Cross border e-commerce seems on the rise and last week Sears announced the following on their website:

— NEW International Shipping – Customers can conveniently ship to 90 countries around the globe. Prices will be displayed in the currency of the customer’s choice. International shipping fees, customs duties, and taxes are automatically added and processed at checkout, eliminating the need for the customer to pay additional fees upon delivery. To learn more about international shipping, including the most up-to-date list of available countries, visit http://www.sears.com/international.

The international shopper has two big advantages when using Sears International.

  1. There is only one bill to pay. It includes shipping, customs, and taxes. It’s a one stop shop
  2. The shopper will be notified if trying to order an item which is restricted for import

From Sears International FAQ:

Are there any items that cannot ship to my country because they are restricted?
If for some reason, there are any items that cannot be exported from the U.S. and/or imported into your destination country selection, our partner FiftyOne will notify you during the FiftyOne Global Checkout process.

Postal Sanity was intrigued to look at this new offering and thus visited http://www.sears.com/international. First we set the destination country to Germany and then navigated to the Sears Electronics & Computer department. Europeans love electronic gadgets and know that these are fairly cheap in the USA. But all electronic items we saw, were marked with “Not available for International Shipping”.  We did find the following statement:

Disclaimer Not all products can be shipped internationally at this time, but we’re working on expanding our selection. All electronics and media have been built to U.S. specifications and formats, so they may not be compatible in all countries. If sale prices or discounts apply, they will be calculated in your selected currency. Note: APO/FPO customers should proceed as U.S. customers and in US currency.

Fair enough. Being savvy and persistent shoppers and not easily deterred, we redirected our browser to the Sears clothing department, looking for Levis, Nike and the like. These clothing items cost two to four times more in in Germany, than in the US. But again we had no luck with any desired item. All were  “Not available for International Shipping”.  Frustration started to creep in after 20 minutes of browsing  and we wondered how many shoppers would have matched our patience. Yet we continued, and the jewelry section finally awarded us with the option to buy pendants. Alright!  Never mind that we didn’t want any.

We understand that this service just started up and would expect that the Sears website will improve quickly. A good start would be to only display eligible items, making for a much less frustrating browsing experience. Sears is using the FiftyOne Global Ecommerce solution. Other merchants using FiftyOne are Nordstrom and Overstock.com.






More possibilities for Europeans to shop internationally
DHL partnered up with BorderLinx, to provide international shipping addresses in the USA/UK to German consumers. The consumer has the choice to consolidate orders from multiple merchants as one international shipment, which saves on freight cost. Custom duties and taxes have to be paid separately at BorderLinx. There is a cost calculator to calculate the grand total before placing an order. This is less convenient than the Sears one-stop-shop approach, but gives the consumer more choice. Black Friday bargains were mentioned on the DHL website as well as the weak dollar, which makes shopping in the US an attractive choice.

Somebody asked us: “How does BorderLinx tackle the issue of purchase and importation of prohibited goods in each country”? So curiosity got the better part of us and we went to work. A short online-chat with BorderLinx yielded the following result:

There is a list of prohibited goods for each destination country. It is the user’s responsibility to make sure no prohibited items are ordered. In case of ordering an ineligible item, the user is responsible for shipping/return-shipping charges to/from BorderLinx from/to online merchant. The user can order from any US based merchant, even if they are not listed on BorderLinx website as a merchant partner. In that case the user is advised to ask the merchant if they do ship to BorderLinx. Most merchants do, some may not.

We quote from the BorderLinx website:

For complete listings of prohibited and restricted items please check with the Border Control authority for your country. Have a look at the World Customs Organisation web site to find your local customs office http://www.wcoomd.org/customwebsites.
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http://www.borderlinx.com/m/pages/dp-de/faq/prohibited
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The import of certain cellular phones may be controlled or prohibited in particular countries. Whilst this often does not apply to the more common phones, you may wish to check with your Border Control authority.
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If you do order prohibited goods, we will make every effort to advise you that we have received them and that we will not be able to ship them. It is then your responsibility to arrange a return or alternative US delivery address.

As long as the shopper sticks to “non-critical” items, customs should not be a problem. For “critical” items, Postal Sanity suggests that the shoppers consult via e-mail with the customs authority of their country before ordering. If problems arise with the item clearing customs, then an e-mail track record may come in handy.