Cross Border, Online Shopping Horror Story

If you’re like me you do a lot of on-line cross border shopping from sites like, ebay and others but while the prices are cheap and the deals are great, the cost of shipping, handling, customs brokerage, taxes and duties is enough to erode any potential savings and frustrate you.

Sure there are alternatives to US on-line shopping sites but the Canadian versions of for example are so poor and limited in their product offerings and so high in their prices that it is often still less expensive to order from the US site and had the products shipped to Canada with all the shipping and brokerage frustrations.

Speaking of on-line shopping frustrations, many Canadians have horror stories about exorbitant shipping and brokerage fee’s usually charged by UPS and others and then their is the problem with items missing or damaged, wrong items sent and then the cost associated with returning merchandise.  This happen to me just the other day.  I ordered a product from (US merchant on US site) back on January 23, 2012.  The merchant never shipped the order and 6 weeks later I requested a refund and lost $42 in the process due to exchange rate and credit card charges.  So I lost $42 and never received anything.  Fast forward to June 6 when a parcel arrives at our home and my wife assuming the package is important pays UPS $65 for brokerage fees and another $50 for customs and tax and signs for the package.  When I get home I discover the package is actually the items I ordered back on January 23, 2012 which was cancelled and refunded at a loss of $42.  The merchant did not cancel the order with the supplier and once the importer received stock they just shipped it out albeit 5 months later!.  Adding further insult to injury the items were supposed to be shipped by Parcel Post, far cheaper than UPS both for shipping but especially brokerage which the post office would have charged $15 while UPS billed $65.

I haven’t received my credit card statement yet but I’m curious to see if the merchant re-billed my credit card and then what.  I’ve got merchandise I no longer need, I’ve paid $115 dollars in brokerage and taxes on said item,  I lost $42 previously on the refund of the charges and lastly the Canadian dollar is lower today than back in January so I’ll lose once again on the currency conversion.  Since my wife unknowingly signed for and accepted the package we’ve now received the goods and it will cost additional shipping fees of more than $40 to send the items back so all total this online shopping experience has cost more than $224 in various shipping, credit card, currency and brokerage fees which is almost 50% of the cost of the original product turning this online shopping deal into a disaster.

I buy a lot of stuff online and most of the time it’s a good deal and sometimes a even a great one.  Shipping, taxes and duties are just facts of life and they’re usually not a big deal either, customs brokerage on the other hand can be highway robbery and companies like UPS should be regulated on how much they can charge for brokering shipments.  If companies like Canada Post can clear the same shipment for $8-$15 dollars there’s not logical reason UPS should charge $65 for the same shipment.  What’s even more frustrating is the UPS also offers shipping methods which include brokerage for only a couple of dollars more however the merchant or shipper doesn’t always select these options for international shipments trying to publish the lowest advertised price for shipping.  Once again back to UPS’s business practices if they can offer two shipping charges to the merchant one for $33 with no brokerage and one for $45 with customs clearing and brokerage clearly UPS is only charging $12 to broker the package so why charge the customer $65 if the shipper selects the less expensive shipping option,  that’s not the customers fault – it’s the shippers.

I like most Canadians will continue to use online shopping services and cross border shopping however I must caution you to always examine all costs involved including how returns would be handled before you press the buy now button on a non-Canadian eCommerce website – sometimes the price is actually higher than if you purchased it right here in Canada.

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