How do you know how much a company like UPS will charge for delivery?
December 22, 2010 1:47 PM   Subscribe

How do you know if a delivery company like UPS or Purolator will charge you for delivering something?

I want to use my Christmas bonus to buy a new camera lens. It's cheaper if I buy it in the states because the price is $300 cheaper and the exchange rate is pretty good right now. A few years ago I did the same thing and was surprised when UPS charged me $300 or so for delivering it. The online store I'm using has calculated duties and tax, so is there any way to figure out how much I'd be charged for delivery?
posted by Joseppi to Grab Bag (10 answers total)
Where are you located, and where are you ordering from?
posted by Faint of Butt at 1:53 PM on December 22, 2010

I'd say the best way would be to contact UPS. That $300 sounds like UPS charged you the duty/VAT and probably a stiff fee for getting it through customs ... perhaps because the sender didn't do something right?

My general advice would be to ensure you're doing business with someone (in the US) who does a lot of international shipments, like B&H, and not some fly-by-night operation. As you may or may not be aware, there are a lot of shady NY-based photo-equipment retailers who offer suspiciously low prices and then screw around with you trying to make it up on high-margin add-ons. It wouldn't surprise me in the slightest if those guys also charged you for "duty" and "tax" and then just pocketed it, letting you get stuck with the bill on delivery.

I'd pay using a credit card, order far in advance of actually needing the equipment, get something in writing from the retailer stating that they've included duty, VAT, customs charges, etc. (and don't just depend on their website! print / save it!), and if it arrives with charges due, refuse the shipment and dispute the charges with your credit card company.

Of course, a lot may depend on your destination location.
posted by Kadin2048 at 2:01 PM on December 22, 2010

UPS cuts deals with individual businesses about how much shipping will cost that particular establishment. You can imagine, for example, that Amazon and Zappos have a much sweeter deal than Bob's Camera Shack. So while it's possible to estimate your charges using UPS's Online Calculate Time & Cost Tool, it's going to be something of a worst case scenario.

Call ahead to the business from whom you intend to order and have them calculate the shipping for you.
posted by Medieval Maven at 2:18 PM on December 22, 2010

Joseppi, you must be in Canada if you mentioned Purolator.

Here's UPS's 'how much we will fuck you charge for "processing" if you ship stuff into Canada via UPS Standard' page:

For example, shipping via UPS Standard, and if the item costs $1,000.01 to $1,250.00 CAD, UPS will charge you $67.95 on top of the applicable duties or taxes you pay to the government of canda.

If you use:
UPS Worldwide Express Plus, UPS Worldwide Express, UPS Worldwide Express Saver, and UPS Worldwide Expedited Services
then UPS does not charge $67.95.

You still pay applicable duties or taxes, as you would if you had it shipped via any service; no way of getting around that. (But hey, we get health care.)

(Short version: If item cost is <>$20, use US Postal Service or one of the expensive/express shipping methods.)

posted by sebastienbailard at 2:51 PM on December 22, 2010

If it's an international shipment, you're almost certainly getting hit by import tariffs within the country of destination. If you are in Canada, I'm guessing your previous item was not of US origin (or did not meet US origin content requirements) since most US origin things are not dutiable under NAFTA. If it came through the postal service, they would have collected the tariff charges from you. UPS probably just included estimated charges up front. That's what Amazon did when I ordered my Kindle from them a few weeks ago (books not usually being subject to import duties).

Import tariffs will generally be calculated on the basis of declared value plus cost of shipping. Customs services can investigate the real value of something, but it's unlikely they'll do that in the case of a single order of consumer goods. Where I live, you get hit with a 20% tariff on anything over ~$150 in value; that 20% applies to the whole value, not just the amount by which the value exceeds the $150 limit. If the package says $1000 value, that (plus the shipping cost) is likely how they will calculate the import tariff. Same if it said $10.

It's illegal to undervalue imports to avoid import tariffs, but some sellers will do the purchaser a "favor" anyway by stating an artificially low value on the customs declaration form. This can be risky for the customer if he's complicit in the arrangement since there can be strong penalties for this, in the US, it's something like the entire value of the import, or even multiples of that number. However, for smaller orders, many people do not consider the risks to outweigh the "benefits." Don't do anything illegal.
posted by holterbarbour at 3:41 PM on December 22, 2010

It's not just the tarrifs, it's the UPS charge for shipping stuff into Canada. I've paid that much on personal goods (my stuff, moving across the border), didn't realize it would get hit for 'brokerage fees'. Never did that again. USPS for slow stuff or UPS/fedex express if i wanted something quick.

To answer your question, get your lens shipped either USPS or express it. Express costs vs. your lens cost shouldn't add to much to the total.

Also, have you tried Henry's?
posted by defcom1 at 4:33 PM on December 22, 2010

Another vote for USPS. I ordered business cards from the US. Total cost with shipping : $120. UPS charged me an extra sixty dollars for "brokerage fees". Eff that. I declined the shipment and asking the seller to ship via USPS next time.
posted by OLechat at 6:31 PM on December 22, 2010

Response by poster: Yes, I am in Canada; I live in southern Ontario, about an hour west of Toronto. I'd be ordering from either B&H or Adorama since the price of the lens is identical at both places (and I know both places are reputable). I did try Henry's, but their price is considerably more than B&H/Adorama. Thanks for the advice about express shipping and USPS. I'll look into it.
posted by Joseppi at 4:55 AM on December 23, 2010

There's a photo shop in Montreal called Camtec that has pretty good prices for higher end photo gear. If they've got what you want, it beats the insane UPS brokerage fees and the delivery-time uncertainty of USPS through Canada Customs.

No, I'm not bitter about Customs sitting on a recent package from the UK that took 6 weeks to arrive.
posted by thatdawnperson at 9:30 AM on December 23, 2010

Price a flight, sometimes it's cheaper to just come get it yourself.
posted by wkearney99 at 2:41 PM on December 23, 2010

« Older How to deal with confusion related to important...   |   Is this attainable or not? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.