what's the best way to get my stuff from Japan to Seattle?
May 19, 2004 7:40 PM   Subscribe

International Shipping...

I am preparing to leave Japan and move back to the United States within the next year. The problem: I have quite a bit of stuff that I would like to take back. Mostly it is audio equipment and pieces of technology. While most people tend to sell/shed everything when they move, I am hesitant to do this because I have spent several years gathering this equipment, and technology has a very low resale value in Tokyo. Given I will have a decent amount of money to do shipping, but certainly not enough to be able to sell it all and buy it back when I get stateside (not to mention the sentimental value of much of it). I am not concerned with the length of time it would take to ship, and I have a place to ship it to, but I am planning on travelling for an indefinite amount of time after leaving, so I would preferably need a way for it to be delivered to its final stop. I have approximately 200-250 pounds of stuff, and most of it can be broken into smaller pieces.

Anyone had any experience in this? I have heard that there are special educational discounts and book rates for shipping, and freight/4th class is fine, but the cheaper the better. Specifically, I am shipping from Tokyo to Seattle.
posted by lkc to Travel & Transportation (6 answers total)
This company advertises in Kansai Time Out magazine. Book rates ask directly at your post office. I sent a big M-bag of books to Japan, but haven't bulk mailed them the other way.
posted by planetkyoto at 10:08 PM on May 19, 2004

Response by poster: Much obliged, that looks like its just what I need!
posted by lkc at 11:25 PM on May 19, 2004

check import taxes.

we shipped stuff from the uk to chile. the chilean end were very "helpful" in filling forms in "correctly" to "manage" taxes (i don't know any details, and i'm vaguely ashamed / worried about it, but if i'd known beforehand i would have organised things properly in the uk rather than trying to guess the culturally correct way of doing things when first in a new country).
posted by andrew cooke at 7:55 AM on May 20, 2004

lkc, the term for what you are shipping is "(used) household goods", or " (used) personal goods", so import taxes should not be an issue. You will have to pay some minimal import fees, documentation fees, etc, to take delivery of your goods in Seattle, but you shouldn't be paying import taxes akin to new items being imported for sale in the U.S.

When you ship, ask the company you are dealing with to request in writing approximate import fees in Seattle from their agent in Seattle. In the end it may vary slightly (this can depend on the weight or measurement of your shipment, as these can affect handling on this side), but it should be within the ballpark. For instance, maybe $100-$150 difference, but not $1000 difference.

For God's sake, if you have a dispute about the charges, DON'T leave your goods with the import agent, just pay it, get your stuff, and then continue the dispute on paper. Reason being that after 3 days (on average) the import agent will start charging you storage fees, and too many times I've seen storage fees run up so fast that the person ended up abandoning their freight. It sounds like you really want this stuff.

What you need to concern yourself with is insurance, since the replacement cost of your items would be high.

The shipping company referred above looks good, ask them if they can refer an insurance company (or you may find that they sell insurance through their office). Depending on the type of insurance you buy, the policy sometimes doesn't cover broken items if you packed them yourself. If that's the case, ask them if they can recommend a packing company.

Since you will be traveling afterward, it sounds like you will be requesting door-to-door service, yes? Or, you may arrange your own delivery to the warehouse in Japan, but when it gets to Seattle you want it delivered to your designated place (that's called dock-to-door).

If you are going to have it delivered to your door here, do you have someone there to follow-up on the delivery?

Reason being, again, storage charges. Import agents can get busy; you are a little fish in this transaction, and they have bigger customers who ship with them every week, so those customers get the import agents' most urgent attention. They may fail to notify you of arrival until the last day of free storage, and you (or your designated person) may not be able to take delivery on a particular day for whatever reason.

It would be in your best interest if you can call up the import agent about a week before the shipment is due to arrive, to confirm that everything is on schedule. The ship can potentially arrive early or late due to weather along the way, and regardless of when the ship gets in, you only have the three days. Call them up again on the appointed day to make sure it is still on schedule, and to make sure delivery will take place right away. Just be proactive, is all I'm sayin'.

I hope I haven't made it seem complicated, it really isn't, and if you don't need your stuff right away, ocean freight is much cheaper than airfreight.
posted by vignettist at 10:33 AM on May 20, 2004

so import taxes should not be an issue

in our case there was an upper limit above which you were charged, used or not (i believe).
posted by andrew cooke at 10:49 AM on May 20, 2004

Response by poster: Hey, thanks again everyone. I know there will be some costs involved, I will be shipping it to some member of my families, who are pretty bad at picking things up on time, and I am concerned about storage costs and all that, so I am definitely willing to cough up an extra couple bucks for the dock to door delivery and insurance and whatnot. AskMe triumphs yet again!
posted by lkc at 6:04 PM on May 20, 2004

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