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.