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OPAS Blog: International Shipping from US Stores

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Have You Heard About... Thinkgeek?

 

Where can you get…

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Your very own lightsaber?

The Sonic screwdriver doctor who 21578461 500 281

The various sonic screwdrivers of the various Doctors?

ironpotato

A Mr. Potato Head styled after Iron Man? All of these wonderful toys, doodads and knickknacks can be found at Thinkgeek.com.

thinkgeek

If you’re at all interested in buying the items they sell, odds are good you may have heard of them. We just want to make sure, as the OPAS staff has a special place in our hearts for the fun merchandise from franchises you know and love on sale at this super-store of geek chic.

The US has always been a wellspring of popular culture and entertainment that the rest of the world enjoys (and when we don't invent it, such as with Doctor Who, we sure do merchandise it!) and these days so much of that content is focused on what might be called “nerd culture.” Comic books, video games, and science fiction/fantasy TV and movies were once considered rather un-hip, but these days, people in the US and all around the world can’t get enough of it!

Luckily, Thinkgeek.com is a good choice for the international buyer. They can accept international credit cards and PayPal, and can ship internationally. However you’ll still want to use an OPAS address to save on those shipping costs and sales tax. Our consolidation feature will allow you to combine your geeky treasures with other purchases you’ve made online, or multiple orders from the same store. If you’re anything like us, you’ll find yourself bouncing back and forth between sites like this to pick up “just one more thing…” Impulse buying can lead to a huge stack of international shipping bills, so send it all to OPAS first to be combined into one neat shipment!

So whether you’re interested in a wall lamp modeled off a Minecraft torch or a molds that will let you make ice cubes in the shape of the Death Star, you can find it at Thinkgeek.com, and OPAS can help you get the goods!

Get Nu Skin Products Anywhere In The World

 

There are plenty of reasons that shopping in America is great, including the low prices and the great selection. Add in sales on days like Cyber Monday or Black Friday and you have one of the best countries in the world to shop for everything from electronics to kitchen items to beauty products.

But unfortunately, those who don't have a US mailing address aren't always able to enjoy everything that US shoppers can. Not only are prices often higher outside the US, but some products simply aren't available elsewhere either. 

NU Skin

Nu Skin is a perfect example of this. While they're one of the world's most well-respected and popular anti-aging skin care products, they aren't available for purchase in many parts of the world. For those who want to try them or who have already tried them and know that they're the right choice for them, it can be frustrating to be stuck in a situation that renders you unable to buy your favorite Nu Skin products.

OPAS can help. We know that you want to get the products that you deserve at a price that's reasonable, and we're ready to make it possible. To get Nu Skin products anywhere in the world, all you need to do is set up an account with us and start shopping.

Not convinced? Here's a quick rundown of how it works.

  • Start by getting an international product purchase agreement from Nu Skin USA. This will provide you with a Nu Skin distributor ID you'll be able to use when you shop online for your products.
  • Set up your OPAS account. This will give you a US mailing address that is yours to utilize whenever you need. 
  • Make your order. Simply head to the Nu Skin site and make your order. When you reach the shipping address part of the order form, type in your OPAS address you received when you set up your account.
  • Once your order arrives at the US address, we automatically forward it to your home or mailing address in the country you currently call home.

 

 

 

If that sounds simple, it's because it is. The process of ordering and enjoying US products and prices has never been simpler. And since our online shipping calculator makes it easy to look at the specific price you'll pay depending on where you live, there's no need to order and worry about your bill. You'll know ahead of time.

We can help you get the Nu Skin products you want and love. All you need to do is take the first few steps towards doing so. Contact us today to get started with the process and start shopping without worry now.

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Kaizen Update: Our New UPS Rates!

 

As you may have heard us mention before, OPAS is a company that practices the Japanese business principle of Kaizen, which is represented by a cycle of constant improvement in all things.

To this end, OPAS has successfully negotiated a rate structure with United Parcel Service (UPS) that will allow us to reduce our rates on international shipments! As such, we have renewed our contract with UPS, and look forward to using their service to fulfill your shipping needs.

Keep an eye out for our new rates, they'll be posted shortly!

If you’re still in the mindset of preferring DHL or Yamato, these services will still be available, don’t worry. As UPS will be able to provide better rates for you, however, you may wish to try out the new options – since the speed and service are comparable, why not choose to pay less?

