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Murky Waters

Posted by Dirck on 15 May, 2013

Despite my mention yesterday of selling rather than buying being a better idea in the current state of the household economy.  I am sure by now a persistent reader will be aware that I am all too human in my inconsistency, and so admitting two more pens have come into my life will hardly be a surprise.  One is a very inexpensive Sheaffer Admiral of the pre-Snorkel pattern, a simple black one which I nabbed mainly because I regret a long-ago sale of a similar one– it’s a US-made example, so I’ll presently have a lever-filler with the Feathertouch two-tone point on my site.  The other, which these internets declare is about to appear at my home (somehow– which I’ll pursue in a moment) is a Parker 75 in the ur-pattern of silver crosshatch.  It was drawing surprisingly few bids, so I put a lark of a bid in on it, thinking foolishly that someone must swoop in and outdo me at the last moment.

No one did, and at this point (donning an official John Cleese Fan Club bristly mustache and stilts) I wish to register a complaint.  My complaint doesn’t lie with the seller, but with eBay itself.  I realize that means I’m joining a line ten thousand miles long, but I’m deeply bugged by what happened when I came to pay for my purchase, because the bid I put in and the shipping charges shown was really as much as I dared spend so frivolously.

You see, when I went into the pay routine, I found three lines of demands: the item price, the shipping costs, and… import charges?  What?  Yes!  There’s this program which sellers in the US can join onto, which “helps” them and buyers by having the purchase go off to some Kentucky facility to have the “appropriate” customs charges applied, so then the buyer doesn’t have to worry about handing any money over to the postman.  Sound good?

I have two problems with it.  The one that really got me unstuck is that ebay.ca didn’t mention the existence of this thing until the payment phase (a circumstance which has since been undone by an update, I find– I wonder how many others looked at the summation screen and cried out “What?!“).  If I had looked in via ebay.com, I would have know it was in consideration and adjusted my bid accordingly.  I probably wouldn’t have won the pen, but I also wouldn’t have been surprised by an unnecessary charge.

Unnecessary?  That’s problem the second.  Canada customs almost never charges, in my now relatively broad experience, on used pens.  Even if they were to, the charge on something US made coming out of the US is no more than the application of the 5% national sales tax (GST, for my fellow northlings).  Canada post does, it’s true, add their own fee for collecting that amount, but even between those two, if duties had been charged, the total would have been about half what I was stuck with– I say “stuck” because I wasn’t going to try wiggling out of the transaction for something that wasn’t the seller’s fault.  They were sold a bill of goods regarding the wonders of the service, after all.  The Admiral, coming to me by much the same route, had a import fees of $0.00, just like 99% of all the old pens I’ve had mailed in.

An adjunct irritant is the purported tracking that this service provides.  The tracking goes: thing sent, thing in Kentucky, thing leaving Kentucky (ask your own national post for further updates).  Canada Post’s tracking shows that they’ve been told to expect it, and based on the time of telling (four days ago) they think they should be able to deliver it today… but they have not actually touched the thing, which makes me think that getting it from the Winnipeg entry point, 600 km away, by day’s end is unlikely.  Grr.

Apart from grousing, I may suggest quietly to those who look in here who also do some eBay action– if selling, avoid the Global Shipping Program; if buying, mention to sellers you might be considering that it’s more likely to reduce their international traffic than to enhance it.  I’m certainly going to avoid anyone who admits to having signed onto it in the future, and I’m going to let them know that I am avoiding them because of it.

Today’s pen: Parker Vacumatic
Today’s ink: Waterman vintage blue


3 Responses to “Murky Waters”

  1. Maja said

    A couple of things set off alarm bells for me:

    (a) The phrase “Customs services and international tracking provided” which may appear on the “search results” page on eBay.ca next to an item up for bids. If I see that, I automatically steer clear of bidding on that item. Call it feminine intuition, if you must 🙂

    (b.) If an item’s main auction page indicates “Import charges: To be provided at checkout” (below the “Shipping Charges”). It doesn’t specify how much these charges are, but I would expect to pay something for this service and yes, it may not be necessary as most lesser-value pens coming from the U.S. have not been snagged by Canada Customs (in my experience).

    Sorry to hear it happened to you 😦

    • It’s the (b) that has started showing up, which was utterly absent during the bidding phase. It’s not quite the usury that UPS and Purolator engage in under the heading of “Customs Brokerage Fees”, but even a light blow can send one reeling when it’s not seen on the way in.

      • Maja said

        Funny, I was checking out some pens on eBay.ca and the info in (b) was visible while the auction was still running. If it wasn’t present on your particular auction until the payment phase, then it is downright dishonest if it wasn’t disclosed in advance. Learn & live, I guess….

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