Lesson #2 – Experience with EU Friendly Fulfillment

Welcome to my second post of experiences and lessons learned as a small publisher using Kickstarter.  This post will try to explain in depth my experience with EU Friendly fulfillment. There were definitely a few issues and delays that were very unsatisfying and the best way to make sure this does not happen to anyone else is to let you know about what I went through.  The company that I worked with for EU Friendly fulfillment was Ideaspatcher. This analysis is not a review of my collaboration with Ideaspatcher but about the overall experience of sending the games to France and providing EU Friendly Fulfillment.

The topics I will cover are:

  • Overview
  • Costs
  • Timeframe and Delays
  • Considerations for the future

Overview: ^

My Dino Dude Ranch campaign was supported by 394 backers, 36 of whom based within the EU with 45 games shipped to those 36 backers. The total amount pledged from these backers was $1,783, which was 12% of my campaign total of $14,429.  My games were boxed 24 games to a case and I ended up sending 2 cases of 24 games each to France for fulfillment via Ideaspatcher. The method I chose to perform fulfillment was as follows:

  • Games shipped from China to my house via our freight forwarder, OTX Logistics
  • Two cases of 24 games shipped from my house to Ideaspatcher in Toulouse, France via USPS
  • Ideaspatcher sent the games to my individual backers via their local parcel services

Costs to provide EU Friendly Fulfillment: ^

Here is a complete layout of all of the costs required to fulfill Dino Dude Ranch to all of my EU based backers from within the EU.

  • Games shipped from China to my house – $2.09/game
  • Shipping 2 cases of games from my house to France – $5.57/game
  • Shipping an additional case to France (delays and issues described below) – $2.79/game
  • Average cost per game for import fees and fulfillment of games – $12.64/game

Total cost per game: $23.09

Considering it would cost over $30 to ship the game via either a small padded flat rate envelope (or even more based on the weight if it were sent in a box via standard priority), this method not only saved me money but it also included all import fees.  This means I not only saved money but my backers did too as they did not need to pay any fees when they received the games. This alone made it worthwhile despite the hassles I encountered during the process.

Timeframe and Delays ^

This section will cover the time it took to fulfill the games to my backers and the issues that I encountered.

  • Games were initially received at my house on 1/12/2016
  • Two identical cases of 24 games each were sent to France on 1/14/2016
  • Both cases arrived in France on 1/18/2016
  • The first case:
    • Sat in customs until – 2/9/2016
    • Delivered to fulfillment center – 2/17/2016
    • Sent to backers – 2/18/2016
  • The second case (which had issues):
    • Sat in customs for what seemed like an eternity
    • Showed up back on my doorstep – 3/12/2016

That’s right, I came home from work one day to find the case of games I sent to France sitting on my doorstep, completely damaged. Of the 24 games, I would say 7 were completely unusable and another 5 were damaged but usable to send to people to use as demo copies etc. I am currently in the midst of an International Insurance Claim with USPS and hope to hear back about it soon. Apparently, the reason the games were sent back was because there was no commercial invoice included in the box. As this was my first time doing this, I did not realize this was something I needed to do. This was definitely an oversight on my part but I wish I had known better ahead of time as it was not cheap to ship a second case to France.
I ended up sending another case of games to France again and included invoices both within the case as well as attached to the outside of the case so there was no mistaking that the invoice was included.

The time frame for the re-sending of the package was:

  • Shipped out – 3/17/2016
  • Arrived in France – 3/21/2016
  • Received by customs – 3/23/2016
  • Cleared customs on – 4/21/2016
  • Delivered to fulfillment center – 4/29/2016
  • Shipped to backers – 5/2/2016

This was a major letdown to me as I felt that I was letting all of my backers down. I maintained great communication with my backers and I must admit that the 21 backers who were extremely delayed have been extremely understanding of the situation. I have been very appreciative of their support and cannot stress enough that solid and consistent communication is key when issues like these arise.

I originally posted the status of the EU bound packages along with my other updates. As more delays occurred and one of the two cases made it through French customs, I began to directly message the 21 backers who were extremely delayed in receiving their packages. This is a time that I feel it is ok to message backers more often than usual. Typically, I try to inform the backers enough without over-messaging/Spamming the backers but when issues arise and they are just waiting for the games, I feel you should update the backers whenever you get any news regarding the status of the packages.

Considerations for the Future ^

There are a few things I learned from this experience that I will definitely keep in mind the next time I offer this type of fulfillment.

  • Make sure there is a commercial invoice included in the package(s) being sent.
  • If any issues do arise, keep consistent and open communication with your backers
  • Consider sending to a company not in France

Although I have been extremely happy with the services provided by Ideaspatcher (and I would recommend them to anyone interested in using them) I am considering sending to a company outside of France but still within the EU for my next EU friendly fulfillment adventure. I have heard that French customs can be a bit troublesome and this is evident that even with the packages that I properly sent with invoices attached, it still took pretty much an entire month from received in France to customs clearance. I am not sure what is normal for other countries’ customs clearance but this seems very long.
In regards to Ideaspatcher, I worked directly with Yanis and he was a true champion. He continuously reached out to both customs and his local parcel services to get the status of the shipment and make sure things were moving forward as expected. When there were issues, he did his best to try and address them and prevent things from getting worse. He also tried to help me figure out the best way to get my case of games back to France when it was originally returned to me. He also had all packaging and labels ready to go so that he could turn around and fulfill all of my games that he received within 24 hours of receiving them.

As always, I hope you found this information helpful! I am back and forth on what I would like to cover for my next post, so please let me know if which of these two options you would prefer to see next! Either my experience with using Wingo as a printer for my board games or the unexpected costs incurred during fulfillment of my Kickstarter campaigns.  Thanks for taking the time to read this! Until next time, keep up being creative, contact me if there is anything you would like me to discuss or include in my posts, and happy gaming!

This lesson was originally posted on Dan’s Blog: Lesson #2.
Header photo: Pencil by Laddir Laddir (CC-2.0-BY)

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