Here at OPAS, we’re very excited about our renewing our partnership with UPS. International shipping is a market that deals with consistently rising costs, motivated by increasing price of fuel and the expansive nature of the infrastructure required for a first-rate logistics network. For us to be able to successfully reduce the charges our members will pay to use our service is very gratifying for us, and we hope you’ll find paying less to be similarly gratifying!

upsship 

Remember: at OPAS we are always working to improve for you!

Get a US mail forwarding and shipping address

 

Getting a US address for mail forwarding and international shipping with OPAS is easy as one, two, three.  OPAS gives you access to many US online stores and provides you with a US address for shipping and mail forwarding.

OPAS enables you to order many popular items from US stores that do not ship internationally. Benefit from low US prices on your favorite brands and products and consolidate your orders from multiple stores to save on shipping.  Use our package forwarding service to enjoy tax-free shopping from any state!

Follow these three steps to start saving and shipping your packages overseas with our mail forwarding service.  Simply register for a US address and you'll get a unique, personalized US package forwarding address. Use your new US package forwarding address to buy from any US store then ship your packages anywhere in the World!

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Because OPAS’ address is in the state of Oregon, one of the few US states without sales tax, you'll never have to pay sales tax when you use your US package forwarding address to buy from US stores.

Some of the most popular brands that are shipped with OPAS are Apple, UGG Australia, Ralph Lauren and NuSkin beauty and skincare products. Read more about ordering NuSkin anti-aging and skin care supplements using your OPAS US address here.


Let's find out if OPAS is right for you. Download our US Shopping Guide. 

US Shopping Guide

Have You Heard About... Etsy?

 

etsy

We find that some of our customers may not be aware of some of even the largest e-commerce companies out there, particularly those who don’t offer universal international shipping. Etsy just may be one of those sorts – it’s very big here in the US because it’s a great way to browse, purchase and sell your own hand-made and unique merchandise, but because it’s a member-based site and not all members provide international shipping, OPAS can definitely help you as an international consumer to get in on the customized fun of Etsy!

etsy international

Etsy is similar in a lot of ways to Amazon Marketplace, where it’s a larger umbrella company offering support for smaller vendors. You’ll need to create an Etsy account, which also allows you to access a greater community of fellow buyers, sellers, artists and crafters. The site offers a number of social network functions, enabling each member to follow favorite sellers, converse with other members, and participate in online “Labs” regarding arts and crafts projects.

Once you're registered, you can use your OPAS address to browse from thousands and thousands of customized gifts, art projects, knick-knacks and more. Etsy breaks all their listings down into general categories like "art," "home & living," "jewelry," "vintage" and "weddings," but to try to catalog all the individual sorts of items in those categories would take a lot more space than we have for this blog! Go to www.etsy.com and check it out for yourself!

There are blog posts aplenty to recommend purchases, provide how-to guides for your own projects, and other useful bits of information. They even have Blog editions specifically for France, Germany, the Netherlands, the UK, and Australia.

etsy 5 24 09 bouquet 1 1

So if you’re an international buyer with a taste for hand crafted merchandise and artistic creations, check out Etsy and we’ll show you how OPAS can help you reach a wider variety of unique purchase opportunities!

Package Forwarding Tips: "Hitting a Moving Target!"

 

UPS

Did you know that OPAS can offer domestic shipping via UPS in addition to international shipment services? It's true.

First, this enables those who actually live in the US to take advantage of our Oregon sales tax-free option we can provide. This may not seem like a lot for a US customer when ordering smaller items, but if you order high-value electronics or designer clothing, you can see how quickly trimming 7%-10% from your order cost will exceed the cost of having us ship to you via UPS.

UPS calculates dimensional weight domestically on a 166 divisor rather than 139, so that's less likely to be an issue. Also, we can provide your preferred level of shipment, from UPS Ground all the way to Next Day Air, so you have a greater level of control over the speed of your shipment once you're ready to send. Our consolidation services are available for domestic use just as much as they are for our international customers.

So when you're ready to make a major online purchase, use OPAS to knock off the sales tax from your bill. Computers, designer clothing, jewelry, or purchases of expensive equipment for your business would be splendid options to utilize OPAS' Oregon advantage.

