I've bought a bunch of small trinkets from Aliexpress. For the most part, they're the same exact things you can buy off of Amazon for ~$5-15, except they take 2ish months to be delivered. For some things, it actually does make sense to just wait that long (e.g. a Google Home Mini wall mount) in exchange for the savings (>= 50% is normal).
The higher price on Amazon is due to two factors - local reseller markup and expedited shipping.
Heck many AlizonExpress sellers will have multiple listings for the same product at different prices based on how fast they’ll ship.
So we can safely assume that both items ship from China.
So we can more or less safely assume that both are shipped from China.
Now when you wait 4-6 weeks for a delivery from China you are essentially waiting for them to fill a container, when you pay more for a shipping you pay for the extra shipping space wasted by expediting your shipping.
This is because of how international shipping economics work, international shipping is economical when it’s full to the brim since shipping companies have a flat tonnage tax.
This means that shipping companies are taxed based on the total tonnage capacity of their vessels not the actual amount or value of the goods they transfer.
Unless you source something locally in a manner that it’s actually environmentally more sounds that statement is false.
And don’t forget that even buying locally doesn’t guarantee any better environmental outcome, for example buying a 3D printed case form someone on Etsy is likely just if not more polluting than buying an injection molded case from China since the filament, resin and heck even the 3D printer itself came form China.
It was super low effort. Buy wholesale on Alibaba, tell the seller to send goods to packing, and silkscreen shop, and send by regular post to my apartment. Very often, fancy packaging was costing more than sunglasses themselves.
Even when I was buying crate loads of goods, I only got a customs bill only like 2 times out of 10 in 3 years. Customs bill was pretty much nothing, and they never contested the valuation, but the extra paperwork was very unpleasant at the time when I had to study.
Then you sell $1-$2-$3 sunglasses at $100+ prices. Just make decent websites for all made up brands you have, have good marketing fluff, and make sure to call them with some Italian/French sounding name.
You make at around 10-15 sells per month, but what else you want with that level of effort? Second to that, I was very unsure of my tax/legal status at large if that business were to become too big. Being kicked out of the country, with all my money in that degree wouldn't be fun.
>>Even when I was buying crate loads of goods, I only got a customs bill only like 2 times out of 10 in 3 years.
Tbf, you should have been paying for every crate, even if the customs agency didn't intercept it. It's up to you to make sure the duties are paid - if you ever got caught you would have been wholly responsible for not paying the duties even if you weren't asked to. But yeah, I know how it works in practice.
For the same reason, I did not risk buying plastic frames. They break/bend too easily.
I'm still amazed that Chinese factories managed to make optical grade glass, cut, and polished for glasses almost as cheap as molded polycarbonate.
When buying fake sunglasses or unknown orgin, always buy polycarbonate plastic lenses as these filter out most UV light.
It's the fake glass lenses that are a culprit and can be very harmful to your eyes.
I have tested this with a UV light.
Nothing fraudulent about marking things up. Or with using a "Italian/French sounding name", unless it's a real brand.
A: Alice clicks on an ad for Lens Luxury glasses, likes the picture of the product, and orders them on account of the $100 price-tag being roughly consistent with what she expects to pay for said level of quality, despite the fact that she sees the same sunglasses at a $10 price point every time she goes through a checkout aisle. She receives the glasses and is happy with them. Dave the Dropshipper earns $97 for providing the service of connecting customer and product.
B: Bob notices his sunglasses are losing their coating. He knows he could go to Walmart or Amazon or the nearest convenience store and pick up a pair produced in China under conditions of extreme cost optimization and dubious labor / environmental / trade conditions, but on account of recently hearing some horror stories he holds out. A few days later, he starts seeing Lens Luxury Facebook ads and Instagram / Blog content marketing. Unaware of the prevalence of "content marketing," he develops the impression that Lens Luxury is an emerging trendy brand and visits their website, which has an Italian name, pictures of a factory in Italy, smiling Italian models, and copy that strongly suggests the glasses are made in Italy without literally saying it. The site has sections about environmental impact and labor fairness (100% worker owned!) and a pricetag to match -- at least, as far as Bob understands sunglasses pricing, which isn't far. He decides to support this nonexistent picturesque Italian company, and orders the sunglasses. Six months later, the hinges rust out, and he is alarmed to find that Lens Luxury has vanished from the internet, leaving behind a trail of angry blogposts from customers who have experienced the same problem. He learns that it wasn't an Italian company after all and makes an angry post on facebook warning his friends to not do business with Lens Luxury, blissfully unaware that they are now doing business under the name Style Sunglasses.
This reminds me of being angry at your spouse for what they did in a dream.
I take this as an admission that you cannot imagine a scenario in which the marketing practices you claim are non-deceptive are in fact non-deceptive. That says it all, really.
I had cases of returns, and angry reviews because people didn't like even single, barely visible scratch on the glass, which I myself somehow overlooked.
Not honouring returns was a 100% sure way to get kicked off ebay, and amazon 10 years ago, and maybe even more today. This is what I learned on forums of people doing small business on ebay that I read prior to starting.
Knowing that, I picked products from samples that survived most abuse, and had hardest, and best looking surface finish.
Even with all of that, you can't do anything about returns made for no other reason than "I simply don't like it"
Häagen-Dazs being a famous example but far from the only one.
I believe you when you say that you 'honestly dont see what the con is' and agree with other comments 'this is totally normal.
