Sunday, April 8, 2012

Shipping from the Philippines

So now that we have decided to head home to Canada there are a lot of logistical hurdles we have to figure out.  One of those is what to do with all of our stuff here.  Lots of our stuff we have arranged to sell already (HUGE blessing!), but there is still the issue of what to do with the things we want to take with us back to Canada. 

When we came here we were able to pack some really big boxes and send them through a shipping company in Calgary.  For $90 we were able to send a box loaded with as much as we could fit in, as long as it could be lifted.  The boxes were provided by the shipping company for us to use.  We loaded a total of five boxes to capacity and handed them over to the shippers.  Pretty easy.

I had heard that shipping out of the Philippines would be a bit more complicated, so I figured I would get an early start on the shipping process.  The first thing I did was check to see if the company we had used to send stuff here would also be able to help us send stuff back.  No luck.  They ship stuff here but not out.  So I looked online to see what other options there were.  I found quite a few companies that ship into the Philippines but not out.  Hmmm...

I did manage to find a few choices that would be able to transport my stuff across the ocean.  I began to price them out and found that it would be MUCH more expensive to send stuff home than it was to get stuff here.  Several of the companies would allow boxes up to 20kg to be shipped, for a cost of around $300 per box.  Wow!  That was much more than I had been expecting.

Then I found that I could send boxes through the post office to Canada on a boat.  And I was allowed 30kg per box.  And it was only going to cost $150 per box.  Still quite a bit, but better.

I couldn't find any other solutions, so I figure that will be the best (ie. cheapest) was to do it.  If anyone out there knows of another solution please let me know!

So I went out and bought boxes.  I went to the local grocery store because I had seen advertised that they sell boxes there.  I got myself some nice new 20x20x20" boxes and came home quite pleased with myself.  I began to pack some stuff into the boxes and quickly realized that you can fit a lot into a 20x20x20" box.  And a lot of stuff means a lot of weight.  So I figured that maybe I would be best with some boxes that were a bit smaller.  I was thinking 20x20x15" or so.

I began my search for the right size boxes.  My search began at one of the local malls, where I wandered around looking for somewhere that just might sell my desired cardboard boxes.  I asked in a few stores and at a shipping company outlet there.  No luck.  I could get ones much smaller, but not ones around the right size.  On to the next mall, where the story was the same.  I went down to the main post office, but the boxes they had were too small as well.

I had checked on the internet before I went out and found that there was a listing for a box manufacturer nearby, so I decided to go looking for that.  I drove out to where it should be and searched.  By "searched" what I mean is that I tried to spot some kind of sign referring to the desired company amongst the thousands of other signs that tend to cover any wall, tree, or slow-moving person, all while trying to drive around potholes, chickens, other vehicles, and slow-moving people covered in signs.  Needless to say, I did not find a sign for the place I was looking for.  I came home feeling somewhat frustrated.

I went out a couple days later with an extra set of eyes, Julia, in search for the elusive box manufacturer.  Sometimes two heads are better than one.  Other times it makes no difference.  This was one of those times.  No luck.  Again.  I am wondering if that internet site is correct, or if the box place went out of business some time around the Dark Ages.  Hmmm...

So I decided to make it work with what I had.  I packed the boxes the best I could.  I packed three full of various stuff, managing to fill them quite well, and got them taped securely and ready to go.  A couple days later I loaded one of the boxes into the van and headed out to try to send it home.  I figured I would start with just one to familiarize myself with the process.

Knowing I was going to send the boxes through the post office, I decided to try a location other than the busy main branch.  I went to one of the local malls, where there is a post office branch.  Before I hauled my 28kg box in I decided to make sure that I could do it there.  But first I needed to stop by a bank machine to get money to pay for it.  I walked through the mall to the far end where I discovered that the bank machines were down for maintenance.  So I would have to go somewhere else first.  I decided to go to the post office branch on the way out to see if I could even ship boxes from there.

I talked to a really nice lady who told me that I could bring my boxes there.  She offered to check a price for me so I would know how much I would need to get from the bank machine.  As she was looking up the information I noticed that she was looking at airmail prices.  I mentioned to her that I was wanting to send them surface, because times was not a major concern and I wanted to send them the least expensive way.  Well, apparently they don't do surface mail from that location.  I would have to go to the main branch.  Hmmm...

So I decided to stop at a bank branch on the way to the post office.  I knew there was one that I would pass.  As I approached the bank I noticed that the parking lot seemed to be pretty full.  So full that I could not squeeze my van in anywhere.  I decided to go to another bank, located at another mall nearby.  What I failed to remember was that at this particular mall I would be parking in an underground parkade.  No problem, right?  Yeah, except that I failed to remember the big cardboard box in the back of the van.  So what?  Well, at this particular mall parkade they have security guards.  Security guards who inspect every vehicle that goes in.  Security guards inspecting every vehicle, I am assuming, for things like explosives.  And I have a big cardboard box in the back of my van.  See where this is going?

So I pull up to the guards and one of them speaks to me in rapid-fire Visayan, the only part I pick up on is "carton" (I tend to get a lot of people here who will just speak Visayan to me automatically.  I guess the dark hair and dark tan make me look somewhat like a local!).  I kind of understand what he is implying; that there is an issue with the large box in the back and he is concerned.  I have visions of having to open up the box and unload everything to prove I am not interested in making the mall implode.  Luckily, another of the security guards, who knows and recognizes me from my bazillion times in and out of the parkade, walked up.  He said something to the other guard, who then waved me through.  Sometimes it pays to smile and say hi to the security guards very time you go in and out of a parkade.

So I park the van, run into the mall, go to the bank machine, and leave.  I head down to the main post office branch, really hoping to get a good parking spot.  I didn't really like the idea of having to haul a 28kg box very far, especially trying to cross some really busy roads!  As I pulled up it was like there was a beam of light from heaven, illuminating a perfect spot directly in front of the post office.  I couldn't have gotten any closer unless I had driven my van right up the steps.  So I parked and decided to go and find out where I needed to go before I brought out the box.

I went to the customer service desk and asked where to go.  I was directed to go to window 1.  I walked down there and waited patiently for the person to notice me.  I explained to him that I wanted to ship a box to Canada.  He directed me to window 7.  Okay.  So I went to window 7 and waited patiently to speak to the person there.  I explained to him that I wanted to send a box to Canada.  He told me that I could do that there.  He began to look up a price for me, so I figured I would mention that I wanted to send it surface.  When he found out that information he stopped what he was doing and directed me to window 20.  Hmmm...

And as I was walking away he told me that I needed to make sure to not seal the boxes when I bring them to window 20, so they could inspect the contents.  Of course I had already sealed the boxes.  With duct tape.  Lots of it.  I didn't want the boxes to open due to anything short of a small nuclear explosion.  And of course I didn't bring any tape with me to reseal the box after I opened it.  I resigned myself to the fact that there were going to be no boxes sent for me today.  I went home defeated.

All in all, that morning's adventure took me roughly 1 1/2 hours.  1 1/2 hours of driving around in the heat, and ended up with nothing to show for it but a sweaty back and a bit more information than I had before.  Hopefully I will actually be able to send a box or two this coming week.  I will keep you posted!

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