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International cargo... any good idea?

 
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I'm looking for a door-to-door international cargo company to move my stuff back to Europe from San Francisco. Does anyone have any good idea, experiences, or whatever else that might help me? Thank in advance.
 
whippersnapper
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If you ever want to get my wife all wound up, ask her about the time she spent 7 hours in Sheremetevo airport in Moscow, arranging to send a single suitcase back to the States as unaccompanied cargo.
(At my request, so we could travel with only backpacks...)
 
Valentin Crettaz
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Hmmm... Do you really think that it always happens that way or did you just get the wrong number? It seems like bad luck to me. But don't tell your wife I said that
 
Michael Matola
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Guess that wasn't a very helpful response I wrote.
My wife has only limited Russian, and her Russian-speaking colleague who went with her to the airport forgot his passport, so he couldn't go with her to secure parts of the airport where she needed to take care of parts of the process.
Apparently the process for shipping out luggage is so difficult and convoluted in the Moscow airport that most people just give up at some point along the way. (Many forms to fill out, lines to stand in for stamps and signatures, receipts for tax payments of exactly 23 cents (Ruble equivalent, of course), offices closed at the times of day when you need them to be open -- standard Russian experience.) When she tells the story it's fairly funny. She kept crossing paths with, and was helped out by, another poor soul exporting live snakes. An official saw she was visibly agitated at some point and offered her a cigarette. "But I don't smoke." "--Maybe you should start." Etc.
Anyhow --
1. Everybody I know who's done a big international move has had it done by a mover. You can look around for moving companies that handle international moves. Even small local companies might have an international affiliate or be able to make a recommendation. I understand this is very expensive and if your stuff goes by ship it can take a long time to arrive. (I think they wait until they get a full container before they put it on a boat.) But if you're looking for door-to-door service and willing to pay the price, this might work.
2. Check with the cargo department of commerial airlines that fly directly between the cities you're moving between. Our exercise was getting a single piece from outside US back into US, so I don't know how things work the other way round. But if they operate like Northwest who we used, they subcontract some of this out to a cargo-handling company. (Same kind of folks who might deliver lost luggage back to you.) This company facilitated some of the customs clearing exercise on the US side. (For inbound US stuff there are some weird timing issues -- extra charges if it sits too many days unclaimed/uncleared in customs, extra charges if it sits unclaimed/undelivered at the cargo handler, customs officials only clear small cargo between 2-3 pm each day and all the documents have to be in order by midnight the previous day, etc.) Cargo handler did offer home delivery, but it was cheaper for us to just go pick it up.)
3. Is there an expat community or organization in San Francisco for the country you're shipping to? You might ask there for ideas. We recently shipped a largish package to Ukraine. My wife found (probably did it by searching on Google) a couple local companies (we're in Detroit) that specialize in shipping to Ukraine. This was cheaper than Fedex or DHL or the like and US postal didn't offer signature service outside the US I think, and we were willing to have it take the 6 weeks or so the companies said it takes. Found out that a Ukrainian colleague had used one of the services so that's who we went with. Seems expat communities just *know* about these kinds of things. That's why I made the suggestion about asking around.
[ March 24, 2002: Message edited by: Michael Matola ]
 
Valentin Crettaz
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Thank you very much Michael for your wonderful tips. Fortunately I'm not moving back to Russia
I've already found some freight companies but there are so many of them out there that I'll have some selection work to do. 4 weeks to go, let's roll up the sleeves and get down to work.
Thanks again
 
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