So perhaps it helps bridge our divide if I ask you to imagine me as someone who is a little more sensitive to deception, games, exploitation, manipulation.
I understand right now you might again say 'but non of this is me and you have still made no point'. We are probably wired differently, or have differing world views about why live, what purpose money might serve, something along those lines.
I am impressed with your creativity and business 'tenacity'. But from where I/my mind/folks i associate with (im the kind of 30s person who says 'folks') these steps to 'create' 'value' are at best an engineering of perceptions.
We could talk about how everything engineers our perceptions, all the way to the style of clothing, culture, language, how tall are you. But my reaction was meant to focus, empathetically, on a conscious and intelligent effort to convince presumably uninformed or ill equipped people to trust your presentation, its integrity etc and spend money.
Its about a hard to describe heart felt opposition not to the pursuit of profits but opposition to a maneuvering to assign artificial value to things. I think these practices tarnish the good image of a persons business intellect, and their position on more human interests, and capitalism, and even further a culture.
It almost feels like a good v evil thing. Will we
G: identify known value or suspected opportunities for value and produce/consume accordingly, whether it is for entertainment, health whatever
E: provide a platform for maximum profit, engineering consumers and humanity into some sort of monster hamster wheel of feeding our masters. I get this is a huge reach from our original point but thought perhaps the very extended image would entertain and lighten my attempt to clarify. Ultimately whichever way it goes i guess the sun will eventually die.
Calling someone a jerk for being smarter and less lazier than you doesn't do anything for your argument, either.
I'm sure that everyone who bought a pair of those flashy cool looking sunglasses were very happy with them and enjoyed telling their friends that they were an expensive Italian/French designer pair.
And as to your final attempt to soften your attack, I got one thing to say: There's always someone happy to spend their money.
It sounds like:
1. Supplier purchases whitelabel goods from China.
2. Supplier produces fancy branding and marketing.
3. Supplier sells product for a markup.
As long as they're not claiming the goods were made somewhere they're not, or that they do something that they don't, what's the difference between "Sunglasses by baybal2 (Made in China)" and "Some other product with a luxury brand name (Made in China)"?
Or to put another example, is Superdry.com scummy because their marketing implies that they're Japanese when they're actually British?
EDIT: from a consumer perspective, there being tonnes of whitelabel brand names that are meaningless is definitely a pain, but how do you resolve that? Heavy regulation forming a higher barrier to entry?
Worse than lots of meaningless brand names is when a reputable brand gets acquired, and then the quality of the goods massively reduced in pursuit of maximising profits.
Which of these is true? None? Some? All?
1. branding whitelabel goods is scummy
2. branding goods with a name foreign to where they're manufactured is scummy
3. branding goods with a name foreign to where the business is operating is scummy
4. selling goods with a high markup is scummy
5. selling cheap goods with a high markup is scummy
6. A.N.Other reason that I've missed?
Is there anything legally wrong with it? No, caveat emptor but I think you have to be willfully ignoring the moral implication to not see the issue with essentially abusing someone's preconceptions.
Why did you launch into a "oh please" rant instead of directly answering GP's reasonable question? What precisely do you take issue with? You seem to have some mental model here, so let's talk about it.
> selling goods with a high markup is scummy
> selling cheap goods with a high markup is scummy
The latter one especially takes the cake. When you resell a $2 item for $100, you imply that your contribution as a middle-man is worth $98. The other items on the list (which effectively amount to marketing tactics) essentially act as a way to convince (or, more accurately, take advantage of) consumers that your product is not actually worth $2.
Here's a great way to reformulate the morality of the matter in your mind: if you knew that all you were buying were $2 plastic sunglasses from China trussed up with European brand name to look high-end and high-quality, would you still be happy spending $100?
Do you actually earnestly believe that most consumers think it costs a significant fraction of $100 to make a pair (any pair) of non-prescription sunglasses (manufactured anywhere in the world)? If so, that strikes me as incredibly naive.
What differentiates a pair of Ray-Ban Wayfarers (which I happen to like) from the $3 white label imports on AliExpress? Almost nothing, so far as I can tell, aside from branding and the design of the sunglasses.
And the design is entirely subjective--who are you to tell me that a pair of Wayfarers is not worth $150? For that matter, who are you to say that $100 is too much for a pair of re-branded white label sunglasses from AliExpress. And that's a two-way street: Who am I to tell you that $0 is too much for a pair of aviators?
> you imply that your contribution as a middle-man is worth $98.
Supposing I can connect a consumer with a product he likes and wants, why should it be impossible (or even improbable) for my contribution to be $98? Nothing is stopping him from shopping on Ali directly. Nothing is stopping Ali vendors from setting up a branded website in English. And, yet, there is the unmet desire that I would be fulfilling.
> Here's a great way to reformulate the morality of the matter in your mind: if you knew that all you were buying were $2 plastic sunglasses from China trussed up with European brand name to look high-end and high-quality, would you still be happy spending $100?
Let me answer your hypothetical with a real example: Generic prescription eyeglasses cost $15 on Zenni. I saw someone wearing a particular design I really like (different company, and the design probably costs 2x to make, but they are no longer available). I know they cost less than $30 to make, but I would be delighted to pay $300 for a pair of those glasses, even a pair of look-alikes.
Superdry is an odd one. Perhaps they are crossing a line, or perhaps they're just selling a kind of semi-japanese-but-made-in-UK styling. It all depends whether the customers know the truth.
