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For the last few years I have tried sending large parcels of games back home to England from Essen by courier. This is what I have learnt. Weblinks will be provided at the bottom. No doubt there will be many comments about having a car, or carrying games in luggage is best. This post is to inform people who are actually interested in shipping parcels.

I was shipping very large parcels, some 40cm x 40cm x 70cm and bigger sized boxes, three at a time. I was staying at hotels close to the halls, but not close to any Post Office, and I had no practical way beyond a taxi to get to one. I will discuss the parcels and packing method later, but first, shipping.

Shipping by courier

I was informed of a German practice called the Paketshop. A German courier would run its own network of drop-off points in regular shops; music shops, bars, laundrettes and so on. These were normal small businesses but would have sign in the window identifying the courier. You take your parcel to the Paketshop of choice, they measure it which sets the price, you fill out the shipping labels which are stuck on the parcels, pay the shop and leave. In the evening, the courier goes around collecting the parcels, and ships them as normal.

Note that most shops will be shut all day Sunday, and don't open normally until 10am.

In the last few years, these German couriers have started shipping internationally, at least within the EU, which suited me. So in 2007, I tried using one, Hermes. Their website showed a Paketshop just a few metres from my hotel in the Girardethaus on Ruttenscheiderstrasse, in a music shop. Do NOT use Hermes. The shop staff were very unhelpful, left me to lug my parcels a long way without even offering assistance, barely talked to me, and only took cash (despite selling musical instruments costing x100s of Euros). Worse still, the courier at my end was a White Van Man, who dropped my parcels on the pavement despite seeing me at the door, and one parcel was punctured through two layers of card, and into a game box, but did he care?

Edit: Also, my first hotel lent me a small flat bed trolley. This was very useful for getting my three large parcels down from my room and around the corner to the music shop, about 100m. But I wouldn't have wanted to go down the street with it. In the town centre, the whole shopping area is paved. You could try asking your hotel if they could lend you a trolley to get to the main PO. It's possible they would allow it.

Last year, my experience was much better. Staying at a different hotel, again with three very large parcels, I used a different courier DPD, who I knew had its own network in the UK. The Paketshop was on Klarastrasse, so I had to get a taxi, but the driver was very helpful loading and unloading the parcels, and the cost of the short journey was 10 euros including a nice tip. The Paketshop was an ink refill place called Refill 24 Druckertankstelle, Klarastrasse 53, 45130 Essen, run by Kai Jenkner, who was amazingly helpful (and a gamer). He spoke excellent English (with the normal oh but my English is so bad), and was very helpful in completing the forms (which box for town, which for postcode and so on), and teaching me the art of ink cartridge refilling (very informative!).

I strongly recommend you to visit Kai's shop and use his services.

The parcels are priced according to size. They measure the three dimensions, and there is a limit on the longest side, and a weight limit of 30kg. I didn't know that and had no way of weighing my heavy parcels, but Kai judged by lifting them that they were not over-weight and so it proved. (One game in a parcel was The Climbers, which is very heavy, so keep in mind what you pack).

EDIT: October 2011 - you can now easily buy digital travel scales in your big supermarket for a few quid. Worth taking with you. You can weigh a few games in a plastic bag and get a reasonable idea of the carton's total weight. Saves being caught out later.

In filling the forms, you must include a return address, since they expect the sender to be resident in Germany and need a return address if the parcel cannot be delivered at its destination. So I just put my hotel address, being confident they would sort it out if needs be (I've found most hotel staff in Germany to be extremely supportive to customer needs). My parcels all maxed out, and so cost 30 euros each, and I'm pretty sure I used my plastic to pay, can't recall exactly now.

I left with my copies of the shipping forms, and three tracking numbers. When I got home, these proved useless on the DPD tracker site, but Kai confirmed by email that the parcels were shipping when I asked.

DPD delivered the parcels to me at home in a couple of days, with absolutely no problems. No damage, and I was very satisfied with the process (bar the tracklessness). 30 euros for a parcel may seem expensive, but it was very cost effective. These were biiig boxes, packed to the maximum, with card games filling out spaces and all sorts.

I don't know how it prices with shipping outside the EU, but within, I think this is the best way to shift large amounts. Carrying games in your luggage is fine, but with budget airlines getting tight on weight limits, I found this method to be easy and safe.

