It has happened to me too, just to assure others that yours wasn't an isolated experience.
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Fed X is not all that great at handling electronics either.Shipped some really well packed stuff with them and somehow they still managed to do major dammage.At least they don't rip you off on the brokerage fees though.If you want to save the brokerage fees with UPS have the receiving party pick up the package at their nearest customs house.
What a coincidence finding your thread on this subject matter. I just received UPS's invoice for such charges in the amount of $97.45 re: a speaker shipment out of Canada; a supreme insult added to injury as I had already found myself obliged to file a complaint of fraud against the seller for blatant misrepresentation of their cosmetic condition.
Most people use UPS because their rate is cheaper to start with. BUT WAIT, that is because they are talking about the UPS Standard Services (i.e. Ground Services). For this services, the receiving party has to pay all brokerage fee base on a fixed rate scale of the actual declared value.
If you use UPS AIR services, their rate will be roughly about the same as Fedex, and the receiving party will not have to pay any brokerage fee. BUT their customer services is another story.
Fedex is actually the same. If you use Fedex Ground between USA and Canada, Fedex will charge brokerage as well.
It is just that Fedex's default service is AIR, while UPS's default service is GROUND.
Hope this help.
Here's some real data/experience from our shipping department that will help clarify these brokerage charges.
On ground shipments across the border you will pay a 'brokerage charge' and a prep fee. On air shipments, FEDEX and other shippers (usually) waive the brokerage fee and charge only a small (and reasonable) entry prep fee. ($7 in Canada).
We use severqal customs brokers to try and reduce these brokerage charges on heavy (ie. has to go ground) shipments, as we ship 100+ packages a month and import almost as many from the US. Even with a commercial brokerage account (where the fees are less than the 'rip off' rates they assess on private export/import)we pay hundreds of dollars in fees a month. We accept this as part of international commerce, and so should you -- as long as the fees are reasonable.
There are certainly strong economic/business jsutification for the fees, but agreed, UPS is unscrupulous in blindly assessing without prior consultation with the receiver. Although you are legally responsible for taxes and duties (if any), if UPS bills you "after the fact" you can probably throw away the bill. (if you don't mind being hounded a bit). Quite simply, our company has a policy of not paying anything without a PO number --stops bill collectors in their tracks.
Keep in mind that Canadians are used to all this, NAFTA has created an incredible amount of paper work -- thus UPS, FEDEX, et. al. have staffed and dedicated brokerage departments that do a lot more than just 'scanning the package', as an earlier poster has suggested. That said, FEDEX always calls ius for an authorization of brokerage charges/taxes BEFORE delivering. That's the ethical way of doing business.
In Canada, EVERY package from the US comes with addional charges. On top of the manadatory 7% GST, there is PST that some border points are now assessing. (Interestingly and erronously, they only assess PST to individuals, and not to businesses, assuming the business is importing for the purpose of resale and is thus tax exempt -- so, try to give your shipping address as a 'business' if you are importing via UPS or US Post, as both these processes will hit you with your province's respective PST.)
Theory out of the way, here's some quick pointers:
1) Use FEDEX or Purloator (from Canada) for all light (under 20Lbs) shipments to/from US that are time sensitive. Ship FEDEX air 'International Economy' (only takes a day less than 'Priority' and is 15-35% cheaper). Shipping air will also minimize extraneous border charges to a small entry prep fee. Remember, this usually (there are no aboslutes in shipping!) only applies to air!
2) Only import via UPS ground if you have a brokerage account. Like FEDEX, the brokerage fees for UPS are less for air, so UPS air is not too bad. But if you must ship ground (i.e. a 200lb Theta Dreadnaught or those Wilson Grand Slams you've just won at auction)
3) Use your post office! Surprisingly, the service is quite good and packages get accross the border a lot easier than you may think. I ship all my ground shipments to the US via Canada Post and it works quite well. And many don't realize that the Post Office in Canada owns the largest air Canadian air courier (Purolator) so it's going on the same plane or truck anyway! What's more, the post office has various levels of service (slow ground, 4-6 day air, etc.) to the US. And although you can't get a tracking number, you CAN (contrary to an earlier poster) buy insurance for $1 CDN per $100.
Likewise, I have many US dealers who ship me stuff by good old fashion US postal, and it works well, if you speicfy a business name in the shipping address to avoid PST assessment. (I won't go into the psuedo-legal questions on tax). Even if you don't have a business, make one up for the address (i.e. Jack Smith Enterprises c/o Jack Smith).
Hope the above tips help. We've used over 20 different shipping methods and three customs brokers over my past 7 years in my computer biz. But no matter what I or others say, realize this: Shipping is not an exact science -- it is a black art. --Lorne
And by the way.... contray to the many postings, it is OK to ship high value items via UPS! Here's the 'secret' (but it will cost you more). If the item is insured for more than $1500 (the amount may vary by UPS district) it is handled much diffrently than regular UPS "the gorillas tossed it around" shipments. This is relatively new (at least in Canada) and was a response to the over-abundance of claims UPS wa getting. But keep in mind this is still no excuse for not double boxing, adequate 'floating' of sensitive equipment and keeping enough of clearance (4 inches) between any box surface and the equipment. Don't do all this? UPS will deny your claim.