It is .. i hate to disclose this not totally productive statement .. but i am 'floored' to see how 5050 of a split there is on HN. This concept in my worldview/local culture is like year 5 childhood values/dishonesty stuff.
i hate to give a shoutout to history but .. im winking and smiling at you Google culture 2010.
Happiness is a subjective experience and some people here are aligned with one portion of values and another portion are aligned with other values. If it matters or exposes more mentality.. my views / what you are opposed to - - to me are classic, pure american (US) capitalism values.. when we behave not just to the letter of the law but within the intent of the law and with respect to the culture, and with a sense of responsibility and accountability. A refined yet aggressive and successful business class does exist and is not scummy. I don't need documents I'm a part of a 4th generation US manufacturing family.
Sadly our republican class values are currently high-jacked or i would point you to that 'label'
The reason it's troubling is that they are making money without actually adding any value. The sunglasses were created by factory workers in China. If you sell a pair for 100$ and they only get a few pennies, they are being ripped off.
Capitalism doesn't reward creation of actual value. It mostly rewards ownership of capital, and occasionally 'hacks' like the OP's. Honestly I am not too worried about them making a few thousand dollars from people with too much money. But it's the tip of the iceberg w.r.t. a dysfunctional economic system, which is why it tends to rub people, especially those who try to 'make an honest living' (by e.g. actually building something useful), the wrong way.
 Lenin wrote about this back in 1916. Read Imperialism and tell me it hasn't gotten ever worse since then. https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1916/imp-hsc/ch...
No. That is the owners of capital wielding their power to keep the workers--the foundation that keeps the whole show running--underpaid, so that the owners can maximize their profits. Capitalism 101. Maybe actually read the book I linked to. 7 billion people in this world don't live in the free market fantasy land that you're describing.
You can't seriously expect me to read a book on your request.
If a businessman is smart enough to help that person be happy with the transaction, then I feel they are entitled to their reward.
Calling such practices amoral and scummy is a nice way to make oneself feel better about having not thought of it first.
It is certainly true that any individual or group of people may be happy to do some thing (spend money and do something). Whether it is rob a bank, get drunk and drive a car, or cure cancer people will always be happy to do some thing (referring to your point 'someone always happy to pay for a thing) as if this is the signal of some thing is OK). Just because the sensation of novelty happens doesn't mean we are doing well (see: basically any shitty thing humans do for a while and regret being assigned value through this mechanism).
I'm trying to look at this from a higher altitude and say that with the levels of intellect and passion I'm aware of (and apologies for the lack of hard evidence or citations) I believe we are capable of better things.
I believe in capitalism. I believe in the motivation to better ourselves to improve our circumstances through effort and education followed by returns due to providing things that people need or want. The sunglasses example in my view is a kind of prostitution of what the intention of capitalism is. In other words the hackers approach to capitalism. (I professionally and academically identify with and appreciate a hackers mentality, except in an economic social organizational sense due to it's regular self serving at any cost cultural grey areas). The mentality to circumvent standards and the creativity required to see pathways through a system is critically valuable to our species, but how in this case. In an attempt to open to you knowing/or having better view and resources on this than I do, please share a read, or whatever you expected me to provide?
It feels like a waste of time, a waste of materials, a waste of human thinking, a pure waste of a reason to do anything when something is done just to synthesize value.
For a light hearted 'citation': I see that the more pervasive this kind of behavior becomes in our world the closer to a scenario like the film Idiocracy we will become.
Value attributed to an item is not absolute, and this is where your argument fails. Value is something that is agreed upon by two parties and can be any arbitrary amount.
I think i have something we can both understand 'trashiness of value' could be measured partly as measure of its proximity to unessential processes to artificially inflate value. This is a robbery not of cops and robbers and masks but of the ability for a person to be disguised as clever and take advantage of peoples sense of trust and hope for positive market behavior. I do believe it is destroying us.
Another attempt: my views are an attempt to present the value system/logic of why we might be happier, more successful when our transactions are more aligned with Real Value than Perceived Value. Youre welcome to help me improve this. We both want the same thing, it seems. We just are seeing different roads to the same successful/free choice result. Or maybe its more accurate to say that i see a risk/or a loss in a behavior within the widely accepted system of consumer\producer behaviors. An opportunity to optimize.
Value is arbitrary. But we are trying to describe specific types of value. And debate their merit.
And no joke this activity sounds awesome
Edit: And, you can go and do all those things you mentioned. And my argument holds. There are consequences, though...
- where did your argument suceed?
- where i say 'this deceptive' transaction is not good for society. I agree this is subjective.
- I present a wildly inflated case, based on your criteria 'seller buyer agree' to present that this formula would not lead to a good world, destruction/chaos, self endangerment.
- I believe our disconnect is not where we fail to align argument paths but backing up, where we fail to agree on a definition of what is 'good'. Would you like to take the lead?
Appreciate your time!
Putting that aside, if it's not common knowledge, I'll provide some evidence:
Some Ray Bans are made in China: https://www.americansunglass.com/pages/ray-bans-made-in-chin...
This is corroborated on Luxottica's website: http://www.luxottica.com/en/eyewear-brands/ray-ban
And here's a listing for the glasses, in which the product description, Q&A and review sections confirm they could be made in China: https://www.amazon.com/Ray-Ban-RB3364-Rectangular-Metal-Sung...
