Everything I Learned About Shipping I Learned in Tuscany

29 January 2015 | 73 Comments

If this is your first time reading one of my entries about crowdfunding reward fulfillment, it’s probably better to start with these entries, which describe the process in detail. Then come back to this one to read all the mistakes I made this time around and how you can prevent them.

Shipping is a humbling experience.

I’ve now shipped over 10,000 Kickstarter rewards over the course of 4 tabletop game projects. Every time I make dumb mistakes and learn something new as a result.

I’ve spent the last few months shipping Tuscany and the Treasure Chest worldwide to over 6,000 backers. The process still isn’t completely done due to a problem in Germany (I’ll get to that in a minute), but it’s time for me to share these mistakes and insights.

  1. If a company fails you once, it’s not worth the risk to use them again. I learned this lesson with two different companies, 4px in China and ITG in Germany. 4px packed packages poorly for Euphoria and ITG was super slow and incompetent at transferring Euphoria from port to Amazon.de. I got assurances from both of them that they would do better. They did not, and my backers have suffered as a result. That’s on me for returning to those companies.
  2. Don’t ship to backers in November or December. Period. Sometimes I have to learn a lesson more than once before it sticks. Trying to ship to backers in November and December is a bad idea because it’s the season when everything goes wrong. Ports get backed up. Workers at fulfillment centers barely pad packages because they’re trying to get them out the door as soon as possible. Couriers toss boxes from their truck instead of placing them on your front door. Theft goes up. People travel and aren’t at their regular address. The list goes on. It’s simply not worth the trouble. From now on, I will never estimate or attempt fulfillment in November or December.
  3. Precision is incredibly important when using the Stonemaier Method. Back in November, we air freighted a bunch of products to Amazon.ca for fulfillment. Mostly this was part of a special reward level on the Treasure Chest campaign that guaranteed delivery in December. The problem is that I miscalculated the number of items (coins and stars) I needed for that delivery, and some backers had to wait another 2 months for their items. If you’re going to use the Stonemaier Method–shipping in bulk to fulfillment centers around the world–you need to be incredibly precise. The numbers must be correct, and you need add a 10-15% buffer to make up for any mistakes you make.
  4. Consolidated shipments save money. We finished the Tuscany campaign in April and followed it with a Treasure Chest campaign that ended in July. Even though I thought Tuscany would be ready to ship out of China in September, followed by the Treasure Chest a few months later. However, on a whim I included a question in the Treasure Chest survey asking backers if they also backed Tuscany. A few months later, the Treasure Chest was actually ready before Tuscany (1-2 weeks before), so we shipped it out in the same freight shipments as Tuscany, saving money on freight. Because of that survey question I was able to combine orders from backers and save on individual shipping too.
  5. Request phone numbers just in case. I almost didn’t include a phone number question on the backer surveys for Tuscany and the Treasure Chest because no fulfillment service had required it up until that point. However, I’m glad I did, because all of the non-Amazon services greatly prefer or require a phone number. I would even include the phone number for Amazon in the future, just in case it helps couriers get in touch with hard-to-find backers. I would recommend that you ask international backers not to include “+” before their phone numbers, as it turns into a formula on spreadsheets.
  6. Request tax IDs from backers in South America if you use Agility. I don’t really know why this is necessary, but Agility (a fulfillment service in China) required all South American backers to provide their tax ID, or “CPF.” I probably will only use Agility for shipping to Asia in the future (see list at the end of this entry), but if you’re considering them for South America, get the CPF on the backer survey so you don’t have to hunt it down later.
  7. If you manufacture in China, put “Made in China” on the box. We’ve included this in the past, but somehow it didn’t happen for Tuscany or the Treasure Chest. “Made in China” isn’t on the box. For customs, this is a BIG problem. Please don’t make the same mistake we did.
  8. Limit products per pledge based on carton size. This has been on my mind as I’ve been preparing for the Between Two Cities campaign. Bulk pledges are great for backers–they only have to pay shipping once, so they can split that cost among their friends. However, we definitely lost money on some of those orders when they expanded beyond one carton of products. Once you have more than one carton, your shipping price increases significantly. The only way to address this is to limit each pledge to the number of units that can fit into one carton. Backers can still make more than one pledge, but they will need to pay the shipping fee more than once. It’s annoying, but creators should not lose money on individual shipments. If you have retail backers, you can still sell in larger bulk quantities, but price it out and charge for shipping accordingly.
  9. If you ship wooden products to Australia, you MUST include a fumigation certificate. All of our games have wooden products, and we didn’t realize how strict Australia was about fumigation until the games arrived at customs and couldn’t get through for weeks. It’s a big deal there, and it’s absolutely not worth the risk to not have your wooden components fumigated before they leave the factory.
  10. New Zealand is not the same as Australia. In the past, I’ve grouped these two countries together for fulfillment pricing and solutions. But as you can see here, it’s much more expensive to ship to New Zealand than Australia, even from Australia. I’ve found that the best method is to ship individual packages directly from a service in China like Agility.

