Day: July 4, 2013

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Happy Birthday USA!

As you celebrate Independence Day today, please take a moment to think about the men and women of our armed forces, past and present, who have willingly risked, and all too often lost, everything to defend our freedom. I worry about America, but there can be nothing very wrong with a country that continues to produce men and women like them.

13:21 – I got email this morning from a woman in Hong Kong who wanted to order a science kit or kits.

Will you be offering any of your science kits for sale to international customers at some point?

I am keen to teach my son some science at home, as he is a science buff but I don’t feel that his school is doing enough, especially in terms of lab work. I would hate for him to lose his interest because of this, hence my desire to bolster his studies with some home science.

Fyi, we are based in Hong Kong. If you cannot ship overseas and have no intention of doing so anytime soon, are you able to ship to Canada, as we have family there.



I typically get a couple of similar requests every week, and sometimes a couple a day. I really, really hate saying no to these folks, despite the fact that it’s a major hassle to ship kits outside the US and with the additional time and effort required we probably barely break even, if that. But I hate turning down these folks. I’d been seriously considering re-starting international shipments, so I replied:

Hi, Melissa

We recently discontinued shipping our science kits outside the US, mainly because international hazardous shipping regulations made it extremely costly to do so, but also because of the paperwork hassles. We even had to discontinue sales to APO/FPO (US military families) addresses for the same reasons.

We’re currently in the process of designing versions of our chemistry and biology kits that are legal for international shipping. There are some downsides to this.

o In order to make the kits legal for international shipping, we’ve had to remove several chemicals that are defined as hazardous for international shipping purposes. I’m attaching two PDF files that describe the differences. They refer to Canada, but in fact the same restrictions apply to shipments to any destination outside the US. In most cases we either supply a substitute chemical that is legal to ship, or recommend a locally-available replacement.

o You are responsible for determining whether it is legal for you to have a kit shipped to you. There are so many international jurisdictions that it’s impossible for us to do so. In practice, in the past many buyers have probably ignored this issue, and we’ve never had any problems with any of the many kits we’ve shipped internationally.

o Shipping costs are high to very high, depending on where the kit is being shipped. For example, shipping a kit to Canada may cost $40 or more in addition to the price of the kit itself. I just checked, and shipping a kit to Hong Kong would cost $60 or more additional. These figures do not include the additional costs listed below. On the plus side, if you want both kits or two of the same kit, the total shipping cost is usually considerably less than twice the shipping cost for a single kit.

o You may or may not incur additional fees, taxes, customs duties, VAT, and so on. So far, none of our international kit buyers have been charged such costs, but we’ve shipped only to Canada.

o Delivery times can be long. In the US, our kits generally arrive within 1 to 3 business days. For shipments to Canada and most other international destinations, 6 to 10 business days is common, and it may take longer. Also, although we normally ship kits to US addresses within one business day, shipments of kits to international addresses may require from three to ten days lead time. (We have to build these kits individually.)

o Because we have no control over or ability to track or follow-up on international shipments, all kits shipped to addresses outside the US are FOB Winston-Salem, NC, USA. In effect, that means our responsibility ends when we hand the package to the US Postal Service carrier. (You can purchase insurance, but in our experience it’s a waste of money. Although we’ve never had a kit we shipped internationally lost or damaged, we’ve been told that insurance on international shipments almost never actually pays if there’s a loss.)

If despite all these limitations you still want to order a kit or kits, please let me know. I’ll give you an estimate for shipping time and costs.

Best regards.


Robert Bruce Thompson

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