Postal Office Hate. My Life.[Longish]

I’m sure many of you who do not live in a major country can empathize, and when it comes to ordering stuff from say.. Japan, most of you can empathize. At least, the non-Americans; who do suffer, but to a lesser degree*.
(This post will also cover why I didn’t order the figure of Saber Lily Distant Avalon)

For as long as I’ve been able to read English, the Israeli Postal Service and I, we had been at odds. I wished for books, for DVDs, for media, for life, and it had conspired to keep these things out of my reach. Out of my hands.
I am not talking only that the customs office had taken my packages and kept them for longer than it should have (even when it did), but of all the times when we did not even order, for fear and knowledge, that the customs will stop us.

You see, we’ve used to order quite a lot from Amazon, which I’m sure many of you know of. Now, not only did we not get “Free Shipping for orders over $25” (nor even when I’ve ordered books for over $200, or when we’ve purchased the full Neon Genesis Evangelion perfect set, and I wish I were kidding, but it went for $150 or so… ah, thin DVD box-sets, I love you), but we had to tackle the customs. The customs used to stop packages worth over $35, and yes, that was a rather low amount.

It then became $50, but that did not help us much with Amazon, because what Amazon does is, list the cost of the order on the package. Not the cost of the items, and then the cost of the shipping, but all of it together. Customs step in when the items are worth more than $50, but with Amazon, we’re still stuck with orders of about $35, which usually mean 2-3 books, or a DVD and a cheap book. No ordering a lot of books for me (How I wish I lived next to a Barnes and Nobles).
Of course, it didn’t help that recently the United States Postal Service had revamped its services, which ended up amounting to: International shipping is faster, but costs more. Gone is my choice.

In case you’re wondering, the amount of science-fiction and fantasy books brought to Israel, and the selection, is very limited, and usually amounts to stuff that is hot, or just got a TV series. Good luck finding most of what is released. What is sold here is usually sold at about 220% mark-up. Sure, they have to pay for shipping and taxes, but that’s more than steep. That’s crazy.

So suppose I do order something from abroad, let’s enter “The Roulette”, which is how it seems like the postal services and the customs office will charge money from me! And also, how much money they’re going to charge:

  1. If your order is over $50, and they stop it, you will pay 16.5% customs for most items from countries with which Israel has a trade-pact, or 30.5% for items from countries with which Israel does not have trade-pacts, such as Japan, or for certain items (DVDs…). This is both item and the shipping cost.
  2. If your order is stopped, they may or may not charge you for the VAT (Value Added Tax), this is currently 16.5% of your order. Yes, this is both shipping and item’s cost.
  3. Even if your order is not stopped, you may still pay the VAT, that is truly random. The process is that they decide to look at a package, and for that, you get the VAT. This means they can gauge the item’s price or know what it costs. Supposedly the customs look at all packages, so I wonder why not all get VAT?
  4. If your package gets the VAT surcharge added, the postal services office, for the pains of taking the package from the customs and returning it to circulation so it’ll get back to you charge $7.5 from you. I’ve had items before where the items cost a total of roughly $30, and I ended up paying $9 in charges. Only $1.5 being from the legitimate VAT… this is only since the Postal Services got privatized.
  5. EMS packages almost always get stopped by the customs. When a package gets stopped by the customs, you have to either go to the main customs buildings (4 in Israel or so), or pay the postal office $39 to send it to you (in addition to whatever other charges you’re going to pay). This is a bit paradoxical, as EMS means I want my package soon, rather than have it stopped time after time…
  6. If the customs stopped your package, even if you don’t pay customs (because it was under $50), and don’t pay VAT (see, random, I’m already there, and they don’t charge it!), then for the pleasure of housing my package I need to pay the postal services a flat fee of about $21. For 14 days, a package that’s the size of a pen, or up to 6 pounds or so, that’s the surcharge. Two packages, $42, and so on. No good splitting packages, unless you can ensure none gets stopped.
  7. Figures get stopped rather often, when they can’t gauge the cost of the item, they’re much more likely to stop it. EMS=stopped at customs, non-EMS=usually $7.5 surcharge and sent on to your home. Better.

