Lessons in shipping goods home

In Ho Chi Minh City in August ’05, we returned to a shop that sells embroidered pictures, XQ Silk Hand Embroidery (52B Pham Hong Thai St., Dist. 1, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam; phone [84 8] 8246144 or visit www.xqhandembroidery.com).

We had been in Vietnam four years earlier and were so struck by these wonderful pictures that we bought one and carried it home. This time, we decided that they would make perfect gifts for our children and grandchildren, so we bought 11 of them. It was too much to carry home, of course, especially since we were on the outbound portion of a 45-day trip to eight countries.

Shipping it home was offered in two options. The least expensive was by ship — six weeks’ time. We decided on that option, even though we had no experience with such shipping and in spite of the fact that it was not door to door but rather to a warehouse at the port and we would have to go get it. (Alternatively, but for a lot more, it could go FedEx door to door.)

The total sale, for 11 pieces, was $288 plus $157 shipping for a total of $445.

Back in Connecticut, we got a fax from a company in Pennsylvania called Cargo Express telling us that the shipment was in and that we needed to send them $75 for documents. (New total: $520).

So we drove to U.S. Customs in Newark to obtain a release for the package. That was the best part of the adventure; it took exactly four minutes for approval and the stamp necessary to clear the package.

Next stop, Elizabeth, New Jersey, and the cargo warehouse (not the same company as in Pennsylvania). Here, although they were not used to dealing with individuals, I finally got the shipment, but not before being asked to pay $144 for warehouse charges. When I complained about being charged so much by everyone down the line, a very nice woman reduced the charge to only $80. (New total: $600.)

Once I disassembled the crate and put the cartons in my car, we returned to Connecticut with our prize. The trip was about 133 miles and, figuring gas and tolls, added another $40 to the overall total, which now stands at $640 — all to bring home a purchase costing less than $300.

Here are the lessons learned.

You don’t need a broker (which would have added another $125 to the total) to deal with Customs and warehouses.

Sending the stuff home door to door by FedEx or UPS probably would have cost about the same and would have eliminated the long drive, but that’s a guess, since I was not quoted a price for that service.

The folks at XQ Silk Hand Embroidery-Saigon did a fantastic job of packing and crating, and they delivered the pictures to the port in Newark on time and in perfect condition.

And all the kids and grandkids are delighted with their presents.

Lauderhill, FL