However, it is time expensive. I spent a lot of time packing and securing the parcels in my hotel room (I was bringing back a lot of free games for Beyond Monopoly!), and on the trip to the Paketshop on the Monday, I spent at least 1 hour and closer to 2 hours from start to finish. Fortunately, my flight was Monday afternoon, so I was in Essen anyway, but if you leave before Monday, you'll have to take time out of the show to complete this, or leave your parcels with a kind foreigner.

I also looked at using UPS and Deutsche Poste/DHL.

There is a dedicated UPS store in the centre of Essen (can't lay my hands on the info just now) and the chap running it was very helpful, again with very good English. But the charges were much higher for the large parcels I was shipping, and it was sort of based upon how out of the way your destination was. If you parcel was going to a major town, it was less, but if it was going to a village, it was much higher. I'm not talking about the extra cost of getting to the Scottish Isles for example, that you'd get in the UK anyway. It was literally if you lived in town, they charged less, and if you lived out of town, they charged a lot more.

I did visit the main Post Office in the centre of Essen on Bismarkplatz, and there's another PO in the centre, to the West. I found it very hard to get any pricing info in the main PO. You could buy small cartons which I think were pre-paid, but you wouldn't get a full sized game in them. I couldn't identify a separate counter for parcels or any DHL info. I had to ask a bloke on a stand selling special stamps, and he reluctantly printed some info out for me. I left disappointed.

My friend Paul did send a parcel through a PO, and had to do it on the Saturday morning. He reported a poor experience, having been given misleading info on size and weight allowance. But he got his parcel. I've not sent through the PO so I cannot really comment. I was staying closer to the halls and the nearest PO to me wasn't very accessible.

Packing the Parcels

You will need good, strong parcel tape (I borrow scissors from the hotel), a marker pen, a good biro for the forms in black preferably, and some kind of filler, such as newspaper. Bringing some ziplock baggies and fresh, large rubber bands is also a good idea. You will also need a box.

If you can get into the show halls on the Wednesday, you can easily take large boxes away. The publishers and sellers bring their stock into the halls in good, strong boxes, usually double-layer corrugated cardboard and dump them, folded flat normally. You will find piles around the halls, especially in the central courtyard, but be careful that these haven't been soaked. The key thing is that these boxes are game-box sized. You'll be able to find long sized boxes and be able to pack big stuff in. It's not like getting boxes from a supermarket.

But all the rubbish is cleared from the halls before Thursday, so finding boxes in show is tricky. However, if a stand has spare boxes (as they sell off stock), you can usually ask and receive, because they get charged extra costs for disposal during the show. But by Sunday, they start needed their boxes in order to remove the remaining stock, so the supply dries up.

I have not tried obtaining boxes elsewhere in Essen.

When packing, I sort the games into piles of the same size. This helps by grouping the same size boxes together inside your shipping box, which means that smaller boxes are less likely to impact the larger game boxes, reducing your dings and dents. Obviously, you cannot totally avoid putting smaller boxes against larger ones, but you can easily minimise this.

Also, pre-sorting by size makes it very easy to fill out spaces and gaps in the box.

I also take time to fill out open boxes with stuff like card games. Sometimes shifting bags of cubes around between games makes a big difference, but when you get home, remember where all the bits come from. I have done some punching and bagging to remove sprues, but found this unproductive use of my time. I did hold opened game boxes closed with large rubber bands (doing this temporarily whilst shipping does not cause damage), but my rubber bands were old and often snapped!

Often, German produced games have cardboard inserts with perforated folds. You can easily fold these back down flat without damage and drop the game board on top to keep them flat. This frees up a lot of room.

I pack games on their sides, not lying on their backs. In this way, if the parcel is dropped, the games are less likely to damage each other. I pack the contents quite tightly and fill out space with crushed up sheets of newspaper (ask your hotel reception for old copies). But if a game doesn't fit, I don't force it in, I just re-pack. I do put some paper in the corners and edges, and be careful to build up the corners if the box has been cut down. When closing the parcel, I fill out any empty space on top of the games too.

I put a piece of paper with my name and address details inside the box.

I use a lot of tape. I don't rely on the existing tape if the box was not flattened. I run tape along the seams, then crossways, and I also tape the open parts of the folded sides. I do this top and bottom.

