Sunday, February 27, 2011

Getting Stuff

So did you miss me? Got a little busy doing stuff that kept me out of touch, but didn't exactly give me blogger material. Neither is what's to come, but you just might find it interesting anyway.

I learned after having a cat that had all kinds of health issues, thyroid and urinary tract crystals, that a lot of what's in pet food is pretty poisonous to your pet. There are things that look great to humans, but are actually toxic to animals. There are also things that don't look good to humans, and are also toxic to animals. Why do would they do this? Why not? Apparently no one cares and animals, including pets, are pretty much considered commodities, so there isn't a whole lot of oversight there. It's not so bad for dogs, who really can eat just about anything (most have evolved and are actually not true carnivores anymore), but cats are a bit different. Either way, what's being put in the food is truly questionable. If there were no other options, then so be it, but there are, so why not do the right thing?

After doing some research, I decided that Halo was the way to go, and when we adopted our 2 kitties here, I was able to sneak a shipment in and was thrilled when it lasted over a year. We ran out 2 weeks ago. Boo. So I had to figure out how to get some more brought in for as cheap as possible. Other than a few small USPS packages from family, we haven't had anything shipped to us, so I wasn't exactly sure how to go about a larger import. Here's what it took to get eight 6-pound bags of cat food in from the States:

Petco has Halo and they ship internationally - Yay! The shipping was almost triple the cost of the food. Boo.

I knew that some shipping companies advertised barrels from Florida to St. Kitts for about $75, so thought I could go that route. Shoot, maybe I'd fill the rest of the barrel with kitty litter. So I sent 2 companies an email and got an answer back from one of them, Tropical Shipping. I found an online calculator to tell me what the cubic feet 8 6-lb bags would come to, and then asked for a quote. $54US (no barrel necessary). Hmm, from about $350US to $54US ($80 if I wanted it insured, which I didn't). $54? I'll take it. Now all I had to do was get the food to the shipping warehouse. So, for $38US, I got Petco to ship to the Miami warehouse within just 2 days.

I had been emailing someone in Miami, but got a call from someone in St. Kitts re-asking me all the info they needed and then received a form to complete that had questions like, what was the temp on the boat, was it bonded, etc. - um, I don't have the slightest idea. When I emailed back that I was clueless, I was told they'd finish it.

The shipment was only supposed to take a week to arrive, so I was very excited to see the Tropical Shipping container ship anchored off shore. I told the kitties, they should be too. Then I got a call from Miami asking me when they were supposed to receive the food from Petco. Huh? Before I could figure out what happened, they called me back and told me that the package had arrived without the reference # (which I find hard to believe, as that was in the "Ship To" line), so they hadn't realized it had been shipped. It was on the container after all. Yippee! Let's wave to our food - meow!

We got the call exactly a week after we had placed our order to come sign our papers, pay up, ad then go to customs to pick it up. We could have paid extra to have a broker get it, but we're trying to save money, remember? Poor Michael thought he could just run in and grab it, but nooooooo.

Stop 1: Custom holding warehouse - The package was pulled and inspected. Michael got stamp #1 and then was sent to another building. He'd have to come back to get the stuff.

Stop 2: This building had customs logs, and required info to be entered into a computer. The charges were verified and Michael was sent to another building in order to get a document allowing the import of pet food.

Stop 3: Michael got his form, got stamped, paid $1EC ($.37US) and was told to go back to Building #2.

Stop 4: Back at Building #2, Michael paid the Port of Entry fees, got another stamp/receipt confirming fees were paid - $30EC ($11US). Next window, please.

Stop 5: At another window, Michael was asked what the worth of the food was and then charged him $150EC ($56US) in custom duties (70% of the cost of the food). Ouch.

Stop 6: At yet another window, an official performed a final inspection of the documentation, checked off another log book, checked off that the shipment was processed, and gave Michael a final stamp.

Stop 7: Back to the Custom holding warehouse to hand over stamped documentation and then down to another window.

Stop 8: At the final window, Michael was given a vehicle pass so that he could get the package out of the facility.

Stop 9: Michael showed his vehicle pass to warehouse personnel, got a signature, and finally obtained the 2 boxes.

This process took 1 1/2 hours. Not because there were lots of people (there were 3 and they were all going to different windows), but because he kept being sent to the wrong windows/buildings and the buildings were so far apart from each other. Michael was actually driving from place to place. Nothing to it, folks! Thanks, Mikey!

So for about $228 (more than 1/2 of that shipping/customs), I now have 8 bags of cat food. It'll last us a year or more, so I have to tell myself it's less than $20/mo to make myself feel better. Other than the time consuming insanity in customs, the process was pretty painless. Good to know, if we want to bring anything else in. Of course, with a 70% markup, maybe not...

Was it worth it? Well, the kitty breath and poo smells MUCH less than when the cats are fed junk, and they never throw up, so yes, to us it was. Fewer vet bills and healthy felines are certainly worth it as well. Come on how cute is this - Jack was stretched out on the carpet, doing what you see babies/toddlers do all the time. Head up, slowly, slowly sinking, until PLOP, down the face goes into the Cheerios!! In this case it was onto the rug.

What was even more funny, was Michael's flop right next to him.

Kitty play.

Kitty sleep.