Guide for Canadians to Ordering Online from American Shops
Author: Thomas Dembie
What often looks like a steal online from an American retailer can very easily turn into a not-so-great deal as a result of hidden fees that you might not be aware of. On this page you'll find everything you need to know about ordering your wakeboard gear from the US, including what those hidden fees are, how to find them and how to minimize them.
Instead of ordering directly to your Canadian (or International) address and incurring expensive fees, consider using a service like MyUS. Sign up with MyUS and receive your own U.S. street address. Purchases can be made from any website or store within the U.S. Those items are shipped to your U.S. address, where MyUS provides specialized international package forwarding services from your new U.S. address to your international address.
UPS charges the highest brokerage fees in the industry -
from what I have read. These fees are often 'hidden' to
most customers, since they are not included in the item
price or the shipping and are separate from the taxes
(discussed below). For example, if I were to order a
wakeboard for $325 USD from UPS, according to their
brokerage fee schedule, I would have to pay $35.55
brokerage + $5.85 disbursement (minimum) + $4.25 fee for
collecting brokerage charge. Add taxes, shipping and
convert this order to Canadian funds and this order no
longer looks like a deal. Apparently you can set it up
to clear customs by yourself, but trying to figure out
how is as easy as turning water to gold. If your order
is shipped UPS when you were told it would be shipped
with another company, you can refuse to accept the order
& charges and it will be sent back to the retailer.
With USPS, "For all casual and commercial items valued
under 1,200 Canadian dollars, Canada Post will collect
the assessed duties and excise taxes and a handling fee
of 5 Canadian dollars from the addressee." That's it! No
more hidden charges. The brokerage fees and taxes will
either be collected when the item is delivered to your
door, or when you pick it up at your local post office -
depending on the USPS shipping method selected.
Fedex charges brokerage fees based on the value of your order. Instead of paying the amount up front, Fedex will send you an invoice in the mail. The problem is that they don't list them on their site, so we contacted Fedex and got them to send us the list! Here it is (pdf).
The Bottom Line
Make sure you know what company will be used for shipping your order to Canada. If the retailer only uses UPS and you want to minimize your costs, try e-mailing them to see if they can ship using another company. If they won't, look elsewhere or be prepared to pay major fees.