Receiving Your Shipment: The Real Costs (And beware of customs exams!)

Recently I did a blog post on the real costs of having your products shipped from China and detailed many of the surprise fees you might not be bargaining for. This time around I’m doing a post on the true costs of receiving your shipment once it arrives at your destination. This post is really more a story than anything else (with a slight hint of me venting).

Recently we had a container come into Vancouver from China. I was informed by our freight forwarder than the container had been selected for examination. What this means is that Canada customs was pulling over our container and examining it for either drugs or other illicit items or simply just verifying it was what we said it was. If you’ve ever traveled abroad and have been randomly selected to have your bags checked it’s akin to this with one exception: when customs does an examination of commercial goods, they are going to charge you for it.

Customs detained our container for over two weeks before finally clearing it. This two week delay was bad enough and resulted in major annoyances to our sales cycle (not to mention lost revenue). The real kicker was the bill they provided us afterwards.

Customs Exam Charges

The final bill was over $2000. Keep in mind, Canada Customs found nothing in the container but was simply charging for their time. Adding to the pain, when the container was finally released, it happened right before a long weekend meaning we weren’t able to pickup the container for another week. Oh yeah, and we got charged $500 for this extra week of storage. Keep in mind that we had to pay our trucker about $700 to move the container along with other port fees, so the final bill was well over $3000 to simply receive our container of goods.

The takeaway from all of this is that when dealing with international freight you must be prepared for unplanned fees like this. It is a completely flawed system in my opinion but it’s unavoidable and you must plan for it like you will any other business expense.


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