Buying Overseas? Beware of Hidden Fees

Even though I have been both an avid traveler as well as an avid shopper for decades, the first time I ever bought something overseas to ship home was this year.  It ended up being a lot more than I bargained for, and so I thought I would share my experience, in case any of you have ever had the inkling to do the same.

Usually, I take things home on the plane, and you’d be surprised what I have been able to fit, most notably my huge Carnaval costume from when I marched in Rio’s Sambadromo parade several years ago.  However, this year, during our Zoom Vacations tour of Cambodia, I became enamored of  two six-foot tall Cambodian Buddha statues, and I decided to splurge, and to have something that really makes a statement in my place.

I talked the shop owner down to about $450 per statue, and knew that I would need to have these shipped to me in a crate.  Since I was paying for a crate anyway, I bought 6 small statues at $60 a piece to share the crate space, thinking that I could always sell them some day.  The shipping charge was $500, so for around $1760, I thought I was done.  I was wrong.

First of all, just getting all the paperwork done correctly and sent back, including various power attorney forms was a bit cumbersome, and throughout the process, I wasn’t really 100 percent sure that I hadn’t just given a stranger several hundred dollars for nothing.

My statues eventually made it to a US-based cargo releasing agent (I honestly still don’t really even know what that is) who charged me $252 to do, well, I am not entirely sure, and they told me I would need a customs broker to do, uh, customs brokering, I guess.  This was a $252 I was not expecting.

The Customs broker tendered the following charges:

      ISF Filing             $150.00

Clearance Charges:

      Entry Fee               225.00

      Customs Bond            125.00

      Messenger Fee            27.50

      Outport Service          65.00

I was told I would incur these additional charges if necessary:

      Exam Processing          75.00

      Lacey Act                50.00

      FDA Filing               75.00

      Customs Duties/Fees ??

My total with them came up to be $685.93, which was a $685.93 charge I was not expecting.

Once arriving in Bolingbrook, IL, the warehouse charged me $85 cash or check, and I had five days to drive my happy ass about an hour and a half from the Chicago to the warehouse to collect my statues.  Allowing my items to sit there would have resulted in a storage fee of $25 per day.  

Since my grand total for shipping alone was already $1522.93, I drove out there immediately. Once there, I discovered they were in a heavy crate that wouldn’t fit in my car, but here is where the story takes a happier tune, as a young fork-lift operator agreed to help me unpack them, and he was H.O.T., so there’s that.  I’ve always depended on the kindness of strangers.

In the end, my two $450 statues end up costing me $2,782.93.  I purchased them on March 30th and received them on June 22nd.  Since I know how people (especially gay men) love a happy ending, I will just close by saying that even though it ended up being a much bigger hassle, and much more money than what I was expecting, I will just say that it was totally worth it, and I can’t imagine my life without them. I don’t think I’d be here today without those statues. sniff.

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