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Friday, November 19, 2004

Arbitrage 

I've been surfing Techbargains an awful lot lately (any other good bargain sites?) looking for a deal on a digital camera.

With the Canadian dollar suddenly well over $0.80 U.S., and with Canadian (and American) consumer prices not quite caught up to the new reality, an interesting bargaining situation arises.

In short, consumer goods being sold in the U.S. look really cheap to Canadian shoppers for the moment. This is probably a temporary situation, though maybe not: the current exchange rates are a result of a dropping U.S. dollar much more than a rising Canadian dollar, and most of the goods you are looking at were made outside of the U.S., so they should start getting more pricey in America. But many of these goods (especially cheap electronics) are made in China, whose currency is pegged to the U.S. dollar, meaning that their export goods also get cheaper when the U.S. dollar is falling.

Because of that latter factor, there may just be a general drop in the price of consumer goods in the next few months. It will be interesting to see what happens.

In the meantime, a quick guide to buying America's stuff:

-If possible, get the vendor to use US Postal services. FedEx and UPS will charge you some pretty exorbitant fees for customs clearance, at least on their reasonably cheap ground services. I paid about $30 the last time UPS brought something over the border for me, and $13 with FedEx. That makes shipping a lot dearer than you think. the postal service tends to charge far less for brokerage services: five bucks.

For some shipments, especially ones where the shipper does not offer USPS as an option, or refuses to ship outside of the U.S., you may wish to use a U.S. post office box. The best I have used is The Letter Carrier in Point Roberts, who accept packages without prior notice from U.S. Mail, FedEx, and UPS. Their fees are quite reasonable for this very useful service, which saves you money if you don't ship often enough to bother with a full-time box service.

So there you go: use the postal service, go to Point Roberts, and if you see a good deal on a Canon A75, let me know.

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