How about for our international customers who occasionally travel to the US for business or pleasure? We can ship to wherever you're staying, whether a friend or family member's house or a hotel. This way, you'll pay our lower domestic rates and very likely will have less issue with importing the items if you're taking them back home in personal baggage (you'll want to check on this, however, to be sure you're not bringing anything along that would be objectionable to airline travel.)

bullseye

We call this process “hitting a moving target” because we have a limited window to have the package reach you. Obviously, the larger the window, the easier it will be. We do have customers who are international pilots and flight crew, however, and we've been able to get packages to them when they're only in the US for a night or two at the most.

The earlier you give us the time window you'll be available, the better. The more forewarning we have, the slower (and therefore less expensive) service we can use. If you only tell us about the visit two days before you arrive, we'll need to use a UPS Air Service, which may not cut too much off your shipment cost compared to international shipment.

hotel

If you're staying at a hotel, you'll definitely want to contact the hotel to determine what their protocol is for receiving packages sent to guests, specifically what they'll need to receive it for you if you have not yet checked in. We always choose to err on the side of getting the package to the destination too soon, for obvious reasons.

One important note: if you're interested in domestic shipment of Dangerous Goods that you've ordered, this may not work out as you'd like. We can't ship DG domestically via any air service. OPAS is authorized by IATA/ICAO for international shipment of DG, but CFR 49 certification for DG shipment domestically is entirely a different license. We'll still be able to ship some items domestically via UPS Ground that might otherwise be considered DG when shipping via air service.

You'll want to communicate with OPAS at service@opas.com to arrange any domestic shipping arrangement beforehand – we'll need you to enter the exact details into your account, and will need advised on your shipping window.

With all this in mind, there's no reason that an international customer can't increase their enjoyment of a holiday in the US by receiving a shipment from OPAS during their trip!

Package Forwarding Tips: Insurance Claims

 

It doesn't happen often, but damage or loss of packages is an unfortunate and unavoidable risk of shipping internationally.

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First, any shipment sent through OPAS is specially packed for maximum safety. This is our absolute highest priority, beyond even reducing the size and weight of the package. We figure it's better for a member to spend a little more on a shipment to make sure it arrives in one piece.

OPAS offers insurance for any non-airmail shipment we send out, the price for this is 2% of the total declared value of the shipment. We can only insure up to the declared value of a shipment. This provides not only coverage for the shipment once it is released to the courier, but also any damage that may occur while in OPAS' facility. If you do not choose to purchase insurance, OPAS will not be able to provide remuneration of shipping cost or item value in the event of damage or package loss.

So if you've purchased insurance and found there's been damage, what do you need to do?

damaged box1 400x400

(NOTE: THIS IS NOT AN OPAS PACKAGE!)

First, if the package has visible exterior damage, or appears to have been opened before it was delivered to you, take photos of it before opening! Take a lot of photos from various angles and distances, you'll want to preserve evidence of it as it was delivered to you. If you're shipping liquids and see parts of the box are dark from being damp or leaked on, be sure to record this.

Once this has been catalogued, you'll want to open the box and see if there was actually any damage. Sometimes a box will be scuffed but the items within have survived due to proper packaging. You'll want to catalogue any damage with more photographic evidence, including photos of any pieces of items that may have broken off.

Once you've done this, you'll need to contact OPAS and tell us about the problem. We'll request all of these photos, as well as documentation of the purchase of the items supporting the claimed cost. If it's a purchase from a smaller vendor, such as from eBay, a PayPal invoice supporting the claim should be sufficient. If the buy was made from an unrecognized merchant, like through a collector's message board/forum, send us the emails that support the declared price and the receipt for the PayPal payment, money order or other payment method you may have used.

With this information in hand, OPAS will file the claim on your behalf and contact you as soon as we have received any remuneration. We can place this amount in your OPAS Deposit to pay for future shipping costs, or advance it along to you in the method that you prefer. Be advised that any checks we would send to you would be in USD, so you'll want to check with your local bank as to what may be required for exchange.

Hopefully, you'll never have to go through this process, but now you should be more prepared for it if you find that a package of yours has been damaged.

OPAS vs. The Blizzard!

 

We interrupt your regularly scheduled blogging to bring you this important message!

A savage winter storm has overtaken Portland, which has caused unavoidable delays in shipping activities!

If you don’t believe me, have a look outside OPAS’ window!