I use Amazon fulfillment in the US, Canada, the UK, and Germany for the bulk of our fulfillment. Here are a few points specifically about Amazon.

  1. Amazon fulfillment has gotten better (but see final point below). The last time I wrote one of these entries, Amazon could not ship to APO and AE addresses (US armed forces) or Puerto Rico–now they can. They also added a function to allow for multi-channel fulfillment of media items (books, CDs, and DVDs) to pretty much any country. If your products fall into those categories, you could ship to a single Amazon fulfillment center and have them take care of worldwide fulfillment. Also, I can now confirm that Amazon’s bulk order spreadsheet allows you to input multiple SKUs for a single location. So if a backer should get Game A and Book B, you enter a line item for Game A, then a separate line item for Book B (different SKU, same order number and address). You can sort your spreadsheet and do this in big chunks; however, be VERY careful that you update the SKU and the quantity.
  2. Specify special packaging when creating the original shipment. I shipped thousands of Tuscany Collector’s Editions through Amazon, and they hardly ever packed them well (see graphic below). I tried to get Amazon to pack them better, but I learned that the only comprehensive solution is to specify special padding and packaging ($0.37/unit) when you make the original shipment. I would highly suggest doing this for any limited edition or collector’s item.
  3. Check for returns on Amazon. One of my previous concerns about Amazon is that sometimes customers won’t receive their rewards, and Amazon doesn’t report this to you. Then you get an e-mail from the customer a month or two later saying that they never got their rewards.  However, I’ve since found that you can generate reports through Amazon to let you know about returned packages. Click on “Reports” at the top of the page, then “Returns” in the left sidebar. Select a date range and you can see all returned items. Also, speaking of returns, let backers know that if they don’t want a package they receive, they can write “return to sender” on it and the courier will return it to Amazon.
  4. Amazon.co.uk has started using local couriers…and it’s bad. In the UK, Amazon has started using a service called “Amazon Logistics” for some packages. That means that Amazon delivers the product to a local courier who promptly delivers the product to the wrong address and reports that they’ve successfully delivered it. Amazon has told me they’ve experienced quite a few difficulties with these local couriers, and they’re working on fixing it. Still…I have my concerns. If you need to use Amazon.co.uk, make sure to include backers’ phone numbers on their shipments (that might cut down on the issues), and give backers this phone number to report any issues to Amazon: 0800 496 1081.
  5. If you use Amazon, double check your bar codes. One of the biggest problems with the Amazon shipments has been that for some reason they’ve been shipping the metal coins instead of Tuscany Prima (two very different products). I finally realized what the problem is: We accidentally use the same bar code for those two products, and Amazon’s scanners can’t tell the difference. This is a graphic design mistake, but I should have caught it. Now I know better–if you rely on barcodes (which I get from Buy a Bar Code), double check that each one is unique before you approve the soft proofs of your product.
  6. Amazon Fulfillment has been dethroned. Up until recently, I thought that Amazon fulfillment was by far the best option for the US, Canada, and Europe. While I’m not dissatisfied with the service, I no longer think it is the king of fulfillment. Rather, I would much rather work with a localized service like Ideaspatcher in France, Spiral Galaxy in the UK, or Good Games or Aetherworks in Australia (see details here and here). Why is this? A few reasons. One, it’s SO much easier to set up shop with these localized services. Amazon has pages and pages of required reading to get the pallets set up correctly and the labels created, and then you have to go through several pages of setup for every SKU (for every version of Amazon you’re shipping to). If you mess up along any of those steps, your products are either rejected or stuck at a massive facility. Also, I’ve learned that Amazon isn’t really there to pack things. Rather, they’re there to ship things. So if you’re shipping something that needs to arrive in mint condition, Amazon fulfillment isn’t a great service. The localized services are so much better at all of those things. They’re easy to use, they pack products well, and they’re often almost as cost-effective. See photos below to compare shipping practices between these companies.

