Sending a parcel locally usually goes quite smooth with the exception of a few missing or delayed parcels occasionally. However, when sending a parcel overseas there is the potential for many other issues. These issues are mainly caused by customs. Posting parcels international is much more expensive than local posting, which makes these problems even more annoying. Let’s discuss the most common problems below.
1. Delayed shipping to the recipient
As parcels have to be opened and checked by customs in the landing country, it can take a long time to check over the goods inside and this can cause delays. Delays can take even longer if the sender puts incorrect information on the customs label detailing the items inside.
2. Unexpected charges
If the parcel is worth over the value of £135 (GBP), the receiver may be have to pay extra VAT (customs duty). Also, if a parcel is sent and turns out to be larger or heavier than the sender specified with the courier service, this could also result in further charges for the parcel receiver. If the charges are unpaid or the parcel details are wrong the item may be returned to sender which could cause delays.
3. Ruined goods
Customs check the contents inside parcels mainly to make sure that the items coming through to the country are safe. They are mainly looking for things that are dangerous like drugs and for that reason they may open the contents inside especially if it is in the form of a powder. When I sent a parcel to India to Ravi Kumar as part of our fundraiser, I sent him hot chocolate powder, green tea teabags and some other healthy foods.
It was disappointing when he received them to find that customs had opened the hot chocolate tub, they had removed the lid and after checking they just put it back into the box without putting the lid back on. When Ravi received his parcel, the powder was all over everything in the box, one of the teabags had been opened and poured in. It’s understandable that they are checking it for good reason, and that they have a lot of parcels to get through but they are quite careless with other peoples things. If you send food abroad, you should bear in mind that customs may mistreat it.
4. Destroyed goods
This is absolutely worst case scenario, but it can happen. I know this because it happened to me. I sent a parcel to India, the shipping cost me around £49 as it was a large parcel. The contents inside the parcel were worth around £100. After one month the parcel still hadn’t arrived and so I reached out to Interparcel (the courier company that it was sent with). Interparcel told me that I had to get my customer to fill in a KYC form (Know your customer). I sent the form to my customer, he got it back to me and then the courier company replied to me saying that "As the KYC documents could not be provided within the period, the parcel was destroyed".
I felt gutted about the loss of money but also about the loss of the parcel as it was not going to be returned. I reached out to Interparcel to get my money back for the shipping and I requested compensation for the loss, as this was due to not letting me know sooner about the KYC issue. They replied saying "because the item was disposed of by customs and was not lost or damaged by the courier, we would be unable to issue a claim for this.
I contacted them many times, spoke to managers on the phone and they refused to help me. I honestly felt like the third party courier broker had scammed me so I opened a ‘service not as described case’ on PayPal to try get my money back for the shipping and I am currently awaiting a result.
These four things are only some of the potential problems with customs, there is likely other things that could go wrong and with England leaving the EU as part of Brexit, who knows what are other postal problems will come next. As long as you follow the best practices and ensure that the information you give is as accurate as possible, you will reduce the chance of one of these issues happening to you.