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What could be taking my parcels from the USA such a long time to arrive here in Canada?
December 16, 2010 1:58 AM   Subscribe

What could be taking my parcels from the USA such a long time to arrive here in Canada?

I'm a Canadian who's worried because things I've ordered from the USA, which were supposed to show up here weeks ago, haven't shown up.

I'm new to ordering stuff online and, prior to this year, hadn't ordered anything from the USA.

The only mistake I could have made is how I never left a space between the third and fourth characters in my postal code. Could this be the reason why some of my packages haven't shown up yet? Could the lack of the space confuse some American postal workers and prevent them from knowing where to ship parcels to?

An odd thing is how I ordered books from a trustworthy online American book retailer, waited two weeks and ordered more books from them and how, oddly enough, my second order of books came within a week or so while my first shipment, which I ordered about a month ago, still hasn't shown up. Doesn't this seem odd? I've waited nearly a month for that first shipment of books to arrive and am worried that my books got lost, though I thought it was very rare for parcels to get lost in transit; isn't it? Another thing I ordered, which I expected to show up weeks ago, also hasn't shown up. So now I'm really concerned.

At this point I'm stumped and have no idea why my parcels haven't shown up. The only faux pas that I can think of that I made is how I forgot to leave the space in my postal code, but I'm pretty sure that a mistake like this would be considered as being insignificant - right?

Anyway, from now on, to be safe, I'm going to remember to include the space in my postal code.

If anyone knows what could be taking my parcels so long to arrive, let me know. I can't see how two different parcels would get lost or that omitting a space in my postal code would matter much, but you never know.

Thanks.
posted by GlassHeart to Law & Government (21 answers total)
 
The first thing I'd think is that maybe the problem is at the delivery end - are you in an apartment building, or a strangely-numbered house? My house number is 12a. Packages for me have been delivered to my neighbours at number 12, or apartment 12 of the building across the street, or just returned to the depot because the delivery guy couldn't find my house. I'd check with your neighbours first.

I'd send an email to the retailer you bought from explaining that your packages haven't arrived and ask if they know the reason. If you bought from somewhere like amazon, did you actually buy from amazon or did you buy from a third-party seller on amazon? Sometimes the third-party sellers aren't as reliable as you'd hope, so that could be a reason why some stuff has arrived and others haven't.

Oh, and is there any variation in the method of shipping you choose? For example, I'm in the UK, and depending on the method of shipping I choose, ground/air/express/whatever, packages can arrive from the US anywhere between two days to eight weeks.
posted by Joey Joe Joe Junior Shabadoo at 2:31 AM on December 16, 2010


I recall that packages from the US to Canada could take a surprisingly long time to arrive, especially around the December holiday season. At the time, I blamed the US Postal Service. Just because.

They may still be on their way with no problem...
posted by vivid postcard at 4:18 AM on December 16, 2010


And a random amount of time as well. Sadly, from my experience with US mail transiting to Canada Post, this doesn't sound all that unusual.

Just thank God you didn't try to import electronic equipment. By the time Revenue Canada sorted out whether or not some duty applied to a friend's DVD player, it had seen more of Canada than he had.
posted by Naberius at 4:51 AM on December 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


The only mistake I could have made is how I never left a space between the third and fourth characters in my postal code. Could this be the reason why some of my packages haven't shown up yet?

No.

Could the lack of the space confuse some American postal workers and prevent them from knowing where to ship parcels to?

If it doesn't say "Canada" on the last line, it may take longer, the same as if you're sending something from Canada that doesn't say "United States" on it. If it doesn't have a customs declaration attached, it may get sent back.

Mail delivery in Canada is slow compared to that in the U.S. This is probably most of the problem you're experiencing.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 4:55 AM on December 16, 2010


Your package might have been held up at customs, or it could be stuck in the backlog of holiday deliveries. One month is a long wait, but not unheard of, I'd give it another week.
posted by OLechat at 4:58 AM on December 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


Agree with OLechat. Probably got held for inspection at customs and that can be an interminably slow process. I order things from the states every now and then and it's really random how long they take. A month is not unheard of. You can check with the retailer and make sure they've shipped, and I think you might be able to call customs and ask if they have your package.
posted by PercussivePaul at 6:13 AM on December 16, 2010


I would bet that they're either sitting in a Canada Customs building somewhere or were sent back by Canada Customs just to be dicks about some fussy red tape.

Mail from the US commonly takes for-fucking-ever to get through to its intended recipient.

Could the lack of the space confuse some American postal workers and prevent them from knowing where to ship parcels to?

Probably not. Once they figure out it's going to Canada, they just hand it off to Canada Post Postes Canada and don't need to care which postal code it's going to.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:44 AM on December 16, 2010


I don't see you make mention that you have confirmed the retailer has actually shipped them yet. Might be worth checking that.

I have had stuff take ages as well. It got held up in customs, and if customs have it, you may be looking at a COD charge to cover brokerage and taxes.
posted by Frasermoo at 7:37 AM on December 16, 2010


I have seen *tons* of complaints from Candians who order stuff from the U.S.

The Candian customs people sit on packages FOREVER, and then decide -- seemingly on a whim -- whether or not to impose additional duty.
posted by wenestvedt at 7:53 AM on December 16, 2010


You can avoid the Customs lag that others have mentioned above, which I agree is the likely problem, by designating a company such as Fedex as your agent. They will pay the duty, if applicable, and get your package through quickly. That works for me.
posted by PickeringPete at 8:22 AM on December 16, 2010


In my career i've dealt with shipping all kind of culinary and published items...I can only offer echoes of what others have already said here: shipping to Canada has always been a crapshoot. Sometimes it gets through customs right away, and other times it can sit in customs for a month (sometimes two...). Shipping to Europe can sometimes be faster than Canada...it's silly.

