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Thread: Thinkgeek - beware of customs charges for items shipped to Canada

  1. #1
    Smart Canuck Ladybug2011's Avatar
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    I ordered a few items from thinkgeek.ca which came up to a total of approximately $35.00 CAD. I was quite shocked when UPS delivered it and I had to pay $29.99 for customs charges. Lesson learned.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ladybug2011 View Post
    I ordered a few items from thinkgeek.ca which came up to a total of approximately $35.00 CAD. I was quite shocked when UPS delivered it and I had to pay $29.99 for customs charges. Lesson learned.
    Same thing happen to my DD a few years ago
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    Mastermind Natalka's Avatar
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    Oy, too bad - I have always wondered how much it would be, even though they warn customers.
    It's a bummer because they have such cool stuff.

    Oh, just discovered they have some items on amazon.ca, but they won't be sale prices the .com site has.
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    Paying almost double the amount in the long run is just not worth it, as this is why I don't do online shopping from outside of Canada.
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    Canadian Genius wolfwoman's Avatar
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    And usually the price you pay for the item is in USD. After the conversion, taxes, shipping and then the customs? So not worth it. But I have purchased items in Canada only to pay USD because the seller wants more money than they would get if selling the item in Canada.
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    Smartie Canuck greentires4me's Avatar
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    I used to order from thinkgeek.com all the time when I had a credit card. Only once out of the 50 times I ordered was I dinged customs charges. I think the customs in Canada picks and chooses who itís going to ding.

    For example I have ordered tonnes of t-shirts from this company off of amazon.ca through marketplace seller. Only this time I got dinged for customs charges. But the last 15 times I ordered from this one seller I never got dinged customs charges.


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    Trying to predict when you'll get hit with customs charges and import fees is like trying to accurately predict the weather. You can probably do a decent job of it by gathering the data of who is shipping it, by what courier, the type of items, and their value. But you'd still only be accurate about 75% of the time.

    Here are some good rules of thumb to consider (but none of these are guaranteed):

    WHAT YOU ORDERED:
    - If the item you are ordering isn't discernible from x-ray what it's inside, OR it doesnt seem to match what it's declared to be from they outside, then CRA/CBSA have to open it to inspect it. If they open it, then they've worked on it and they have to log it.. and you'll get nailed for it (assuming it's of value, and/or you didn't pre-pay... see below). Things like DVDs, they're easy to identify that is what they are from x-ray. Food related items are also problematic. The items you bought MIGHT be legal to import, but they don't know what it is in the package from the scans... they almost ALWAYS open these items.


    VALUE OF ITEM(S):
    - if the item's declared value is less than $50, you SHOULDNT be hit for customs fees ever... (even if they open it to inspect it) at least not at the discretion of CRA/CBSA it seems. They tend to not bother with the paperwork for that value. Also, my logic is that if you drove across the border and back yourself (less than a day), you have a $50 limit on importing goods. The concept of parcel delivery probably falls in the same category. Although I have seen orders for upwards of $150-$200 not be collected on either.


    HOW IT SHIPS:
    - if it ships by a 'postal service' (think US Postal service, or UK's Royal Mail... then handed off to Canada Post), there's a good chance you wont get customs fees added. I'm not sure if it's special privilege they have, if they do their own screening, or if it's just the sheer volume of parcels that come through via postal services, but way less than 1% of my orders that have ever come across from postal services have ever been collected on. (and I mean WAY less than 1%) And the ones that have, all I paid was the HST and a SMALL brokerage fee (like about $5 from Canada Post).

    - if it ships UPS, or FedEx, it's a crap shoot... but if they DO hit you, their brokerage fees are often in the $20-$30 range on TOP of the taxes and customs fees... and nevermind how much it cost you to ship upfront. - FWIW... DHL *always* tries to pin customs fees on me, regardless of the declared value (see story in the next panel)*


    PRE-PAY IMPORT FEES:
    - A few retailers (very few) will let you pre-pay import fees at the point of sale. A good example is if you order from Amazon.COM or .UK (on items specifically sold & shipped by Amazon), they will usually include import fees when you pay, regardless how it ships. The value is usually WAAAAY less than it should be, but I guess they have an algorithm that figures how many times import fees are actually collected versus not. Who knows. All I know is that if the actual fees are less than the amount you paid, you will (eventually) get a refund from Amazon for the difference (sometimes the entire amt) -- and if the fees are actually more than the estimate, they wont charge you any extra. (I actually got a call from UPS recently saying the fees were more, but I wouldnt be charged more -- I just had to 'authorize' the delivery and that Amazon would pay the difference. It was bizarre)

    I've seen being able to pre-pay import fees once with another retailer as well, but I can't recall who now at this point as I didnt actually order from them. I do recall that the fees were MORE than I would have expected, but not astronomical.
    Last edited by bhlombardy; Sun, Sep 23rd, 2018 at 10:21 AM.
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    *My DHL story:

    I ordered a Blu-ray from the UK that was worth $25 Canadian. DHL wanted to charge me just under $4 in HST, and a $30 (or thereabouts) brokerage fee to process the paperwork.. so DHL wanted over $30 in extra fees for a $25 item. My other option was to pay it directly to CRA/CBSA myself and show DHL the paperwork to avoid the DHL brokerage fee. Which I eventually did, but trying to 'force' CRA/CBSA to collect it was a feat:

    I went into the local CRA/CBSA office, with the Amazon invoice and said I wanted to pay the taxes and fees owing, so that DHL would release my parcel. The officer on duty said I wouldnt have to pay it because the value was less than the required amount needed to be collected. I volleyed back saying that DHL insists that they wont release it unless I show them paperwork that the taxes were paid. She volleyed back saying again that this was below the required value and that it was "OK", I didnt have to pay. I then retorted with "DHL won't take my word for it that you waived the fee"... and asked if I could have that notice on official paperwork (like their invoice paper, but stating that this items fee was waived) -- she said she cant do that, there's no process for that. -- To be fair, I don't object to her stubbornness, she was just being honest that in the eyes of CRA/CBSA I didn't NEED to pay it. However, I had to insist on paying the $3.xx so I that I had paperwork and so DHL would release the parcel. In any event, she ultimately did it... but we both agreed that it was stupid.

    It was the first time the argument was in reverse where I was insisting on pay more tax on something than I wanted to and she was telling me I didnt have to and didnt want to collect it. It was like I was living in some bizarro moment in time.

    In any event, she (and I) both believed that DHL was simply collecting the fees (perhaps pro-actively) because of the declared value on the box... nevermind that CRA/CBSA probably (and most likely) never actually asked for it to be collected in the first place.
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