I used a marker pen to write my name and address on the box, but on reflection I think this wasn't important. I'm guessing the courier only looks at the labels they put on, but I wondered what would happen if the label came off. But I found that because the boxes had been through shipping to get the show, they usually had shipping labels with the company's address or the show halls address. So I took time to check all 6 sides of the box and remove or scribble over these details. Sometimes pulling a label off will tear the cardboard, so it's easier to scribble them out.

Weblinks

Sorry these are in German, but I used http://translate.google.com/?hl=en&ie=UTF-8&langpair=de|en&tbb=1# - Google Translate with no trouble. However, the forms on these pages do not work on the translated side.

DPD - German Paketshops
Note the store finder form at the bottom, just enter Essen to get a map and then pick 45127 Essen as the location.

Box Size Calculator The form at the bottom gives you an idea of the volume. A box of 40cm x 40 cm x 70cm comes out as
Das Gurtmaß Ihres Pakets: 230 cm
Das Volumengewicht Ihres Pakets: 18.67 kg

But I can't locate a price list.

If you can spare the time, then I would suggest shipping by courier is worthwhile. But if your time is very tight, especially if you have limited time before flying home, it may be too stressful.


EDITS : typos and some extra stuff on packing.
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Bradley Keen
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Does anyone have an experience, suggestions, or tips concerning shipping games to the US from the fair?

~Brad
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oskari
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EYE of NiGHT wrote:
I found it very hard to get any pricing info in the main PO.


Since we are sending ridiculous numbers of Essen purchases, there's hardly any need to know anything but the maximum box size.

The maximum box size can be easily found on www.deutschepost.de:
max. 120 x 60 x 60 cm, up to 20 kg, which is 32 EUR at the post office.
If you pay the postage online, you can go up to 30 kg for a total of 41 EUR.

I used Hermes last year and had absolutely no problems with it. I paid online and filled & printed the address forms, and the only thing left to do was to haul the packages to the local kiosk, which was conveniently open after 9 PM on Saturday. The delivery took exactly the same time as DHL does, and there was no visible damage.

Maximum box size for Hermes is 25 kg, where the combined length of the shortest and longest side of the package may not be over 120 cm. This gives an online price on 28,90 EUR, or 29,90 EUR at the desk.

(Sizes and prices quoted apply for the UK and Finland. Your mileage may vary.)
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punkzter wrote:
Does anyone have an experience, suggestions, or tips concerning shipping games to the US from the fair?

~Brad


Yes, I have shipped a box or 2 back home using the German Post Office. The main office downtown is just a few stops from the Messe on the subway. There may be a closer one but I had heard conflicting reports on if they took packages or not. It's not too expensive to take a taxi if you have a lot of packages. It doesn't take too much time,under an hour round trip, depending on the line at the PO. There are a few forms to fill but the Postal people will try and be helpful-it's not hard to figure it out. There aren't many English speakers there though-but I have not had any trouble and I speak no German-sadly. You do get a tracking number that works. A "big" box is around 40 E and a really "big" box 60E. Most of mine have been around the 40E mark which holds a good number of average sized games (not Planet Steam). Takes 2-6 weeks to get your stuff.

I always punch all my games to save on weight and space so don't forget to bring baggies.

Like Jon said bring your own packing tape etc. although you can buy this at the post office.

Oh and remember the post office closes early afternoon on Saturday and closed on Sunday.
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Bradley Keen
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Lorna,

Did you pack your boxes ahead of time as well? Did you bring your own bubble wrap, etc?

Thanks for all of your help!

~Brad
 
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punkzter wrote:
Lorna,

Did you pack your boxes ahead of time as well? Did you bring your own bubble wrap, etc?

Thanks for all of your help!

~Brad


Brad-usually I have brought tape and some packing material in an empty suitcase. You can find boxes there as mentioned above, usually there are some taken down boxes in the central courtyard up for grabs. Bubble wrap would help. If you have never ordered any games from overseas be aware that the trip for packages is very rough! If you are worried about pristine games be sure and hand carry them or place them in a hard suitcase for the way home. If you aren't overly concerned about a few possible dings and dents then the mail is fine. I usually try and buy a newspaper as well to help pack or as some do, you can send the dirty laundry home as cushioning shake. Mostly there are so many games you just pack them rather tightly which seems to help but corners tend to take the brunt.
As game playing space is hard to find anyway, one of the first two evenings is spent taking down boxes and punching chits and packing boxes for the ride home. This can take some time! then the next morning it's off to the post. Hope that helps.
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I wish that I had the option to bring them in a suitcase. But Essen is just the start of a 3 month trip around Europe and also to South Africa. I won't be able to bring any purchases with me for the rest of the trip. So, I think that my only real option is to ship them home.

