14:37 – I’ve spent most of the morning on the phone, on-hold, being transferred among, and talking with representatives from various US government organizations, ranging from the US Postal Service to the Department of Commerce to the Department of Defense to (I am not making this up) the Census Bureau.
I was trying to find out how to fill out a form properly, more particularly PS Form 2976-A Customs Declaration and Dispatch Note. The Census Bureau was actually the starting point, where the instructions on the form directed me for information about filling out Box 11, which is descriptively named “EEL/PFC”. I might have figured it out myself if they’d used the expanded form: “Exemption or Exclusion Legend/Proof of Filing Citation”.
I learned that I really, really wanted an EEL rather than a PFC, because the latter is a lot more work. The EEL is basically the quick-and-dirty no-paperwork option. To use it, you must meet two requirements. The first was easy enough. The value of the individual shipment has to be $2,500 or less. Our kits sell for about a tenth that or less, so that wasn’t a problem. But (there’s always a “but” with government crap) the second requirement was that the shipment contain nothing restricted. Restricted in the sense of having potential military or terrorist uses. Stuff like ultra-centrifuges for separating fissionable isotopes. After spending three hours on the phone, with everyone saying “I don’t think high school science kits will be a problem, but you need to make sure…” I finally got to someone who knew how to resolve the issue. I visited a web page where I could “self-qualify” as exempt. So now all I need to do is write “30.37a” on line 11 (and possibly “EAR99” although I couldn’t get a definitive answer for that) and on line 17 “NLR” or “No License Required”. I think.
So then I called USPS support to verify that I knew exactly how to fill out the form. The woman I spoke with said everything sounded fine. In fact, she thought I could just leave lines 11 and 17 blank, but said it wouldn’t hurt to write what I’d been told to write in them. She also suggested that for the first shipment I should visit the local post office just to verify that everything was correct. So, Thursday (Wednesday is a USPS holiday and I didn’t want to ship the day before a holiday) I’m going to drive to post office and ship my first kit to Canada. We’ll see what happens.
We got four chemistry kit orders yesterday, which took us down to only three remaining in stock. I’m not too concerned, because we have everything necessary to assemble another dozen quickly, followed by 18 more once the shipment of beakers arrives. But we did decide to boost the size of the next batch of chemistry kits from 30 to 60, because these things are starting to sell pretty quickly.