I will try to sum this up as clearly as possible and apologies if there is any confusion. There are 2 ways to have HTS codes applied to line items automatically, and both ways are causing a large inconvenience for us. We are having to manually edit order information no matter which method we choose. This is causing us to spend additional labor to print international orders, when it should be a simpler process without as much manual order editing.
Basic Information: Website on Shopify / International Shipping Carrier Used = Asendia USA
Method #1 - We are currently using the shipping -> International Settings area to preload customs information by using the "use pre-defined values" option. (Description - Country - HTS Code - Tax Identifier). Sounds great but the problem is that we are required to enter the SKU for each international order, as this is required by our shipping carrier Asendia. There is only 1 declaration per order, so something has to go in that field. It's time consuming as every order needs a manual scroll down and edit. There is no way to prefill in the SKU field. Ideally this would be possible in the International Settings area, but it is not. Shipstation / Auctane have advised us that this is not on their radar for a software upgrade. No solution coming.
Method #2 - We can switch to the "create declarations from order items" option and then manually paste the HTS codes for each international order we ship. This would essentially swap from having to manually add SKU to each order, to manually having to add HTS codes to each order. This is quite the Rock Vs A Hard Place situation that we do not enjoy being in.
Shipstation / Auctane have advised us to stop using the "use pre-definied values" option and switch it to "create declarations from order items" option instead. We have tried this and it creates a new problem which is that all of our items that are in Shipstation's database have no HTS information saved. No problem said Shipstation, as we were asked to export our entire item list in a long excel sheet, updated the HTS / Origin / Description for all items, and then import the corrected list. This is not a problem to do, and we've already done it. However, there is a major new issue created by using this method. We explained to Shipstation that our items are only saved to the product list in Shipstation after they are added from a newly imported order. Essentially, until one of our customers purchases an item, it is not listed in Shipstation's product list database.
This is a problem for us because we add new products to our website weekly. Even if we update the excel sheet of products right after adding new products to Shopify, it will not fix the problem because all of the new items have to be purchased by our customers in order to be listed in the Shipstation product list. We explained to Shipstation that there is no way for us to guarantee that all new items added on Shopify are purchased by our customers right away after launching them. As a typical example, we may launch 10 new products in any given week, and perhaps 1 of them won't be sold until 1-3 weeks later. In a situation like this, the straggler product would not be officially added to Shipstation until it's purchased far in the future.
We would have no idea when the 1st sale occurs for all new products that were launched in the past. We do not have the time to make a checklist and examine all newly placed orders to make sure all new listings have been purchased. Even if we could do that, then we would need to download and upload the excel sheet after each new listing sale is made, but Before the order is shipped out, so that the newly added customs information is saved before the order is shipped out. We ship out International orders twice a day, so this is 100% impossible. Shipstation / Auctane told us that adding new products on a consistent basis was the problem, and that this issue would go away if we simply stopped adding new products, and then our excel sheet could always be up to date. You can imagine what my reply to them was - no colorful language was used somehow. In the nicest way possible, I tried to explain to them that it's perfectly normal for an e-commerce business to add new products, and we should not be penalized by doing so, or shamed.
Conclusion / Possible Solutions
There are only a few fixes for this issue, and none of them are currently available.
For Method #1 - Our shipping carrier Asendia needs to stop making the SKU field required. However, this would not completely fix the problem because it's possible that customs offices do want to see the SKU field. The best fix is instead for Shipstation to allow us to add in a pre-filled out SKU field in the International Settings area. If this was possible, then we could put down a SKU that generally applies to all of our products, which would in turn prevent us from having to manually go into each order and copy paste a generic SKU as we are doing now.
For Method #2 - The best fix for this is for Shipstation to create a programming fix that Either:
1. Automatically imports the HTS info from Shopify into the Shipstation product database. Bear in mind that the HTS info is already saved to our Shopify products, and is simply not imported into Shipstation currently. This would mean that when a new product is added to the Shipstation database, that it's automatically pinged to Shopify to collect the missing HTS info.
2. Automatically import new Shopify products into Shipstation in order to keep the databases matching and up to date without human intervention needed. This would eliminate the silly idea that we constantly download / update / upload the Shipstation product excel list, in order to keep it updated. This way, new products added in Shopify would be in turn automatically added to Shipstation, which would eliminate the need for new products to appear in Shipstation only after being purchased by our customers for the 1st time.
Shipstation support asked us to post our problem to this forum. This is our 1st post and hopefully something good comes out of it.