My Canadian Experience
Into 2006


Interesting start to the new year as I decided to print and sell the famous clan map we have on the site. I have received quite a number of emails over the years asking if a copy of this map was available and had to reply that it wasn't unless you could get hold of the antiquarian book that included it in the publication.

Anyway... this project was an interesting one as I had to try and find a company that could print it. I tried the web search and also the Chatham-Kent portal site but just couldn't find anything.  I've commented before that while the local economic development department had a business directory on the site they didn't provide any descriptions of the companies which is really not helpful.

And so I decided to phone the local chamber of commerce and they were very helpful and gave me three companies to try.  The one I used was around the corner from me, Bull Graphics. They were able to print out the clan map 48" x 58" and although it was a bit expensive at $98.00 they did include a free sample print of the same map at 26" x 38" which was a suitable size for a larger print run.  This allowed me to see if the names were still readable at that size.

Once firming up on the price I went out to several contacts I had to get a price for printing out 500, 1000 and 2000 copies. I eventually got the quotes in and decided to do a print run of 1,000 and went through Robert Stewart in Canada to get the printing organised. 

It was then down to doing costs on packing and shipping. I wanted a fairly robust tube to send them in and managed to source that and if  buying 50 or more I would get a saving on the tube and they would deliver them at no extra charge. I have used the Business Depot for this and once you set up an account you can order online.

The postal service was the final part of the cost structure and I have to say this was more time consuming and complex.  I tried Fed-Ex first but I found it impossible to find a customer service phone number for general advice.  I then visited the Toronto office in person and they weren't a lot of help but they have arranged to have a local Chatham representative visit me.

I then tried Canada Post and found that given the weight of the tube and its dimensions I could send up to 6 maps in a tube for the same cost to ship 1. I still feel that when an item is low cost, the map is selling for US$35.00, the postal cost seems to be very high. In Scotland when considering doing an Electric Scotland T-Shirt I found that the shipping to North America more than doubled the price.

I have had some issues with the Canadian Postal Service and so I thought I'd phone them to get some general information which I'll share here...

I found out that since 1989 the Canadian Postal service has shown a profit each year and does not receive any subsidies. In 1993 they purchased Puralator which operates much like Fed-Ex. I wasn't aware of this company when I came to Canada and in fact only learned about them when I wanted to post a parcel from Chatham.

One thing they did tell me is that there has been a world wide agreement that any package or letter coming into a country from outside must have the senders address on it. Canada seems to be the only country in the world that has actually implemented this system fully.  This means that anyone shipping a package to Canada must have their address on the outside of the package otherwise it will probably be returned.

I have been told by a UK source that the UK Post Office won't ship printed matter above 2Kg to Canada through surface post as they say it won't be accepted.  I'm told that all other countries in the world accept up to 5Kg. I have now had this confirmed and so if shipping a book that is over 2Kg you will need to ship it by airmail as it's the "small packet" rate where the 2Kg limit applies but have to say it also applies to other countries as well.

All packages coming into Canada have to go through the Canada Border Services Agency before it can get into their postal service. There is both a primary and secondary process that parcels can go through and so this can add to the delay in getting your parcel.

I noted that one person in Scotland sent me a book by registered post and it never reached me and was in fact returned to sender. The same person also sent me the same book by normal air mail and that did reach me although a month after it was sent.

Another person sent me a book also from Scotland by normal air mail and that reached me in around 5 days.  I am still not sure why there should be such a difference in delivery times.

I ordered a 6 volume set of books from Scotland and so far 3 out of the 6 packages have reached me but it's been about three weeks since the last of the 3 arrived so still waiting for the other 3 which were all packed identically and clearly marked... 1 of 6, 2 of 6, etc.  Mind you that doesn't mean that they all arrived together.

I then phoned the Canada Border Services Agency to find out more about the customs side of things. Essentially if the package looks to be fine it will go through the primary checking process which would not take longer than 1 day. Should there be reason for checking this further it would go through the secondary process which could take a while to go through depending on the reason for it being put to this process.

The Canadian Postal Service will deliver mail within the local region within 2 days, the province within 3 days and nationally within Canada within 4 days. They do try to knock 1 day off those times and mostly succeed or so I am told.

When talking to the customs people they tell me that they will check books for "hate". This applies to both current books, magazines, etc and also antiquarian books and materials. I confess to being a little confused on this as I thought that freedom of speech would mean that this would not be an issue but the women I spoke to mentioned this several times and so this is clearly an issue.

She did say that it would be helpful if a full description of the book was included within the package as this would help speed things through. She also confirmed that the senders address must be clearly printed on the outside of the package otherwise it would definitely go to the secondary process and most likely be returned.

Talking with another person at the CBSA she told me that if it goes through secondary it should take no more than 72 hours to resolve the issue. There can be a whole host of  reasons for the package going to secondary from not having a proper description of the goods, not having a value, not having the senders address, a health issue, etc.  Should the package be refused entry they are meant to contact you to advise what the problem was.

In general Canada Post recommend that you get a tracking number when shipping any parcel as that way it can be traced.

