International Shipping Update

International shipping status (mainly Australia & New Zealand) – Nov. 2021 update

International shipping has been pretty rough since last spring when COVID first hit. Average transit times have increased to around 4-6 weeks (and sometimes 8+) as compared to before COVID when it was 2-3 weeks. Several countries suspended mail entirely for periods of time as preventative measures were implemented to reduce the spread of the virus.

On September 6, the USPS suspended its service to Australia and New Zealand. As of right now, these are the only major countries to have a mail suspension, although countries come and go from the list every few weeks. The full list can be found at the USPS website.

Our shipping service has a feature called the Global Advantage Program where international packages are first routed to a domestic processing center, then re-labeled and sent internationally. The advantage of this service is that, in the case of AU/NZ specifically, the packages are handed off to DAI Post who are responsible for the international portion of the delivery. It bypasses USPS’s international service entirely and therefore is not subject to the suspensions.

The domestic processing center frequently has delays of 3 weeks or more, so it’s not uncommon to see the tracking get stalled in Carol Stream, IL. However, once it gets passed to DAI, transit is surprisingly fast. Whether their customs queues are more efficient or just less crowded, the packages have typically only been taking around two weeks from DAI handoff to final delivery.

This means that AU/NZ mail has an average transit time of around 4-6 weeks… which is almost exactly the same as international orders to Europe and elsewhere in the world. And the shipping cost is the same as before.

With that said: since USPS is only involved for part of the journey, the tracking situation is a little strange. Our system automatically generates tracking links for the USPS website. If you’re in AU/NZ, you should ignore the USPS tracking page because it’s missing a lot of information.

Instead, use the GlobalPost tracking page and search by the same USPS tracking number, which usually begins with a two-letter code rather than all digits. As mentioned before, it will first reach the carrier facility in Carol Stream, IL:

GlobalPost carrier facility

It may stay here anywhere from a few days to 3 weeks. Sometimes there will be a flurry of a dozen more tracking updates all in a short period, but all within IL and with wording similar to the above. These can all be ignored. The next important update will look like this:

At this point, the package has been handed off to DAI. Tracking on the GlobalPost website will still show the high-level info (e.g. cleared customs, out for delivery, delivered) but the tracking is much more detailed on the DAI tracking site. Use the new tracking number from the status update in the screenshot above, since DAI is not aware of the original tracking number. If you have any questions not answered by what you see on GlobalPost, the DAI site also lists the location of the status update, and it’s generally a little more verbose.

Based on a sampling of a few random shipments, the time from DAI handoff to final AU/NZ delivery is usually around two weeks. This is based on a small amount of data and will likely change as a result of seasonal volume, but in general they seem to be pretty quick.

The good news is that during the past 18 months of delays and unpredictability, the overall loss rate for packages is still extremely low. Nearly every package eventually arrives, and we’ve only had to resend a handful that never turned up. With another high-volume mail season ahead of us, I’m hopeful that this trend will continue .

International shipping alternatives

USPS of course isn’t the only way to get packages overseas. While FedEx and DHL are prohibitively expensive (USD$100 or more), UPS has a few options depending on the destination country that are closer to USD$50-60 and usually arrive within a week. They often charge a significant brokerage fee for customs, so you may end up paying a lot more in import duties than you would have with a normal USPS shipment, but it’s an option. The website checkout doesn’t currently have it as a shipping method, but if you contact us before ordering then we can give you a quote and send an invoice for the difference.

A second option for European customers is to order from Musikding. They stock nearly all of our PCBs, and new releases usually are in stock within a month or two. They do have kits, although they are different than ours and are more just a collection of all the parts (i.e. standard assembly methods and wiring, normal resistors, bare enclosures). But if you’re just looking for PCBs then this will save time and money.

The third option great for people who order a lot from the USA: an international shipping service such as MyUS (myus.com), which collects all of your USA orders and ships them to you in one package whenever you decide. From our perspective, it’s a domestic order, so we just mail it to the address of the service and they coordinate with you from there. Several customers use MyUS and other similar services and I’ve only heard good things.