I mean quite literally, there are Chinese factories all around Central Italy.
And they do outsource for big brand owners there; that's pretty much their main business.
Since the delivery time is so long, I’d expect the parcel gets shipped with multiple others.
The only items that get shipped are the ones that have been actually bought, which sounds efficient.
Of course there are negative aspects too and I wouldn’t know if the overall outcome is positive or negative, when compared to buying a product from Amazon.
Again, a link or more details would be very helpful.
I can't imagine that there's a significant environmental impact outside of what it already takes for normal imports and and your daily mail.
Besides, a lot of products on AliExpress don't actually meet western safety standards. They're not allowed to be imported and sold here, but you can buy them abroad and ship them to a private customer. But they still won't meet our standards.
I'm not denying the environmetal impact, but that's not from Ali Express, it's from us building everything there because it's cheaper.
There are several entire youtube channels dedicated to dismantling chinesium gadgets and showing how they'll burn your house down. Lack of reverse current protection, lack of overcurrent protection, trace spacing that's way too small and will arc under the right temp/humidity, mains side traces right next to each other, no grounding, ground shorted to neutral, under-rated caps and resistors that reach unsafely high temperatures, etc, etc.
In the EU, products that conform to EU standards can be identified with a 'CE' logo, which means "Conformité Européenne". "Chinese Export" can have a deceptively similar logo that does not guarantee such adherence at all, but still looks comforting to European customers of Chinese web shops. It's a blatant violation, but hard to stop, because it's a foreign sale shipped to private customers.
Just ask people trying to receive PinePhones in Germany.
You don't have a german manual? Bye bye, try again later.
There may be ways to be greener by manufacturing near consumers... but that doesn't have much to do with amazon vs alibaba. These products are manufactured in the same places.
In theory. In practice resellers are free to dropship whatever they want from AliExpress to Amazon and sell at a markup.
This is an article about postage. It's not about counterfeits or locally produced goods.
Not necessarily... In cases something s not marketed for the domestic market, Chinese electrical (and many others) standards do not apply.
And it is not something given even if they were...
No, most of goes around as airmail. In fact, actual physical transport times are super low.
In fact, sea shipments can be faster than that. There are container lines shipping Shenzhen-Losangeles in just 7-10 days.
So do Amazon products.
> I'd rather see more local products
How is that related? I asked for sources that would confirm claims about worse environmental impact of Aliexpress vs Amazon.
Alternatively, you could buy a $0.06 phone stand with free shipping: https://www.aliexpress.com/item/4001172525823.html
Opened the taobao android app, searched for 手机套, filtered by 包邮 (shipping included) and sorted by price.
And yes, shipping companies can still make normal profit on these.
From this standpoint, your example isn't nearly the cheapest it can get. Sellers regularly offer entirely free ones in exchange for reviews.
Break even, assuming you could never get a refund, would be if the failure rate and average discount were the same. My experience is that the discount is >60% and failure rate is <15%.
I've never really had an issue with online refunds anywhere. That doesn't mean Amazon's experience isn't superior. Amazon's policy of refund first, ask questions later (for stuff in the <£15 category at least) means that I don't really consider the other options.
If I have a choice between buying a USB to DC5v adapter from amazon for £3.99, with next day delivery, and I know that if it's not the right cable I'll get an instant refund, or from aliexpress where it's £1.99  but I have to wait 30-50 days for it to arrive, plus 3 weeks for a refund if it doesn't work, I'm just going to buy it on amazon. I don't care if I don't come out ahead!
The items I buy are exactly the same on both sites: down to the same stock photos.
Large container ships hold 14,000 TEU (twenty-foot-equiv) containers, each of which has a volume of 33m^3.
Let's use an iPhone's size as a stand-in for the phone cover: it's 173 x 70 x 8mm.
Divide the first by the latter: (14000 * 33m^3) / (143mm * 71mm 8mm), and, as google will helpfully tell us (https://www.google.com/search?client=safari&rls=en&sxsrf=ALe...) you can ship 5.6x10^9, or 5.6 billion of these on a single ship.
From some related information it seems shipping rates for a single container are around $1,000 for China->US. Plug that in and the costs are ... $0.002, or 1/5th of a cent: https://www.google.com/search?client=safari&rls=en&sxsrf=ALe...
I may be off by an order of magnitude somewhere. But it just feels intuitively obvious that most of the costs of any delivery are incurred during the 15 seconds or so the mailman spends in your driveway or trying to find the mailbox with your name.
That said, allowing them to set rates will likely help the bottom line a great deal, but the USPS is a business.
Further, rural routes are things that should continue but are cost prohibitive without subsidies. With those two considerations combined it seems like a pretty meager use of taxpayer dollars.
Think of it like a "cost centre" in a business, does the utility outweigh the price?
So while I agree with you that we don’t necessarily need a profit motive at the usps, at the same time the taxpayers don’t need to subsidize cheap crap from China.
That's the real kicker in this whole thing.
Given how ubiquitous ordering stuff from China is these days I'm not really sure the first impression of this being some good deal is accurate.
In fact subsidizing transport to a degree might probably have a progressive effect because low wage earners are more likely to order cheaper foreign goods.
So really what was happening is that other people or companies sending mail or packages were subsidizing overseas mail and packages.
"they're just subsidizing themselves" -> they are spending money that they wouldn't choose to spend if they had fine grained control over the taxes they paid.
