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David Fahrner

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Reply with quote  #1 
Why is there such a wide range in the cost of shipping instruments from India to the United States? Online sellers ask anywhere from no shipping charges ("shipping included" in the quoted price) to more than the cost of the instrument. Of course, when shipping is included in the price, you're paying the shipping cost, but I bought a reasonably good travel sitar a couple of years ago for about $250 with shipping included, so the shipping cost had to have been less than $100 on an instrument in that price range. And at the other end of the scale, I've been quoted $1100 when shipping cost is added to a $560 instrument. I know that the big shipping companies like FedEx and UPS charge $300 and up for international air shipment of a large (even lightweight) package, but there must be less expensive ways to ship individual instruments. For example, I've seen reference to private courier services, who presumably have their own deals with the big shipping companies who actually transport the package. Does anybody have any personal experience arranging for shipment of a large, fragile instrument from India for a somewhat reasonable cost, say in the $100 - $200 range? Can anyone recommend someone or some company in India who can arrange this?

David Fahrner

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David Fahrner
Terrebonne, Oregon
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Djinn Fizz

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Reply with quote  #2 
You get what you pay for. There are some courier services that ship directly to an international airport - but that requires the buyer drive to the air port and stand on around for hour after hour on long lines and fill out endless paperwork. If your time is worth something to you - then this a lousy alternative.

There is Indian Speed Post - but most people do not want to deal with this in India because the process is so bloody cumbersome. It requires standing around for hours in blazing hot post office until you get to the front of the line and then you have to show the imbecile clerk the contents of the package and then pack it safely right there in the post office with all the chaos going on around you and then you get to fill out endless paperwork. Complete torture. And if the instrument is lost or damaged - pfffft... that's it. Forget about collecting on "insurance".

Dealers pay high costs to ship via Fedex or UPS or DHL - but the stuff actually arrives. And both companies are known for damaging packages and will drag their feet for months if you place a claim for damage or loss. And when instruments arrive damaged - the dealer has to spend money out of his own pocket to repair the damage and present the customer with an instrument that looks and plays perfect - or be subjected to whining and griping and bad reviews on Yelp over some minor blemish.

I do not know what your definition of "decent sitar" is but anyone who has made the rounds of the shops in India knows that for less than around $300.00 you're going to end up with firewood.

Lastly there are the guys on Ebay (or the guys who have websites with American toll free numbers but no actual store in the USA) who sell things at ridiculously cheap prices. The stuff they sell is invariably tourist junk, They make all kinds of fantastic promises and guarantees about the quality of their merchandise, and the reality never matches the hype. If the instrument you buy is defective or damaged, you will never hear back from them. You can call your credit card company and demand a refund but the seller in India can likewise insist that you ship the instrument back to them before the issue a credit, and shipping from the USA to India is generally double the price of the other way around because Indian dealers Fedex costs are predicated on the relative values of the Indian economy; so you could end up paying $300.00 to send that $150.00 sitar back to the dealer in order to qualify for chargeback from your credit card company. And don't think the sellers in India don't know that. That is pretty much their entire business model. One guy who has a slick website offers "Vhatkar" tablas, except that if you have ever purchased tablas from Vhatkar you know what their label looks like and you know right away that the tablas being offered are not from Haridas. Making counterfeit Vhatkar, Akber Miya and Paul and Co. is a whole underground economy unto itself. There are so many fakes out there as to boggle the mind. Lots of people think they are discerning enough to wade through the field of fakes and pick out the real thing, and pretty much all of them end up getting junk. Wishful thinking totally fuels the counterfeit instrument market.

So... if you buy from a business based in the USA, you have to recognize that they bare the same burden of risk, and constantly take losses due to the feckless practices of Indian music dealers, and the incompetent workers who pack the instruments. And after all the losses they take, at the end of the day, the merchant has to make what is commonly known as a profit. Too many buyers think that a dealer should be happy to spend $900.00 to make a profit of $175.00. Ali Akbar Khan College of Music's instrument store bent over backwards for 40 years trying please customers like this and in the end, even with all their deep connections for discounted prices in India they couldn't make it work because too many people are either willing to settle for junk or demand Hiren Roy quality at WallMart prices. And apparently none of them have a realistic idea of the pitfalls involved in shipping these instruments in one piece from half-way around the planet.
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rex@sitar.co.za

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Posts: 674
Reply with quote  #3 
It's a mystery to me too.
I paid $100 to have a sitar shipped to from Delhi to Toronto via FedEx and it arrived right at my door in perfect condition.
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Djinn Fizz

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Posts: 126
Reply with quote  #4 
Quote:
Originally Posted by "rex@sitar.co.za"
It's a mystery to me too.
I paid $100 to have a sitar shipped to from Delhi to Toronto via FedEx and it arrived right at my door in perfect condition.

With all due respect I have to ask: How long ago was this?
I have worked with several music schools in the States and even
with dealer/volume discount have never been able to
achieve a price this low to ship a sitar to the USA via Fedex.
The only way I can see a dealer in India being able to offer
a price this cheap is by vastly overcharging for the instrument itself.
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CarbonSitars

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Posts: 86
Reply with quote  #5 
Quote:
Originally Posted by "Djinn
You get what you pay for. There are some courier services that ship directly to an international airport - but that requires the buyer drive to the air port and stand on around for hour after hour on long lines and fill out endless paperwork. If your time is worth something to you - then this a lousy alternative.