~Brad
 
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I'd be sure and line the boxes with extra cardboard pieces then to make it sturdier.
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SAKURA in KYOTO 2018 Back to Kansai
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Thanks for the extra info Lorna. Did you do the job single-handed? I think one person could lug a parcel to the main PO, but it would be tiring. If you're taken more than one in a taxi, do you think you'd need 2 people?


I have added an edit to my post:
Edit: Also, my first hotel lent me a small flat bed trolley. This was very useful for getting my three large parcels down from my room and around the corner to the music shop, about 100m. But I wouldn't have wanted to go down the street with it. In the town centre, the whole shopping area is paved. You could try asking your hotel if they could lend you a trolley to get to the main PO. It's possible they would allow it.
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I can easily lug one box, if you have a "wheelie" for suitcases and some bungee cords you can do 2. I have also made 2 trips one for the first round of purchases and the second for the next! laugh
Of course having a friend or two help with boxes is always good
It's sometimes nice to get a way from the busy Messe and have lunch in the middle of town as well.
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lorna wrote:
A "big" box is around 40 E and a really "big" box 60E. Most of mine have been around the 40E mark which holds a good number of average sized games (not Planet Steam).


Look here: http://www.dhl.de/de/paket/privatkunden/international/paket....

The page is in german but the picture should clarify the size restrictions.
Below is a table with the prices. The US is the "Zone 3" column. "bis 30kg" means "up to 30kg". The bold prices are for online printing/ordering next to the shop prices.

UK would be Zone 1.


EDIT: Oh, you have to click on "Preise im Überblick" below the picture to see the table.
EDIT2: A lot of Deutsche Post stores close between 13:00 and 15:00. So be sure that they are open before you carry all your treasures to them.
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Some comments on that:

- Hermes in general isn't bad. It is a discount parcel service and of course some Paketshops won't be polite. In general I met more PO employees being impolite then Hermes Paketshop owners. You can book online and simply hand the parcel to the Paketshop which works really well. Insurance is only 500.00 Euro - so be careful sending really expensive things. Website is www.hermespaketshop.de - ask someone from Germany to fill out the forms for you might be the best practise. Hermes will only ship within the EU.

- An alternative within the EU is GLS (www.gls-germany.de) or DPD (www.dpd.de). Works same in general but I think you cannot book online at GLS. These carriers might also offer pickup services.

- If you would like to ship outside of the EU the best carriers will be DHL (German PO) or UPS. DHL is available in any post office - UPS stores are called Mail Boxes etc (www.mbe-de.de). There are two stores in Essen.

- DHL offers two interesting services: Packstation and Pickup. You can either use a Packstation ( http://www.netzwerk-online.de/editor/Image/DHL-Packstation.j... ) to send your parcels 24x7 or you can arrange a pickup at the hotel lobby - the receptionist should be able to handle this, best practice should be asking before booking. You can order all these services online - Packstation ca be paid locally by CC, too. You don't need a registration. Google maps will find the closest one.

- Many airlines offer precharged excess luggage packets. This can be cheaper as volume weight isn't charged and a game usually has only about 1kg.
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I'll make it short. I bought 83.3 kg of games. Dragged them to hotel in gelsenkircen, opened them, got rid of inserts where enough room for smaller games. I asked large boxes from ravensburger and noris. They had huge boxes. Stacked games into boxes, used plastic from all games plus new and used clothes to soften the damage. Ask for the hotels baggage carrier, drove half a mile to dhl, weighted there, replaced some things to make it below 31.5 kg, taped the boxes, filled the forms with hotel as my senders address. Then enjoyed travel and all 96 games are waiting.
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I'm in Berlin, having taken a wee sabbatical and thought I was bad sending home 8kg of games!

How on Earth can one person buy over 80kg in games!!!!???

You, my friend, need help
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tommcphee wrote:
I'm in Berlin, having taken a wee sabbatical and thought I was bad sending home 8kg of games!

How on Earth can one person buy over 80kg in games!!!!???

You, my friend, need help


Yes I do. Have you tired carrying them all by yourself?

Look it at this way - I don't have place where I can just go and buy games. I have to buy online, so to actually have a chance to buy games on site is something I won't pass.
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EYE of NiGHT wrote:
In the last few years, these German couriers have started shipping internationally, at least within the EU, which suited me. So in 2007, I tried using one, Hermes. Their website showed a Paketshop just a few metres from my hotel in the Girardethaus on Ruttenscheiderstrasse, in a music shop. Do NOT use Hermes. The shop staff were very unhelpful, left me to lug my parcels a long way without even offering assistance, barely talked to me, and only took cash (despite selling musical instruments costing x100s of Euros). Worse still, the courier at my end was a White Van Man, who dropped my parcels on the pavement despite seeing me at the door, and one parcel was punctured through two layers of card, and into a game box, but did he care?

What you're saying is: Don't use the shop in the Ruttenscheiderstrasse. You can always have doofuses when collecting or delivering packages, that could have happened with a DHL courier as well. We've had some crappy ones from DHL at our door, too. If you didn't like the "service" at the Paketshop, then use another one.

That they only take cash in a Hermes Paketshop is natural. They're not primarily a Hermes Paketshop but another business, and they need to have separate registers. Even if they offer card payments, that will only be linked to their own cash register (since it's expensive to offer such an option) and they can't use it for the Hermes register.

The Hermes couriers are usually freelancers, they're not employees. So you might see a great variation of people delivering your package to you. If something does get damaged, especially when delivering like you described, then you should contact Hermes about it. ALL their parcels are insured, after all, and if you describe what happened and why the stuff got damaged (photos with a digital camera before opening the package would probably be great) then they might lay off the guy, too.
 
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Jason Miller
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Great information everyone! What's the VAT% again?

I found some paketstations and post offices using this finder:

http://standorte.dhl.de/Standortsuche And it's in English!
I really must learn that I cannot rely on "Gamer German" to get me through your wonderful country.
 
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Kestril wrote:
Great information everyone! What's the VAT% again?

The VAT is 19% in Germany. If you're shipping the games, then only the VAT of the recipient's country is of interest, though. Unless you asked because you wanted to deduct the VAT from your goods before shipping for the customs declarations - that would be some good thinking ahead!
 
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A skinned math nerd wrote:
Kestril wrote:
Great information everyone! What's the VAT% again?

The VAT is 19% in Germany. If you're shipping the games, then only the VAT of the recipient's country is of interest, though. Unless you asked because you wanted to deduct the VAT from your goods before shipping for the customs declarations - that would be some good thinking ahead!


So, if I'm shipping to Canada, VAT is not a problem, despite what others say? Yeah, the customs declaration would be a good idea, but I'm not holding my breath about seeing receipts from vendors . 19%! That's... that's a horrible amount of tax. gulp
 
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Kestril wrote:
19%! That's... that's a horrible amount of tax. gulp
Well, it depends on what you get for it, right?
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kreikkaturkulainen wrote:
Kestril wrote:
19%! That's... that's a horrible amount of tax. gulp
Well, it depends on what you get for it, right?


True. Education, medical, and GAMES? That's a deal!
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Kestril wrote:
kreikkaturkulainen wrote:
Kestril wrote:
19%! That's... that's a horrible amount of tax. gulp
Well, it depends on what you get for it, right?


True. Education, medical, and GAMES? That's a deal!

Also, Uwe Boll movies...
 
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And beer, other food and agricultural products is only 7%.
 
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binraix wrote:
I'll make it short. I bought 83.3 kg of games. Dragged them to hotel in gelsenkircen, opened them, got rid of inserts where enough room for smaller games. I asked large boxes from ravensburger and noris. They had huge boxes. Stacked games into boxes, used plastic from all games plus new and used clothes to soften the damage. Ask for the hotels baggage carrier, drove half a mile to dhl, weighted there, replaced some things to make it below 31.5 kg, taped the boxes, filled the forms with hotel as my senders address. Then enjoyed travel and all 96 games are waiting.


I remember that dragging part, they were so heavy, but finally I felt like superwoman
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As for costs to North America (Zone 3 in DHL's world), and a size not exceeting something ridiculous like .6m x .6m x 1m:

Up to 5 kilos: normal: 36 E, express air mail: 54E
Up to 10 kg: normal: 47 E, express: 83E
Up to 20 kg: normal: 68 E, express: 139E
Up to 31.5kg: normal: 89E, express: 195E

All prices current to October, 2012. These prices do not include insurance, which will double the cost of the whole thing.
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