As often, moving from Africa (previous episode) to Europe gives you more options. Searching for package forwarding companies to France introduced me to several other companies. I came accross a comparison site that had not been updated for a while, but that provides a longer list of companies as of 2012. It also refers to the BBB (Council of Better Business Bureaus), which I’ll be looking at later.
So, confronted with the lack of an up-to-date information source, I went on to create it. The project manager in me needed a few charts to look at, you know? I assembled this one to begin with:
Now this chart requires several explanations. The companies listed here are all the ones I found. When a company offers both the often-slow US Postal Service and a reasonably-fast regular logistics company (Fedex, DHL, TNT, UPS…), the graph shows both. If not, you can assume that only regular Fedex-like shipping companies are used.
Next, how is the monthly average cost determined? It matches the needs of a low-volume user like me. This user receives one flat parcel one month and one medium box the next month, and so on. The flat parcel weighs 500g (1.1 lbs) and is of a standard USPS size (32cm x 24cm x 2cm – 12.5in x 9.5in x 0.8in). The medium box weighs 2kg (4.4 lbs) and is also of a standard USPS size (29cm x 22cm x 15cm – 11.25in x 8.75in x 6in). I let it up to you to imagine what a 500g flat parcel and a 2kg box might carry, but these a pretty generic formats.
As I realised in a previous episode, the pricing of package forwarding companies can be complicated. If a company charges a monthly fee, I took it into account. If it offers a discounted yearly fee, I took it into account instead. If it charges per package, I added that to the cost. If a declared value was requested in the price simulator, I used $1 USD. If there was an option for insurance, I didn’t use it (living dangerously, as you see). If I needed to create an account to get an accurate quotation, I did so.
Several companies have plans or packages, the Gold / Platinum / Premium kind that sets you appart from the Standard / Bronze amateurs. If this package ended up with a more interesting average cost, I used it. In general, however, one parcel a month keeps you in the amateur league and these packages aren’t generally worth the monthly fee.
What isn’t included is what the companies generally say is not included. Fuel surcharges. Customs. Also, I might have missed hidden costs, as really, full pricing transparency did not appear to be the norm. So, Reader, if you suspect I got something wrong, let me know and I’ll look into it. Also, the setup fee is not included, as it’s a one-time often-reasonable more-often-free fee that fades away over time. However, it can go up to $45 if you don’t find the discount, so be aware of this.
Conclusion? This is of course a price-only view, and you’re smart enough to know that there’s more to choosing a service than only it’s price. Still, some companies simply appear not to be adapted to this target country. I’d narrow it down to the ones in the $30’s and compare their service, reputation and first-time fee. The Airmail option stands out price-wise as the cheapest option available. That’s the regular post, with no tracking and no idea when the package will arrive. You might add, depending on where you live, “if it ever arrives”. Some companies simply don’t seem to ship to France. These often appear to be regional specialists, for Latin America in particular, to where we’ll move shortly, as I’ll be extending this research to other countries around the world in this series’ next episode.