International Shipping


So, you want to send your work to America?  This post will chronicle my adventure with sending work to a gallery for an exhibition last year and the heroquest involved in receiving my work back.

First: Acceptance into the show! GREAT! Their email responses weren't very timely but I thought whatever it's fine, no big deal. Sending the work was mostly without incident. I had asked them to confirm receipt which they never did, but no news is good news so they must have received it just fine.

I knew they had a facebook page for the gallery so I asked if they were going to post pictures so that artists participating from abroad could see.  Eventually I received a response saying pictures would be up following the opening.  Cool, can't wait to see them.  The end of the show comes, still no pictures.  I follow up again, no answer but the pictures appear shortly after.

I ask about when the work will be shipped back to me, just hoping that it might arrive before the One of a Kind show.  I was fine in terms of stock, but it's always nice to know you have a bit extra.  No answer.  I sent a polite email following up.  This was the first time they explained the process of shipping and how it works, but they also sold a few things during the exhibition so they sent me money! So that was awesome and I could rest easy knowing my work was at least on its way back to me whether it be before during or after OOAK, didn't matter it was coming back.

Fast forward one month, still haven't received my work back.  I know customs and shipping takes awhile (especially during the holidays) but it definitely shouldn't take that long... I email again, and asked for tracking information.  No response.

I send another email, this time with a stern tone (or as I sometimes like to call it the "strongly worded email") demanding to know the status of this shipment and telling them my concern in potentially being out hundred of dollars worth of product that at this point I am assuming is tragically lost somewhere in the mail since I had assumed they had shipped it back to me like they told me they had a month prior.
The response I got was the second time they explained to me how the postal system works.  They also went on about how busy they were (join the club) and the time constraints in running a small business (preaching to the choir).  You would think someone who lectured this much might have actually sent the package when they said they were going to?  You would be wrong.  At this point over a month after they initially promised me it had been sent it, they still had it.  Meanwhile I had an Etsy order come in that day while I was at my day job and I made plans to pack it up and ship it out the same day!  Am I a business super star or what?

Pro tip! When you are this mad and you want to respond and get really angry, do the opposite.  My go-to is to write in the "I'm not mad... I'm just disappointed" tone.  In my email I expressed my disappointment and told them that they should be held accountable for telling me they would do something and then just not bothering to do it.  Not surprisingly, there was no response.

Fast forward one week: I get a delivery attempt notification which was delivered by our regular mail carrier not by someone attempting to deliver a package allegedly two days beforehand (but that's a whole other rant about Canada Post) he tells me that I owe $140.53 in customs charges on it.  It took me forever to even figure out what it would have been, did I order something I forgot about? Then the lightbulb went off...
On the advice of a super helpful and patient friend I called Canada Post who told me that I need to talk to the Canadian Border Services Agency.  So I called them, and they told me I needed to talk to Canada Post.
I called the gallery (instead of emailing, because we all know how quickly they would get back to me that way) I left a message asking about how they filled out their paperwork because there was obviously an error somewhere.   My super patient and helpful friend pointed out the problem: The paperwork on the package returning says "return to sender" what it should have said was "return to manufacturer"  I sent a quick email to the gallery pointing this out and so that other artists that deal with them can be spared this trouble in the future.  Are we at all shocked that they never replied to me?

Since it didn't seem like either of the agencies involved (Canada Post and CBSA) could do anything about it while the package was sitting waiting at the post office I went and picked it up.  At the post office I paid the ridiculous amount of money to get my own work back and then I had to file an appeal claim with CBSA.  I sent a copy of the original packing slip that I sent down with the work, a certificate or origin, a commercial invoice, and the paperwork that the gallery sent back with the mistake they made highlighted.
Fast forward again to the beginning of February and I get a random cheque from the government.  I thought "great, another HST rebate or something!" it wasn't until I saw the note on the back saying "Casual Refund" from CBSA that I realized what it was!

So the situation was finally resolved close to three months after it started.  Here are the lessons I have learned:

  •  If a business is bad with communication and email, don't deal with them.  Period.  It's almost never worth the trouble
  •  If you are sending work to another country, especially if it's for an exhibition where it will be returned to you make sure you have a commercial invoice prepared and be clear that the work is returning to the manufacturer and not "return to sender"
  • Friends are awesome (and super helpful and patient) and make beautiful work that you should check out here at Tsunami Glassworks