Worst Online Shopping Experience... from SparkFun?

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superconductor
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Worst Online Shopping Experience... from SparkFun?

Post by superconductor » Sun Mar 07, 2010 4:18 pm

Over the past week, I had my worst online shopping experience. The unexpected part is that it came from shopping at SparkFun.

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.

Best Regards,

-- Paul Robinson
Customer Service
SparkFun Electronics
303-284-0979
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.

Best Regards,

Omy Golden
Customer Service
SparkFun Electronics
(303) 284-0979

Roko
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Re: Worst Online Shopping Experience... from SparkFun?

Post by Roko » Mon Mar 08, 2010 10:18 am

Out of curiosity, did you chose Fedex economy or Fedex priority?

I haven't had any problems with FedEx being that ridiculous yet, but I'm also not entirely surprised either... I do know that for UPS, their "priority" shipping (or whatever they call it) generally includes all the brokerage fees (so you only pay tax on top), whilst their "economy" (or whatever they call it again..) option does not include brokerage fees so you have to pay them when it's delivered, and for smaller orders is usually more expensive than just having paid for Priority anyways.

I'm wondering if FedEx operates in a similar way?

Edit: I found this blog post which deals with brokerage fees to Canada....
http://www.thegatesofdawn.ca/wordpress/ ... rage-fees/

"They" say that FedEx Ground will have brokerage fees, but FedEx Int'l Economy and Priority should have those included...

Edit again: Is it perhaps possible that SF wasn't aware that the brokerage fees would be waived if the shipment was returned? (Did you communicate that to them, or did they just assume that you were trying to push the brokerage fees back to them)
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[url=http://roko.ca/category/robotics/quadruped-robotics]12 Degree of Freedom Quadrupedal Walking Robot[/url]
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brainwav
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Re: Worst Online Shopping Experience... from SparkFun?

Post by brainwav » Mon Mar 08, 2010 1:30 pm

I've had the same experience (minus the emails to sparkfun). I ordered about $150 from sparkfun a couple years ago and had to pay $86 customs/blah blah/fedex fees. Like you I am in Canada (Toronto). I didn't like it at all, but I knew next time I would order from RobotShop instead. Choose the usps shipping from swparkfun instead.

Brainwav.

superconductor
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Re: Worst Online Shopping Experience... from SparkFun?

Post by superconductor » Mon Mar 08, 2010 6:58 pm

Roko wrote:Out of curiosity, did you chose Fedex economy or Fedex priority?
I used FedEx Economy.
Roko wrote:Edit: I found this blog post which deals with brokerage fees to Canada....
http://www.thegatesofdawn.ca/wordpress/ ... rage-fees/
Thank you for the article. It was definitely a very enlightening read that I wish I had read that before I ordered. I should check if there is a CBSA office in my city where I could pay customs directly in the future. The author describes FedEx's brokerage fees as "extortionate", but I think one of the other comment's puts it more accurately as "highway robbery". :roll:
Roko wrote:"They" say that FedEx Ground will have brokerage fees, but FedEx Int'l Economy and Priority should have those included...
The FedEx representatives I spoke to - not to mention my wallet - care to disagree. :(
Roko wrote:Is it perhaps possible that SF wasn't aware that the brokerage fees would be waived if the shipment was returned? (Did you communicate that to them, or did they just assume that you were trying to push the brokerage fees back to them)
Here is the email I sent to SparkFun when I was asking for instructions about returning the items. Please note that, at the time, the FedEx representatives had provided me with the impression that fees were entirely for customs. It was only later that I discovered the FedEx representatives were misrepresenting the fact that FedEx was charging me the majority of the fees. If the email below didn't make it clear enough that the fees would be waived, I did when I called SparkFun. I sent another email after this one repeating my explicit request for the exact expected refund.
Dear Returns Representative,

After speaking with FedEx again, I have been informed that the fees are for customs and that I will not have to pay them if I decline the order, returning the goods to the supplier. Due to the large extra customs charges, I must decline the order and I would like to return the items to SparkFun for a refund.

I have read SparkFun's return policy. I have not even seen the box containing the shipped items as I never accepted the order from FedEx.

Please let me know the instructions for returning the items to SparkFun, noting I do not have and never have had contact with the box. I would also like to confirm that I will be refunded the value of my order.

Thank you
brainwav wrote:... next time I would order from RobotShop instead. Choose the usps shipping from swparkfun instead.
I can assure you that I will be ordering from Canadian reseller next time.

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Re: Worst Online Shopping Experience... from SparkFun?

Post by Roko » Mon Mar 08, 2010 9:06 pm

Yeah, it can be a crapshoot ordering to Canada.. I've had more problems with UPS than FEDEX personally.. That's why whenever I can I try for USPS, since they don't screw you for brokerage..

I agree, though, it's nice to order from Canadian companies whenever you can to avoid these issues.. And Purolator or Canada Post are both fast and relatively cheap. Ultimately most US companies have no idea about, and don't care about the details for shipping to Canada -- The onus is on the customer.