You pay health insurance so you don't have to pay the full cost later on. And it could easily be that the shipping cost + taxes generally means that the system stays afloat. And besides, if you tax correctly, it wouldn't be the same rate for everyone (income taxes should be higher for those making more, for example) nor would it be more than the flat shipping costs so long as the tax money actually went to the postal service.
In both cases, are the employees getting paid fair wages?
Does the tax mean I'm not getting charged for receiving packages? Are there hidden costs to the lower amount?
When you buy health insurance you pay more than the expected value of the full cost, both as a result of the cost of providing the insurance and the over-consumption as a result of insurance making patients price insensitive.
The reason you buy insurance is in case your medical bills are more than average and you can't afford them. For the average person the insurance is a net loss but the cost savings of not having it aren't worth the risk.
> And it could easily be that the shipping cost + taxes generally means that the system stays afloat.
If the system is worth more than it costs then it will be able to charge prices that allow it to stay afloat. We generally don't need systems that cost more than they're worth.
> And besides, if you tax correctly, it wouldn't be the same rate for everyone (income taxes should be higher for those making more, for example) nor would it be more than the flat shipping costs so long as the tax money actually went to the postal service.
Everybody always wants somebody else to pay for it. But it's the people in the middle and not at the top who actually pay for stuff, because they're the only ones numerous enough to do it.
> In both cases, are the employees getting paid fair wages?
That sounds like a question for the employees and not the customers. Naturally if they're getting paid below market rates they should consider seeking other employment.
> Does the tax mean I'm not getting charged for receiving packages?
You can already get charged for receiving packages. It's called COD. Nobody really uses it because it's much more convenient to charge up front than have the carrier try to collect payment from the recipient.
In some countries without mandatory health insurance, medical cost is a lot lower and simpler. If major medical emergency happens, then families usually need to take out a loan. But for regular medical issues, you save for it. This includes issues like childbirth which in America very few people can afford without insurance.
I imagine, having health or car insurances gives some sense of false security, which leads to poor lifestyle choices or driving fast, which in turn causes one to experience bad health or accidents, thus using their insurance. Which causes insurance rates to rise. And one is not directly negotiating with hospital or bodyshop, those prices rises too.
... And the system is more efficient because of standardization and pooling money together.
The US system doesn't have much of any standardization, and in general has a lot more facilities than it might otherwise need - plus things like some of the government provided insurance not paying enough and not having the ability to act like public insurances. These all make it more expensive. Heck, even standardizing insurance coding would help.
It is cruel to expect folks to take out a loan for medical emergencies. In some places, you die if you can't pay. It isn't like health is completely under your control: Type I diabetics couldn't prevent it (for example). Many cancers can't be avoided. And so on.
Negotiating with medical facilities is a pipe dream. There are many cases where you simply don't have the choice (emergency) nor the mental space to do it (for example, do you know how to judge what facilities are better for a gall bladdar removal surgery? How about where to get cancer treatment? How does one judge any of that?)
Does care insurance cause you to drive fast? Seriously? Isn't that more cultural than whether or not you have insurance?
"You can see from the above anything under 4 ounces is actually cheaper to ship from China. From 4 ounces to 8 ounces the rates are pretty comparable. Once you start hitting about 2 lbs, the prices from shipping within the U.S. start to get comparatively cheaper and cheaper than shipping from within China."
I seriously doubt this was ever an existential in the sense of the shipping cost itself destroying a business. China is simply able to produce cheaper things because they have lower labour cost and so on, and that is actually good for American consumers. It's simply free trade.
If anything I see a much bigger threat in the ability of the US to raise the prices, because given the current administration it may be used as a protectionist tool.
How can it possibly be free trade if one side is subsidized and one side is not.
This is a good thing, I hope same thing will happen in Europe, if it haven't already. The law/agreement in europe is to help people send hand written letters across the globe, and to help people from poor regions send letters ro the more developed regions on earth.
This was the case back then, now, the same agreement is used so that you can send stuff worldwide without any fee. That is NOT free trade.
Surely it does the opposite - someone living in the poorest country in world would have to pay rich-European country rates to access their postage system.
Btw. I strongly suspect that the international rules on charging for postage were chosen for simplicity of implementation and not out of a sense of altruism for people in poor countries.
If you believe it's still neccessary to keep sending letters across the world a neccessity, well, then we could only allow thin letters that can not hold anything else than a written letter - no items, what so ever.
Your original message seemed to express concern that the original purpose of the rules for international shipping was to support people in poorer countries?
If this cross-subsidisation is removed, then people in poorer countries will pay more and people in richer countries will pay less to send stuff to each other. That's simple arithmetic.
And I was wondering how someone could simultaneously support such a policy while expressing concern about access to international post in poorer countries.
It was definetly not designed to be abused by the world's biggest companies to be able to ship stuff for near zero cost world-wide. If you can't see how it's clearly being abused, I don't know what to say.
A trade union created in the late 1800's that made sense then, may need a change now. Although alot of damage is already made.
The problem is not physical letters, it's the postage of goods across the world, being cheaper because of subsizidies.
I've read many e-commerce blogs with US sellers lamenting that they can't compete with China on $5 items because shipping costs are 5X as much within US. Maybe not killing businesses, but definitely keeping many out of the market.
> China is simply able to produce cheaper things because they have lower labour cost and so on, and that is actually good for American consumers
Lower, but not nearly as low as it used to be. Minimum wage in China is almost 1/2 of US now.
