Chit-chat from Imaginatorium Shop

Coronavirus blog number two

Blog entry for May 2020

Half-way through May, and we have made some progress. We can now send orders of puzzles, at least to some countries, but with very restricted choices for shipping. Except for a very few countries (Singapore, for example) there are no normal air services, so the choices are either to use surface mail, or the Yamato courier service. Neither of these options is really oriented to small orders (a single 1000 pc puzzle, for example), and for various reasons we have to calculate shipping costs manually. It always helps if you say whether you are looking for maximum economy, or want puzzles as soon as possible.

SAL This is easily the most popular shipping method over the span of our existence: I can't remember what "SAL" stands for, and each country seems to have a different name, but this is the Japan Post economy air service. Currently it is suspended everywhere, and since the Post Office relies enormously on plentiful spare freight space on commercial airliners, it is not going to return very soon. From experience of similar suspensions in individual countries, I think it is likely to be at least a year before we could hope to go back to what was "normal service".

So what are the alternatives?

Surface for economy

Surface mail is normally slow: typically taking between one and two months to most locations, and if anything, extra delays are very likely. We can offer the surface parcel rate: this depends on the total weight and the destination, but for a single 1000-piece puzzle you can expect to pay 50-80% of the cost of the puzzle. But if you buy four puzzles instead, that cost will only be roughly double. And for a large order of 6 or 8 puzzles, there is real economy!

Note that surface is not available to some countries, including Spain, Chile, Argentina, and Indonesia.

Yamato courier for (relative) speed

We are experimenting with Yamato, who offer an international extension of the immensely popular domestic takkyūbin parcel service. In normal times this is comparable to EMS, taking 5-7 days to get anywhere, but generally costing somewhat more. Currently the service is at least operating (unlike EMS to most countries), but subject to delay of "some weeks". In other words, it is probably likely to take longer than SAL, our normal economy option, but cost more than EMS, our normal express service. But at least it should be faster than surface.

A special problem with Yamato is the pricing. For ordinary domestic service, they take the sum of the dimensions of the package in centimetres, and have a scale of 60, 80, 100, 120, 140, or 160 cm for the "size". Each step costs 10%-20% more than the previous one, so there are no sudden jumps. But they have used the same system for international rates, with bizarre results. For example, a Beverly 1000-piece puzzle to the US costs 2750 yen, while most Epoch puzzles cost 4650 yen. Every other pricing scheme I have ever seen uses weight, because this is the critical factor for air freight. But this system depends above all on the shape of the package. The closer to a cube, the more volume for a given rate, while most puzzle boxes of course are a relatively flat shape. But pile them up to make a near-cube, and there you go: shipping five Beverly puzzles costs the same as one Epoch one. And frames will be outrageous...

Supply problems

Meanwhile, the boom in puzzle sales means that we simply cannot get stock of many or even most items. More updates on this to follow...

Brian Chandler

"A kind of blog..." My sporadic comments, mostly topical, on shop matters. (Brian Chandler)