So there you have an overview of the postal and shipping services in Canada :-)

I am now in the process of checking if there is any cheaper way to send my maps but the system I already have in place includes having a tracking number and insurance as well as a timely delivery, normally within 5 working days but it is expensive doing it through Canada Post.

When you have an American company but live in Canada it sure makes life interesting.  I thought I'd try the PayPal UPS shipping option and signed up for an account.  Once I did that I tried out a trial shipment only to find that as I had an American account I wasn't allowed to have a pick up from Canada.  I phoned PayPal support and they confirmed this was the case and said I'd need to deal with UPS direct.  So... off I went to UPS USA and they kindly gave me a quote for pick up in Canada and delivery to the USA.  I then went to their web site to try out the shipping process and you guessed it... I wasn't allow to do a pick up from Canada <sigh>.

I then went to get an account for UPS Canada and having organised that I then checked their shipment rates only to find out that they actually charged $5 more than the USA organisation did.  <sheesh>

I then got a visit from the Fed-Ex rep and she actually got me a decent rate but then I got told that there was a weekly fee of $6.00 to ship with them even if you only ship 1 item but they were around $5.00 cheaper than UPS ground rate. I was actually told that I could use their Fed-Ex tubes but that ended up being incorrect as you can only use them if you are using their express service but to use that service you trebled the price <sigh>


And this is the Fed-Ex local rep that came to visit (Fannie Vavoulis of Greek descent)
[Note: Her Mum and Dad run the restaurant opposite the VIA train station]

So now that I've discovered the best price for shipment is through Fed-Ex I now needed to go source tubes to send the maps in.  I was advised that I really needed tubes that would have a plug seal to give greater rigidity to the tube and so lessen the chance of it getting damaged in transport.  And so it was off to try to get this organised. I had previously decided to use Business Depot for the tubes but Robert Stewart gave me a couple of other companies to try, Colts and Chiswick. I discovered that Chiswick had a better price but I had to pay for the shipping.  I then went back to Staples Business Depot and checked with them on their 110% price match offer and they agreed to price match so got the same price with them with free delivery :-)

So a lot to organise if you want to sell any item and off course to accept payment online by credit card I needed to setup a PayPal facility.  I might add that PayPal currently have around 86 million accounts around the world so they are a good company to deal with and they make it easy to setup a small sales operation. Buyers don't need to have a PayPal account to use their credit card services and you can also pay by echeck as well. So all in all I'm quite happy with this service.

Of course having now secured a much better rate for shipping to the USA I had to go into PayPal to do a partial refund to each of the people that have already placed an order for USA delivery.

And so that completed my account of my fun times learning how to ship product from Canada :-)


This week has also seen me attend the Scottish Studies Foundation board meeting in Toronto where we decided on the Scot of the Year not only for 2006 but also for 2007. They have also setup a very good web site which gives you lots of information about this and the Tartan Day Dinner in Toronto on 6th April 2006.

While in Toronto I also visited Frank McNie's Fish & Chip shop at long last.  The restaurant was spotless and you could have eaten your food off the floor although I hasten to add there were plenty of tables.  The food was truly excellent and I'm sure you won't be disappointed and will want to return often :-)

I'm also delighted with the help the book volunteers have been on sending me in scans and ocr'd content from the books I sent them.  This has been a big help and especially as it's allowed me to take time to get this map project on the go.

I was reading the local paper, "Chatham This Week" and noticed a call to recognise MacDonald, Canada's first prime minister. By clicking on the picture below you can read the article. 

I am minded that in Scotland that there is a similar call for William Wallace to be recognised.

This week I received a 2006 diary from the Scottish Enterprise Party. I can't ever remember getting in a diary from a political party before but certainly the diary was most welcome :-)

I also got in an award of some sort from the Court of the Keeper of the Cloot which I've never heard of before and for Scottish Country Dancing which is even more amazing.  There wasn't any address or contact details with the certificate so am unable to contact them.

We are also in the middle of another general election in Canada. Seems that the current Liberal government is up against the Conservative party with the NDP probably holding the balance of power. The Greens are out in force so will be interesting to see how the do this time around. Canada right now is doing very well and has been reducing their national debt at a fast rate. Every party is promising to cut taxes but of course each of them question how each can afford it. At time of writing the Conservative party has taken a big lead in the polls but we've another 6 days to go until the Monday election.

I note with interest that like other countries in the world there is a problem getting the youth to vote and as the years go around I suspect there is going to be some changes in the political system. 23rd January is the day for the election.

I have gotten a wee bit involved with the local Tartan Sertoma Highland Games as it appears that for the first time they have real problems in raising around $20,000 to ensure the event can go ahead.  Apparently new rules have meant that they haven't been able to run many bingo or BBQ events this year. and that alone has meant they are in trouble and might not be able to run this years event. Should that happen this last ethnic event in Chatham may not appear again.

On the 19th I got a phone call from the local newspaper asking if I'd do an interview for them so have arranged that for the 24th, the day after the elections. I'll report on that in my next journal entry.


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