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International Sales


Janel

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I have had a failed attempt at a sale this winter with someone from Europe. He and I did not manage to work out a convenient means of providing me with US Dollars for the sale of two pieces. He may have decided to not purchase, but I feel that my not knowing how to do it lost the sale for me.

 

Who knows more than I do about international sales, between the US and other countries or not even involving the US but between other countries?

 

Shipping works of art, materials that might be listed as not legal for crossing boundaries, customs documentations, etc. is another area of discussion we should address with this topic.

 

I have communicated with a few European and former USSR carving friends about this subject who have been trying to figure this out for themselves. They each have worked out a method that works for their own situations.

 

I am looking for good contributions here!

 

Janel

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Hi Janel,

 

As far as payments, you might look into PayPal as a convenient means of providing credit card and currency exchange. For small business like ours, this is probably the easiest, most secure and cheapest avenue, especially internationally. You set up a business account, and the buyer sets up a personal account with credit card stuff. I know PayPal has guarantees for payment and delivery for both parties within the US, I suspect there are similar things for international.

 

For paperwork, you'll want to investigate US Customs as well as the country you're shipping to, the UN CITES treaty (ivory and etc for endangered species) and the US Fish and Wildlife Service Web site. If you want to do international sales, you're probably better off avoiding ivory from living species and stick to fossil ivory. Even fossil marine ivory (walrus) may be a problem, since customs and fish and game agencies simply confiscate at the first hint of problem, and then it's up to you to prove otherwise. There are even pitfalls to avoid in just the language used (personal experience!). For instance, if you carve something out of elk antler (and use that exact term) and ship overseas, you're already in trouble. While elk antler(more correctly Wapiti) is legal in North America, elk is an endangered species in Europe. "Elk" in Europe means a moose-like animal, not the large deer (Wapiti) we (USA and Canada) call elk.

 

http://www.fws.gov/ -US Fish and Wildlife Service

http://www.lab.fws.gov/Ivory/ -Nice ivory identification document

http://international.fws.gov/laws/laws.html -Summary of US laws that protect wildlife

http://www.cites.org/ -United Nations Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora

 

Also, I haven't the foggiest what is happening to species import laws with the European Union. Since we use a lot of "exotic" material in our baskets, we've pretty much concluded that we don't want to sell outside the US.

 

Good Luck!

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Hello Tom,

 

Thanks for the good information. The url for the different agencies and rules are especially good to have in one place to refer to. I have had questions but have found it dismally difficult to try to find any answers specific to my questions. Perhaps at these sites I will find answers, or more questions! Knowing more than the popular name of the critters would help.

 

When I began carving wood, I stopped using credit cards because of the whopping percentage that the companies take from the total, and all of my clients have been willing to write checks. In the future, if credit is planned for, the purchase price would have to be raised to allow the percentage to be taken from the payment, and not from my labors (which it would be at this point... other topics of discussion, another time).

 

I will look at Pay Pal to see what it's fees are for use and for conversion of currencies to US Dollars. Some method will have to work. Western Union charges various fees for transfer of monies and conversions as well, but works internationally.

 

Thanks,

 

Janel

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Janel,

 

The best way I found to do overseas exchanges is by wire transfer. You need the routing number for your bank and the client can make a transfer to your account directly from their bank. It does involve some participation on the client's part, but by passes the credit card problems entirely.

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I have wondered about that process Don,

 

Does it mean that I am giving my actual bank account number to the client or just the bank's number with my name for the account?

 

Welcome back to you Don! You've had a big weekend!

 

Janel

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Everytime you write a check you are giving out your routing and account number so that isn't a problem. Check with your bank to see if they can do wire transfers, some don't have a call for it. There is a bank fee of course and they can explain it to you.

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I also favor the bank transfer over other methods. I've taken cashier's cheques or bank drafts from foreign countries as well and although there is a wait for it to clear occasionally, it's not been a problem. Customer simply has to wait till it clears.

 

The wire/bank transfer is pretty had to beat.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I haven't had a problem with taking credit cards from Europe. I only take them in person or by phone, so either the customer calls me or e-mails me a number & a good time to call. The exchange rate is automatic. I don't find that my credit card merchant account charges me very much, but I did get mine set up as part of an SBA loan, so I probably got a favorable rate.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I really like the simplicity of (secure) purchasing via credit card (Visa/Mastercard) over the net - as someone mentioned the exchange conversions are done automatically and the purchaser doesn't get whacked with a huge exchange conversion bill on top of that. However, if the site isn't secure I won't give my credit card details.