There's real instances of shipping cost offsetting lower labor. Manhole covers are a somewhat famous example. They're still made in USA because shipping offsets increased labor and materials. Would it be the same for ecommerce? I'm not aware of any studies but to me, the increased cost and shipping time make it plausible
The major thing compared to local stuff is lack of VAT on cheap foregin goods. Noone locally can compete with that.
Also most of the stuff I buy on Aliexpress (electronic components, SBCs, ...) simply isn't available locally, or is simply bought there and resold locally (because the manufacturer's main shop is Aliexpress).
This was the most nonsensical self-destructive American policy that strangely never caught much mainstream media attention.
Please read this briefing by the US trade commission
"The illicit trade follows the standard e-commerce model of small-scale shipments and B2C and B2B distribution channels. The trade is SME-focused, with small-scale Chinese suppliers primarily exporting to individuals and small independent U.S. criminal networks.China was the source of 97 percent of inbound shipments of high-purity fentanyl during 2016 and 2017"
"Given the high purity of Chinese fentanyl, most illicit imports are less than 700 grams (1.5 lbs.) per shipment. "
So what? 100 grams would be bought, by the numbers above, for $600 and sold for $8,000. If shipping cost $200, no one would care. That would add $2,000 in shipping costs to the full kilogram, but, again, no one would care. It's just not significant.
Do you have an argument to advance that isn't ludicrous on its face?
1. Chinese fentayl shipments do not need to have high weight due to purity. Mentioned explicitly in the trade commission report linked above.
2. Due to 1), it is convenient to leverage e-packet shipment as inspection of massive volume of e-packet shipments is near impossible.
3. Small-scale US businesses were adversely affected by e-packet rates
> It is not a matter of the shipping cost.
Seems like your original point was centered on shipping costs destroying domestic businesses. In light of the downvotes it became mostly a matter of drug imports in small, cheap packages:
> most fentayl imports are less than 700 grams - which get lost in the massive flood of UPS e-Packet shipments and thus near impossible to inspect
Which is irrelevant, shipping costs (within reason) won't change this.
I made both points right at the beginning, though the thread got focused around one of them.
1. e-packet shipping cost adversely affecting US businesses
2. e-packet being used to hide fentayl shipments thanks to massive volume and delivery convenience. (cheap and fast)
"Which is irrelevant, this will be the case regardless of the shipping costs, within reason."
I fail to understand this statement. How will reduction of e-packets - one of the major causes of the bloat of international packages not help in inspection ?
If you reduce the total number of e-packets by removing the subsidy, then it becomes far easier to inspect which packages have fentayl and which do not. EMS shipments apparently quadrupled after the e-packet scheme was introduced which adversely affected all inspection procedures as agencies could not cope with the volume.
Reduce the volume by removing the subsidy - the inspection agencies can then manage their job.
Just because opponents will likely evolve their tactics in the future should not prevent one from mitigating their extraordinarily successful tactic that is running in the present.
In FY 2012, USPS handled about 27 million ePackets from China. This increased to nearly 500 million ePackets by 2017. (Thanks to that disastrous subsidy agreement in 2011)
None of our inspection agencies could cope with this volume. Remove the discount-from-China subsidy, this will automatically reduce the volume of all e-packets and thus will ameliorate the load on inspection agencies.
Congress is responsible for the rates. Politics and likely donor interests are why the rates are this way.
What's sickening about this? It's different quality of service. Your $5 package will be received in a few days. With $.50 shipping, your Chinese trinket will be delivered in a couple of months.
> So while I agree with you that we don’t necessarily need a profit motive at the usps, at the same time the taxpayers don’t need to subsidize cheap crap from China.
Too late for that. China is world's manufactory. Your stuff will be shipped from China one way or another.
Given that, subsidising direct shipping from China is the reasonable thing to do. Otherwise you will be paying a 5-10x markup to middlemen for the exact same item.
The system was illogical. Whether you want to say that US shipping is too expensive, or Chinese shipping to the US too inexpensive is unimportant.
It's shipped by air. It is so slow because of sorting, customs, paperwork. The last mile postal shipment is actually quite fast in USA.
Not an American, but I believe there's a 2006 bill that prevents USPS from selling services below the cost. Learned about it in a John Oliver's video , mentioned somewhere else in this thread. I'd guess that Chinese epackets are part of an international agreement, so they are exempt.
> The system was illogical.
It would be illogical if USPS had flexible costs.
But the USPS costs are more or less fixed. The mailman will go his round every day and will get his salary, even if he has little to deliver. So, you may as well have him deliver Chinese epackets, for whatever price the Chinese are willing to pay. And that's a good deal for the public. Otherwise the $1 trinket for China would be $6 (if Chinese had to pay full shipping), or $10 (if bought through a US-based reseller).
I think that’s only true until it arrives in the US though and USPS delivers the package to your door. Sure, total time is long, but the cost to USPS seems similar?
Here’s a planet money episode on the topic.
If domestic mail is too expensive maybe let's address that.
It's not like that isn't already done all over the place.
It's not like that would happen often. They'd quickly adapt and start charging more for sending, making it a non-issue most of the time
I don't see any problem if taxpayer is the one is paying cheaper price as the end result. It's not like Chinese are charging full rate and sending for dirt cheap and booking mega profits like that.
