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  1. #1
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    14th January 08
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    Scotweb, kilts, and shipping to the US

    As a background, this is not a complaint, merely a story told, a lesson learned, and knowledge forwarded to my brethren here for their future use as they may see fit. More background: In October I ordered a flat cap (sorry Jock, couldn't help myself) and one of the clearence wool kilts from Scotweb, The ones that were make up custom for someone then either returned or never picked up that they sell at a discount----it happened to be almost perfectly sized and in a tartan I desired. I requested standard shipping, specifically preferring to not use FEDEX due to their customs fees policy. Due to a delay in manufacture of the cap (long story not really pertinent to this story) my overall order was delayed several months. I inquired by phone at least once, again specifying that I did not want shipping via fedex. I subsequently recieved the package about 4 months after order, shipped via FEDEX, with a followup bill from fedex for and additional $60US in customs duty and fedex handling charges (roughly $40 in duty and $20 in add on fees). These fees negated any discount on the cost of the kilt or cap due to sale prices or clearence pricing. In an email exchange with Scotweb service people regarding why Fedex had been used rather than surface shipping I recieved the folllowing:

    "unfortunately due to the weight of the package we were sending to you
    this was too heavy for Airmail to accept on their small packets service which we use. As such, we upgraded, free of charge, to our Fedex courier service. I have searched over your order and can find no instruction for us to not use Fedex and only use Royal Mail or Parcelforce. If we had seen this we would have informed you that the package was too heavy for Airmail and that we do not use the Parcelforce service. Our packages are not sent by particular services based on the value of the items, rather they are sent based on the weight."

    The order was for a 13oz 8yd kilt and one small very lightweight cap, but it had to go fedex, which means it was destined to get hit with duty and FEDEX add on fees for handling that duty, at this time about 17.5% duty and minimum $20 fees. I realize that duties are the responsibility of the purchaser/importer, but I think we all know that other retailers in the UK can and do use other courier services than FEDEX that typically get through customs without duties, although that is no guarantee.

    So the moral of this story is that when you consider ordering a kilt from Scotweb anticipate that it will be sent by fedex, and figure in the additional expense of duty of 17.5% of the value of the kilt plus an additional $20 or so in Fedex fees.

  2. #2
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    Good to know. The first rule under which I operate when buying is that as long as I am paying the bills, I make the rules under which transactions are carried on.

    I'm pretty sure that ScotWeb will be quite low on my list of futures vendors since they don't seem to be able to follow directions. I have purchased from them in the past--not kilts--and had fairly good dealings, but customer service is not their forte.
    Jim Killman
    Writer, Philosopher, Teacher of English and Math, Soldier of Fortune, Bon Vivant, Heart Transplant Recipient, Knight of St. Andrew (among other knighthoods)
    Freedom is not free, but the US Marine Corps will pay most of your share.

  3. #3
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    16th August 04
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    I'm very sorry you clearly feel we've let you down. Whilst you obviously want to vent your anger against us personally, I'd just like to clarify here that it is not just when buying from Scotweb that you will not be able to have a full size kilt shipped from the UK to North America by airmail. No one will do so, as there is a 2kg limit on the parcels they will carry. So for heavy packages it is courier or nothing.

    Whilst I note your saying you asked us not to by phone, we have no record of this in our systems, and it certainly did not come to us as a written request. At this distance I have no way to investigate your missing voice message. Had we known of your insistence not shipping by courier, we would have given you the opportunity to cancel your order, as no other method is possible. Under the circumstances, I feel that upgrading you at our own expense (on a discount item) was our team doing its best to be helpful. But I guess you can't win them all, so I'm sorry you see it as such a negative gesture.

    I'd also point out (as many times before on this forum) that the import duties you pay are roughly the same as the taxes we in the UK pay anyway, which you save on by shopping from overseas. Swings and roundabouts perhaps. But clearly you don't see it that way.