Actually, that’s not outside our window. That’s a stock photo provided for comedic effect.

The snow is significant enough, however, that all of our couriers have cancelled or delayed pickups and deliveries for both yesterday, Feb. 6, and today, Feb. 7. DHL and Yamato have ceased all shipping activity until the storm relents.

In addition to tax-free shopping, the state of Oregon usually has a very temperate climate, so when the winter winds strike the city, most of Portland shuts down for safety reasons. This is the case at present, and unfortunately there is nothing OPAS can do to prevent the delays. We are very sorry for this. Trucks will be stopped, and planes will be grounded.

We’ve continued processing and shipping packages, so those members with shipment requests submitted may receive their shipping confirmations and tracking numbers, but do not expect to see any activity on those packages until Monday at the earliest.

It’s been rather a rough winter in the USA, as some of you may have already experienced delays in getting packages delivered to OPAS. This is the first point, however, where the climate in Portland has been inclement enough to delay your packages leaving for international transit.

Rest assured, we will be making sure these packages get on their way to you just as soon as the couriers are up and running again, and we thank you for your patience.

--The OPAS Team

Package Forwarding Tips: Shipping Lithium-Ion Batteries

 

One of the types of items that we find OPAS members are most interested in shipping are hand-held electronics like smartphones, tablets, laptops and other portable data devices and media players. In order for these items to carry the longest possible charge away from an outlet, the manufacturers of these devices use Lithium-Ion batteries to power them, which under the right circumstances can prove a fire hazard.

As such, international air couriers have to take certain precautions in shipping these items, and as a shipping company we must comply with these regulations and properly label all Lithium-Ion containing shipments.

First of all, there's a difference between a battery and a cell. A cell is a single device – the sort of item that you may call a battery, one that you’d put in a handheld device to power it. A battery consists of multiple cells linked together.

Next, we have the various IATA/ICAO Packaging Instructions that deal with Lithium-Ion and Lithium-Metal batteries. These are known as PI 965-970, and Section II of these instructions details that a certain quantity of batteries/cells of a certain power can be shipped without Dangerous Goods handling assessed as long as they are labeled thusly.

PI 965 is for Lithium-Ion batteries/cells shipped independently of their equipment, like individual batteries or a portable recharger. PI 966 is for batteries/cells shipped along with the equipment they're meant to power, like a replacement battery pack. PI 967 is used for batteries shipped already installed in the equipment they're meant to power, like the battery in your laptop or cellphone. PI 968-970 correspond with the conditions of the previous listings but apply to Lithium-Metal batteries, which are less frequently used in consumer goods.

The next qualification of batteries/cells is their power level. This is usually measured in mAh, or milliamp hours. Unfortunately, this isn't generally the most useful, as DHL, IATA/ICAO and other regulatory agencies measure on Wh, or wattage hours. To convert from mAh to Wh, you take the mAh and multiply it by the voltage, then divide by 1,000. So a 300 mAh, 5 Volt battery would rate at 1.5 Wh. (300 x 5 / 1000 = 1.5)

Battery Capacity Conversion Spec

This is important, because any cell rated at 20+ Wh or battery at 100+ Wh is no longer eligible for the Section II exemption detailed above – it is considered Section I or IA, meaning that it is Dangerous Goods and subject to those particular handling restrictions and additional charges.

Luckily, most manufacturers understand this, so they keep their batteries and cells below this output to ensure they can be shipped with minimal hassle. Generally, a cell or battery has to be specifically designed to operate very power-hungry equipment or specially noted as “super charged” to exceed the 20/100 Wh restriction. A simple smartphone battery won't do it.

There are some other Lithium-Ion battery shipment restrictions, but we've covered most of the main ones in this listing. You can reference the below link for further info:

http://www.dhl-usa.com/en/express/shipping/shipping_advice/lithium_batteries.html 

One more thing – USPS will only allow shipment of Lithium-Ion battery items if they qualify for Section II of PI 967 – that is, if they are installed in the equipment they're supposed to power. So you can use USPS to ship a laptop, but not a replacement battery for the smartphone you already have.

If you have any other questions, email us at service@opas.com to speak with one of our IATA/ICAO certified Dangerous Goods shipping experts.

US Postal Service: the right choice for your Package Forwarding?

