will be issued'. If only it was that easy! 28 days after purchase the item was back in the U.S. so i made contact with the seller and again asked for a time frame for refund. Again i got the same answer 'When we get the item back'. At this point i knew the seller had no intention of giving my money back and was dragging this out as long as they could. 32 days after purchase i lodged a dispute with PayPal. The seller would not budge and would give no explanation as to what would happen if they never got the guitar back! PayPal after escalation gave the seller 14 days to respond. 40 days after purchase the seller on the very last day responded with the same response they had been giving since the start of the claim 'When we get it back'. 49 days after purchase PayPal issued my money back. The seller had good feed back and there was nothing to alert me to the problems i would have with the seller. I could have used that money 6 times over on other purchases, the whole incident left me really not wanting to buy anything from the U.S. ever again. But something i just can't get here in Australia so you let the past go and move forward.
I have had sellers tell me 'oh it must have gone by boat'. WTF? I don't know how USPS send priority mail, i assumed it was by plane. In any event USPS is luck of the draw. Some items get to me in Australia in a matter of days and others, weeks. I guess it depends on where in the U.S. it is coming from and what handling center it goes through. My advice is if you have not got your item with in 14 days, get onto the seller and request that they look into it for you. If you are not satisfied. lodge a complaint. But be prepared for the worst and happy when it is sorted.
I have used many services on eBay to get my items, the most amount of trouble i seem to have is with postal services like Australia Post, Royal Mail Service & USPS. But its not all the time and for the better part i do get my items undamaged and on time.
It is not all painful. these tips can help you if you have never purchased from overseas or help you to know that you are not alone in the world of postage woes.
Just brought a Kramer styled project neck and a project Nightswan styled body. The neck took 7 days to get to me and cost a little over $150USD including post. This is good and acceptable untill i unwrapped it to find that although the neck was extremely well made in excellent condition and well packed, it was not what was pictured and had no locking nut shelf. I notified the seller and asked hoe they wanted to handle it. They got back to me right away and explained that the wrong floor stock picture had been displayed and they actually had none left with the locking nut shelf. They then offered a $50USD refund and to keep the neck. I thought this was more than reasonable and accepted the deal. Within an hour they had refunded the $50USD into my paypal and ended up being a very pleasurable experience. Yes i still need to find a suitable neck for my project but the one i got to keep can be used latter down the track on a future project.
The Nightsawan project body i purchased for a little over $130USD including post. I talked to the seller extensively befor purchasing at the 'Buy It Now' price. The seller not only was incredibly helpful he through in a set of cool generic pickups at no extra cost. The item took a record 5 days to get here from the U.S. via Priority post. The item was well packed and the generic pickups turned out to be Awesome sounding. Could not be any happier.
Around the same time as these two purchases i also brought a Striker 600ST and it only took 5 days as well to get here from the U.S. This just shows that it is luck of the draw if it takes weeks or if it takes days.