Monday, December 5, 2011

The Postal Leap of Faith

     This is the time of year, where as an online business owner, I hold my breath every time I put a package in the post box.  I find myself saying a little prayer to the mail gods to deliver my customer’s order with speed and efficiency.  I pray to the Customs gods, that if they must pull the package, that they wrap it with the same care I did (I know…) and put it back in the mail system as quickly as possible.

As a Canadian Etsy seller, the majority of my customers are located in the US.  The estimated timeframe for letter-mail delivery to the US is 4-6 business days.  Most of the time, these time frames are upheld.  However, especially around this time of year, mail volumes go up, and turn around times may get longer.

I’ve done my due diligence and make sure my profile as my location as London, Ontario; I put notices in my announcements, the message that is sent when the order is  placed, in my acknowledgement email to the customer, and again in the shipping notice email. I ship all orders the next business day upon confirmed payment (unless otherwise stated). 

All my customers have been phenomenal.  If they don’t realize when they order that their cards are coming from Canada, they realize it when they send me a message and are always understanding. I recently received some feedback from a US customer that there was room for improvement with shipping; the customer, although very happy with her order, and stated she would purchase again, seemed to express disappointment that her tags took 1 week to arrive.  

1 week?! That’s fantastic!

At first I was confused, and a bit taken a back.  When I looked at the order and shipping dates, a little light bulb went off.  I think I understand her comment better now, but I think there are some things customers should keep in mind when they place an international order.


Here is some information about our Canadian Postal system that my international customers may not be aware of:

  •  Post boxes have cut off times.  Here in London, a major city with a postal processing plant, post box pick ups are scheduled for 10am
    • Some locations may also have an evening clear out of 5pm, typically these are post boxes that are in front of a postal outlet, or a mall. 
    • This means, if you put mail in the post box after 10am, it will not get picked up until the next business day.


  • We do not have Saturday mail service.   Our letter carriers work Monday-Friday. That means, if I put a letter in the post box, on Friday, and after 10am, it is not picked up until Monday morning. 
    • The customer I previously mentioned placed her order Friday afternoon; therefore when I put it in the post box on Saturday morning, it wasn’t picked up until Monday morning.  She received her order 5 days later, which is within the estimated turn around time for US lettermail.  She may not realize that we don’t have Saturday mail service, and thus she expected her order to arrive earlier than it did.


  • Customs can inspect the packages at random.  By law, I need to include a CN22 customs declaration when sending printed matter with a value under $500.  This means, each order has a customs form that I fill out.  Customs has the right to inspect these packages, which can delay the delivery times.  I have absolutely no control over what they inspect, or how long they hold on to it.


  • It’s all really a gamble.  I’ve had orders get to Australia faster than they get to the U.S.  I have no idea why, or how; aside from putting an “airmail” sticker and increased postage, the orders that are sent to the Australia are packed the same as the orders to the US.


This is a very busy time of year for mail; I know everyone is excited to receive gifts and purchases in the mail.  I feel very helpless when things don’t arrive when expected, and I will do everything I possibly can to ensure an order is in the mail as soon as possible.

I want to thank all my wonderful customers, who have had orders delayed due to customs inspections or other mail delays for their understanding.

I ask that the next time you make a purchase from a small business owner, that you take into account the location, where’s it’s coming from and where it needs to go.  Plan ahead if you can, and if the timing isn’t going to work out, ask if you can upgrade shipping, or consider something else.


Happy Shopping!


Picture source: Copyright © 2011 Joy Khoriaty - All Rights Reserved


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