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For the discussion of Sparkfun events such as Free Day, Antimov, AVC, etc.
By S.A.B.
I'm one of the lucky winners of Free Day 2012, and I just got my order delivered yesterday. I'm new to this, so I chose the good old inventor's kit with retail case, and, for reasons I'll explain below, I came to ask myself: how does shipment work? Can someone explain, in simple terms, what happens to my package since it leaves the Sparkfun's headquarters, step by step, until it gets delivered to me? I live in Italy, but if you know the shipment process for your own country that's fine too.

Now, as for the reasons: since I live overseas, shipment costs are a little higher for me than they are for United States customers, the cheapest option is still 42 euro ($55.50), but that didn't trouble me in the least, since I was getting something worth twice as much. I don't have a bank account, so I had to get a PayPal card and account, loaded some money on it and, when came the time to pay, I found out it became 56 euro ($74). Still retaining my optimism, I paid and waited. Yesterday, when I came back home from my job and found the package, I felt like a little kid on Christmas day, and I'm twenty years old! I was so happy, I almost didn't hear my father (who had received the package in my stead) say that he had to pay 31 euro more to the deliverer.

My thought process went like this: 56 euro ($74) + 31 euro ($41) = 87 euro ($115) > 74 euro ($100). Shipment costs > free day credit. What. The. Hell.

Let's be clear: I'm not complaining. I know what great service Sparkfun is giving to the community everyday just by existing. Heck, screw the community. The way I felt while typing those captcha, the disbelief I was left in after winning, the time I spent choosing what to get, the wait for the package to arrive, and SEEING the package: the feeling of getting something I really wanted after preparing and working for it, is priceless. I could never be angry at Sparkfun. But I ask of you to consider my situation. I came to know this website by chance, and even though I knew nothing of electronics, I still came back to check the site almost every day, because you guys are just that neat. I missed free day 2011 because I had no time to study, so when I knew free day 2012 would be different, I decided I would stick to my keyboard until I couldn't type anymore. And I did. I wasn't expecting to win, but I did. When I got up from my foldable chair, it fell flat on the ground. It broke while I was sitting on it, and I didn't even notice. After that, the first thing I did was asking people for reference material, so that I could start using my prize as soon as possible. I'm an enthusiastic beginner who just got started thanks to Sparkfun, and I won't be stopped by some petty money issue, but someone else could easily be.

Sorry about the overly long rant, but I feel this is an important matter. Is there a way to solve this?
By tld
S.A.B. wrote:Is there a way to solve this?
In a word; No.

But there are things you can do to mitigate the horror.
S.A.B. wrote:Can someone explain, in simple terms, what happens to my package since it leaves the Sparkfun's headquarters, step by step, until it gets delivered to me? I live in Italy, but if you know the shipment process for your own country that's fine too.
The shipping-agent will pick it up from SparkFun-Central, it'll tumble about on trucks, go through sorting at one or two facilities, then catch a ride on a jet over to Europe somewhere, possibly directly to Italy. What happens in Italy depend on which shipping-agent is used, and if they have a presence i Italy. One of three things can happen; They can have their own infrastructure there, they can use a partnering private company, or they can use Italy's postal service.

Once in Italy, there's customs, and this is where it gets interesting. Either the shipping-agent handling the package at that point, or the postal service, will handle customs-declaration-stuffs, and a customs-officer might look over the package.

If Italy is like Norway, low-value packages to private recipients will just skate through this. If the package is valued higher than a certain amount though (for Norwegians it's NOK 200,- ~= EUR 26), then VAT will be charged for the package, *and* a customs-fee, *and* a fee from the shipping agent... VAT is also charged on the shipping. These charges will usually be collected when a package is delivered or picked up, and it's probably what happened in your case.

For Norwegians, it works out to something like this (fictive prices on order and shipping):

Order: €160
Shipping: €50

VAT = ( €160 + €50 ) * 1.25 = €52.50
Postal service handling customs: €31

Total extra expenses charged when picking up: €83.50

So total paid to store when ordering; €210 (merchandize + shipping)
Total paid to actually receive the thing: €83.50

So for this example, the price paid while ordering only makes up 70% of the actual end-cost, with 30% being customs- and handling fees.

For me, this means I often try to stay below the €26-ish limit when ordering. If I need more than that, I'll often split it in two orders, both below the limit. One thing is the VAT, but the fees are somewhat more static.

An order of €26 (plus €5 shipping) would cost me nothing extra.
An order of €27 (plus €5 shipping) would cost me an extra €24 (€8 VAT, €16 fee), almost as much as the merchandize itself!

Makes sense?