shipping examples

Based on what I learned this time around below are my recommendations (based on my experience) for which services to use for various regions and countries. I haven’t used Spiral Galaxy or some of the other localized services in the EU, but they could potentially be substituted for Ideaspatcher, just as Aetherworks could be substituted for Good Games.

  • Amazon.com: US (includes Puerto Rico and APO/AE)
  • Amazon.ca: Canada
  • Ideaspatcher: Europe
  • Agility: Asia and New Zealand
  • Good Games: Australia
  • USPS (if you’re in the US): South America

I would like to explore fulfillment alternatives in Canada (I’ve heard good things about Starlit Citadel and Snakes and Lattes) as well as in the US (Ship Naked? Shipwire? What’s good here?), but I’m pretty happy with the above breakdown.

Thanks for reading, and if you have any questions, please post them in the comments below so other people can benefit from the ensuing public conversation.

Leave a Comment

73 Comments on “Everything I Learned About Shipping I Learned in Tuscany

  1. Hi Jamey,

    I’ve read a ton of your posts and I’m still going through a lot of them. I appreciate the good service you are doing. I’m having a very hard time figuring out Amazon Fulfillment and how it works in conjunction with Kickstarter and Panda. I’m creating my very first game and expect to start my very first Kickstarter within about a month. I’m working with Panda and expect to work with Amazon for U.S. fulfillment (unless you would strongly recommend an alternative). But, I don’t see anywhere that you spell out a few crucial things, such as:

    1. I can’t tell if I am supposed to receive the products from Panda, package them myself, and then freight them to a fulfillment center, or if Panda would package the products according to amazon specifications and then ship them directly to Amazon.

    2. There are multiple Amazon fulfillment centers in the U.S. I can’t even find an address for one of them, much less decide how to choose from among many. I am in the Bay Area, California. Do I just choose the closest fulfillment center near me and can you point me to that address?

    I’m sorry if these questions reveal what an ignorant newbie I am, but I have actually spent dozens of hours learning how to do this and still feel in the dark about a lot of things. It would be great if you had a blog post that had a step by step guide for going from importation from Panda to fulfillment at Amazon.

    Thanks in advance for any advice you can offer.

    1. David: Thanks for your questions. I would strongly recommend an alternative–you’ll see why if you read through my shipping articles here: https://stonemaiergames.com/kickstarter/lessons/shipping-and-fulfillment/. The final answer is here: https://stonemaiergames.com/how-to-ship-stuff-worldwide-2016-edition/

      With Amazon, you cannot select a specific fulfillment center.

      As for Amazon or other fulfillment centers, you will freight ship games directly from Panda to the fulfillment center. The fulfillment center will pack the product.

  2. I backed Scythe and the 9$ shipping fee to Germany was enough for me to ask around if anyone else also wants to back so we can share the shipping fee. One friend was in and we saved 4.5$.

    Thus, I am wondering if it is actually good to offer free shipping for some areas (usually US & CA). Having a 6$ shipping fee (dividable by 2 and 3 backers) is small enough that hardly anyone should back out but maybe big enough for more price-sensitive backers to reach out to friends to share the shipping fee. US backers are used to have free shipping, though, so they might not like it.

    What do you think?

    1. That’s an interesting question. I think it’s a tough balance between deterring backers due to the perceived additional expense and the benefit from getting backers to ask around to see if anyone wants to split the shipping costs. My guess is that the threshold for price tolerance for people who are accustomed to getting “free” shipping is much lower than the average threshold for those who are inspired to try to split a shipment with friends.

  3. I can only speak to sending custom DVD packages (with artbooks and other goodies), but I have good results with standard boxes (inexpensive, since they are not custom) and squares of thick bubble-wrap (the big 3/4″ bubbles), turned 45-degrees so that the corners of the bubble wrap wrap around the edges of the product. This gives good shock isolation and crush protection — the corners of the product box effectively float inside the outer box.

