Attention, OPAS members!
Black Friday and Cyber Monday are almost upon us, and there’s some things you NEED TO KNOW!
A savvy online shopper can save a whole bundle by shopping on these dates from November 28 to December 2, but if you’re not prepared, you’ll find that all your hopes for great deals are replaced with frustration of blocked orders, slow transactions, and sales that end before you can get your order in!
But if you are prepared, not only can you survive this chaotic shopping wilderness, but you can thrive!
Today and in our next installment, we’ll be talking about what you need to know!
- It’s never too early to begin preparations! As an international shopper, you have a number of hurdles to overcome – many of the best deals offered by merchants during this season, even online deals, come with “no international shipping” as a catch. So if you don’t already have one, get an account with OPAS! You’ll get a US address in the sales tax-free state of Oregon to place your orders with!
- Find some merchants to buy from! Sure, everyone will be pushing sales on Black Friday weekend, but how are you to know the best ones for you? There’s plenty of lists out there, on sites like:
- Find out the shipping status of the merchants you want to buy from! There are a lot of merchants that won’t ship to package forwarders! We call them Black List merchants, and we have a whole document listing them out, available for download. Check it out! Here at OPAS, we have methods to get around these blocks, including our Personal Shopper service!
Here’s our Black List document!
- Get a US Unlocked card! International credit card fraud is one of the biggest threats for merchants on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Even those that accept international payment methods will be watching for transactions where the shipping and billing address don’t match, and this could lead to canceled orders. Get a US Unlocked card with an address that matches your OPAS address, and be sure it’s loaded up! US Unlocked needs time to process your application for a prepaid US card, so be sure to submit sooner rather than later!
Here’s a link to US Unlocked that leads through the OPAS site. Use this link and you’ll get a discount on your US Unlocked sign up fee!
- Prep your credit cards! If you’re planning on only using your own payment methods to make your purchases, make sure your balance is paid down. We find many of our customers use prepaid cards to shop, so make sure you’re loaded up. If you’re using a credit card with a limited line of credit (another shopping method we find customers use for security purposes), make sure there’s no outstanding holds that could suddenly come due and disrupt your balance.
That's all we have for today, so follow these helpful guidelines and email any questions to may have to us at email@example.com. You'll soon be prepared for the biggest sales events of the year in the US!
Next time, we'll talk about OPAS' specific policies for Black Friday/Cyber Monday, including how it will affect our Personal Shopper service.
For anyone who doesn’t know, Black Friday is coming! Odds are good, if you’re a savvy enough online shopper to make use of a forwarder like OPAS, you know that Black Friday is the sales event of the year, which is the day after Thanksgiving Holiday here in the US.
What’s unique about this Black Friday is that it is as late as it possibly can be this year. For those who don’t know, Thanksgiving is always held on the fourth Thursday of November. As November 1st was a Friday this year, Thanksgiving isn’t until the 28th of November.
What the lateness of the holiday means is that merchants are going to lose at least a few selling days in the vital holiday season from Black Friday to Christmas, so they’re going to do everything they can to perk up sales in the days and weeks leading up to Thanksgiving. You can expect to see prices begin to drop and promotions begin to pick up any day now.
Admittedly, the international online shopper is likely more interested in Cyber Monday, which follows Black Friday and retailers clean out the leftovers from their physical locations with discounted sales online, but as Black Friday in-store sales begin to creep earlier and earlier into November, you can bet that the merchants will do something similar for online shoppers. It’s all part of the push to compete for your spending budget, and as a member of OPAS you have the US address to be a part of it, and get some great deals on the items you want!
So keep your eyes peeled on your favorite sites, this year in particular will be a strong one for savvy shoppers!
When dealing with Dangerous Goods, obviously there are very specific steps that must be taken regarding labeling, paperwork for carriage, and packaging. In fact, there are over 900 distinct packaging instructions detailed the IATA handbook, and most of these have at least a dozen permutations.
That's a lot of possible variations, isn't it? Luckily, as we’re shipping mostly only DG within a single category (Class 9, ID 8000 Consumer Commodities), we generally only have to worry about a very specific set of packaging instructions. For these items, which are most frequently perfumes and other liquids containing alcohol, we have to use a specially designed fire-resistant fibreboard box.
Note that the vermiculite powder we include as a means of absorbing moisture from any possible spills can make quite a mess, so when opening a package from OPAS with DG markings, be sure to do it outside, or in a place that can be easily cleaned. Your packaged goods will be shielded from this powder via a specially treated plastic bag, another countermeasure against spillage and fire hazard.
