Excessive Processing Fees

January 3rd, 2006 by Potato

Right now I’m trying to sort through a sorry debacle resulting from ordering goods from the states.

What happened was: I ordered some stuff from Disney Direct (the Nightmare Before Christmas houses that I got Wayfare for Halloween) via their phone-ordering system, since they were sold out in stores throughout southern Ontario. They were on sale, so I got them for $60 CDN, and ended up having to pay $44 for shipping. Ouch.

You’d think that at that rate, the shipping company would have it here overnight, take care of customs clearning, and all that jazz, right?


DHL has got to be the worst courier company I’ve ever seen. After charging that ludicrous amount, and making no mention of the fact that I’d have to pay additional Canadian tax on the order, they shipped it to me a week later (not a long delay, but certainly not $44 quick). Over a month later, they sent me a bill for another $13.80, claiming I had to pay GST on the item, and that there was a small checkbox on the delivery sheet that said by accepting shipment I accepted the charges. (The box simply says “Destination Duties” with a box beside Receiver and Sender, with Receiver checked). The delivery driver never mentioned additional charges.

And this is Disney, giant consumer conglomerate motherfucking Disney. How could they not know/tell me that there would be GST charged for ordering their crap? Keep in mind, when I called them they immediately transferred me to a Canadian representative (the lady was in Texas, but supposedly all she did was handle orders from Canada).

Compare this with Home Star Runner, where I bought a few T-shirts last year. Shipping was pricey, at $15 (again off a ~$60 order), and I had to pay GST: but they warned me twice before completing the transaction that as a Canadian customer, that would happen. They shipped via USPS/Canada Post, and it arrived faster than my DHL couriered Disney crap. And to top it all off, the GST charge was COD — I paid my very nice postal worker on the spot (I even had exact change ready since I had been warned about it) and that was that. No bills in the mail, no wasting an additional 50 cents on a stamp to send my payment, and no service charge. And this was from two guys in their basement and their Yahoo storefront (well, they’re a bit bigger than that, but no where near the level of business Disney must have with Canada).

And that’s the thing that’s really getting my ire lately: these ridiculous service charges for things. So as I was saying, I get hit for this $13.80 bill for the GST on my Disney order. Yet doing the math will clearly tell you that the tax on $60 (including PST, actually) is only $9. There’s also a $5 service fee for the priviledge of getting this BS bill in the mail.

It’s not just this, either. For a long time I was actually paying London Hydro more to “maintain my account” (read my meter, type up and mail me my bill) than I was actually paying for electricity! I swear, that ridiculous $20 service charge was the single greatest inhibitor of conservation behaviours in my apartment. “Turn the lights off? Hell, I pay more in service charges than I do for electricity. Why don’t I pull my other computer out of storage and leave it on 24/7 so I can have some background tasks running without interfering with my gaming system…”

So what is with these excessive processing fees? Why does it cost more in many cases to charge me for a service that it does for the service itself? Why do I need a membership and photo ID to buy unhealthy quantities of tomato soup and paper towels at Costco? Are they afraid of roving bands of consumers coming through and picking the store clean of its warehouse-packaged goods and leaving behind naught but the asking price?

The bureaucracy is expanding to meet the needs of the expanding bureaucracy.

On an unrelated note, I’m a switcher (though to a Shadow Priest).

4 Responses to “Excessive Processing Fees”

  1. Potato Says:

    More on DHL:

    First off, some extra background on the story: when I first got this, I thought it was a fraud attempt, like a snail mail phishing scam. There was no return envelope (so I’m going to have to eat the 50 cents just to pay them), and the wording of the letter was very unprofessional, and contained noticable troll phrases “we could not determine if your company has a DHL Importer account, so we assigned you a temporary account number” and “this invoice is payable immediately, please send payment today”. They should know that it was a DISNEY package sent to a residential address, and shouldn’t be looking for an importer account; and it’s standard for bills sent in the mail to be payable in 30 days (or even 90), and asking that payment be sent today simply screams fraud to me. (It’s the creation of the false sense of urgency that makes many people abandon their common sense enough to fall into the trap). And again, remember that they didn’t send this until over a month after I received the package, so at first I had no idea what it was all referring to.

