Paying Off The Postman


I’m an online shopper…more so an online browser, but with online vs in-person shopping, I always opt for online. In Chicago, I would order oodles of stuff in various sizes, get free shipping from said oodles hitting minimum free shipping requirements, try them on in the comfort of my own home (because stores and fitting rooms are always a million degrees and I’m a woman on prescription sweat pills as is), and then one afternoon take a nice walk dodging tourists on Michigan Ave and around the gold coast returning everything I don’t like. I hate being hot, I hate feeling rushed, I hate sales associates, and I hate paying for shipping. So my system has worked for years.   It even worked when I first moved here at the end of July and in August ordered oodles of things sent to my moms house, tried them on when I was home in September, and then returned them once in Chicago.

But I’m not heading home until December and it’s far too early to start ordering stuff for that trip. And I just wanted a scarf for now…to tide me over. So when I went to and was thrilled when it knew I was in the UK, had the Union Jack in the top corner, had everything in £, and shipped internationally…hurrah! They didn’t have the exact scarf I was looking for (ya know, the one in my mind that I’m sure someone made somewhere, I just have to find it), but there was another one I thought was cute…and even though I got hosed in the conversion and $15 shipping, I went for it.

So it shipped from Ohio (where I guess the warehouse is) and then it heads to Germany for some reason having to deal with international shipping, and then made it to my door 2 weeks later, courtesy of UPS. And that’s when the UPS man asked me for £15 cash. What?!   No, it wasn’t a scam. Apparently this is what happens. I heard about if someone sends you something from the states that you had ordered/paid for that wasn’t a gift, the postal service might step in, confiscate said package, and make you pay UK taxes for the new goods. Which seems insane to me as is… but at this point I’ve received one package of Lucky Charms and Equal and did not have to pay additional UK taxes on it. There is the issue of the package from my mother that was sent Oct. 2 and hasn’t been received yet…but we’ll cross that bridge when the time comes.

Anyway, I tell UPS man that I do not have said cash. Which I don’t…because I don’t carry cash. He says he’ll make 3 more attempts. So I get online and chat with Nasty Gal. Apparently despite the website looking all UK friendly, it’s not and I have to pay duties and taxes on the scarf. When it’s all said and done, the scarf was going to cost about $70 (we get paid in US$ so that’s why we do still sorta convert). That scarf is not worth $70. Now I could pay duties and taxes to UPS man, and then pay to ship the scarf back, and get refunded only the cost of the scarf. Or I can refuse to pay duties and taxes, and refuse the package, in which case it will begin making the journey home. Nasty Gal of course doesn’t recommend this because they are out of all shipping costs and cost of item, but they said if that happens, I will get a full refund in a matter of 6 weeks to several months. Well, that’s what’s going to happen because I refuse (on principle) to pay $70 for a scarf that cost $40.

So lessons learned. And if you’re in the UK and craving something from America- there is a little help so you’re not surprised at the door by the UPS man demanding cash.  And in my view, you definitely want to figure out the VAT charges you might incur when ordering online before he’s at your door.  Here’s a list I found of American stores that ship to the UK with information on (potential) included duties & taxes, and how the do returns from the UK.  A lot more stores do ship internationally and have international shipping info on their page. But you can always live chat or email to make sure you don’t incur any additional charges at your door.

Screen Shot 2014-10-23 at 12.44.00 PM Screen Shot 2014-10-23 at 12.56.02 PM

1 Comment

  1. Pingback: Unexpected Expat Expenses | From Hot Dogs to Haggis

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *