Originally Posted by kai
As Philip points out, the idiosyncratic rules of the carriers are often a greater pain than national and international regulations. Even USPS is known to decline overseas shipping of items which are perfectly legal and not restricted in the destination country (as well as the US)!
Just got an email from a customer in Germany who wants to send some blades for polishing. Says that the Deutsche Post's parcel service is now run by DHL, and apparently swords are now on their no-take list. UPS will accept weapons so long as they are not firearms (but apparently some auctioneers can use UPS to ship guns within the EU as I pointed out previously).
Now, the kickier: UPS is saying that they will transport his swords but they don't take antiques! No kidding...
Back in the 1980s when I was living in Hawaii I had two problems with UPS and their antiques policy. One, they refused to accept a rare book that I wanted to send to a buyer in England. No artwork, unique collectibles, nor anything "irreplaceable" I was told. Two, I had to battle them tooth and nail for compensation to repair a Russian samovar that they damaged in transit. Tried to deny the claim based on it being antique. I finally convinced them that it was not old, it was "second hand merchandise", not unlike the household crap that bazillions of people ship thru UPS every day. Fortunately the idiots couldn't read the Russian inscription "Sankt Peterburg 1906" stamped on it.
Now, my colleague in the Netherlands has used his shipping consolidator account to cover the charges for the restored stuff I send back to him, invariably UPS gets the pick because of their better rates. All of the stuff is antique and described as such on the declaration form. UPS hasn't uttered a peep about that! Where is the logic?
As to your comment on USPS (US Snail Mail), occasionally a counter clerk will give you the song and dance about "swords are weapons and you can't send them". Simply take the parcel to another station. There is no rule against sending either swords or antiques -- this becomes apparent if you go through the process of preparing international shipping labels on their website since each country's import rules pop up on the screen..
I always recommend to US-based colleagues that if they use US mail, it's best to open an online account and thus prepare your shipping labels and customs dec (for overseas shipments) forms on your computer. That way you just drop off your box for scanning, with labels in the pouch. The clerks don't generally read line-by-line so that removes the temptation to act as impromptu enforcer of an imaginary regulation. If you do the forms by hand, they tend to check more closely.