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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?
- 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.
- 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…
- 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.
- 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.