Spanning the Globe

Foreign Shipping Regulations

One of the biggest obstacles faced by U.S.-based entrepreneurs is figuring out foreign shipping regulations. "Processing an international order is cumbersome because of the regulations that each country imposes on what you can and can't send into a country," Beckham says. "Furthermore, you can't use flat-rate shipping charges like you can in the U.S. because the costs are more difficult to estimate."

Before sending the order to Switzerland, she began researching the intricacies of sending products overseas. Although UPS remains her main domestic shipper, she quickly learned that the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) is cheaper and provides more information when it comes to U.S. Customs Regulations. Beckham visited her local post office, where she retrieved a country-by-country listing that highlighted which products were allowed in which countries and explained various other regulations.

When she visited the USPS Web siteand entered shipping information into a global-shipping section, Beckham was able to access the many different options the agency offered for sending products overseas. Its lowest-priced service ships products in 11 weeks; more expensive rates deliver faster.

Beckham let her customer in Switzerland choose the method of shipment. To deal with the foreign currency issue, Beckham decided to accept credit-card payments for orders in U.S. dollars only. The customer's credit-card issuer calculated the exchange rate.

Beckham's research on international service paid off: Fifteen days after BackWoods shipped the order to Switzerland, it received another international order for $245. Currently, 2 percent of the company's orders come from Canada, New Zealand, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

Learn the art of fulfilling Web site orders. Check out "We've Got A Secret" to refine your shipping skills.

Melissa Campanelli is a technology writer in Brooklyn, New York, who has covered technology for Mobile Computing & Communications and Sales & Marketing Management magazines. You can reach her at

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This article was originally published in the August 2000 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Spanning the Globe.

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