Because our DG-capable boxes only come in certain sizes, you may be charged based on dimensional weight for your shipments. Our smallest DG box, for example, is 3 lbs. dimensional weight, so even if your DG is just a bottle or two of perfume, it’ll be billed at a 3 lb. rate. There’s really no way around this – DG boxes have to be large enough to accommodate a number of warning stickers and advisories in a legible manner, and this 3 lb. box is the smallest we’ve found that fulfills the requirements. When ordering DG items, we suggest ordering in larger quantities.
As for the associated costs, OPAS does not assess any additional fees for processing of DG shipments ourselves, but unfortunately, there are fees assessed by our couriers that we must in turn pass along to the customer. These fees are usually $80 USD.
It is possible to consolidate and ship DG and non-DG items in the same shipment, but they cannot be put into the same packaging. So if you order a large quantity of non-DG and only a few items of DG, you may run into the situation of the DG items being charged based on dimensional weight, as outlined above.
DHL is our preferred shipping partner for international shipments of DG, and there are a few guidelines that they have that are worth keeping in mind:
In the Asia/Pacific region, only shipments of Class 9 Dangerous Goods will be accepted.
In Europe, no Section I or IA shipments of Lithium batteries will be accepted (this means no Lithium Ion batteries over 100 wattage hours.)
To Central and South America, as well as the Middle East, Cargo Aircraft Only quantities are accepted, though there are some countries in these regions where DG service is unavailable.
As always, we suggest confirming any information involving Dangerous Goods with us at firstname.lastname@example.org before committing to any purchase – the full regulations involving DG are far too long and complicated to explain in a series of blog posts, but we do want to be certain that our customers are given at least a basic understanding of what is available for the shipment of dangerous goods.
Today we’re going to talk about some of the restrictions, classifications and issues surrounding the shipment of dangerous goods, and hopefully answer some questions you may have.
OPAS is a registered shipper of Dangerous Goods via IATA/ICAO regulations. We have certified Dangerous Goods (“DG”) technicians on our staff to identify, package and ship these products for you. Just because we’re registered to ship it, however, does not mean that our courier agencies will necessarily be able to carry it to your country, however. We’ll address that later
DG are divided into 9 classifications (and many subdivisions) by IATA/ICAO code, but the vast majority of what will be shipped by our customers is Class 9. Classes 1-8 are mostly explicitly dangerous items like explosives, pressurized and flammable gases and liquids, radioactive material, corrosives, and a bunch of chemicals with ten-syllable names. Most of our customers don’t have much interest in buying or shipping these kinds of items. If you do, send us an email at email@example.com and we’ll see what we can do for you.
Class 9 DG, or “miscellaneous dangerous goods,” are what comprise 99% of our DG shipments, specifically identified by the code ID 8000, Consumer Commodity. What does this mean? This means anything that is packaged in a way that is meant to be directly sold to the end consumer, but is dangerous enough to have special precautions for shipment.
This includes most perfumes – the alcohol content of which is high enough to be considered flammable. This can also include other skin care products containing alcohol. This includes high-wattage Lithium Ion batteries, like you’d find in portable rechargers for devices like smartphones, MP3 players, and laptops.
Here are some quick guidelines for the customer to determine if an item is DG:
If one of the first three ingredients ends in “—ohol,” then it’s probably dangerous goods. The top three ingredients are primary ingredients, and alcohols of all kinds are flammable when present in that amount.
If the wattage hours (WaH) of a Lithium Ion or Lithium Metal battery are over 100, then it’ll be dangerous goods.
If it’s a pressurized flammable liquid (such as spray paint, or spray adhesive) then it’s definitely dangerous goods. Not only that, but these are frequently categorized as Class 3 Flammable Liquids rather than Class 9 Miscellaneous, which means they’ll be able to be shipped to fewer countries.
If all else fails, the best way to identify dangerous goods is by the acquisition of the Materials Safety Data Sheet, or MSDS. This is a document that has to be submitted for every manufactured good you can find and it is divided into multiple sections. In Section 14, you’ll find the transport guidelines. Look under the IATA/ICAO regulations, and you’ll be able to see not only if it’s DG, but what classification.
All merchants should make their MSDS paperwork available via email contact, and if you have any questions once you’ve received it (or with anything else having to do with DG) just contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Next time, we’ll discuss our steps for packaging the goods, the charges associated, and what goods can be shipped to what countries.
If you’ve read any of the posts on our OPAS blog lately, you may have come across our brief exposition on the principles of Kaizen – the practice and study of a constant state of improvement.
We are constantly using Kaizen to improve the international shipping experience of our OPAS customers. Whenever we have a particularly noteworthy improvement that can affect our customers, we think it’s worth noting here!