And if a student can order cheaper pen and paper from china or a mechanic can order cheaper nut bolts and screwdriver from china, what's the harm?
"COMBATTING THE OPIOID CRISIS: EXPLOITING VULNERABILITIES IN INTERNATIONAL MAIL"
US Senate Staff Report: "Fentanyl Flows from China"
You can find extreme examples in anything.
But let me tell you, sometime back I was unemployed. I bought machining tools from china and setup a good business, I could have never been able to afford local manufactured tools without accuring debt.
I paid a lot of money in taxes as my business grew, I bought better quality machines which were locally available from local suppliers because local suppliers ensures a maintenance package.
LOL, do you really think people buy chinese fentanyl 'cos the shipping per gram is a few cents cheaper than it would be if they had to pay higher shipping rents?
It also contributes to the dismounting of American industry. When the poor people can't make any money to buy things made in USA because their jobs got exported to China, the next level of workers in USA will also lose their jobs and this will just continue for the next level and sooner or later hit the software world too.
Please read this report by the US trade commission. I can quote further citations if needed, but this one is a succinct briefing.
Please also read the United States Senate Sub-committee on Investigations Staff Report.
"The preferred method of the international online (fentayl) sellers is Express Mail Service (“EMS”), a global delivery service for documents and merchandise contained in letters and package."
Further reading in that report will show you how difficult it was to scan/inspect e-packet shipments due to immense volume.
There's no reason American taxpayers and postal rate payers should be subsidizing shipping costs for Chinese Ebay/Amazon merchants at the expense of their American competitors.
But China isn't a developing country anymore; it's the #2 economy of the world. And the volume isn't small either. The rule should not apply to them, but it's hard to change.
The fact that you have to explicitly point this out to derriz ...
Worth noting also that the USPS in particular has been politically sabotaged (and they explain how to fix it): https://ips-dc.org/how-congress-manufactured-a-postal-crisis...
I could go on, I guess (random google) an article like this sums it up for me: https://www.singlelunch.com/2018/10/01/bad-economics-shame-o...
For all I know, there could be articles that do debunk MMT but this one doesn't.
But in this case, the US (and EU) are subsidizing products that compete with local products, undercutting local products in price, in quality, and often not complying with safety standards, while also avoiding customs and sales taxes because the individual packages are too small to meet the limit.
You're basically supporting unfair competition, and paying to undermine your own quality standards and taxes. There's no benefit at all to the country that's paying for this.
Shipping is a major part of the equation so it's screwing up commerce.
They should dump the agreement for all but regular letter mail, it makes no sense otherwise.
It's rational if the price of shipping is more transparent and consistent with the actual, underlying cost.
For example, if this system did not exist, and China was subsidising their own shipping to the US, ironically, it would be illegal under WTO rules!
It's absurd and it should have ended long ago.
I still cannot believe that US companies have not been able to lobby to have this cut two decades ago.
The poor rate structure and widely publicized losses are due to artificial and quite excessive benefit pre pay mandates going out decades and a rate structure mandated by Congress for political reasons.
These changes were made during the Bush Administration.
2. It included a 10 year prepayment period. This ended in 2016. It is 2020. Current USPS financial woes have nothing to do with that act. We are now in the follow-on period in which the USPS is intended to be amortizing its remaining unfunded liability over 40 years, to 2056. And this 40 year amortization period is exactly the same length of time as private-sector employers are given.
3. The USPS gets ~$18 billion in taxpayer funding/subsidies annually.
Fact is both parties receive significant financial incentives aimed at privatizing the Post Office. There is no benefit to the American people down that path.
That analysis is incomplete and inaccurate. 3 is particularly egregious. Compute it prior to the act, and the arguments evaporate.
Another fact: That bill was, and remains unnecessary, and is intended to undermine an otherwise exemplary service.
I won't respond to this again.
And unlike police who, when trying to be profitable are driven by perverse incentives to be corrupt, the post office doing more business is hard to see as a bad thing.
Also as many others have mentioned, the Chinese shipping rates were much lower than domestic rates, to the level that cheap products made in the US couldn’t be given away for free cheaper than things could be imported from china. $0 + shipping cost more than similar products sold at a profit and shipped from China.
A public service doesn't but the USPS is effectively run as a highly (and hostilely) regulated private monopoly, rather than a public service.
The postal service is one of the few gov't agencies explicitly created in the Constitution; it's vital to national cohesion and commerce (especially rural areas).
> The Congress shall have Power...To establish Post Offices and post Roads
And that's it. The rest is left up to Congress to figure out; they could, if they chose, punt entirely and allow eg FedEx to run post offices. I think the USPS is vitally important, and we can make arguments for its role as a public good without being hyperbolic about it.
A nit: The postal service wasn't actually created in the Constitution. Congress is merely authorized to do so.
 https://about.usps.com/what/financials/10k-reports/fy2019.pd... Page 18, labeled "Controllable loss".
"The debt it carried jumped from $7 billion in 2008 to $10 billion in 2009. At the end of 2019, the GAO calculated that the Postal Service had $160.9 billion in debt, $119.3 billion of which came from retiree benefits"
The Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act has pretty much been at the core of why the USPS has had such extreme woes.
Can you clarify? My understanding is that US Federal Employee retirement benefits (for new employees) have been comparable to private sector benefits since some point in the 80s, though existing employees at that time kept their old, more generous pension plan.