  4. Since packaging seems such a tricky thing, especially when using a fulfillment provider, I am wondering if it can be done better.

    I packaged and sent about 400 copies of my game to backers myself and it took me only a day to do so. Not a single backer complained about a damaged package.

    The game had a very slim and rather long format (26 x 37 x 4.5 cm, weight was 1.4 kg) and was put it in such packages:

    I didn’t use anything to cushion the game.

    So I am wondering: is this box format in such a package the perfect combo for shipping? Wouldn’t fulfillment centers do a much better job if they were asked to use such packaging to ship game boxes with this format? I mean there is much less they can do wrong here since no cushion is needed. In addition, packaging is so much faster this way.

    Any insights on what box format is best for packaging?

  5. Suggesting Interfulfillment in Canada. I haven’t shipped through them yet, but they answered all of my questions quickly and reliably and set up a unique shipping plan for us for when our games arrive.
    I also recommend Ideaspatcher. They’re just great to work with and have reasonable pricing for just about everywhere especially if your game/item is small, like a deck of cards, etc. (…though some forms to sign arrive only in french. Fair warning. : P) – We actually did the proofreading and clean-up, as well as some final English translation work on their PDF price lists for them. I can’t help with the all French forms, though I imagine they’ve updated that by now given the attention they’re getting now-a-days.

  6. Of course it is at least ok. But after you had free german shipping it at least sadly feels like a step back. Hopefully not too long. Help ideaspatcher with the partnersearch ;-) *kidding*

  7. I hope you find another solution for germany. :-) The “free” shipping is always attractive. There is nothing against the others in terms of packaging. I got games through Ideaspatcher and spiral galaxy, both well packed. But amazon.de was at least ok too. They always use that paper you have on the screens, but it is ok if it is done right. On the picture it is almost useless. I would offer free shipping through amazon.de instead of $9 through Ideaspatcher as my games always arrived in at least good to very good conditions. It seems i have more problems or maybe bad luck with missing parts than packaging (not exatly your games only). :-)

    1. Malte: I’m very happy with Ideaspatcher, not just for the security of the packages, but because we know how to get games to Ideaspatcher expediently. I haven’t had success getting packages to Amazon.de, so I’d rather rely on what works, even if it costs a little more. My hope, though, is that Ideaspatcher partners with a German courier to get that cost down to the French/UK level.

  8. I love all your posts and they formed a very large part of the methodology I used on my Kickstarter. Maybe due to the small size of 800 backers, but I somewhat disagree with:

    “Don’t ship to backers in November or December. Period.”

    Also maybe due to my shipping being all via USPS with Priority in the States, but shipping the first week of December worked out fantastic. There were more postal workers working and almost all my 48 state packages were delivered in 2 days and packages in my state and neighbouring states had 1 day deliveries!

    My packages were all small Priority boxes (with 600 being picked up from my home one night) so that meant it was also very easy for the USPS to work with them.

    International packages were USPS First class and also arrived to most backers before Christmas and certainly by the end of December.

    I was very pleased and really think it was due to extra seasonal workers. This may very well have been unique to me, but all packages picked up that night (I had sent the international ones the day before) were processed in our local post office and by 9 PM were already processed through the state’s “main” facility.

    Thanks for another awesome post and for helping little people like me share our games with the Kickstarter community.

    Namas te! =)

    1. David: Thanks for sharing! It’s interesting to hear that shipping during December was an asset for your campaign. Perhaps there is a time in early December when there is an abundance of postal workers who aren’t mailing packages at the same frantic, haphazard pace as in mid-December. It’s just such a slim window, though–I wouldn’t personally risk it again. :)

  9. Two questions for you

    1) Outer box/Carton markings – Do you recommend putting anything on the outside of the box/carton to state compliance with CPSC/GCC regulations? Since most of Nauvoo Games’ stuff is direct-to-consumer and we only have a few retail partners, I feel like we’re kind of in the middle with regards to requirements. Just wondering what common practice is… Also, maybe you could comment on at what stage do you usually complete initial testing for these regulations?

