Shipping Guitars to UK
July 9, 2004 4:42 AM   Subscribe

I'm in the UK, and I keep seeing delicious guitars for sale over on eBay in the US at equally delicious prices, many of which are entirely unavailable over here. Aside from buying myself a ticket to the US, is there an easy way to get them over here without having to spend hundreds on shipping, insurance and customs duty? [MI]

I'm aware that if there were some carry-on courier service, it would probably have been nailed since 9/11, given that certain unscrupulous types would take malicious advantage of large parcels moving swiftly across the Atlantic.

But surely, there must be something? Some kind of mutual, trust-based network of US-UK human beings?

Otherwise, where's a good place to buy supercheap return flights to New York?
posted by armoured-ant to Shopping (11 answers total)
Not to spam my own thread, but I just found out that EasyJet are removing their weight limit on hand luggage, providing it doesn't exceed 55x40x20cm in size.
posted by armoured-ant at 4:47 AM on July 9, 2004

You can often get cool stuff from Japan - I can personally recommend Ishibashi Music. UK customs will sting you for VAT, though.
posted by jonathanbell at 5:47 AM on July 9, 2004

If ebay could do reverse-auctions, you could post an ebay auction, targeted at people who are going to fly to London anyway. Let them bid for the lowest fee for bringing your guitar to Heathrow. They can claim it as personal property, not a purchase, etc.
posted by yesster at 6:15 AM on July 9, 2004

I'd suggest biting the bullet and going yourself. You can get to somewhere like NY or DC pretty cheaply if you choose the right time or last minute deal. Go on a Friday, come back Sunday or Monday, find somewhere cheap to stay (the YMCA, for instance), eat cheap (very possible in the US), and spend days going round guitar shops in whatever large city you find yourself in.

Even better: do you know anyone out there? Get them to receive the package, go see them for a day or so, and bring it back yourself...
posted by humuhumu at 6:24 AM on July 9, 2004

If ebay could do reverse-auctions,...

In theory, I suppose it can. Put up an auction letting people bid on the amount they'll pay to have you pay them the maximum you'd be willing to pay. So they're bidding on the amount less than $X they'd do it for. I don't know if that'd get any bids, but it's not impossible.
posted by sfenders at 7:16 AM on July 9, 2004

Would it be legal to auction a to-be-bought plane ticket (for the winner), with the stipulation that they carry your guitar? Not sure how customs and all plays out, but the "pay me to buy a ticket for you" might work, giving the bidder something real to bid on.
posted by mkultra at 8:02 AM on July 9, 2004

I once was contemplating designing a web service for this kind of stuff. That is, "I'm travelling to X from Y on this date, is there any kind of favor I could do for someone or something I could bring" and also "I'm travelling from X to Y on these dates, is there anyone who could lend me their house/apt while they're gone, and likewise, I could lend mine to someone".

There already are some home exchange websites around, there may be some kind of homebrew courier exchange site also. If there's not, well, maybe I should revisit the idea.
posted by RustyBrooks at 10:04 AM on July 9, 2004

Since no one else has said it, I will: I'm not convinced its a good idea to pick up packages for strangers and try to take them across international borders, particularly by plane.

armoured-ant: since you already spammed your own thread, there was an article in this mornings guardian that ryanair are considering charging you for every item you check in, say at £50 per item, with the idea of phasing out allowing you to check luggage at all.
posted by biffa at 10:27 AM on July 9, 2004

I may just be unlucky, but I've purchased several musical instruments over eBay and every one of them has been a disaster. More recently, I had to buy five turntables over eBay before I got one that actually worked.
posted by Faze at 11:02 AM on July 9, 2004

You are still liable for the import duty/VAT tax on the instrument even if it is hand carried. Or so I'm told.

I've read a fair amount of discussion of this issue on a couple of forums but cannot locate a useful thread because their search engines suck and I just got up.

Anecdotally, European players have had a certain amount of success either carrying the guitar through customs like there was no problem at all, bringing a cheap guitar over from Europe and swapping it for a more expensive instrument in the States, and having stores make up a dummy receipt for the guitar indicating a much lower value than the actual worth.

So even if you do make the trip personally or have it done by a friend, you still either get bit by the VAT or pull a little bit of smuggling.

Faze: I've never bought an instrument off eBay, but I've friends who've bought excellent instruments at reasonable prices. I also know some reputable dealers who sell good instruments on eBay, one of whom does so with a 72-hour return policy. It's not all bad.
posted by stet at 12:30 PM on July 9, 2004

mkultra, not just legal, but there's firms which specialize in such things.

Ask these guys.
posted by shepd at 6:26 PM on July 9, 2004

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