Last week, I placed an international order (to Canada) for $238 worth of parts from SparkFun using FedEx as the shipping company. Three days later, I received a call from FedEx telling me to expect the arrival of the shipment - and to have $133 ready to pay for the customs fees! It turns out that FedEx charges a fixed amount for every 5 items (after the first 5) that they have to enter into the computer to present to customs, resulting in a ridiculous $100 of "advancement" fees plus $33 tax. I contacted SparkFun to see if they could offer help in this situation, but they told me it was my responsibility. This was despite the fact that if they had divided the parts into 5 item packages rather than a single 45+ item package, I would not have to pay any "advancement" fees. However, since I should have contacted FedEx prior to placing the order to confirm their handling of customs, this was an unfortunate, but not unexpected response from SparkFun. It was SparkFun's response to what happened next that was the worst part of this experience.
Since I certainly didn't want to pay over 50% the value of my order in extra fees, I contacted FedEx and was informed that if I declined the shipment, the customs fees would be waived since the goods would not have entered the country and there would only be a return shipping fee charged to SparkFun. However, when I emailed SparkFun to return the order as per their Return Policy, they did not provide me with any return instructions and threatened to deduct the customs and duties fees in addition to the return shipping fees from the refund. Despite an explicit request for the exact refund value, I was not provided with one. When I called SparkFun to inquire further I was quoted a return shipping fee of over $60! Surprised, I went to the FedEx office and was informed that it would only cost me $16 to ship the order back myself. It seemed SparkFun wanted to deduct $193 ($133 + $60) from my refund rather than a simple $16! By this point, I was exhausted and just decided to pay the $133 fee to pick up my order.
Overall, this has been a very disappointing experience as an international customer at SparkFun. I will be looking for my parts elsewhere in the future. I will also never ship items internationally with FedEx ever again.
FedEx has contacted us, saying that you have refused the duties and taxes due for this shipment. Please contact them to arrange payment soon, otherwise the package will be returned to us, and you will be billed the duties and taxes anyway, along with the return shipping charge.
Let me know if you have any questions.
-- Paul Robinson
Let me reiterate, from the website: "Any duties and taxes for international shipments are at the cost of the customer. SparkFun Electronics is not responsible for any extra charges once the original package has been shipped. If the customer refuses to pay these extra charges, the return shipping and any additional fees will be taken out of the cost of the order, with any remaining funds being refunded to the customer."
In other words, you can pay the duties and get your package, or you can not pay the duties and have them taken out of your refunded amount. Let me know which option you go with, so we can know whether to expect your package.