There is Indian Speed Post - but most people do not want to deal with this in India because the process is so bloody cumbersome. It requires standing around for hours in blazing hot post office until you get to the front of the line and then you have to show the imbecile clerk the contents of the package and then pack it safely right there in the post office with all the chaos going on around you and then you get to fill out endless paperwork. Complete torture. And if the instrument is lost or damaged - pfffft... that's it. Forget about collecting on "insurance".

Dealers pay high costs to ship via Fedex or UPS or DHL - but the stuff actually arrives. And both companies are known for damaging packages and will drag their feet for months if you place a claim for damage or loss. And when instruments arrive damaged - the dealer has to spend money out of his own pocket to repair the damage and present the customer with an instrument that looks and plays perfect - or be subjected to whining and griping and bad reviews on Yelp over some minor blemish.

I do not know what your definition of "decent sitar" is but anyone who has made the rounds of the shops in India knows that for less than around $300.00 you're going to end up with firewood.

Lastly there are the guys on Ebay (or the guys who have websites with American toll free numbers but no actual store in the USA) who sell things at ridiculously cheap prices. The stuff they sell is invariably tourist junk, They make all kinds of fantastic promises and guarantees about the quality of their merchandise, and the reality never matches the hype. If the instrument you buy is defective or damaged, you will never hear back from them. You can call your credit card company and demand a refund but the seller in India can likewise insist that you ship the instrument back to them before the issue a credit, and shipping from the USA to India is generally double the price of the other way around because Indian dealers Fedex costs are predicated on the relative values of the Indian economy; so you could end up paying $300.00 to send that $150.00 sitar back to the dealer in order to qualify for chargeback from your credit card company. And don't think the sellers in India don't know that. That is pretty much their entire business model. One guy who has a slick website offers "Vhatkar" tablas, except that if you have ever purchased tablas from Vhatkar you know what their label looks like and you know right away that the tablas being offered are not from Haridas. Making counterfeit Vhatkar, Akber Miya and Paul and Co. is a whole underground economy unto itself. There are so many fakes out there as to boggle the mind. Lots of people think they are discerning enough to wade through the field of fakes and pick out the real thing, and pretty much all of them end up getting junk. Wishful thinking totally fuels the counterfeit instrument market.

So... if you buy from a business based in the USA, you have to recognize that they bare the same burden of risk, and constantly take losses due to the feckless practices of Indian music dealers, and the incompetent workers who pack the instruments. And after all the losses they take, at the end of the day, the merchant has to make what is commonly known as a profit. Too many buyers think that a dealer should be happy to spend $900.00 to make a profit of $175.00. Ali Akbar Khan College of Music's instrument store bent over backwards for 40 years trying please customers like this and in the end, even with all their deep connections for discounted prices in India they couldn't make it work because too many people are either willing to settle for junk or demand Hiren Roy quality at WallMart prices. And apparently none of them have a realistic idea of the pitfalls involved in shipping these instruments in one piece from half-way around the planet.
Absolutely. And when people purchase these cheap instruments with the hope that they'll "get a good one" it only creates a further demand for them, putting even more real skilled makers and their families out of business. Further, the makers of these cheap export items often employ children, making pegs and whatnot. It's a cynical, exploitive, and sadly, legal business model. However, as long as there are foreigners with an insatiable appetite for cheap imported goods, no matter the actual residual costs, it will continue into perpetuity until it is all that is left.
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rex@sitar.co.za

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Posts: 674
Reply with quote  #6 
How long ago was this?
3 years ago.
The sitar cost $350.
The fibreglass case plus shipping came to just over $500.
It bought it from Inni Singh at DMS:

http://www.indianmusicalinstruments.com
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David Fahrner

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Posts: 36
Reply with quote  #7 
I wasn't looking for a discussion of instrument quality and price here, but shipping cost is related: a quality instrument should be shipped by a reliable shipping company to be sure that it arrives safely, and that's going to cost more...and you might as well ship "firewood" as cheaply as possible, to lower the overall price even more...shipping cost might be considered some indication of quality, then, I suppose...the most interesting thing to me was Djinn Fizz' comment about comparative shipping cost depending on where the shipment originates: I looked at both the FedEx and UPS sites, and sure enough, the estimated shipping cost to ship a sitar-sized package from India to the USA was around $250, while going from the USA to India was more than $500...

df

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David Fahrner
Terrebonne, Oregon
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JRJ

Member
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Posts: 73
Reply with quote  #8 
Contact this guy: http://sitarshahidali.com/

Great communication considering the language barrier. Hi quality sitars that surprisingly arrived from India 'almost' in tune!
And the shipping cost was in your price range .

jRj
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Djinn Fizz

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Posts: 126
Reply with quote  #9 
Quote:
Originally Posted by "rex@sitar.co.za"
How long ago was this?
3 years ago.
The sitar cost $350.
The fibreglass case plus shipping came to just over $500.
It bought it from Inni Singh at DMS:

http://www.indianmusicalinstruments.com
So then if I have the math right the shipping was a little over $150.00 not $100.00 and I made the mistake of
assuming it was via Fedex. But who in fact was the courier? I've had stuff shipped from India via
Speedpost and some lesser known shipping agents and had good and bad luck. I always use
Fedex if I have a choice. Less of a crap-shoot.
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