So we’d like to talk a little bit about the new ability that OPAS customers now have to alter the declared value of their items once they have already submitted a shipping request. We’ve seen that occasionally some errors may happen when declaring the value of items. Supposing you declared a package like this:
And your “expensive thing” wasn’t quite that expensive. This could be trouble with customs when you try to import it, right? Not anymore. All you need to do is edit the package by clicking the Green Edit Button, even if it’s been marked for shipping, and change the value to the correct price.
See how that works?
As you can see, the changes you have made will be applied even after processing for shipment, meaning that OPAS will be able to ship your item without you worrying about customs due at time of receipt. You’ll be able to adjust the value in this way right up until the point of shipping!
In this way, we’ve removed a potential issue of errors in customs declarations affecting importability of items down the line – please note though, that the customer is responsible for the accuracy of all value declarations.
This is just one of the ways we’re using Kaizen to improve our service for you!
As you may or may not be aware, the Apple iPhone 5s and 5c have launched today, with a corresponding fervor of fast sales and long lines to get these highly anticipated products. OPAS technicians were placing Personal Shopper orders for our customers as soon as we opened this morning, in order to minimize shipping times for these snazzy new phones!
But what’s next for Apple? According to rumors on a French website known as MacGeneration, there’s another special event coming up right on the horizon, on October 15th.
It was last October that Apple released the iPad Mini and and their fourth-generation iPad, so perhaps there’s another release of that same magnitude right around the corner?
Some speculate that it also could have to do with the release of OS X Mavericks, and other software related news.
The Los Angeles Times notes, however, that the site in question has had some issues in the past with accuracy on Apple news, so all such reports should be considered conjecture at this point.
Still, will you be ready when Apple releases the next revolutionary product that you want? International customers often times have great difficulty acquiring these items, as Apple is notoriously US-centric in their early releases.
That’s where OPAS can help you! We can use our Personal Shopper service to purchase these Apple goods for you, unlocked and ready for your use in any country around the world!
Whether or not you have an OPAS account, if you're interested in learning how we can help you purchase and receive Apple products, just send us a line at email@example.com!
Thanks for reading Have You Heard About…, where we highlight a merchant that our international customers may not know about, because either they’re a smaller operation, or just starting out, or because they don’t offer international shipping as an option.
Today’s focused merchant, www.simplehuman.com, is definitely in that last category. They’re definitely well known, as their products have been positively reviewed in dozens of well-known publications and won a number of design awards, both in the US and abroad. Unfortunately, the only international shipping option available from simplehuman’s website is to the UK, so OPAS can provide an opportunity for our customers in other parts of the world to access these fine products!
What we find refreshing in simplehuman’s design and corporate philosophy is their pursuit of efficiency. If you’ve read in this blog before about OPAS’ practice of Kaizen, you’ll know that efficiency in processes is a vital part of achieving your best results. Simplehuman takes this philosophy and makes it available to you in your home.
Simplehuman sells, as they put it, “tools for efficient living.” These tools usually take the form of kitchen and bathroom fixtures and aids that are the height of practical design, as well as carrying a sleek, modern design that is very appealing.
Pretty neat, right? We think so.
They use sensor technology in their wastebaskets, soap dispensers and even their bathroom mirrors (which will light up when you look into the mirror and turn off when you walk away!) to provide as efficient and hands-free a usage experience as possible.
All of their products are constructed of the highest quality of materials and are arduously tested for survivability before being approved, so you know you’ll be making a purchase that will serve you for many years.
As for ordering these items, as we’ve stated, www.simplehuman.com will only ship to US addresses, so placing a Personal Shopper request will very likely be necessary for you to purchase these items. However, Simplehuman’s shipping policy is to provide free shipping for every order over $49 USD, so it’s very likely that between this and OPAS’ Oregon sales tax-free shopping ability, you’ll only be paying the purchase price and our modest service fee.
Be advised when ordering some of their larger and bulkier items, like wastebaskets, that OPAS does bill international shipping on dimensional weight. You can use our shipping calculator at www.opas.com to determine dimensional weight once you know the model you’d like.
Here at OPAS, we adhere to a principle known as Kaizen – this is a business philosophy that advocates a constant state of improvement. In a Kaizen workplace, change for the better is an expected part of the daily tasks of each employee, seeking new ways to improve practices and policies to reach a state of greater efficiency.
Kaizen has been advocated by many world-renowned companies, perhaps most famously so by Toyota, the Japanese auto manufacturer. As such, the Toyota Way, their corporate philosophy, has become a key identifier of Kaizen. One of the key components of this process is the PDCA cycle:
If you remember from your science classes, this is basically the process known as the scientific method: formulate a hypothesis, experiment to test it, compare your results to the hypothesis, and reach the conclusion that the hypothesis is either true or false. It’s the same with OPAS in improving our protocols, policies and processes to reach a greater level of proficiency.