    Finally, I'd ask once again that if anyone has a service complaint about our company, I'd consider it a courtesy (as outlined at the top of this forum) if people could contact me personally first to investigate and discuss, before venting their anger here publicly as a first resort. (You would always have that opportunity later anyway, should we fail to respond to your satisfaction.) We do operate a policy of seriously addressing all complaints, since it's impossible in business never to have cause for unhappy experiences. But for me the hallmark of a good business is how problems are then addressed. We'd like to have the chance to show this.

    Sorry again.

    Nick

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by ForresterModern View Post
    I think we all know that other retailers in the UK can and do use other courier services than FEDEX that typically get through customs without duties, although that is no guarantee.
    And just to add... there is NO other courier service that gets stuff through customs without due fees. And by law even air mail should be charged at the same rates. It just so happens they very often don't for small packages.

    To my knowledge the only other retailers who "get stuff through" by courier without paying the proper fees are the ones who are prepared to lie on official forms by deliberately misdeclaring the contents. If you are asking us to do this, I'm afraid I have to say no. Things slipping through is one thing, but actively colluding in tax avoidance by commiting legal fraud is too much to ask.

    And to my knowledge, the firms who systematically lie in this way are the same firms who systematically lie to customers about the products they sell, for example by passing off shoddy Asian copies as the real thing. If you want to take your chances with such an outfit, feel free. But please don't criticise us for having higher standards.

  5. #5
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    Hmm... I can't say as I've been hit with customs fees yet. I have ordered multiple times from Marton Mills and they have shipped via parcelforce.

    The slip on the outside of the package has the declared value of the item. (what I payed for it...)

    FWIW I have always gotten bolts of fabric wrapped in clear plastic. I don't know if it plays into it at all, but what the item is, can be clearly seen and there is no need to inspect the package further. I don't exactly know what the customs and duty fees are applied to or why. I am just quoting my experience.

  6. #6
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    Nick, thanks for the clarity on your company's procedures when it comes to customer servie. I've been wanting to order from you, but this thread made me a wee bit hesitant. Now, however, I will not count you out.

  7. #7
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    The main issue with anything coming into the States is how Fedex handles it. As some have said, with other methods, occasionally a package will slip through without duties. Fedex makes sure to assess the duties on everything, which is of course the correct thing to do, but then they apply a hefty service fee for doing this.
    We're fools whether we dance or not, so we might as well dance. - Japanese Proverb

  8. #8
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    We don't in fact only use Fedex. We also use DHL, and we've tested others. Anyone ordering is welcome to specify if they prefer Fedex or DHL (by special message). But whatever each of your individual experiences may have been (and yes, of course it differs, depending not just on the courier but on point of entry and a bunch of other factors) as a point of fact, our feedback shows the same aggregate behaviour of packages going through customs.

    As for Parcelforce, they don't even operate in the US, but work through random 'partners', who are subject to the same rules as the other couriers. That's one reason we won't use them, as this offers a much more patchy and less reliable service.

  9. #9
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    9th April 08
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    I have made a few purchases from Scotweb and have been happy with them all. I see the frustration of the OP, but I also see how Scotweb was trying to help. Being from the customer service industry I can say that Scotweb has great customer service. With my first kilt outfit order I dealt with them both via email and by phone. At no time was I displeased. I was shocked by Fedex, but laws are laws. It is, by my opinion, wrong to expect a business to commit fraud to help the consumer avoid taxes and duties. I will definitely be ordering from Scotweb again!
    James

  10. #10
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    14th January 08
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    NIck

    I apologize if my post sounds inflammatory, as it was meant only to be a factual description of what happened and why, and not a complaint. Since I have already exchanged emails since receipt of the package with your customer service representative about the issues, and she answered my question as I quoted above, I was satisfied that your company had acted according to its standard policy, which is entirely appropriate. I am sorry I did not contact you by PM but did not believe that there was anything more to discuss, as it was made clear by the customer service rep's response, and only amplified and clarified slightly more by your responses to my OP, that this is just the way it is.