 

Today, we're going to discuss shipment by the US Postal Service options, Express Mail International and Priority Mail International, and what it means for your international forwarding.

First, to dispel a popular misconception: USPS shipment is NOT less expensive than private courier shipment like DHL. There are two main reasons for this:

1.                  As US Post is a government agency instead of a private company, it's much harder for OPAS to negotiate with them to reduce rates.

2.                  US Post has increased the cost of their international postage fairly dramatically over the last few years.

So, believe it or not, US Post costs more per lb. than a private courier like DHL, and generally provides slower and less complete service, like less accurate tracking.

You may ask, why would I want to ship anything with USPS? The answer is that you might be charged for fewer shipping lbs. than with a courier.

USPS doesn't bill based on dimensional weight, only scale weight. As we've previously discussed, the size of an international shipment is just as important as the weight. Let's look at a shipment of pillows that weighs 5 lbs., but occupies a box of dimensions 24” x 16” x 12.” The dimensional weight for this package (determined by H x L x W /139) is 34 lbs.

So for USPS shipment, you're paying the scale weight of 5 lbs., but with DHL you'd be paying the dimensional weight of 34 lbs. Even though USPS is more expensive per lb., they'll still have the better rate. If the two numbers were closer together, it'd be different. Supposing the same box size, but instead of pillows it's clothing you're shipping – 24 lbs. of clothing, let’s say. This 32 lbs. for DHL vs. 24 lbs. for USPS comparison will likely favor DHL.

This also, of course, depends on where you're shipping to. Private couriers maintain lower rates for the regions they have the greatest shipping volume to: Asia Pacific destinations like Australia, Japan, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Singapore, the Mediterranean region and the Middle East, or the UK and Western Continental Europe because they have a more complete logistics infrastructure there. USPS may be able to provide a better (or matching rate) than the courier when shipping to regions that have lower shipping volume, because it relies on local agencies. This may be the case for parts of Africa, Eastern Europe, South and Central America or some smaller island nations.

You can always check our shipping calculator to determine how the price comparison breaks down for you – just click “shipping chart” after selecting your country and OPAS membership level to see a complete chart of costs by lb.

http://www.opas.com/shipping_calculator.php

Another major factor to consider when shipping USPS is that because they do not bill based on dimensional weight, they have strict limitations for package size based on length, weight, and a combined factor of length + girth.

These restrictions vary by country, but length restriction is either 42” or 60”, weight is usually 55 lbs. or 70 lbs., and length + girth is either 79 or 108.

To determine length + girth, there's a mathematical formula you can use: 2X + 2Y + Z, where X is the smallest dimension of the package, Y is the second smallest, and Z is the largest. So a package at 26” x 20” x 12” would be: 2(12) + 2(20) + 26, or 90 total. It'd be fine if you live in a 108 limit country, but not for those in a 79 limit country. To determine which total limit is used in your country, just send us an email at service@opas.com.

USPS EMI and PMI both offer tracking, but it's not as complete as courier tracking. Once the package leaves the US, scanning it for tracking is handled by the local postal authority in your country, as is delivery. OPAS at present does not offer tracking-free postage options for our customers like International First-Class or Airmail. These methods of shipping have even more limited weight and size restrictions, and tracking and insurance are not options. As such, we're not comfortable offering these oft-problematic shipping methods for our members. (Note: we do provide Airmail to a limited selection of countries, but this is managed by UPS and therefore is more reliable, even though tracking and insurance are still not available.)

There are some other things to keep in mind when shipping via USPS, such as their carriage restrictions for items being somewhat different and more limited than a courier – for example, shipment of Dangerous Goods like perfume is not an option – these items can only be shipped by a licensed courier. Also, because of the fire hazard that Lithium Batteries pose, USPS will only ship them when they are properly installed in the devices they're meant to power. We'll be addressing this in a future blog post.

Additionally, because collection of import and duties is handled by local governmental agencies when shipping via USPS as opposed to private corporations and their brokers, you may find collection of these duties to be more lax when shipping with USPS. This is only observable on a case-by-case basis, and of course, as OPAS is not a customs brokerage, please do not consider this to be a professional opinion but only anecdotal commentary based on our experience. If you have any questions regarding your country's import regulations, please contact the appropriate agency.

So now, hopefully you'll understand the primary differences between US Post and courier service, and can choose which would be best for your shipment based on destination and content.

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