I would certainly call the company you purchased the items from, they should at least be able to give you a tracking number that will allow you to track the package at least to the border to see when it was released to customs.

Anecdotally, I've not once had a FedEx international Priority shipment held up in customs for more than a few hours. FedEx is ON that shit wen it comes to that exact method of shipping...the economy and other Ground services get held up. I'm convinced that part of the high price you pay is to grease some palms to get your package across the border.
posted by furnace.heart at 8:25 AM on December 16, 2010


I ship international packages all the time and I get more complaints from CA customers than I do when I ship to the 3rd world. It's a perfect example of how these days it's not the transportation time, it's the customs time.

Here's your checklist:

- check with the shipper, verify the address they used and make sure it did get off the dock. Get a tracking number (and verify which service they actually used). Check the tracking # on the shipping agency's website.

- if it is a USPS/Canadian post hand-off, tracking info is just going to be sorta-kinda. It may tell you if it made it to customs. It won't tell you what station it's made it to, as UPS and Fedex will.

- for future reference, nthing the fact that you're better off with UPS or Fedex. You'll pay more for the shipping, but the shipping charge will include the ridiculous Canadian brokerage charges, which you'll probably have to pay at delivery if it went postal system.

- don't worry about the gap in the postal code. Shouldn't be an issue. I *would* make sure that any apartment or building numbers made it onto the address label. If not, and you used UPS or FEDEX, contact the company with your tracking number and advise them of this.

- I also wouldn't worry about the timing issue. Amazon, for one, has stuff go out ahead of schedule all the time, and packages seem to leapfrom in the system. One package may have sailed through customs; another could be in a container where someone's still out to lunch.

- do be aware that you're going to have to most likely sign for the package and pay duties/customs, so if you had the package set up to be delivered to your house, you may have a problem. Try to be there where and when the package is delivered, unless you have someone you can trust to get it, pay for it, and be reimbursed. CA customs/duties can be pretty high, too.
posted by randomkeystrike at 8:35 AM on December 16, 2010


I have pretty much given up ordering from the States for many of the reasons stated above in the other comments. Sometimes the items have taken five or six weeks to get here (and not even during the holiday season). I doubt that leaving a space between the two parts of your postal code has anything to do with it.
posted by futureisunwritten at 9:29 AM on December 16, 2010


Seconding Randomkeystrike. I handle customer service for a small mail order business, and seemingly half of our customer complaints during the holiday season come from a small percentage of Canadian customers whose orders are late to arrive. It doesn't help that USPS to Canada is untrackable (except at outrageous expense) and that the error message returned when customers try to track their packages ("There is no record of this item") is needlessly alarming and uninformative.

When ordering from the US, I would absolutely recommend calling the merchant and asking if they can ship your package via standard UPS. It'll cost a bit more than international post or a domestic UPS delivery, but any company that has a UPS account should be able to do this for you with a minimum of fuss.
posted by Merzbau at 10:40 AM on December 16, 2010


Canada Post has been super slow--even by its usual standards--lately, according to my Canadian relatives.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:43 AM on December 16, 2010


Then there was the time my mother back in the US sent me this beautiful quilt she'd made me for Christmas. And when asked her much it was worth, she said "$500!" My mom basically thinks of this as insurance, i.e., how much she wants them to pay her if they lose her package.

UPS shows up at my door with a bill for like $160 in duties and their charge for acting as my customs broker (that was actually way, way more than the duty). My mom was mortified. But I think she still believes that if she cites a high value for a package, they'll go "ooh," and be more careful with it.
posted by Naberius at 12:08 PM on December 16, 2010


As others have said, the Canadian customs office is notorious. They're by far the slowest and most likely to lose/keep/delay packages of any nation I've shipped to, with the possible exception of Germany. Even nigh-worthless packages ($2 worth of tanning goggles, a used book, a $10 CD) can disappear into Customs for weeks, only to plop out the other side long after the replacement package has been received.

I have friends who've gone so far as to add "notice: may take longer to Canada" boilerplate to their Ebay auctions.
posted by vorfeed at 3:04 PM on December 16, 2010


- for future reference, nthing the fact that you're better off with UPS or Fedex. You'll pay more for the shipping, but the shipping charge will include the ridiculous Canadian brokerage charges, which you'll probably have to pay at delivery if it went postal system.

This is bad/confusing advice. Brokerage charges are imposed by the shipping company. Any of them could bill you on delivery, depending on the value/origin of the package contents. USPS and Fedex will generally charge a flat or reasonable rate, close to the actual customs fees or duty. UPS will charge you a percentage of the value of your package, and they will screw you. Canadians hate shipping UPS from the US for a reason!

Read this.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 4:41 PM on December 16, 2010


And to get back to your question, it's possible the companies you ordered from shipped the items late. I ordered some things from fredflare.com and they didn't ship my order for a week, whereas an order in the US would have been shipped and received well before then. Maybe they didn't feel like filling out a little extra paperwork right away?
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 4:45 PM on December 16, 2010


Canada Post sucks. And when stuff is coming from outside of Canada it sucks even more. I have stuff from the U.S. shipped to my mum in Washington state (I'm in BC) and we meet up in Bellingham, WA for lunch and transfer of stuff. This works out nicely. Any chance that you can set up a similar set-up?
posted by deborah at 5:17 PM on December 16, 2010


And to get back to your question, it's possible the companies you ordered from shipped the items late.

No - I received email confirmations stating that my items had been shipped.

Any chance that you can set up a similar set-up?

I've no family or non-online friends from the USA, so no.
posted by GlassHeart at 7:16 PM on December 16, 2010


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