    To further clarify some facts I indeed did speak with a customer representative by phone, I beleive twice, after ordering but before reciept of the order, as there was the delay in the order, and on each occasion specifically stated that I did not wish to recieve the items by fedex, but rather surface carrier, which was acknowledged verbally at those times. I was never told that the order would require a courier, or given the option of requesting a different courier. I have recieved full 8yd kilts by Royal mail surface delivery before, as well as by Parcelforce, when they were the only items in the order so I know that a 16oz 8yd kilt (I am a 45 waist, 47 hip, and 26 length typically, and each kilt measured out as using at least 7.4 yards of actual fabric at the lower selvedge) can make it through the mails. This was a 13oz 8yd kilt to slightly smaller dimensions in each of the three areas (44-46-25) along with a very lightweight cap, so I doubt the weight differences would be significant. I have ordered at least 7 other kilts from Scotland and the only other time I recieved a duty invoice was from another FEDEX delivery order where I ordered two kilts at the same time, and they both came in the same package. I thought I had learned my lesson that time. The other 5 "slipped", as you say, through either Royal Mails or ParcelForce without a customs duty assessed, despite having appropriate customs stickers and proper valuations declared on each package. I have also ordered custom weave fabric from Scotland on two occasions---either 4 meters of DW or 8 meters of SW 16oz fabric, each with valuations of a little over $200 US, also appropriately customs stickered, via Royal mail without duty assessed. I have never directly sought to decieve my government by requesting that improper valuations be listed on any order package, and would never expect a vendor to do so, or even offer to do so.

    I appreciate the fact that my shipping method was upgraded for free, although it would have been nice to email me about the change before sending the package FEDEX rather than after it was already en route, but that is a small issue of little real importance.

    My reason to post was not to complain or bad mouth about Scotweb----I have had many good dealings with your company about other items, and have even posted reviews on your own website as well as here about the quality goods I had recieved. I think my comments here have not been emotional, inflammatory or contrite, and no anger exists in me about the whole episode. I merely thought it appropriate for others here, who might be Americans considering ordering a kilt from Scotweb, or from potentially other vendors in Scotland, or elsewhere, to know that it is Scotweb's policy to likely ship that kilt via FEDEX, as even a 13oz 5yd kilt would likely weigh right around 4.5 pounds ( your 2kg mail limit) with packaging, and therefore need to be sent via courier service, be that FEdex or DHL. FEDEX we all know not only automatically collects and process duties on ALL its shipments into the US from Scotland (extremely thoroughly I might add), but also adds a hefty handling fee (minimum I believe is something like $19US) to those duties. I have never recieved a kilt via DHL, but have recieved other items of some value but lesser weight, sent from Scotland using DHL, appropriately labelled and valued on customs forms, and have never recieved a customs duty bill. It is the US customs service's duty to impose the tariffs and collect them as appropriate, and if they fail in that duty, as they must obviously do frequently with couriers other than FEDEX as can be attested to by most members of this forum who have ordered from Scotland, then the government is out that money and I am the better off financially for it. I have done NOTHING wrong or illegal.

    Again, just the facts, unemotionally presented. Again I mean no ill will against Scotweb or you personally. And really there is and was nothing more you could do about the situation that might have been different had I contacted you here or via your website before posting, as the same explanations would have been returned as have here in the open forum. I never expected, and still do not expect, any solution to the concern I have raised be found by Scotweb or you. I am merely bringing to light a certain situation which may impact other forum members' decisions with respect to ordering items like kilts in the future.

    And by the way, the comment about saving VAT but paying the same amount in duty is a weak one. Were I to buy the same item in the UK I would either pay the vat there and be reimbursed later, or would recieve a vat free receipt from the retailer. I might or might not pay import duties when I returned to the US, depending on the overall valuations declared at customs, where tariffs would only kick in after several hundreds of dollars per person had been reached on that declaration. And if I had bought it in the US from a US vendor I would have completely avoided VAT AND customs duties (or they at least would have been rolled into the item price from the vendor as their import cost of raw materials or finished items), and likely avoided state sales taxes as well if I was not in the same state as the retailer who sold me the item. In other words I would have known the absolute true cost up front in the transaction. In my case the duty and attending handling fees completely negated any savings I recieved by buying the clearence priced kilt and sale priced cap, and had I recognized that up front I would almost certainly NOT have begun the transaction at all. Again, lesson learned.

    Thanks for listening.

    jeff

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