Step 13: Shipping - other methods
Express transport is obviously pretty pricey on a per-kilo basis. But fedex sure makes it quick and easy! you'll get your stuff in 2 days right at your door, just like if you ordered from Amazon.
The other normal methods are Air Freight and Sea Freight. i think the best way to describe the process of freight shipping might be - it's a lot like paying your taxes. there are endless rounds of forms, phone calls, fees, faxes, surcharges, more forms, driving around, waiting in line, waiting not in line. it is a truly classic beaurocratic experience.
I tried shipping by sea once - the result was that it only cost $120 to send about 100kg of crap across the entire ocean, but then it cost another $450 and half a day of my time by the time those boxes got to my door - and that's in a case where my door is only half an hour drive from the nearest sea port! i do not recommend this unless you are looking to transport at least a full palette. on the plus side - it is really cost effective in bulk. a full container from china is only about $2500.
A friend of mine told me he had the identical experience trying to send sometihng by sea.
Air freight is not quite so bad as ocean. The difference between using a courier like Fedex and using Air Freight is that with Air Freight you will need to pick up your shipment at the nearest international airport, and you will have to do customs paperwork yourself. The costs for air freight may be 30% to 50% less than the courier service. You can hire customs brokers to take care of your paperwork for you, they might charge $50 to $100 for this.
Because the shipping process is so tedious, there are companies called Freight Forwarders that can act as agents on your behalf to take care of the shipping for you.
So besides Express service and freight, is there any other way? In fact there is - The China Postal System. China Post has an express service (called EMS), but that's just like Fedex and the rest. Here i'm talking about regular Airmail. Airmail via china's postal system is quite inexpensive - perhaps $5 to send a 500g package to the US - however because it is not insured or tracked nobody would send significant merchandise using it. So you will lose some credibility points if you ask for Airmail. In principle it would be by far the most cost effective way to get samples, but since only the sender can pay for it the factory is reluctant. But don't give up yet! I once successfully convinced a very persistent sales rep to send me some samples by China Airmail - the reason being that I didn't care enough about his samples to pay the Express charge, so I told him that if he wanted me to try his samples that badly, he should just send it by China Post and pay the charge himself - which he ultimately did.