It's easy for a misunderstanding of postal rates and customs forms
to cost the unfortunate recipient a lot of money!
I understand that in the USA piano rolls count as sheet music (Jody
wrote about a court ruling defining this, with regards to MIDI files),
so 'sheet music' is perfectly correct for customs declarations from
In the UK books, etc., happen to be zero-rated for tax and duty, so
parcels marked 'sheet music' will have zero duty while 'recordings'
attract 5% import duty, plus 17.5% sales tax on the declared cost plus
the postage, plus a handling fee per box. This can all add up to 50%
of the original roll value. I would always expect piano rolls to be
sent as 'sheet music'. Another advantage of this is that books and
sheet music can be sent M- Bag rate. This can work out vastly cheaper
than parcel post, saving perhaps $30 postage on $100 of rolls.
All that parcel post offers is insurance (and the chance to pay duty on
the extra $30). That's effectively a 33% insurance premium on each
lot, and the effective premium is still high even for higher-value
items. If you are prepared to forego the insurance and put up with the
odd loss, you are still in profit if every fourth or so parcel is a
write-off. The real loss rate is negligible. Delivery speed is pretty
well the same for all surface items, varying from 4 to 8 weeks depending
how long you wait for a container to fill up.
I think it is up to the buyer to choose the service required, and accept
the consequence of that choice. I've been delighted with the M-Bag
service; the only problem is what to do with the growing collection of
US Post bags!