Customs charges for international orders
If your To Be or Not To Be package is shipping to a non-US address, it has to go through your country's customs, and sometimes that means you have to pay money. But I heard yesterday from people in the UK and Canada that some custom agents are getting a little creative with the paperwork that goes along with your books!
Specifically, some customs agents working for Queen Elizabeth the Second have been reclassifying the shipments to "clothing" and, more bizarrely, "audio equipment" - and then assessing customs charges based on those imagined contents. Our shipping company is called "Amplifier", so one guess is they're looking at that and saying "Nobody named 'Amplifier' could ship something that's not literal amplifiers!", updating the customs paperwork, and never opening the package. I have no idea where "clothing" is coming from.
Obviously customs agents should not be behaving in this way. I've talked to Amplifier and here's what they suggest:
Customs offices are regularly dealing with entities that incorrectly fill out customs paperwork as a means to skirting duties (marking shipments as gifts, supplying incorrect retail value, etc.). As such, it does not surprise me that the customs agent assumed that we were trying to circumvent taxation, saw our business name, and supplied their own updated description.
We send along a digital commercial invoice with every package to assist in clearance through customs. The mislabeling came from the customs office, I'm afraid, potentially in an attempt to collect undue taxes. Please encourage folks to protest these issues ahead of submitting payment, if at all possible. The customs office will have a copy of the commercial invoice, and UPS or Amplifier can get involved if we need to assist in resolving a dispute with a customs official. UPS offers complimentary brokerage through customs, so they are typically a great resource in settling these disputes.
Not every package gets dinged for customs and not every package gets an overzealous yet also weirdly lazy agent who tries to guess at your package's contents without actually opening it up. But if you're told the contents of your package are different than what you know they are, say "I want to object to this package's classification" and if that doesn't work call UPS in your country: they are your customs broker for this package, they're working for you, and they should be able to sort it out for you. If at all possible, do this before paying the charges, because then you don't have to ask anyone for your money back and that's usually easier.
UPS's customer service number in Canada is 1-800-PICK-UPS (1-800-742-5877)
UPS's customer service number in the UK is 08457-877-877
If they somehow fail, contact Amplifier: their contact information is here.
That's it! I'm really sorry that this is occasionally happening, but it's also in the purview of international relations which is pretty much entirely beyond my control. The upside is that if this happens to you and you do dispute it, you are now technically causing an international incident which is surely on most people's bucket lists?
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