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International shipping?


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Anybody here have any recent experience shipping a guitar internationally? If so, I’d be interested in hearing your experiences, good and bad.

I’ve got to get my J-35 from St. Paul, MN, to Manchester, UK. Looking at UPS, the cost is roughly the same as a round-trip ticket. I found an outfit in California called Ship Guitars that uses UPS, but gets a volume discount that knocks several hundred dollars off the price.

When I emailed Willie’s American Guitars in St. Paul to ask what they do — it’s a world-renown shop and ships internationally — they recommended the U.S. Postal Service. I checked and it is WAY cheaper than UPS (naturally) but my experience mailing/shipping things internationally via USPS over the past couple of years has not been reassuring. But the price difference is pretty big.

Any thoughts?

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A few years back I bought some guitars from the U.S. and had them shipped by USPS to Sweden. It was much cheaper than UPS, and I did not have any problems. One good thing to know, which at least was true at the time, is that the tracking via the USPS site only reaches the customs of the country you are shipping to. From that point on, tracking has to be switched to the site of the local carrier, which in the UK most likely would be Royal Mail, but you could check that in advance.


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A guitar buddy of mine in the Twin Cities who tours nationally and internationally said he’s used an outfit called ShipNex and had no problems. I checked their rates, and while they are more expensive than the USPS, they are cheaper than Ship Guitars. My friend says ShipNex’s insurance coverage is much better.

All things being equal, I’d prefer doing it USPS, but Trump’s guy, Louis DeJoy, screwed it up. I noticed a definite difference in USPS international shipping times after he took the reins. Things just took much longer to get to me in Cyprus or the UK. I had one envelope containing an important document I needed sit in Chicago FOR A MONTH before it left the U.S.

I’ll probably make a decision by the end of the week. Maybe have my J-35 by the end of the month….

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  • 2 weeks later...

An update…. The fine folks at St. Paul Guitar Repair packed my guitar today and NEX Shipping (actually, a FedEx driver) came and picked it up and the guitar is now “in transit.” I’m supposed to get it here in Manchester next Thursday. The shipping/insurance was relatively reasonable (more than USPS  but about one-fourth of what UPS was going to charge) and I was able to fill out all the forms and pay online so it was more or less sans hassle.

When it arrives, I’ll report on whether it made it in one piece….

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The last time St. Paul Guitar Repair shipped a guitar to me, from St. Paul to Springfield, IL, they used StewMac’s inflatable shipping cradles, but stuck the whole thing in a Martin box. Those cradles really keep the case secure. https://www.stewmac.com/luthier-tools-and-supplies/supplies/guitar-shipping/acoustic-guitar-shipping-system/

Of course the issue (particularly with a Gibson…) is making sure the headstock is immobilized from suffering an inertia break. They packed the headstock — it was my Farida OT-22 — pretty securely, so I have faith they’ll do it again. They do this on a routine basis.

Just checked the shipping website and the J-35 reached the Memphis hub. I hope it doesn’t decide to tour Graceland or grab some barbecue at The Rendezvous….

Edited by dhanners623
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Well, it’s always somethin’….

Got a text this morning saying, “Hey, this is FedEx. We’re ready to ship the guitar to you from our Memphis hub, but first you have to pay the import duty and £340 VAT.”

What?? Why do I have to pay VAT on a guitar I’ve owned since 2016? I called FedEx and after the first guy was completely unhelpful, I finally got a supervisor who told me I needed to fill out a “Transfer of Residence” form with Her Majesty’s Government, listing the guitar as my property. Once I do that and it is approved, they waive the VAT. She directed me to the form online. Filled it out and submitted it and the accompanying documentation, so now I wait. The form says it can take up to 15 business days, but the FedEx rep said they usually hear something in 24 to 48 hours.

Learn something new every day.

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