Unfortunately there are alot of US distributors for electronic or mechanical parts with no Canadian equivalents that I know of for small orders. :(
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sparky
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Re: Worst Online Shopping Experience... from SparkFun?

Post by sparky » Thu Mar 11, 2010 9:08 am

Hi Superconductor,

I'm really sorry you had to go through all this. We've tried very hard to support you including two of my best people (Paul and Omy). Paul even offered to check his work email over the weekend to work with you while you made your decision to pay the fees.

FedEx is explicitly good at getting packages where they need to be, quickly. Unfortunately they are very bad at being transparent with their fees. Duties and taxes are a moving target as well. On any given day, with a room full of different customs officials, you will see a different tax on two of the same packages. There is no way for us to know what every country's officials will assess. $133 is quite steep and I can understand why you would refuse paying, and it's frustrating for us because so often what happens seems to be out of our hands.

Would you recommend we change anything so we can avoid this happening again for other customers?

Ordering from one of our distributors is a good way to avoid the individual handling fees assessed with a small package, but they too have to pay taxes on the boards they bring in. Sometimes you'll see that reflected in the retail price, but often times the retail price is very competitive to ordering directly from SparkFun.

I hope you'll reconsider purchasing SparkFun products from us or one of our distros in the future.

And Roko - you can just go visit Lee's Electronics. You're so lucky to have such a great electronics shop in Vancouver!

Have fun building your projects!
-Nathan
Pursue the cheese, win the excellence.

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Re: Worst Online Shopping Experience... from SparkFun?

Post by Roko » Thu Mar 11, 2010 10:25 am

I actually just moved to Vancouver, so I'm still learning what's around here!

From my perspective as a Canadian customer, I'll have to say that the taxes are a part of life, and we're used to that up here.. The issue that's incredibly bothersome is the "brokerage" fees (aka "advancement") that are charged by the couriers, which at times seem to be pretty random.. And the $100ish of brokerage fees on superconductor's order seemed absolutely ridiculous.

Maybe one thing to find out is why Fedex charged Superconducter so much to see if that can be mitigated in any way.. He mentioned splitting orders into smaller packages (to avoid the magic 5-item limit). I don't now how feasible that is, but maybe there are other ways to get around it.

Or at the very least, maybe some sort of international shipping FAQ/warning/wiki based on customer's lessons learned (i.e. FEDEX can over-charge, but if you choose as slower option like USPS, you won't get ridiculous brokerage fees). I realize it would be ridiculous to have SF try and learn every nation's shipping nuances, but somehow there could be a way "we" (not just SF, but the international hobby community that often does have to ship across borders) could compile all these lessons and tips and tricks to help each other... the wiki idea sounds more and more useful if enough people would be interested in contributing when things go well, not just when things go wrong....
My Current Projects:
[url=http://roko.ca/category/robotics/quadruped-robotics]12 Degree of Freedom Quadrupedal Walking Robot[/url]
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Re: Worst Online Shopping Experience... from SparkFun?

Post by stevech » Thu Mar 11, 2010 1:04 pm

Does SFE give customers a USPS option?

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Re: Worst Online Shopping Experience... from SparkFun?

Post by Roko » Thu Mar 11, 2010 1:17 pm

My Current Projects:
[url=http://roko.ca/category/robotics/quadruped-robotics]12 Degree of Freedom Quadrupedal Walking Robot[/url]
[url=http://roko.ca/category/robotics/mini-sumo-v6]Mini Sumo Robot![/url]

unclejim
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Re: Worst Online Shopping Experience... from SparkFun?

Post by unclejim » Tue Aug 16, 2011 5:01 pm

Me too, it happen last year, I charged extra advancemnet fees ($ 60 odd dollars) from FedExpress without telling me to declare from the custom for me. I have been working in fordwarding company before, it is my right I can go to custom office to declare on my own, there is no law in canada I need a phd licence to fill up the paper, anyone can declare or let fordwarding company charge fee for you. UPS/Post Office will drop the notice let me to decide. But FedExpress is not. I paid additional 30% more from my purchase. I don't know why, I am sure if I go on my own, I will pay much less, I am sure they don't know how to fill up canadian custom form under what cateogory and group type ..etc

Now, SparkFun is my last resource to order unltil no one to sell only sparkfun have it. So far, I don't have any problem for any other supplier, which they don't use FedExpress.




superconductor wrote:Over the past week, I had my worst online shopping experience. The unexpected part is that it came from shopping at SparkFun.

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.

Best Regards,

-- Paul Robinson
Customer Service
SparkFun Electronics
303-284-0979
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.

Best Regards,

Omy Golden
Customer Service
SparkFun Electronics
(303) 284-0979

CS Paul
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Re: Worst Online Shopping Experience... from SparkFun?

