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Crippled by postage

18 January 2021

Last week I received a book from the USA.

It is a very nice book. The pages are shiny and it has a wealth of really interesting information.

The author could have released it as an e-book but then it simply would not have had the gravity that a real printed volume creates. In effect, this is a coffee-table book that is as valuable for its form as it is for the substance it contains.

Now while the book is all very nice, the reason it has prompted today's column has nothing to do with its merits, quality, relevance or value. The reason for today's column is that this book has highlighted a growing problem in the world today. A problem that is making it impossible for many "kitchen table" businesses to prosper or even survive.

I know first hand how bad this problem is.

What am I talking about?

I'm talking about the cost of shipping physical objects around the world -- hell it's also the cost of shipping items around the country.

The book I received from the USA has just 280 pages but it cost a gob-smacking US$63 to post to me here in New Zealand. That's 150% the price of the book itself!

How crazy is that?

I've mentioned before in this column that the cost of shipping has effectively destroyed the viability of several potential business opportunities I've explored in recent times.

When I looked at exporting kits for the little RC plane I designed and which is built from foam-board I discovered that it would likely cost more than four times the expected retail price of the kit simply to ship it to the USA and other countries.

Likewise, I've been inundated with requests from people to build them an ADSB alarm of the type I designed and use every time I go flying my drones or model aircraft.

The cost to build one of these little safety devices is around NZ$100 but the cost of shipping is almost the same amount -- making it totally uneconomic to even consider such a venture.

This is a real tragedy, given that there are likely many thousands of people around the world who are in some form of lock-down and who might otherwise be able to subsidise or sustain their earnings by engaging in a bit of kitchen-table manufacturing and online selling.

Things look even worse when you realise that even today, I can order a $1 item from many Sino-etailers and have it delivered to my letterbox with *free* shipping from China. Unbelievable!

Now I know that we've been told that the Chinese government subsidises exporters shipping from that country but we can't because it would be a breach of our trade agreements -- to which I say "let's breach!" Surely if China can subsidise export shipping to us, we could subsidise our export shipping to them? How could they complain about that?

At a time when so many people are finding it increasingly difficult to make ends meet, surely a move by governments to introduce some kind of support by way of low-cost freight for small exporters would be of benefit to everyone.

According to the viewers of my YouTube channels, it's not just international shipping that is affected. Many have complained about the cost of shipping via the US postal system within the CONUS. You should also try posting stuff around NZ... the prices are sometimes outrageously high.

How great would it be if all countries agreed to allow small exporters to ship at discounted prices for the next 12 months -- just to see what the outcome would be in terms of levels of self-employment, export earnings and GDP.

Nah... never going to happen :-(

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