    Wayfare has this additional bit of wisdom: “Is it legal to charge service fees for collecting taxes?!”

    Here’s the complaint letter I sent them (note that I was not nearly as nice or as formal as with the Rogers one, since I have no intention of maintaining a business relationship with them).

    DHL Express Canada Ltd.
    200 Westcreek Blvd
    Brampton, ON
    L6T 5T7

    To Whom It May Concern;

    I recently received a bill from DHL for taxes on an item shipped from the U.S. There has been a great deal of confusion regarding this, starting with the opening paragraph of the letter to me “we could not identify your company as holding a regular DHL Import Express account…”. I’m obviously not a company, and I’ve never heard of DHL before, so right off the bat I thought this invoice was fraudulent.

    Eventually I remembered the items I ordered from Disney – which were ordered as a gift, and given as soon as they arrived. No mention was made of import taxes, fees, or GST when they were ordered, nor upon receipt of delivery. The shipping fee for my $58.78 purchase was $44 – a very high rate when compared to other services I have used. Given those sorts of prices, one would assume that the import fees/taxes would then be covered.

    On top of this already poor handling of the issue, DHL has levied a $5 “processing fee” for the tax charges (57% of the original fee!) and to add insult to injury, did not include a return envelope for payment.

    Sadly, after investing so much time simply determining if this invoice was a fraud attempt, I find it’s simply easier to pay this off and be done with it. I will, however, endeavour to never again use DHL as a courier service.

    Please find enclosed my payment;

  2. Potato Says:

    And more on HomeStar Runner:

    The process for them was relatively smoother. Like I said, they told me in advance that I would be charged GST on delivery, and Canada Post was ready to collect it. This is important since then I have the option of refusing delivery if I’m not prepared to pay the taxes (15% more than you’re expecting can be deal breaking in many cases). It also wasn’t some tiny line item with two checkboxes on a crowded waybill that was, I believe, a full 8.5×11″ page. It was a separate invoice taped partially on top of the regular waybill so there was practically no way you’d miss it.

    I never mentioned the downside of my HomeStar shirt order: after carefully measuring some of the shirts I already owned to select a size that would work for me in their non-shrink cotton, the shirt fit great the first time. Then it shrunk. A lot. It’s like teddy-bear sized now. While I was careful to wash it in cold water, my drier here only has two settings: hot, and thermonuclear. Nonetheless, I was disappointed about the shrinkage in their non-shrink shirts. If they ever go on sale (especially the red one with the white star that I really liked for some reason) I’d probably get another one, though I’d be sure to get a really really big one.

  3. Netbug Says:

    Ordering stuff from the states is a pain in the ass. You have to pay tax on everything (twice if the state has tax as well). And couriers suck, but I’ve had one or two things just not arrive, thankfully the companies have resent (then 4 weeks later, both arrived on the same day…).

    One company had some charge show up from the Canadian government that was stupid (like $60 on a $80 order) and the bill came to me (bill was from Cdn gov). I called up the company and told them the situation and they sent me a cheque to cover the whole thing!

    Now, unless something is very urgent, I will send it to a friend or relative in the states (as most things I order have free domestic shipping) and then have them ship it, or bring it up (when they come obviously).

    My reciever, for example, was retailed at $1600 US. It was on sale for $495 US. It would have cost me $1200 after all the taxes and stuff for ordering from Canada, so I sent it to a friend in New York who was driving up for the holidays. They opened it, stuck a bow on it, and bam, it’s a gift. No taxes. No duty.

  4. Potato Says:

    Yeah, except I don’t have anyone like that in the states :(