    2) Insurance – How do you go about insuring your ocean freight shipment of games? Naturally, you want protection against serious damages or loss, and I was wondering if you could recommend anybody in particular for insurance?

    1. Brett: Thanks for your questions!

      1. I would recommend trying to meet with all possible standards even if you have a limited retail strategy, just in case. That said, to my knowledge testing isn’t required for board games

      2. My freight shipping company, Dimerco, always asks me if I want to insure the shipment, and I say yes. :) They take care of it from there. My intent when insuring a shipment is to make sure we recoup enough money to make another print run of the game if the ship sinks.

  10. Thank you. I was assuming it was a weight issue (wow, 4.9 kg!), but figured it was possible some here-to-for unknown secret of more affordable shipping had been discovered – in which case I wanted to know about it :).

  11. If you had used your new choice of shippers for Tuscany or the Treasure Chest, how would it have impacted the cost to the backers? Are the Amazon alternatives both easier to use and cheaper? And as an aside, why is the shipping on the Chest lower than Tuscany? Does it weigh less, did you optimize the system, or something else?

    I’m launching my First Big Campaign in just 10 days and I cannot tell you how much I appreciate all the info you’ve posted over the years!

    1. Ryan: Amazon is cheaper, for sure, so using the new shipping companies would have increased the shipping cost. Shipping is cheaper on the Treasure Chest because it’s a lot lighter–for example, the Treasure Chest weighs 0.85 kg, and the Collector’s Edition weighs 4.9 kg.

      10 days! That’s right before our launch of Between Two Cities. I hope the campaign goes well for you!

  12. I have to agree about shipping at the end of the year, that’s not a stressor I would want to take on either. Add Chinese New Year taking up most of February and I could see things getting even more difficult. It seems kind of risky to try to fit it into January, but then that’s a third of the year that’s blacked out.

    1. Jeremiah: That’s a good point, though I think the Chinese New Year has less of an impact on shipping because if you’re shipping from China, the boat will have left China (hopefully) in November/December. I could see it having a small impact if you were fulfilling individual shipments in February to backers in Asia, though.

  13. Hi Jamey,

    I live in South America (Perú) and have never had to give anyone my Tax ID to get a package. If custom thing item is not personal but for a bussinnes, they will comunicate with you and you will have to pick it up at customs, giving your Tax ID and paying taxes, but for a personal item thats crazy.

    Question: I was under the impression that Panda and other manufacturers just ship you the games to 3 address. How do you move them to reach this services?

    1. Diego: Indeed, I had never encountered a need for the tax ID before this shipment, but Agility needs it.

      I use Dimerco as my freight shipping company–they handle the freight shipments, not Panda.

  14. Next to finance, shipping is one the things I’m most worried about in planning our own campaigns, so it’s kinda nice to know it’s something other people worry about too!

    Some of these are real eye openers (tax documents for shipping to South America?! Never even crossed my mind). My question is, did you learn all these lessons through trial and error or is there a resource or set of resources that you garnered some of this information? My guess is that these are details that just aren’t common knowledge, and that trial and error are the only way to learn.

    1. Bevan: Definitely trial and error. :) Fortunately, I’ve gone through most of the trials already and have written about them here (and on the other shipping entries, Kickstarter Lessons, and retrospectives), so hopefully you can avoid many of the mistakes I made! :)

    1. Isaac: Yeah, I’m sorry I didn’t note that before. Cross your fingers that customs doesn’t inspect the shipment. If they do, shoot me an e-mail and we can talk about solutions. At this point there’s nothing you can do.

      1. Ha, well, it’s not your fault. Sort of obvious when you think about it. “Made in China” is on everything, so there’s probably a good reason. Plus I looked at a lot of boxes to double-check what I needed on the back of mine, but somehow that slipped through. I guess we’ll just wait and see what happens.

  15. The day my Viticulture / Tuscany was delivered in December I signed for it, the driver got in the van, drove off, and I looked down to realise he’d given me someone else’s parcel! I tried to run out (in my pyjamas) to flag him down but was too late. Luckily he realised and came back ten minutes later!

  16. Great article yet again Jamey. Thanks for sharing the knowledge as ever.

    Is Agility these guys: https://www.agility.com/EN/Pages/Default.aspx ? and if so which of their many service types works for single or multi item sends?

    By the way – I’ve been in touch with a couple of Kickstarter project creators who have recently used sendfromchina.com to do full global or partial fulfillment of their table top games. One case seems to have worked very well, the other seems less so (I presume due to more complex pick and pack requirements). I’ll be interviewing each creator about their experience and sharing results soon on my blog.

    1. Kim: Yes, that’s Agility. I don’t really use their website at all–I speak directly with a few of their customer service reps. Their info is listed on the Google Doc on the entry about shipping to Asia and Australia.

      Thanks for the tip about sendfromchina.com. Sounds like it might be a good solution!

      1. Aha – somehow I’d missed some of your latest posts on this topic. Fun reading ahead. Actually fulfilment has turned into a global puzzle game for me – trying to find ways to break the game!

  17. Jamey,

    Great article. We just made everything official with Spiral Galaxy last week, so it’s nice to see (another) recommendation for them. Now we’re looking into our options for Canada…

    Hopefully quick, somewhat related question: our games are being assembled (at Panda). I’m trying to decipher Amazon’s carton / pallet label requirements for receiving the big delivery of games (for the US). Do you remember if you’ve had Panda label each individual case with one of Amazon’s labels, or just the pallets themselves?


    1. David: That’s great to hear about Spiral Galaxy! For Amazon, you’ll need to get PDFs of pallet labels and carton labels. They’re all available through the Amazon seller central shipping portal after you’ve entered your SKUs in the system.

  18. Just typed up a long response only to have it get a ‘response time out’ oh well, summarized. Shipnaked seems to be fairly quick but i think the biggest question is speed per volume of output these smaller places can ship out, and their locations. I’m surprised one of these places doesn’t exist in Indianapolis, it’s a spoke hub of distro centers and shipping, and is fairly central to the USA.

    Shipnaked does do a better job of packaging, but i’d be curious to know if amazon’s package is that much better with the packaging upgrade or not.

  19. It’s just basic organization and generating a proper pipeline. I did have some previous experience (25 years running AnimEigo) and we did several paleo-crowdfunding projects over a decade ago (we got people to pledge they’d buy a box set if we got a license and released it; one of them was >5000 units shipped) so we had worked the kinks out of our processes. The idea of “batching” identical package assembly runs makes each operation almost bulletproof.

    On the Kickstarter I ended up with a couple of dozen variants of package content and shipment method, but 95%+ were one of a half-dozen basic types, so I ended up doing the complex ones personally — less communications overhead since I already talk to myself a lot :)

    For some, of course, this kind of thing may be absolute torture, but I like the idea of making sure that the project I’ve been working on for a year gets properly sent out, packaged “just-so” to minimize cost and maximize protection — that it went directly from our hands to the backers. Plus when the USPS arrived to pick up the first day’s shipments, I got to utter an immortal line:

    “You’re going to need a bigger truck”

  20. Just to remember, CPF it’s a document valid only in Brazil. I know that’s a pain to send packages to Brazil, but don’t give up.

  21. “From now on, I will never estimate or attempt fulfillment in November or December.”

    Very much agree. Received Viticulture + Tuscany + Treasure Chest on Dec 23rd. We had a very high chance to already be out of town, but happened to delay travel. Please no deliveries from say Dec 20 to Dec 30 (roughly; added padding as some travel early and some late).

    1. Ben: Good question. I think it’s because they want customers to be able to see where the game is made before they buy the game (they didn’t care that customers already knew this information because the pledges were made a long time ago).

      1. Jamey, is labeling the product “Made in China” mandatory regardless of what the product is, and mandatory by whom? And where are you required to label it–on the product itself, on the KS page, on the box the product is shipped in or something else altogether? Thanks!

        1. Kelly: I’m not sure about the exact regulations here (and it might depend on the importing country), but I think it’s required by most customs agencies that you label the country of origin clearly on the outside of the box of the product itself.

  22. Very helpful article. As you mentioned in point #2 couriers will indeed throw packages at the door in November/December. I witnessed this with my Tuscany/Viticulture delivery. The guy took off like a bat out of hell when I opened the door. I happened to be working from home that day.