So, I want the figure of Saber Lily Distant Avalon by Good Smile Company, and it was up for order recently again on Hobby Search. According to their calculator, the figure would start at about $95. Since they only ship EMS, and it seems like a hefty package, so I calculated it to roughly $35 for the shipping.
Amount to pay at this point: $120 for an amazing model.

Now, let us enter Israel, and add the postal service and customs’ costs:
– Since the item will be shipped EMS, is nearly $100, and heavy, it WILL get stopped. I will pay 30.5% customs, which would amount for $36 more.
– Since they have it, I’m going to pay VAT, 16.5% more, so $20 more.
– Since they stopped it, and they want me to pay for it, they’re unlikely to forward it to my local post office, so the postal services would ask me for $21 more for holding it.
Amount added at this stage: $77, and the cost of getting to the customs’ office and back, and the time.

Total cost for a figure of 8,800 yen, shipped EMS: $197.

And this is why we can’t have anything nice :P The fact that I need to pay about double the costs, even without paying for a deputy service or anything. I will probably hope for eBay, where the sellers ship via SAL, and ask them to write something on the order, heh.

Hobby Link Japan (HLJ) has a paypal free fast shipping sale until the 28th of September, where they will ship via EMS/other fast shipping, and not only will they “upgrade” it, so you still pay the normal cost, but the shipping will be for free. You must pay via PayPal, and rather than not pay for shipping, they’ll just deduce the cost of it.

If you order something heavy (like Dakimura body), this is great. For me? This is not so great. First, they will ship via EMS, so the customs will stop my package unless it’s only a magazine or something of the sort, and because the order has the shipping costs on it, even though the shipping was “free”, I’d still pay the potentially 48% of the shipping’s cost, which with EMS, is considerable. So I basically only get half of the shipping cost for free, but will almost assuredly pay taxes for the figure…

You know, if the postal services and the customs weren’t so arbitrary, I’d feel better. Sure, we have a chance to get a pleasant surprise, but we can’t really tell when we WILL pay, which sucks for making plans.

* Because Americans’ customs ceiling is $200, IIRC.

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19 comments on “Postal Office Hate. My Life.[Longish]

  1. Lelouch says:

    I feel your pain. Our customs sucks like hell too…

    • Guy says:

      It’s a conspiracy to stop us from buying things!

      Well, part of it is so we’d buy inside the country, and fuel the local businesses. But heck, most of them don’t sell the stuff I want inside Israel :(

      The figure trade fuels Israel’s government’s budget, I tell you.

  2. I think in most countries they tend to calculate custom price as a price+shipping. In Russia import fees are bad too and customs habits are same if not worse. When I came to US I was really glad to see they have no import tax, at least on items I buy overseas… As far as Israel is concerned, custom duties there were same bad before russians came … hehe.

    • Guy says:

      We got 1.2 former-USSR immigrating in since the early 90s, customs didn’t improve since :D

      And yes, it’s price+shipping here as well, but the ceiling of “Free import”, customs wise, is $50 for price only. VAT always calculates both.

  3. Marshmallow says:

    Wow, that sucks. When I order from Japan, I never get taxed… but if I order from the U.S. (and maybe other countries? I have no idea, I’ve only really bought things from U.S. and Japan, and once from the U.K., but that was from an actual person so they put it as a gift) I get taxed on anything over $20… and that’s Canadian. Seems to be pretty random too. :| So, I hardly ever order from the U.S..

  4. Ninjovee says:

    Ouch. That’s freakishly insane!
    Our postal service sucks here too… but I haven’t had much trouble with them so far… well, they did mishandle my Nendo Shana ;A; but at least the seller wrapped her in a lot of newspaper so she’s fine. I’m kinda glad we have local stores that sell figures a bit close to the cost of buying them from online stores in Japan.
    What if, for example, packages came from your relatives/friends instead of companies? Would customs be a bitch about that too?

    • Guy says:

      Technically, gifts are taxable as well. After all, it’s material coming into Israel.
      Books for instance, sent from a private person, can be up to $75 before they fall under the hands of customs.