As detailed by the graphic above, OPAS is in the business of improvement. We locate problems, display those problems to responsible individuals, clear the problem, and acknowledge the improvement, spreading it into other elements of the workplace as well, if applicable.
OPAS is not alone in our adherence to Kaizen – here are some other companies that practice the policies of constant improvement that you may have heard of: Toyota (obviously), Ford Motors, Intel, Lockheed Martin, and Telstra Australia!
A major part of the Kaizen process is receiving input, so if you as a customer have ideas on how OPAS can improve for you, or have a Kaizen concept of your own, please share it with us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We're always open to customer feedback!
We’ll be talking more about Kaizen in the future, discussing details of what exactly the philosophy means, and talking about the history of Kaizen!
Here at OPAS, one of the greatest benefits of our service is the fact that as we’re located in Oregon, all purchases made to an OPAS mailbox are not assessed US state sales tax, which runs between 7% and 10% in most of the other states in the US.
If you’re an established OPAS customer, you’ve probably heard us talk about this before in emails, or seen our frequent mentions of it on our website and in this blog, but news this good needs spread, and we want to make sure everybody knows how much they can save with OPAS, not just on shipping costs, but on the very items they’re buying to ship.
To that end, we ask: How Much is the Tax on That?
That’s $119.99 USD on Amazon.com.
In Florida, that’s $8.39 in tax. In California, it’d be about $10.79 in tax. That may not sound like a whole lot, but let’s look at some higher cost items, shall we?
Let’s suppose you went on a shopping spree at Ralph Lauren…
Suppose you spent $400.00 USD on your new wardrobe. In Florida, you actually spent $428.00. In California, it’d be $436.00. Starting to see the savings, right?
How about if you decided to buy this lovely new Dell Inspiron laptop, at $799.00 USD? How much is the tax on that?
Well, for Florida shoppers, the tax would be $55.93, and in California, it’d be $71.91!
But you don’t have to worry about that, because as an OPAS customer, you get to order your merchandise in the best state in the US to shop in... Oregon!
Welcome to Have You Heard About…, which will be a recurring feature on our OPAS blog, designed to alert our primarily international customer base about websites that you may not be aware of, because they primarily serve a US or Japanese customer base. As an OPAS customer, however, you have a US and Japanese address, so you can take full advantage of some of these amazing sites.
www.woot.com is a company that was founded in 2004, or rather a conglomeration of companies, that formed together to offer daily deals on any number of different kinds of products, offering them for sale dramatically below list prices.
Their primary focus is electronics and other tech items, but Woot also deals in jewelry, housewares, children’s toys, clothing, sporting gear, and even wine! Quite frankly, there’s not a lot they’re not offering first-rate sale prices on, in the style of a limited-amount clearance sale.
These sales are changed daily, so Woot.com is a good site to make a habit of checking on a regular basis, perhaps over your morning coffee.
The guys at Woot have a very particular sense of humor, to say the least, and you’ll see it reflected on every page of their site. So don’t take anything too seriously, and accept that there will be puns, odd phrasing and wry humor. The deals are solid. If their peculiar humor strikes your fancy, they have a very thriving blog and discussion forum community where you’ll be able to discuss products and deals with like-minded individuals!
As for payment, international credit cards may run into some issues; it’s a merchant-by-merchant case on linked products through deals.woot, and of the Woot retail sites, only shirt.woot accepts international credit cards. At present, it seems there’s something of a situation going on with woot.com regarding whether they’ll accept PayPal or not. This is not a big deal for the OPAS customer, however, thanks to Personal Shopper and OPAS Deposit!
With personal shopper, we can make your purchases for you using our US credit cards, so there won’t be any problem navigating the tricky spot of a company that doesn’t accept international payments. The prices you’ll find on woot.com are still great deals even with the service fee for Personal Shopper factored in, don’t worry! OPAS Desposit allows our customers to pre-pay purchase costs and the like, so there’s no danger of that sort of delay causing you to miss out on the deal you want!
As Woot changes their sales on a daily basis and is located in the Central Standard Time Zone of the US, this may mean our international customers will have to do their deal hunting at odd times of day, depending on where you are in the world. However, Central Standard Time is only 2 hours ahead of us in Oregon, so as long as we get your order request during our business hours, we shouldn’t have any problem processing the request.
So take a look at www.woot.com and see if there’s something you like. If you don’t find anything, the beauty of a daily-deal site like Woot is that you can try again tomorrow!