A Note on Shipping

This is a personal pet peeve of mine. In an age where free trade between Canada and the United States is taken for granted, I find it absolutely ludicrous that tariffs have moved from the domain of government to that of private corporations.

What do I mean by this? Well, when you order a product from the United States as a Canadian, it’s stated that you must pay any applicable taxes, duty, and “customs brokerage fees”. Taxes and duty I can deal with, they’re a reasonable small fraction of the order, and one I regard as a welcome consequence of being a Canadian citizen.

Customs brokerage fees however, are the biggest screwjob to the Canadian consumer that appears to fly under the radar. You may think that this is some sort of charge from the Canadian government that is passed along to you – it isn’t. It’s pure price gouging by shipping companies, who themselves are this mysterious “customs broker”. You order a package, and when it gets to the door you’re told that you must pay an absolutely obscene amount of money in order to recieve it, often on the order of 50%-100% of the package value. Your package is effectively held for ransom.

Who does this? Well, when I was ordering electronic parts for the laser show, UPS tried to charge me 48 dollars for a 56 dollar order. I refused delivery, proceeded to phone them, and after a lengthy discussion had my fees (with the exception of duty and taxes, the only things you actually have to pay) waived as “goodwill” and accepted the $5.68 in charges the next day. But I’m not happy – don’t expect me to be grateful when you attempt to screw me, and then back down when challenged. I will never, ever ship with UPS again for any order and I urge everyone else to do the same.

Think I’m alone? Check out the reviews on epinions, or the feature CBC did. I’m not the only pissed off consumer out there.

So what can you do? Well, arguing with them on the phone might work once, but for a consumer in the internet age it’s simply not an acceptable option to spend a half hour on the phone every time you order something to reverse charges that shouldn’t have to exist in the first place. UPS apologists – save your breath. If you ship through USPS instead, they hand over packages to Canada Post at the border who kindly and easily manage to get through customs with a $5 fee for all packages valued under $1200. It’s clearly not rocket science.

So screw you, UPS. I will never, ever use your services again. What do I propose to do other than complain? Well, simple. Let’s have a law that provides the benefits of free trade for consumers rather than just multinational companies. Any shipping method to Canada must quote all brokerage fees as part of the shipping price. If I saw “Shipping: $67” instead of “Shipping: $11” I would have never ordered. They can manage to calculate shipping based on weight, so they can certainly calculate whatever extravagant cost for brokerage they want before showing up at your door.

It’s supposed to be a free market, so let’s treat it like one. I don’t care if UPS wants to charge $500 and demand a secret handshake on delivery, just be honest with me from the beginning. And consumers can decide for themselves, instead of being fooled and intimidated into accepting charges.

It’s deceitful. It’s dishonest. And it’s a slap in the face for the little guy who’s job can be shopped across the border with ease but who cannot purchase small items without incurring massive charges.

In conclusion – I urge you to write your MP or MLA to ensure free trade is free for individuals of all incomes and occupations, and use USPS in the meantime.

6 thoughts on “A Note on Shipping

  1. Geoff,
    I didn’t know about this issue because I don’t shop online much, but I will definitelyuse USPS when I order Sadie’s Halloween costume. 🙂 Thanks!

  2. There is sychronistic for me. In the last week, UPS has been screwing up on delivering a package to me in the US.
    1. I realise I have not received package, look at my email and have the tracking information. I call UPS. The driver said “no apartment number listed / can not deliver.” My address is a house. There are no apartments for a 1/2 mile.
    2. The UPS telephone person tells me the driver went to the wrong address. I ask, “is signature required for delivery?” Answer, “no.” I instruct to leave package on back porch. House sits off the road, is very private.
    3. I come home from work and find a UPS delivery notice on the door of my back porch instructing me that signature is required, will re-attempt delivery.
    4. I telephone UPS and this time they tell me they are sending a message to the local terminal to redeliver this evening and that, emphasis, I will receive a telephone call from local within an hour.
    5. Result: no telephone call and no re-delivery.
    6. I guess I will print a notice for my back porch that says, “Dear UPS driver, will you please deliver my package as there is no signature required? Put it right here on this porch. Thank you.”

    Therefore, I resonate your view of this company though for me, I will command to no longer use their service based on sheer incompetence and lack of integrity with communication. I wonder if they are going through some type of management rot, and in your case, evidence of UPS management greed and the way they have done this to you is completely sophmoric and you are right to nail them. Also, your Canadian government immediately needs to address making a law to protect you from such caprice. In whatever case, this company is lame and unfortunately despite their innovations and years of good service, the current condition on their delivery of services is disorganized and not delivering expected level of service. Thank goodness, unlike other monopolistic situations, there are other service providers that I will specify: postal service and Fed-Ex.

    Thank you for your post and what can be done is to continue to communicate this situation to netroots internet users and to specify delivery service providers other than UPS.

    US Citizen

  3. Wow, I had the same thing happen to me. Shipped a package from Houston to Toronto and they wanted to charge the recipient $28 just so he could actually get the package. He refused, of course, and we both spent the equivalent of a week dealing with UPS and challenging them on it. Eventually, two weeks AFTER he should have received it, they finally let him have it. Ridiculous.

  4. Yes, it’s disgusting. They tried to charge me $50 on an $80 order from Jameco in the US. I will *never* do business with UPS in any form ever again, not even on the sending side.

    My MLA, unfortunately, is not part of the current government, and while he sympathizes, there’s not a lot he can do. For anyone reading this, if you live in a Conservative riding, contact your MP and demand that the government end this stupidity. Transparency in shipping fees isn’t government interference – it’s as pro-market as any government regulation can be.

  5. Had the same sort of B.S. with ups, I ordered stuff from California, total cost for two camera batteries was $17, by the time I was held ransom by UPS, and shipping my bill was $51. and change. Another instance was that I paid for premium shipping, guaranteed for 8 days max. or less, I tracked the order, it went from CA to Washington state in one day, then took the other seven days getting to me in Powell River, it went back and forth across the border, I think three times, before coming to Vancouver, then to Nanaimo, then over here. I think this gets you straight to Steven Harper PM@MP.ca

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