Importing Samples to the U.S.: Know Before You Go.

By: Elliott Smith
“Samples have to be mutilated” to cross the border, under U.S. Customs and Border Protection regulations, says UCanTrade, Inc. President Jim Pettinger. “I’ve seen people heartbroken” who didn’t know that, Pettinger adds. Canadian entrepreneurs looking to expand sales into the United States should be aware of restrictions on importing samples to the U.S. before heading for the border.
According to U.S. Customs & Border Protection:
“As a general rule, Samples should not be items that could be used or sold themselves. For instance, a dress sample should be sufficiently disfigured so as not to be commercially viable itself. A permanent stain, a stamp labeling it “SAMPLE”, etc. would achieve this.”

Mutilated Sample
Would you really want to ruin this beautiful wedding dress by having to mutilate or stain it to import it as a sample?

Imagine the frustration, if you were a British Columbia-based distributor of fine wedding dresses. You arrive at the border expecting to import samples into the United States to show dresses to Bridal Shops in the Seattle area, and are told that the dresses will have to be mutilated, stained or stamped in order to cross the border as samples.  Would you really want to ruin a beautiful, and expensive, inventory item? Now you’re faced with a decision, do you pay the potentially steep duty on importing premium wedding dresses, cancel your trip and forgo the meetings arranged with clients, or destroy valuable inventory with a stain or a “SAMPLE” stamp across the back? It’s a decision no businessperson would want to be faced with.
The key is to know before you go, so you can plan ahead. Consider bringing virtual samples, such as a digital presentation that links to images of your items on your website. Or, perhaps your company has received an item that is damaged and can’t be sold to a customer, but would be a hassle to return to your manufacturer or supplier. That item could make a perfect sample. If you make a lot of sales calls in the United States, you might also consider importing the item as merchandise and paying the duty once, then storing your items with UCanTrade, Inc., in Ferndale, Washington for a small fee. We have been helping trade show clients successfully minimize their border expenses for years, by storing and shipping their trade show materials as needed. We can do the same with your sample merchandise. If you must have that sample item, don’t pay for it to cross the border again and again, import your sample to the United States once and then let UCanTrade help you store and ship it as needed.
Before you import samples to the U.S., be sure to read the regulations from U.S. Customs & Border Protection, and contact us  to find out how we can help you, and your samples, enter the U.S. market.
TradeTips blog is published by UCanTrade, Inc., your cross-border experts since 1984.
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Phone: 360-380-6900
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UCanTrade Staff