I think this might be what I'm talking about: https://www.opm.gov/retirement-services/fers-information/
> Unless you think the money to pay pensions will magically materialize out of thin air in the future, I don't see what's artificial about it. They have obligations to pay and recognize them.
My understanding is every other entity that has similar obligations is allowed to pay them as they go.
This isn't about a policy that costs money, and creates benefits. It's not even really a policy. It's a side effect of quasi-diplomatic arrangements created decades ago... with no relationship between original goals and current outcomes.
Maybe it makes sense to subsidize a national package delivery. IF so, they can make a policy that does this, but this one isn't it.
However, in a world where basically 100% of the business of the postal service is junk advertising and amazon packages, subsidizing it is just a payout to business, and I agree that the externalities now greatly outweigh any social benefit.
Shipping from China is well past that point, though, it's clearly providing perverse incentives and it's good that it's changing.
I can absolutely see a situation where products being shipped from China are given cheaper rates than products shipped domestically. In fact, I expect that’s how it should be. Simply because for products from China, USPS would be tying up with the Chinese postal service, and due to the massive volumes they have, they would be able to offer extremely low rates that they couldn’t offer anyone in the US besides Amazon and Walmart maybe.
However, those rates should be profitable rates for USPS.
While I think your comment may have been imbuing a value judgement on my original comment where I wasn't making any.. it does bring up a good point. Obviously this mindset doesn't hold true across the board for all services.
The one that immediately comes to mind is farming. I think more people are averse to the idea of farmers/farming operations going bankrupt. I think most people would be fine with a pure wealth transfer to that industry to help it get through a massive downturn. But why does that industry get a general pass?
My guess is that food production is perceived as more of a core need than mail/package delivery. Even when mail/package delivery is an important part of a modern economy.
In the US, the idea is to disdain public services unless they can be used to socialize a cost of doing business. The USPS has been allowed to function because it made shipping cheaper, which is the lifeblood of business. However, other political calculations are coming to the fore (such as international competition) so they are thinking of kneecapping cheap rates to China.
The "loss" is artificial, imposed by the Bush administration, which required the Post Office to prepay benefits so far in advance, that at the time of the decision, there were people not even born yet, who would go to work for the Post Office having bennies paid for now.
Frankly, the Post Office could meet that burden if it were not also for deep rate cuts that essentially force the Post Office to deliver for big publishing at a loss.
Yes, that volume is significant, and Congress is responsible for it, and the artificially low costs for it today.
The Post Office is in the Constitution and it must be run by the Federal Government.
Many in said government want to further privatize the Post Office which in every other way has given the nation exemplary performance, at respectable rates, while serving everyone equally.
I am always saddened, and a little bit disturbed, to see the hobbling and abuse directed toward a clear example of a public service delivering a net good so well.
Prior to that mess, the Post Office made regular and significant contributions to the treasury, funds to be part of the General Budget.
It is a shame to see leadership priorities and politics cause so much grief.
That's a little broad. Oversight would be sufficient.
The Post Office is fundemental to our society.
It needs to be treated as such.
These ongoing games being played by Congress are expensive and should bot be tolerated by Americans who should demand a remedy so the otherwise exemplary service can continue as it has since the beginning.
There literally is no benefit to a private service being primary. State laws, etc... Federal govt is entirely appropriate here.
Your comment about what oversight means, is separate and also not legal or factual. It's partisan comment that adds nothing.
It means Congress needs to do it.
"Shall" has specific meaning too. "Shall" is not optional. It means "must" and or "will"
And that is the basis for my comment.
An analysis that talks about "the subsidies and legal monopolies that Congress bestows upon the post office" without talking about their unique costs - being required to deliver first class mail just about everywhere, at prices mandated by Congress that represent a loss in many geographic areas - is incomplete.
There is nothing wrong with the otherwise exemplary Post Office, other than too many in both government and private industry don't like it and want it privatized.
They want that as an opportunity, not any meaningful benefit to the American people.
If there are extra taxes on tobacco and alcohol, there can damn sure be extra taxes on junk mail. Let's start at 5000% and adjust from there.
Or, put some sort of escrow/credit/thing in the opt-out mechanism. Where the sender has to swear on a stack of dollars that I actually want this. And if I do actually want this, cool, I keep receiving it, they keep their money. But if I opt out, then the sender forfeits their bet, and next time it's more expensive for them. This would incentivize senders to make their mailings carefully chosen or highly valuable (think bribes to the recipient), or both.
Really, what I want is a postal equivalent of that "button that shocks the shit out of someone on the internet". I would just lean a brick on the button until the junkmailers have smoke coming out their ears.
I'd imagine this would actually be quite difficult on first amendment grounds if you start filtering by sender / message contents and would sweep in things like paychecks if you don't.
That is, until they come to tax email.
Here in Finland you can opt out of unaddressed bulk mail by adding a "no ads" note on your mailbox/mailslot.
99%+ of bulk mail is unaddressed here (addressed mail would be more expensive and senders would need address databases etc.).
Though there are also other companies delivering both addressed and unaddressed items (the state-owned postal service has no legal monopoly).
> Mailpieces are simply addressed to "Postal Customer" and your mail will be delivered to every address on your selected routes.
The area the customer selects are carrier routes. When you select a route, the carrier is given a stack of your fliers and they simply hand one out to each address.
First class mail just barely edges out shipping packages here.
For anyone who wants to check it out: https://about.usps.com/what/financials/annual-reports/fy2019...