Having re-tested that Damien Bash perfume the other day I realised how little of it I owned, and Lovethescents kindly tipped me off about a decant seller on Scent Splits. My heart fell on reading the following disclaimer:
"I no longer ship internationally because these require a trip to the counter (long lines) as opposed to an automated machine (NO lines)."
Now I have been to the States a dozen or more times, and on each occasion I have visited a post office at least once: in big metropolitan areas like NYC, Boston and LA, and in smaller towns everywhere in between. I do remember having to queue, but not excessively. You have to queue at POs in the UK too, and the story is the same in Germany and France, Belgium and Poland - wherever I go in fact, unless you are talking a tiny sub-postoffice in Jutland or Ireland, say. But maybe it is a question of degree. A 45 minute queue would be jolly offputting, granted. 15-20 minutes is commonplace over here eg at lunchtimes, just before closing or on pension and benefit days, but I will put up with that.
So do the US sellers and swappers who won't touch international transactions all live in towns or cities with terrible service in their POs? I cannot rule out that possibility. Or do some of them perhaps have low boredom thresholds, such that they cannot bring themselves to wait for any length of time?
Now there are many US-based swappers and sellers who will do business with Europe - I have myself executed about 40 swaps with US-based fumeheads. So I am thinking either they have lightly used POs or considerably more patience. Another factor may well be the desirability and replicability of the trade: what value of items does this person want to buy from me / what prized wish list samples is the swapper offering me to make it worth my while queuing at the counter? And can I sell/swap for these items just as easily within the USA?
In summary, I cannot pass judgement on this reluctance to visit post office counters as I am not in possession of the full facts. People may quite simply not NEED to trade with European perfumistas. Only sometimes I know I have had up to 22 items on a swapper's wish list and still they have declined the swap.
For some people it may not be impatience which is holding them back from international trades so much as a fear of the unknown, for example where they mostly use their workplace's postroom to send mail, and are not accustomed to visiting a Post Office. Here is one swapper from MUA:
"I looked at the weigher at work, and it won't let me input an int'l address; it only lets me send to the US."
This unfamiliarity with external post offices may be compounded by concerns about the practice of "creative customs labelling"; this can be a moral dilemma too far for some, as in the case of the same swapper:
"So I asked our carrier at work, who I've known for years, and he suggested I take the box unsealed to the post office because of the laws and how strict they are about what's being shipped to certain countries. He said if they have any questions about what's being sent, they seize the package. Oye!!....I think I'm just too much of a 'rule follower' for intl shipments."
Well, hey, I can't knock somebody for their integrity, however frustrating to me on a personal level when a swapper has a particular lemming of mine! I guess I am more of a pragmatist in such matters, especially if the rules don't seem to make a lot of sense. After all, what are the chances of perfume samples causing an explosion or fire in transit? With all that bubble wrap around it which it is customary to put, I'd say it was damn near impossible...
But for those sellers and swappers whose only beef is the queues, may I draw their attention to the following list of services reportedly offered by these USPS Automated Postal Centers or APCs.
"Some of the features of the APCs are: weighing and rating letters, flats and parcels up to 70 pounds. Dispensing variable rate postage in any denomination for Express, Priority, First Class, Certified mail, International (under a pound) and Parcel Post."
Okay, so "under a pound" may not cover shipments of full bottles, but it would include the vast majority of sample swaps that I have transacted with US-based MUA members.
And then there is the online service of the USPS itself, where you print off your own postage. If I have correctly understood the site, there is the option of free pick up from home of the parcel you wish to send when your regular mail is delivered. I had a look at the "first class international" rates and they appear to be eligible for the self-printed postage. Ditto customs labels etc. You would need to weigh the item, but most people own kitchen scales, even indifferent cooks like me.
And meanwhile - after all that - I may have found a source of Lucifer No 3 in the UK...