UPS Sucks But We Can’t Blame Canada (This Time)

“It started out so innocently…”

Brian’s sister left her remote garage door opener behind on a recent visit. All he wanted to do was UPS it to her Detroit to Canada.

Thanks to the incompetence of a UPS employee, Bullwinkle and the Mounties put the kibosh on that happy little plan. Find out what the ey, after the jump…

Picture shows in-formation drills of Mounties practicing not delivering your mail. [source]

My wife’s sister lives in Canada and we live two hours away in Detroit. My wife and son spent a few days with her sister and when she returned, discovered that her sister’s remote garage door opener had been left in her car. So, figuring that the best way to get it back to her would be to send it by courier, she asked me to take it to the UPS store near my office.

Upon entering the store, I promptly found the form for sending things internationally and spent five minutes filling it out. I then presented it, along with the opener to the young lady behind the desk. She looked at my form and said, “Oh, you don’t have to fill this out because we do it all by computer now.” I bit my tongue and watched as she began to enter the information. Even though she had the form right there on the counter, she felt compelled to ask me each question. Again, biting my tongue, I gave the information.

When she came to a description of the item, I said it was a garage door opener. Value? I shrugged my shoulders and threw out $20.00. What difference did it make, I wasn’t going to pay for the insurance.

Now came the time when she asked which type of delivery I wanted. Upon asking what the options and prices were, she said I could have it there within 2-3 days at $58.00. $58.00? The next option was 4-5 days at $53.00. $53.00? I was now thinking maybe my sister-in-law could just go buy a new opener. The third option was 5-7 days at $9.95. I wanted to ask what was so special about that fifth day that caused the price to go down, but why bother? The price was fine. I chose #3, paid, got my receipt and went home figuring it was all done.

Six days later, the opener had not yet arrived so my sister-in-law called UPS in her Canadian town to check on its status. She was informed that the opener was stuck at the border and UPS would not deliver it unless she paid a duty of $18.00. Further, she would have to pay sales tax, which in Ontario is 15%, bringing the total to $21.75. The duty is usually applied to merchandise sold in one country and imported. She tried to explain to the UPS person that this was just a used garage door opener, it was not sold, and there should be no duty or sales tax. She was told that she would have to pay this or she could not have the opener and it would be returned to me.

After stewing for a couple days, my sister-in-law tried again with UPS. She finally found out the problem: I had put the value at $20.00. You see, she was told, unlike the Post Office, which examines each international package to determine if there was a sale or not, UPS does not — is too lazy — to do this. Instead, they just assume every package is a sale, take the value stated as the sales price, and then apply the duty and tax. (Nevermind the issue of why the duty on a $20 item is $18). They do not determine, and more frustrating, do not ask the sender, if there was a sale or not.

The solution? My sister-in-law had to call the UPS office located here in Detroit right by my office, explain the situation and get that person to change the stated value of the garage door opener to $1.00. That person then had to send a letter to the Canadian UPS people so they had documentation of the true value of the opener. Now, there was no duty due, nor was any tax owed. So, within the next few days, hopefully, my sister-in-law will finally get her garage door opener back.

In summary, putting aside the issue of UPS just wantonly assuming that all deliveries are sales and imposing duty and tax on the unsuspecting recipients, and then holding the packages hostage, UPS has not made an effort to create a check-box that an item is not being sold, is a gift or whatever (as the Post Office does), and has totally failed to tell its customers, the shippers, of the significance of the stated value of what is being shipped, or the potential cost for the recipient.

Brian Garves