    1. Pete: I’ve heard several backers tell me that. It’s unfortunate, but it’s human nature for us to do a worse job when we’re in a rush, and every courier is going to be in a rush during the holiday season. :)

  23. Another advantage of using someone like Good Games in Australia is that it’s supporting local games stores (as good games run a chain of them across Australia) even though you’re fulfilling internet orders. Win-win for everyone. :)

  24. Hi Jamey,
    Re: Customs requirements in Australia – this seems kinda overkill, but it’s definitely understandable when you think about the fact that Australia is an island country/continent, so unlike every other continent, where diseases, bugs, and fungi can spread, there’s no crossover here. That means that our trees and animals don’t have their resistances set up to deal with previously unknown “bad stuff”. A single wooden piece with a destructive fungus can potentially destroy the entire eco-system (I mean, it’s unlikely, but these guys think worst-case).

    We even have pretty strict quarantine rules when travelling between states even, as certain pest insects and diseases exist in one state, and not in another, so the same issue can happen even within the country (it’s pretty big here).

    It is painful to read about your having to deal with it though :(

    -Ian Tyrrell (RodeoClown)

  25. Jamie, I can totally understand using fulfillment in Europe (and am going to be following your advice on future projects in that regard), but many people may be able to save a ton of money doing your own shipping in the US, particularly if your weight is < 13 oz or the package will fit into a Priority Mail Padded Flat Rate Envelope. You also get the advantage of having much more control over the whole process.

    Once you get your packaging pipeline set up two people can easily do 500+ shipments a day and the post office will come pick them up for free.

    Also, given the complete lack of customs hassles shipping to AU, NZ and NO (huge personal exemptions), it can often be cheaper to ship from the US via USPS. And Canada is an interesting case — only 5% of my backers actually got hit with customs/GST fees.

    Of course, a lot will depend on the size/weight of the packages, but if you can fit into one of the USPS sweet-spots, they can't be beat. My loss/damage ratios were ~1%

    1. Robert: You just described the method that I always advise against. :) Largely that’s due to customs in other countries, but for shipping bigger products (like board games), few people are equipped with the facilities and infrastructure to receive dozens of pallets and ship out thousands of packages.

      However, for very small items like the ones you describe, it’s more feasible. I’d prefer to hire a fulfillment center to do it than do it myself, though. :)

      1. I agree that it depends on package size, how many you have to send out, and how comfortable you are with shipping. With big products like games, you do need more space to buffer the inputs while you run your pipeline. The main point is that for things that fit into USPS sweet spots (ie: <=13 oz, or fitting into a PFRE) there's often a big cost-savings.

        In my case, 3000 units of my products and all the packaging materials were only about 4 pallets, so we just evicted a car from the garage and comandeered the dining room for a week — and arguably less hassle than paying someone else to do it.

        YMMV, etc. :)

  26. I’ve bought from Starlit Citadel directly and it went well. Bonus, they’re also really nice in general and active on social media, including posting some insights into the game store world, somewhat like your insights on KS.

    I’ve received 2 separate KS from Snakes and Lattes, and I can tell you they are quick and the packages were in good condition. If I remember right, it came down to having perfectly size outer boxes as opposed to fluffy stuff inside. David Chott (Lagoon: Lands of Druids) and Indie Boards and Games (Flash Point and Roar-A-Saurus) both used them, so they could have insights into that.

  27. Thanks for another great article. My two cents on US fulfillment: ShipNaked may have improved a lot over the past year, but approximately 11 months ago it took them 33 days to respond to a request for offer which made us search in other places. Shipwire on the other hand were very responsive, but unless you can ship your rewards to at least 3 of their fulfillment centers their price is not competitive for the whole of US.

  28. I’ve had a couple games shipped via ShipNaked, and I don’t recall them being a problem. But, yes Amazon in the US is allergic to padding, and I’ve had game boxes suffer.

      1. ShipNaked writes this on their website:
        “Can I ship just the international shipments with you and ship the rest of my campaign myself?

        No. Since we provide comprehensive customer support through Service@ShipNaked.com and by phone, we find it works best when one provider handles all the fulfillment for a campaign.”

        So I’m not sure its practical for everyone…

  29. Might want to check Meeplemart in Canada. I have had stellar experiences with them as a consumer, they might work out as a fulfillment partner, too.

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