Post by CS Paul » Wed Aug 17, 2011 12:46 pm

unclejim,

I am sorry you had a bad experience with a delivery. FedEx does sometimes cost more than other shippers, depending on what you're shipping where, and how it gets cleared. We're happy to work with you before shipment to specify how you want it cleared for FedEx. We also offer USPS and, more recently, UPS, if you have a preference of one of those over FedEx.

For any questions regarding shipment, before or after you place an order, feel free to call or email us at customerservice@sparkfun.com. We'll get you as much information as possible so you can make an informed decision. International shipping usually goes smoothly, but there always seem to be odd cases where the unexpected happens. And those unexpected things usually cost more. Sorry this happened to you.

Please let me know if you have any further questions or comments

~Paul

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Re: Worst Online Shopping Experience... from SparkFun?

Post by qema » Sat Aug 20, 2011 8:43 pm

I had the same thing happen to me when I ordered form Mouser one day. As said before, It was because I shipped with UPS standard shipping (which did not include the costums fee). I called UPS told them that i would not pay because i purchased $50 worth of items and was charged $85 worth of shipping, I just explained that it will be cheaper for me to order the same stuff again using FedEX priority shipping and they would be stuck with a box that they cant use. After a calm 15 min conversation with costumer support, they let me have my package without paying the fee (since it was cheaper for them, as shipping back to mouser would have resulted in another $85 that they would not get back).
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Re: Worst Online Shopping Experience... from SparkFun?

Post by sgallas » Fri Dec 09, 2016 10:28 am

I feel completely being made a fool by SparkFun! The device prices are quite good but they rip off the buyers with the shipping to Europe costs (UPS Deliverer). I mean, I had a 70 dollars cart, then at the payment section they ask for further 22 (!) dollars for the shipping. At the confirmation process they have no explicit warning for other costs and I decided to go on with the payment. Today the product has been delivered to me, and the courier asked for other 32 (!!!) dollars for import taxes! No words for this unfairness, SparkFun sellers should be more correct with their buyers with a clear explicitation of ALL the costs since the beginning of the online shopping. Go for EBAY or AMAZON !

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Re: Worst Online Shopping Experience... from SparkFun?

Post by phalanx » Fri Dec 09, 2016 11:38 am

sgallas,

Despite this being a dead thread, I decided to let your post through. $22 is not unreasonable for international shipping and the overall price, minus a $2 handling fee, is not set by Sparkfun but by the shipping company themselves. As to the import taxes/customs fees, this is also outside of Sparkfun's control but the warnings about the possibility of it are clearly listed in the customer support section and are not unique to Sparkfun. Ultimately, anyone placing an international order to any company is responsible for figuring out what the ultimate fee burden could end up being.

For posterity (taken directly from the Sparkfun website):
International Shipping

We ship to your country! Unless you live in a country that is embargoed by the US government (currently Iran, North Korea, Sudan, and Syria). We still can’t ship to Cuba normally, but that is theoretically changing sooner than later. Everywhere else is groovy.

Most international shipments will incur additional fees in the form of duties and taxes. These fees are your responsibility, and are in addition to the shipping cost we charge at checkout. See Duties and Taxes below for details.

For all international shipments, we charge a $2 handling fee plus the shipping estimate from the carrier.
•Shipping Methods
•Duties and Taxes
•Export Restrictions
•Signature Requirements
•Using your own FedEx/UPS account

Shipping Methods

For shipping addresses outside the US, we offer 7 options:

FedEx - (tracked and insured)
•FedEx International Priority - 1-3 business days, longer for rural
•FedEx International Economy - 3-5 business days, longer for rural

UPS - (tracked and insured)
•UPS Worldwide Express Saver - 1-3 business days, longer for rural
•UPS Worldwide Expedited - 3-5 business days, longer for rural

United States Postal Service
•USPS Express Mail International - usually 5-10 business days. Trackable. Only allowed for orders up to $300 in value. Delivery is made by the destination country’s postal service.
•USPS First Class Mail International - usually 2-4 weeks, but can take 6 weeks or more. NOT trackable. Only allowed for orders up to $300 in value. Delivery is made by the destination country’s postal service.

Please Note - First Class Mail International packages are NOT insured. In the case a package is lost or damaged in transit, SparkFun is not responsible for replacing the order.

International Economy

SparkFun’s International Economy Shipping option, also known as FedEx International Mail Service (FIMS), is carried by FedEx to your country, then handed off to the local postal service for delivery with standard mail. This shipping option will deliver to PO Boxes. Shipping time varies greatly depending on destination. Delivery is usually made in 2-4 weeks, but can take as long as 6 in some cases. Only allowed for orders up to $300 in value. Economy is not an insured shipping method. As such, SparkFun is not responsible for replacing the package should it be lost in transit. There is no tracking available for this shipping method.

Duties and Taxes

All duties and taxes for international shipments are the responsibility of the customer. SparkFun is not responsible for any extra charges once the original package has been shipped. We can’t tell you exactly what the charges will be, but here’s a duty calculator to help with estimation.

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 the event that the extra charges exceed the value of the order, we may charge those amounts to the credit card originally used for the order.
-Bill

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