Shipping an iPad Overseas
December 30, 2014 10:39 AM   Subscribe

I'd like to ship a new iPad from the US to France as a gift (I haven't bought it yet). It needs to arrive there in about a week and a half. A few quick online searches reveal this may be more complex and costly than I thought - USPS apparently won't deal with anything containing lithium batteries, and FedEx seems to have special requirements and rates for this kind of shipping as well. Anyone know the best way to go about this? And is it likely to be cheaper just to order directly from the Apple store in France, with all the extra shipping and customs fees I might have to pay?
posted by decoherence to Technology (8 answers total)
I'd check DHL. I've shipped electronics equipment with them before and I don't remember any particular difficulties. It will probably be pretty expensive though.
posted by Aizkolari at 10:48 AM on December 30, 2014

Best answer: International shipping is a maze of deadly traps and pitfalls waiting to snare the uninitiated. I once lived in Canada, and my mother back in the US tried to ship me a quilt she had made for me as a Christmas present. When the USPS asked her what its value was for insurance, she told them $500 because my mother is of the opinion that by telling them it will cost a lot if they lose your package, your item will receive better treatment. It cost me about $170 CDN to get my Christmas present from Canada Post. My mom still feels sheepish. At least it came directly to me in a timely manner, unlike a friend's DVD player ordered from Hong Kong, which ultimately saw more of Canada than he did.

And yes, lithium batteries are a huge international transport issue. My company supports the Diplomatic Pouch and Mail system for the State Department so I have some passing familiarity with the issues and get to hear the best of the horror stories from the processing facility. You would not believe the stuff US embassy staff overseas try to ship through the pouch system because it's so much cheaper and more convenient. Unfortunately, iPads and similar devices can't be shipped that way at all. It's one of the biggest sources of complaints we get at this point. (Main reason - the airline cannot know what is in the pouch. They basically have to take our word for it that what we're giving them is not going to suddenly vent toxic gases or blow up when exposed to high altitude air pressure or whatever else might happen and bring down a passenger airliner. They have to be very strict about what they ship, and the Air Cargo Transport Standards have a whole special section about batteries.)

I meander through all this to suggest that a great deal of my experience argues that if you can arrange for purchase through a French Apple Store - and I'm taking your word that such things exist - it will very likely be worth whatever premium French Apple charges, and will greatly... greatly... increase the odds of the gift being at least somewhere in France in a week and a half.
posted by Naberius at 10:51 AM on December 30, 2014

If you buy it in France it will have the right power adaptor and the warranty will be local. FedEx et al will tack on huge vat and import fees payable on receipt and not included in their quote to you. I don't know why anyone would not buy it locally in this internet age.
posted by shelleycat at 10:55 AM on December 30, 2014 [7 favorites]

Does it have to be a US iPad? Have you thought of just buying one from a store in France & having it shipped within the country. It will get there quicker & you save all the international shipping problems. If they need to use it in the US, they can buy a US power adapter when they return, most tablets etc now a days work on varying voltages & just need different charging plugs for the different shaped power outlets.
posted by wwax at 10:57 AM on December 30, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks for the replies. It seems pretty clear that whatever costs I may save buying it in the US would be more than eaten away by shipping + added uncertainties and hassles. The Apple store in France can get it there in a few days, so will just go that route.
posted by decoherence at 11:14 AM on December 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

I would also take a quick look at to see how the prices compare.
posted by shelleycat at 11:54 AM on December 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

Seconding get it in France. It won't be much more expensive, and shipping inside France is very reliable, which is emphatically not the case with international shipping. (I live in France. They purposefully make the total price of electronics roughly equivalent to what it would be in the States, with taxes etc. Apple included – they're well aware that otherwise, people will just try to buy from the States.)

One of the highest-regarded online shops here is LDLC. I've been using them for 10 years, always an excellent experience. Amazon France can be less than great.
posted by fraula at 11:55 AM on December 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

I did extensive price comparisons on FR vs USA iPads. Not taking into consideration any shipping charges I found that it wasn't really that much more expensive buying the device in France. This is particularly true if the US purchase was made in NYC or Cali; someplace with high local tax added on. We ship a lot of stuff from US to FR but rarely electronics.

We have great luck w/
posted by pandabearjohnson at 12:51 PM on December 30, 2014

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