I found out the hard way why UPS sucks (as least for shipping from the US to Canada). I bought an audio cable online and here is the breakdown:
- Subtotal: $29.95
- Shipping: $10.74
- Tax: $0.00
- Total: $40.69
Now here is where is gets ugly. After 8 working days the package finally arrives. Of course, they try to deliver it in the middle of the day when most of the world (including myself) is at work. So I got a sticker on my door today that says I owe $22.01 in Brokerage C.O.D. charges . WTF? $22.01, that's 73% of the original price of the cable and 54% of the total cost of the cable including the $10.74 I already paid to UPS in shipping costs.
These are most likely UPS's "Entry Preparation Charges" and apparently I must have fallen into the $40.01 - $100 range, hence the $19.45 charge plus taxes and whatever else that might have made it come to $22.01. My best guess is that the $2.45 difference is the actual duty itself, charged by the Canadian government. The $19.45, goes straight to UPS.
Apparently I'm not alone. A quick Google search turned up many stories of similar experiences with UPS:
- WTF, $79.32? for what!
- 50% UPS Brokerage fee????
- Epinions.com - UPS Standard to Canada and the comments
- UPS hidden brokerage fees on small Items?
Why was I the last to find out about this?
It looks like USPS is the way to go. I plan to have the package returned to sender, which is fairly easy to do as C.O.D. shipments are automatically returned to sender the same day the final delivery attempt is made (according to the yellow slip). I have already warned the sender and told them to re-ship with USPS. I am guessing that USPS shipping + customs (I have read it is $5 max) will be less than $22.01 so although I have wasted $10.74 in shipping it via UPS at least I didn't give them any more of my money.
Apparently You CAN challenge the brokerage fee! Pay customs yourself! and this person did it at Vancouver's UPS facility, which is where I would be going. I would try it if I had a car and a few hours of spare time... The CBC also ran a story about how to avoid paying the brokerage fee.
There is a also a pending class-action lawsuit against UPS:
The lawsuit claims that on the purchase of goods from the US, UPS fails to obtain consumers’ consent to act as customs broker; or to disclose the existence or amount of the brokerage fee which they charge; or to provide consumers with the opportunity to arrange for customs clearance by themselves. It also claims that the amount of the brokerage fee charged is grossly excessive.