Purchased and Shipped from the USA

It was a pain. I’ve gone two years without ordering something from outside the country I was living in by finding local substitutes or doing without. Breathe Right strips are not sold in Thailand, so I had two choices: take an 18 hour train ride to Penang, Malaysia where I bought my last stash 4 months ago or order some from the states or eBay. Going without was not an option. When my allergies are bad, one little plastic strip is the difference between 4.5 hours of sleep and 6.5. Besides, waking up unable to breathe is unpleasant. Decided to order from the states because I was due to receive a new credit card and figured I’d save some money by combining shipments.

US credit card companies routinely deny online use from IP addresses in Thailand. Doesn’t matter that the card holder is a US citizen with a US mailing address and the credit card company knows he is in Thailand. Too much fraud, so they deny authorization. Easiest way around that is to place an order by phone using Skype. The merchant sees it as a local call so the charge gets authorized. Only downside is finding a retailer with a website for product selection but also has phone orders.

Some stores will ship to an address out of the US, depends on the firm and the destination country. Either way the lists I’ve found are short and none contained online drugstores.

So I:

  • Placed a phone order with an online drugstore in NYC and paid by credit card.
  • Drugstore sent package UPS to Florida where it joined the envelope from my bank with the new credit card.
  • Mail forwarder popped the letter into the box from the drugstore and tossed it in the pile to picked up by USPS for their Express Mail International.
  • In either Miami or Bangkok, USPS passed responsibility for the package to EMS(1)
  • The package passed through customs. Doesn’t look like they opened it.
  • EMS handed it to the Thailand Post who delivered it to my apartment.

Elapsed time from making shipping request to the mail forwarder to delivery was 10 days. Cost was $30.95 for a sub one pound small box (6″ x 5″ x 4″). I’m surprised that customs didn’t impose duty. Regulations state duty can be levied on anything worth more than 1000 baht (~$34), including shipping. Item cost and shipping was double that so I either got lucky or got profiled.

Why USPS and not FedEx or DHL or UPS? Consensus on the expat forums is the USPS/EMS combo is slower, less expensive and just as reliable.

My mail forwarder only consolidates packages when something small will fit into something big. They have to open the boxes to verify the customs declarations, so it’s not much extra effort. If there is time when I need to consolidate I’ll use a different forwarder. I’ll also use a VPN (virtual private network) service so the merchant and credit card companies see a US IP address which would let me order from any website.

(1) EMS is an international postal Express Mail Service, offered by postal operators of the Universal Postal Union, an agency of the United Nations.

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