      But here’s the thing, if someone writes “Gift” and say, “$40”, there’s not much they can do. You usually need to bring in a receipt. But what receipt can they ask for when someone sends you a gift? They rarely stop/tax them. But only because they don’t have a lot to do about it, I guess.
      Friends sometimes send me packages, and sometimes they are taxed. You see, you need to fill in the customs declaration if you want your package to be covered by insurance, and if you fudge the papers, you also fudge your insurance. So when friends sent me the PS2 I won on eBay, I paid taxes. It was also sent EMS :D

  5. phossil says:

    I think Im not lonele here, but I use SAL for shipping since its more cheap but it has disadvantages compared with EMS (trackeable and faster).

  6. Optic says:

    I can’t really feel what u feel because that’s just bizzare.
    The only time I will need to paying any custom tax is when the item or items in total equals to $1000+ and that will never likely happen.

    I guess a trip to Japan will be nice to bring them all back instead. ^^

  7. lovelyduckie says:

    I don’t have those pains but I know quite a few individuals that struggle with such situations. To be honest I probably wouldn’t collect figures if it cost that much to get something to me, or manga for that matter. I admit I’d just read it all for free if such $$ barriers were put in front of me. I’d be more likely to do what Optic suggested and just use all that money I’m not spending on my hobbies to save up for trips to Japan.

    • Guy says:

      Well, we’re used to it.

      Not the ordering ourselves, but the prices from shops. We buy manga at 5-5.5 NIS per USD for instance, it’s usually 4 NIS per USD, but these days 3.75, but still.

      And English books, well, I pay about $12-14 for a mass paperback. That hurts.

      But what is my other option? It’s not just figures, it’s everything. DVDs, manga, books… so long it’s imported, we pay through the nose.

  8. bluedrakon says:

    That really sucks – I have heard of the extra taxes and custom issues from others. When they ask me to send the items as a gift, I usually do. I have not had anything hung up in customs here in the US.
    I had someone contact me on some DVD’s I have on auction and if I could ship to Canada. I checked and due to size restrictions, I can only ship Priority which would of been about $45. WTF – that is just nuts as it is on the same continent.

  9. Wow, that sounds rough. I must be really spoiled with U.S. shipping customs. I only have to pay the actual cost of the item and shipping. Customs will look at my items but that’s it. No fees or holdups. I’ve gotten EMS items from Japan to my doortstep in 3 days >_<
    Also, there is an Amazon distribution center in my state so sometimes I get items from them the next day with their free shipping. Sorry, hearing this probably doesn't make you any happier xD

    • Guy says:

      Well, when I consume your flesh and wear your skin and identity as a body-suit, it will make me happy indeed ;)

      USA customs shouldn’t stop you till $200, which is something I can only dream of.

  10. […] is the other super-hot figure. I really want this figure. But as explained in the last post about Saber Lily Distant Avalon, here I’ll also have to pay for a deputy service on top of […]

  11. Tommy says:

    I feel your pain…but to a lesser extent.

    The Canadian customs seems to be pretty random from the stories I’ve read. But one thing is for sure: “If your name is on their ‘black list’, you’ll get checked (most likely taxed) every time.”

    From my experience, expressed items will get taxed more often than items shipped with slower methods like SAL. Hobby Search will get taxed every time, and HLJ EMS will get taxed randomly…usually at around 7,000 compared to being taxed at 9,000+ yen when you ship SAL.

    The tax rate is 13% (for my province), plus an additional $8 handling fee for taxing you. Totally love it. So if you know your package is going to get taxed, and you have more that you want to buy and you can afford to do so, BUY MORE because that $8 handling fee is a flat rate charged per package.

    I’m surprised that you can’t pay your customs charges at your local post office. Not sure how much they charge you to ship out items, but Canada Post is mighty expensive to ship with.

    • Guy says:

      Shipping out is ok with Israel. Though I usually ship envelopes, and not packages.

      And the no paying at local postal is odd too. The thing is, when they know how much the thing costs, they let you pay at your local place, when they want to check you, and you need to go over with the receipt, they don’t…
      In this case, I can still have them ship it to my local postal office, and I’ll just email them the receipt. But that’d mean about $42 more, flat charge, in addition to the other charges. And that’s ridiculous.

      Why? Because the post office had been privatized, and they want moolah.

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