Club Correos is a mail forwarding program offered by the Ecuadorian Post Office and we’ve come to depend on it for many products.
It is very popular among expats and Ecuadorians because it is easy to get products from the US. There are items that either aren’t available in Ecuador or are just too expensive here.
In this post, I breakdown 9 things you can do to avoid problems with your Club Correos shipments. But first:
Why Use Club Correos?
There are two benefits to using Club Correos over direct shipping to Ecuador.
- Reduced Shipping Costs: Because of bulk shipping thousands of packages, the freight costs are very low.
- No Customs Paperwork: If your package is under $400 and weighs less than 4kg then you pay no duties or taxes. And they handle all of the paperwork and customs clearance. At least that’s the idea.
How Club Correos Works
When you sign-up (econcargoecuador.net, just $11.20 per year) you get an address and a mailbox number in Miami. When buying online (most often via Amazon.com) you just ship your packages to your Miami address, making sure that your mailbox number is on the label. They then forward it on to Ecuador and to the address registered with them. We wrote about Club Correos a few years ago.
Our Club Correos Experience
We’ve been using Club Correos for many years. And we’ve received more than 70 packages from the United States. We’ve bought everything from clothes and sunglasses to cameras (Canon SX280 and GoPro) and hard-drives. We even ordered a humidifier (to help with Cuenca’s dry air), a water filter and a bike trainer.
We’ve ordered goods from Canada and shipped them to our address in Miami. When we placed the order, we ensured that they included an invoice and that it was addressed properly. The package arrived without any trouble.
We’ve had packages arrive as fast as 10 calendar days – with the average being around 2 – 2.5 weeks. We have never lost a package or had anything take over four weeks to arrive.
That is, until now.
Two Problem Packages and Some Lessons Learned
A few months ago, we had trouble with two packages at the same time. One was a box of a number of small things: stainless coffee mugs, food and vitamins. The other was a small envelope with 3 pieces of makeup.
For the box with the small things, we were told that it didn’t meet the rules and we would have to ship it back to the US. The weight wasn’t anywhere near the 4kg limit and the value was very low. It seems that someone in the shipping department at Amazon grabbed a big box and started filling it with the little pieces. Even though it would have been less than half full, they shipped it anyway. From their perspective, this didn’t matter. The shipping is free for customers so the box size isn’t important. That is, unless you are having it forwarded to another country.
When it arrived, the boxed was listed at a cubed weight of just over 16kg. Now it is possible that the vitamins we had in the box were also a problem, but they flagged the shipment as overweight. According to the cubed weight, it was more than 4 times over the limit.
So I went to the post office and paid to ship it out of Ecuador. Because the box was so big, this cost almost $100. In the notification email, I was warned that if I didn’t ship it out of the country, I would be fined more than $2000. All of a sudden, $100 didn’t seem so expensive.
The other package with the makeup had a value of $20 and weighed less than 1lb. I was told that we could receive the package if we did one of two things.
- Provide a certificate from the Ministry of Public Health stating that we have the right to import this product.
- Provide a sworn oath stating that we will never, ever order this product again.
The first choice wasn’t really an option. This is for companies wanting to commercially import the product. We just wanted a couple of units. So we went to a notary and swore that we would never buy this item again. We presented it and a few days later they told us that the package had been rejected and it needed to be shipped out of the country anyway. Back to the post office again – we paid to ship the product to my parents place in Canada. This was back in July.
I was waiting to write this post until the packages arrived safely in Canada – but they still haven’t. More than four months have gone by and we don’t know where the boxes are. The postal service is “looking into it”.
9 Ways To Avoid Problems with Club Correos
While there is no way to avoid all problems, these tips should help avoid many of them. If you read Spanish, you can read all the current rules here.
- Enter Your Miami Address Properly: Include your mailbox number in the “Name” field. For example, Bryan Haines, EC10687952. I’ve heard from many expats that they can’t get the address entered correctly. In the “Address Line1” enter the physical location: 7824 NW 71 ST If you don’t include your mailbox number in the name field, it may get dropped by the vendors system and the package won’t arrive. If it does, they won’t know who to assign it to.
- Don’t Order Used Goods: A few days ago, I heard from a distraught Canadian mother who sent a care package to her daughter who is teaching English on the coast. The box included new and used clothes, along with used books, etc. The postal service told her that the package was rejected and that the goods would be donated to charity. I think by refusing used goods it simplifies importation by assuming that everything is new and thus subject to duties. Without a commercial invoice, it is almost impossible to assign duty/tax value. There are two opportunities to bring in used goods: 1) as personal effects when you enter the country or 2) as part of a “menaje de casa” or house hold goods for your permanent move to Ecuador. A shipment of used goods constitutes an import of those items into the country. (Thanks to Jakob for clarifying this in his comment.)
- No Cell Phones: This is a popular one. We did order one before the law changed – and it cost just 25% of the price here. There is an attraction to order a good phone for much less. But it will be confiscated. Also, cordless phones with DECT technology (Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecomunications) are prohibited.
- Nothing in Bulk: The guidelines state that if you order more than three similar articles it could be considered as a commercial import and this would require supporting documents.
- No Clothing Without Tags: Clothing without tags is considered used and will be seized / confiscated by Customs.
- Read the Rules: There are weight and value limits. These are easy. They call it 4X4. That is packages up to 4 kg and US$400 of value enter the country without paying taxes or duties. There are other rules that you must know. Vitamins can raise flags and makeup can be rejected.
- Don’t Order Too Many Small Items at Once: As mentioned above, too many small articles run the risk of ending up in a big box – that could be cubed and then rejected. Best to space them out over time.
- Don’t Order These (Obviously) Restricted Items: explosive articles, animals, jewelry, firearms, ceramics, glass, fuel, explosives, cell phones, used parts, money, checks or credit cards. There are other items that require prior approval. Check Aduanas del Ecuador for more info. (Note: this is not an exhaustive list.)
- Names Must Match (Update March 10, 2014): Correos del Ecuador announced last week that effective March 5, 2014 packages must have a) the same name as the owner of the mailbox in Miami, and b) the invoice attached which matches the contents of the box. Packages where the name doesn’t match may be subject to delays and/or may not be delivered at at.
The Glitches Are Still Cheaper Than Flights to Miami
We continue to use the service – and we’re very happy with it. The problems that we’ve had are mostly our fault. I should have check the fine print – and used better judgement when ordering.
What has been your experience with Club Correos? Share your tips and/or problems below.