Friday, April 3, 2009

A note about US contests and Canada

Recently I won a contest where the sponsor was an American company. They shipped the prize (quite quickly) through UPS. The prize had a value of $62.95. When it arrived at my door yesterday, UPS wanted me to pay $40 in brokerage, duty and taxes!

I asked the delivery guy to hang on to the package and give me a phone number and tracking number so I could try to sort things out with UPS. For anyone who doesn't know, contest wins are not taxable in Canada, unlike in the States. When I called UPS they suggested I follow up with the sponsor to see if that company would pay the fees. A quick email later, the host of the contest got back to me quickly saying she would follow up with the sponsor.

This morning the sponsor emailed me to say they could not pay the fee. I called back to UPS and while they said they could reduce the preparation fees as an act of goodwill, the fees would still be $20.

What it came down to was that I can't afford to pay, the company refused to do so, UPS would not waive the fees and I ended up refusing the package.

Here is what I have learned, that might come in useful to any of us Canadians and any US sponsors for the future.
  • Canada is the ONLY country that allows a small exemption on items sent as gifts but all 3 of the following criteria must be met - AT THE TIME THAT THE ITEM IS SENT - for that exemption to apply:
    1) The item MUST ship from a personal address to a personal address ( anything that you buy or win and have sent directly from a company to your recipient will not qualify)
    2) The waybill AND commercial invoice must BOTH be marked stating that the item is a gift.
    3) The value of the items must be under $60 Canadian - anything over that $60 will be assessed all duties and taxes. (This explanation is from Momoforever on, I have edited it a little but essentially it is her information, credit where credit is due!)
  • The difference between a courier company and the postal service (USPS linking with CP at the border) is that courier services are obligated to report every shipment while CP can pick and choose at will, thus often CP will let packages through that would get dinged with a hefty charge if sent UPS. UPS is apparently the WORST for brokerage/duty fees. when I look at the invoice for the package I refused, the brokerage fee was $29.55; about 75% of the fees they wanted to charge me.
  • With Canada Post, you also have the option to appeal any fees. Recently I got a package through CP with a $10 fee on it. $10 happened to be affordable at the time so I just paid it, knowing that I could fill out the form on the back of the customer copy of the shipping invoice, send in copies of the emails I received from the contest sponsor and in all likelihood get my money back. UPS - no option to appeal, or, if there is (which would be through Canada Customs directly), they sure don't make it easy. You can't appeal the brokerage fees, that's for sure. The duties I imagine you could try to deal with Canada Customs but looking on their website, it is not easy to find out how. You'd have to call and work your way through the automated system.
Summary: Send it as a gift, value it less than $60 CDN, use a home address as a return address. Send it USPS instead of by courier (the extra time is worth it).

I was thinking that maybe the host of the contest would simply draw another name (a US winner this time) and the sponsor would send the prize to them. Or perhaps the unfortunate conclusion would be that the sponsor had tried to fulfill their end, it didn't happen, they were done with the whole thing.

But neither of these things happened. I'm going to end with the good news that the sponsor has very kindly decided to go the extra mile and, once they get the UPS package back, they're going to re-send the package using a different method. I haven't mentioned the sponsor's name or the host but if they are reading they will know who they are. I want to extend a big thank you to them for following up and really going above and beyond my expectations! Both were extra nice to deal with and truly helpful in resolving this!

1 comment:

  1. That was a really interesting post. Thanks. I have just started entering giveaways from the US and didn't know what to expect. Now I feel prepared!


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