CANADIAN, AUS, AND UK SHIPPING -- VITE RAMEN GOES INTERNATIONAL
The important bits:
CANADIAN, UK, and Australian SHIPPING NOW AVAILABLE. Please note that the price shown covers ALL country entry fees, including duties, shipping, customs, and other fees. We do not set these fees and do not receive any of them, as a third party handles all of this for us, and customs and duty fees are set by the respective governments. We understand these prices are steep, but as of now, this is our only way as a small business to legally ship our product through international borders.
Orders first will make their way through our LQ/MTO Process (If you don’t know what that is, please read here: https://www.viteramen.com/blog/made-to-order-and-limited-quantity). Then, international orders are picked up once a week for consolidation shipping, where it first makes its way to a large consolidated port of entry, and may take 2-3 weeks from the “label created” phase to actual shipping due to the customs process involved. Once the package has left our hands, we are not able to change its course.
Unlike the rest of the blog posts, this one is going to be a bit shorter, and a bit less in depth about things, simply because it’s... well, it’s really boring, to say the least. As most of you know, we’ve been trying to go international for quite a while now. It’s been a road fraught with troubles, confusion, and tons of wasted time and money, but finally, we’re going to be able to ship to Canada...
And, excitingly, the rest of the world.
Whew! So what changed?
Simply put, we started out by trying to do it the very, very difficult and incorrect way. Well, I wouldn’t necessarily say it was incorrect-- Just that, all told, it wasn’t the right thing to do for a company our size. The attempts we were making were more akin to wanting to start a food import company in Canada and other countries, with some mistaken communications of people thinking we wanted to even start a production facility and distribution around the world.
I mean, it’s a nice thought, right? But man, we’re still a company of under 20 people, including production, fulfillment, and all that jazz. That’s not happening anytime soon.
Long story short, we made a mistake- We talked with lawyers, and were charged astronomically high lawyer fees, who didn’t have the right perspective of our size and our goals. See, the thing with lawyers, especially some of the ones we were talking to, was that they have a strong incentive to cover every nook and cranny of the law, which isn’t a bad thing, but just takes an incredible amount of time.
Their entire career is riding on it, after all, and if they’re giving bad advice and the like then it can be their necks on the line. Similarly, miscommunication can happen in those circumstances, where there’s a lot more laws concerning much larger companies than ours that don’t apply to a company our size and our volume.
Their incentive is to be as thorough as possible, and not necessarily streamline the process as much as possible. This is why we were bogged down for an embarrassingly long amount of time, spending a similarly embarrassingly large sum of money to try and do the right thing.
And to do this per country? Oof, that was quite the daunting task.
What’s even worse is that, in 2020, with the outbreak of COVID, international shipments became not only more difficult, but much, much more expensive as well-- In the latter half of 2020, we made the decision to abandon international shipping until COVID settled down more, and international shipping got cheaper again.
Well, just like everything else, it didn’t. Instead, international shipping and prices across the board soared. That meant, in order to go international, we had to figure out some kind of solution that would be extremely dynamic in nature, and be able to charge costs according to the constantly changing customs, imports, duties and fee structures of various countries, and stay up to date with them.
We knew this wasn’t something we could do ourselves. While we did write our own fulfillment program, we were beginning to see the limits. As we had more orders, more SKUs, and more dreams of going international, it just simply wouldn’t be able to keep up, and an overhaul would be extraordinarily difficult and expensive-- Not even considering the kind of compliance upkeep we’d have to do!
Early this year, we made the decision to start looking again for an international solution, bundled up with a fulfillment program that could keep up. Happily, we did end up finding one, though, while the program was robust enough to keep up with our demands and sort out international shipping, it required... quite a bit of fine tuning for our practical operations side of fulfillment. Turns out we just do everything way differently than everyone else, to absolutely no one’s surprise.
That meant the swapover process to this new fulfillment system was a huge chore, creating a ton of ghost orders, subscription problems, double fulfillment, missing items... you name it, we faced it. We did our best to track down and catch all the problems before they went out, but inevitably some things got through, and we’d have to figure out why after we got an angry email from someone or the other.
In these cases, there was literally no way for us to know there was an issue until we were informed of it and able to track down the bug or the disconnect in the swapover. We’re still finding little problems here and there, even as recently as yesterday, where we had a weird bug that caused our label printer to print three blank labels between each normal label. Yikes.
So, with that all being said, we think we squashed enough bugs that, now, we can begin to take international orders. You’ll notice that international shipping is... well... really expensive. That’s something we can’t really do anything about. The price wraps up the duties, the shipping, the fees, and creates an all inclusive price to get the package into the country.
Remember what I said before about how we just wouldn’t be able to keep up with all the duties calculations and fees and customs and the like? That’s because with the new fulfillment system, we’re able to offload it to a third party who specializes in customs and international borders, and feeds the calculations directly into Shopify, and generates the number. We don’t see a dime of this, nor do we see how the calculation is being made-- Just that the passthrough cost will get it into the country with minimal hassle on our end and on yours.
We’re starting with Canada because, well, it’s been by far the most requested, and we’d like to test our system more. Our plans are to open things up further to the UK and Australia, then some parts of the EU, and then hopefully the rest of the world if everything goes well!
Turns out this blog post wasn’t really that much shorter, but I promise you it was a lot less in depth than it could’ve been, if that gives you any indication about... well... just how droll of a process this whole thing was.
But hey, at least it’s working now, right?
Hopefully, anyway. Tell your Canadian and international friends!
-Tim Zheng, CEO/Founder Vite Kitchens