 

Recently, I completed my first purchase using an International Direct Credit (wire transfer) as the vendor didn't have credit card facilities. This was a bit of a learning curve for both of us and in the end, I didn't think it worked out best for the vendor, due to the bank charges! My bank charged me a largish fee for the conversion and transaction - on top of the transaction price. The vendor then received the money minus a fee for an intermediary bank in the US and then again when his own bank got the transaction!!

 

It was a salient lesson to both of us to factor in the bank charges in an international direct transfer (or maybe it was just our banks are greedy??). :lol:

 

An International Postal Money Order wouldn't have been too bad from my end fee-wise, but they take time to get to the vendor and they may be lost in transit. Direct Credit is quicker but the fees may be steeper.

 

What charges do you need to factor in with vendors offering credit card facilities and secure payments?

 

cheers

Sian

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Hello Sian,

 

When I switched from clay to wood carving ten years ago, my pricing changed to accommodate the greatly increased amount of time it took to complete the work. Essentially, the prices are wholesale, another topic for another forum space. I stopped taking credit cards, because the credit fee was a big chunk out of the price. Checks from collectors have not been a problem for sales here in the states, that is, not taking credit cards has worked for me for most occasions.

 

Your experiences with your recent purchase cause me to ponder what to do for international sales, to make the process as simple as possible for both the client and the artist.

 

I believe that it is not legal for a vendor to charge their processing fee to the client, though I have seen it happen on occasion. One method posted by cash registers is a sign that states a _% discount if paid by cash or check. There is so much credit card use now, that it is seen less. It is a cost of doing business. A vendor chooses to accept credit cards or not.

 

I am on the not side yet, but perhaps the costs and risks increase with international sales transactions when other than straight credit card arrangements are made. With the 3-6 cent per minute phone cards (International as well!) making the arrangements by telephone would be simple, just setting an appropriate time for the call so both parties are in some part of day that they would normally be awake. (Not so easy when on opposite sides of the globe! but still do-able.) If both parties speak English, from my perspective, then each participant actually connects with a human voice and may begin to share a bit about who we each are. That is a valuable thing for me, I like to know where or at least who my carvings are going to.

 

You have a unique perspective, being a creative person as well as a collector. I appreciate your interest in the larger picture and your willingness to contribute. Thank you!

 

Janel

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I second Sian's comments :D Don't trust your bank when at first they say 'no fees' associated with wire transfers. :lol:

 

Janel- I am in complete agreement with you- it is wrong for the vendor to charge processing fees. If they are high, it's up to use to find another method more suitable.

 

Doug

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  • 2 years later...
Hi Janel,

 

As far as payments, you might look into PayPal as a convenient means of providing credit card and currency exchange. For small business like ours, this is probably the easiest, most secure and cheapest avenue, especially internationally. You set up a business account, and the buyer sets up a personal account with credit card stuff. I know PayPal has guarantees for payment and delivery for both parties within the US, I suspect there are similar things for international.

 

For paperwork, you'll want to investigate US Customs as well as the country you're shipping to, the UN CITES treaty (ivory and etc for endangered species) and the US Fish and Wildlife Service Web site. If you want to do international sales, you're probably better off avoiding ivory from living species and stick to fossil ivory. Even fossil marine ivory (walrus) may be a problem, since customs and fish and game agencies simply confiscate at the first hint of problem, and then it's up to you to prove otherwise. There are even pitfalls to avoid in just the language used (personal experience!). For instance, if you carve something out of elk antler (and use that exact term) and ship overseas, you're already in trouble. While elk antler(more correctly Wapiti) is legal in North America, elk is an endangered species in Europe. "Elk" in Europe means a moose-like animal, not the large deer (Wapiti) we (USA and Canada) call elk.

 

http://www.fws.gov/ -US Fish and Wildlife Service

http://www.lab.fws.gov/Ivory/ -Nice ivory identification document

http://international.fws.gov/laws/laws.html -Summary of US laws that protect wildlife

http://www.cites.org/ -United Nations Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora

 

Also, I haven't the foggiest what is happening to species import laws with the European Union. Since we use a lot of "exotic" material in our baskets, we've pretty much concluded that we don't want to sell outside the US.

