By Rhiannon Russel
SHIPPING WOES AND WORKAROUNDS
Dear southern retailers, we’re part of Canada, too. Love, the Yukon....
Michelle (last name withheld by request) was looking online for affordable furniture when she found Cozey, a Canadian retailer. She and her fiancé had just bought a house in Whitehorse and needed to furnish it. On Cozey’s site, which advertised “Free shipping across Canada*,” she found a grey armchair and ottoman she liked.
Then she looked into what the asterisk meant and learned the territories were excluded from the free-shipping offer. Michelle plugged in an Atlin, B.C., postal code and saw that Cozey would ship there for free. She knew that all mail destined for the northern British Columbia community passes through Whitehorse, so she reached out to the company to offer a geography lesson. Cozey maintained they would not ship for free to Whitehorse, Michelle says.
She’d heard of people shipping to Atlin, and then intercepting their item on its way through Whitehorse, so she decided to try that. “In our case, there was a miscommunication and it actually did end up going to Atlin, but the driver brought it back the same day, and then I picked it up in Whitehorse,” she says. “I don’t even like the chair that much, so it kind of sucks that I had to go through all that…. It just doesn’t make any sense.”
“It’s almost like, ‘Oh, the Yukon! That’s like shipping to Siberia.'” Whitehorse resident Paul Christensen
“It’s almost like, ‘Oh, the Yukon! That’s like shipping to Siberia,’” says Whitehorse resident Paul Christensen, who hunted around for the best freight options. He’s been buying bikes as well as selling his own custom-built frames for years and quickly learned that shipping with FedEx was very expensive—$700 or $800 per shipment. But a bicycle-specific shipping service called BikeFlights, which partners with UPS and FedEx, offered much cheaper rates, around $300, particularly for shipping to and from the U.S.
Once, when Christensen was trying to ship a bike to Halifax, even the BikeFlights quote was more expensive than he liked—around $500. He reached out to Air North and inquired about cargo rates. Although the airline doesn’t fly to the East Coast, he was able to drop the bike off at its cargo office in Whitehorse and the bike was in Halifax two days later, thanks to an inter-airline agreement between Air North and WestJet. Total cost: $199.
“It was crazy,” Christensen says of the price variation. He’s since shipped four or five bikes within Canada via Air North, both to and from Whitehorse.
Bikes aren’t the only cargo Air North transports for Yukoners. Some of the most common items aboard flights are IKEA furniture orders, Costco grocery hauls, and Home Depot items, says Jai Raghani, Air North’s director of cargo. “We do it because we know a lot of supplies won’t ship to the Yukon.”
Some Yukoners shop while they’re in Vancouver, Calgary, or Edmonton, then drop off their goods at Air North’s cargo office. Others place orders online, then have the retailer ship their order to Air North, who then puts it on a plane. Or, shoppers pay FedEx to pick up their purchase from the retailer and transport it to the airline.
Air travel works particularly well for perishable goods, but for less time-sensitive items, some Yukoners look to the highway.
Though shipping—or lack thereof—is a thorn in the side of many Yukoners, it has improved vastly over the years.
PNW Freight Systems has trucks regularly making the two-day drive between Edmonton and Whitehorse. Sheldon King, president of PNW Group, says furniture from Wayfair and IKEA is often on-board.
IKEA is so popular, in fact, that King’s wife used to run a business in Edmonton, taking Yukoners’ furniture orders, picking them up from the store, and loading them onto a PNW truck bound for Whitehorse.
“The cost is not as cheap as it used to be, but nothing is,” King says about delivery by truck. “In the long run, it is cheaper [than other shipping methods]. The service is there, and the punctuality—it’s like clockwork.”
King says he’s approached some Outside retailers about partnering with PNW to ship to the Yukon but doesn’t want to name names since the discussions are ongoing. “The Yukon is growing at an exponential rate, and I don’t think [Yukoners] should be shut out of some of the novelties and the extras that people down south can get.”
Though shipping—or lack thereof—is a thorn in the side of many Yukoners, it has improved vastly over the years. “Fifteen, twenty years ago, trying to get stuff shipped here was horrible, especially from the States,” says Christensen. “Shipping costs would be awful.”
In the ’90s, when Yukoners ordered bikes from American retailers, they’d have them shipped to Skagway or Haines, in Alaska, then drive down to pick them up.
“You’d go down in the morning, you’d get the bike, and you’d put it all together,” Christensen says. “Then you’d take it for a ride—go up to one of the lakes there or go up AB Mountain [near Skagway]—and then come home. So, you’d have a little outing and you’d get your bike. That’s the way we always used to do it.”
This kind of ingenuity continues to this day. As Michelle furnished her new house, she found a dining table for sale on Structube’s website. The Canadian company doesn’t ship to the Yukon, but fortunately, she knew someone driving up from British Columbia who picked it up for her.
“I wouldn’t have my dream table if I didn’t know someone making the drive with a cube van,” she says.