 

Good Luck!

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For years I took antler carvings to the Portland Gem Show for display. Before I crossed the border I was required to get an export permit from Canada , under the fish and wildlife laws, (about 25 bucks) and an import permit from the US border crossing in Blaine (you could not get the import permit at any other crossing on the Washington border,or so they informed me.) They made no distinction between raw antler and sculpture. Has anyone else had this problem? Can you get around it? I am about to try E-BAY and also have a sale in Seattle that I have to ship. I don`t want to make any dumb mistakes and need as few complications as possible. cooch

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Hi Janel,

Up until recently all my offshore (from NZ) transactions for payments have been by telegraphic transfer, bank to bank. Wire transfers, mostly in the four figure plus genre, have not proved a problem for these larger sales and all fees were paid by the client. To send US dollars out of the States has a different charge than sending in the currency of the destination country and another fee at the receiving end if conversion is required. The Banks seem to win either way! Whatever happened to the proverbial win, win situation??

However in a couple of instances lately I’ve reviewed the options. In both these the pieces were not of such a large value and in both instances with people who had to travel reasonable distances to the bank…… and in one of these the bank did not employ TT transactions.

 

The option that Paypal have of sending for you, specific, one off, invoices has proved to be more than satisfactory providing it is in US dollars otherwise Paypal charge conversion fees. Go to Paypal, the explanations on how this works are clear and easy to find. On advise from PP the funds have been received the work is sent off.

Far less hassle than dealing with banks who don’t even advise when transfers are received.

 

Ultimately the client does not even have to leave home or office !!!!!!!

 

 

Trust this throws more into the cauldron.

 

Donn

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Janel,

 

I've been doing more international business in the last few years. I spoke with my banker about safety, and he said the only safe method is wire transfers. Yes, you are giving someone else your bank account number, but my bank, Wells Fargo, won't allow a withdrawel from my account unless I am standing in the bank and have signed the proper papers. There are some transfer fees. On my receiving end I believe it's usually $17, but on an expensive knife or pen that's small. I require that the buyer pay all of his bank's fees, including any currency exchange fees. It has worked well, and it tends to separate the "Nigerian scammers" from legitimate customers.

 

According to my banker, there is no other way to safely receive funds from overseas. Credit cards can be stolen, and while a domestic card that's no longer good can show up in the system quickly, foreign CCs can take weeks to show up as stolen or fake. International money orders are forged all the time (as are US Postal money orders). Never take any kind of check unless it's written on a US bank account.

 

I use PayPal, but won't accept it from an overseas buyer unless I already know him or her. There is nearly a 4% charge including currency transfers, and that can really eat into my price. Many domestic buyers who use a credit card with PP (as opposed to transfering money from their PP account to mine) offer to pay the fees.

 

Technically it is illegal to charge extra to cover the fees for accepting a credit card. When this became law several years ago you would see gas companies offer a "cash discount". They raised the price of a gallon of gas at the pump to cover the card interest, then back out some for cash. That is legal. I don't worry about it much, but if I started getting many payments by cards I'd probably have to change the way I price my work.

 

David

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Thanks for the good information. I am now using bank/wire transfers to receive the money. I do not accept credit cards, for the same reason, David, the percentage becomes very sizable for the high end pieces. PayPal seems too complicated, and the fees unpleasant. The wire transfer seems simplest, can be arranged by email with the client, and the client does the leg work. I check my bank accounts on line, and when it arrives... I know things are working and can send the piece on to the client. Thanks again for all of the good advice you all.

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Hi Janel,

 

One ploy I haven't seen mentioned in this extremely useful thread is for you to set up a separate checking account at your bank just for international xfers. Once the money has been xferred to that account by the client, you would then simply move it over to your regular banking vehicles. This way you avoid exposing your personal or US business accounts to unknown persons/clients.

 

Ralph

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Guest ford hallam
This way you avoid exposing your personal or US business accounts to unknown persons/clients.

 

so that protects you against all the scoundrels abroad :D Surely, if you really want to protect your banking details you should conduct all of your transactions, both in and out, domestic and international, via a "front" account. Is'nt that what most large multi-nationals do? ;)

 

Ford

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