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Thursday, September 18, 2008

Lulu.com Fuck Up Delivery Costs

So, this morning I was pottering around the flat after Jonathan went off to work and the doorbell went, so I opened the door to find a UPS man with a big box of Badger books.  I signed for the delivery and took it in and started looking at the books to check they were all fine.  Indeed they were, he looks cute and sad and wonderful.  I also noticed that the sticker on the box said they'd come from Spain.  

I thought nothing of it, other than that it must be cheaper to print things there, but then an hour later, I got a phone call from UPS where a nice lady told me that the delivery driver forgot to charge me the £100 Cash on Delivery charge for the package.  Given that I don't have any money at all, I was a little unsettled by this news.  She said that they'd have to come back to pick up the money or take the delivery back from me later today or tomorrow.  I explained that lulu.com took £6.30 from me as the delivery charge for the order, saying it was marked as a fixed delivery cost for UK orders and that there must be some mistake if they're expecting a delivery charge that's more than the value of the order.

The nice lady agrees to give me a little time to talk to the supplier, so I get onto lulu.com looking for their phone number.  There isn't one there, which is never a good sign, but there's an Instant Message customer service option, which was answered pretty quickly.  The person I spoke to there said that lulu.com weren't liable for customs and revenues charges levied and that they couldn't control which of their printers would be sending out the order.  I explained that this wasn't made clear at any point during the delivery process and nothing made explicit that the order would be coming from abroad.  I also explained that it wasn't a customs charge, but the delivery charge that UPS were wanting to levy, so why was I invoiced for £6.30 and told during the ordering process that this was a fixed delivery cost?

He said he'd get a supervisor to contact me.  I asked how long this would take, bearing in mind that UPS are due to call back in an hour to see what I'm meant to do.  He then told me it takes 1-2 days for them to email me.  I asked if they could phone me, but he said they would email and that I should tell UPS that they should wait until this is resolved.  He told me I shouldn't worry about them taking the goods back from me because they'd be sent to lulu who could always just send them out again, but that hardly seems the point.

Their shipping FAQ is here:


http://www.lulu.com/en/help/shipping_faq

...but during the ordering process there's no indication that the delivery is likely to be coming from abroad.

I'm not sure what to do.  If I have to pay this charge, then I make no profit at all from these books.  If I don't pay the charge, I have no books and have wasted £200 on books that will sit in limbo.  If this is the customs charge, it looks like orders for lower numbers of books aren't affected, even if they come from abroad - they're below some threshold for value, so small orders should be ok, only my order for 60 copies because I thought I'd be saving some money!

What do you think I should do?

17 comments:

Mike said...

Hi! Sorry to hear about your problem there.

As the consumer your transaction is covered by English Law. I would suggest you contact the Advertising Standards Authority (which helps administer the rules on distance selling; I used to work there hence my slim knowledge) and your local Trading Standards - both of whom can investigate without charge to you. I would argue your contract is with lulu.com and if they choose to use an intermediary to fulfil their obligations this should not in itself pass any liability to you unless expressly stated in the small print at the point of sale – and even then the size of the charge is also a matter of reasonableness. Now you have your order, which you've paid for and is your property, simply refuse to hand it over to the courier and suggest he take it up with the sender. Remember the DHL charge is for the service to lulu.com of delivery to their customer, not for the books themselves which are yours.

I note the following from lulu.com:

Shipping and handling charges vary by carrier and are calculated at checkout.

Local Customs and Immigration agencies determine any duties or taxes that may be levied against packages arriving from outside the destination country. These additional fees are the responsibility of the recipient…

This reads to me that all charges you are liable for are charged to you at the point of sale not delivery EXCEPT duties and taxes – and as Spain is an EU member state those will be £0.

I hope that helps.

The Pirate King said...

Thanks, Mike! That's good to know. Speaking to UPS, I was told that the charge is for freight, import VAT and brokerage for the import charge. I'm not quite sure who has their wires crossed, but there's no chance of me giving the books back! Badger's got to have a birthday party!

Chris said...

The correct plan, of course, is to not answer the door.

czechOUT said...

EU would have no customs charge.

Looks to me as if the customs charges have arisen because (despite the Spain stamp) it has come from the US (perhaps from Spain orignally?). Isn't Lulu a US based site? All their prices are US$

Like buying on Amazon.com - I have to pay the customs charges.

As to the charges, Hmm, if the carrier collects as agent for R&C (revenue & customs) you could end up having R&C breathing hard on you.

I'm sorry that doesn't help, but I'd really need to see shipping slip to understand properly and customs dec etc

ahoj

Joe said...

Hey, my names Joe, and today i have had exactly the same problem. My charge was £60. I appear to have had more luck as they have asked for a copy of my UPS note and are enquiring it. I'm guessing this is a majoy **** up on their end?

The Pirate King said...

Hey Joe!

Good to know I'm not the only one - frustratingly, there's no delivery note in with it, but UPS have posted me the invoice for the "outstanding" charge. If it is that they're randomly turning up on people's doorsteps and asking for money, it's quite a con they're pulling there, isn't it?

Joe said...

I don't know if i believe it is a con, as UPS confirmed to me it is Freight charge (not sure if this includes import tax) but £60 important tax for a Guitar Tab book that ways 1kg and cost me £13, 18 + pnp which i was charged for.

Maybe from Excel (sp?) the airlinbe company going bust, perhaps they used them for delivery then had a big disturbance trying to restore everything.

I will find out more within the next 24 hours. I believe we will recieve our refund or not have to pay tax, jsut it will take some time to get to that stage.

Joe :)

Scott K said...

Howard, I'm not sure I can be much practical help, but I can take you for lunch tomorrow (Friday)?

I was going to email you to ask if I should buy the book from you direct or from Lulu - I guess, if you do decide to get them delivered, I know the answer!

Hope Trading Standards helped you sort this?

czechOUT said...

Sadly, I don't think it's a trading standards issue.

H-can you photo the shipping and customs slip?

ahoj

The Pirate King said...

That's just it - there isn't either an invoice from lulu.com nor a slip from UPS. UPS are sending me the invoice and have said they'll give me a week to sort out payment (why it's my responsibility, I'm not sure) before they'll start making demands for the payment. The manager I spoke to at UPS did actually say: "I'll send the invoice through to you so you'll have it tomorrow but you'll then have a week to sort out payment either by cheque or from a company account. It does need to be sorted by then as I really wouldn't want to be sending people round to demand payment."

Not threatening at all, eh?

I don't think it has come from the US - everything marks it as being from Spain. Talking to another friend about it this evening, the only time that VAT is payable on exports within the EU is when the company purchasing the goods has a turnover that is above a certain threshold apparently. I'm guessing that incapacity benefit for an individual doesn't come close to that threshold or else we'd all be stiffed for bringing books back from our holidays.

The Pirate King said...

That's just it - there isn't either an invoice from lulu.com nor a slip from UPS. UPS are sending me the invoice and have said they'll give me a week to sort out payment (why it's my responsibility, I'm not sure) before they'll start making demands for the payment. The manager I spoke to at UPS did actually say: "I'll send the invoice through to you so you'll have it tomorrow but you'll then have a week to sort out payment either by cheque or from a company account. It does need to be sorted by then as I really wouldn't want to be sending people round to demand payment."

Not threatening at all, eh?

I don't think it has come from the US - everything marks it as being from Spain. Talking to another friend about it this evening, the only time that VAT is payable on exports within the EU is when the company purchasing the goods has a turnover that is above a certain threshold apparently. I'm guessing that incapacity benefit for an individual doesn't come close to that threshold or else we'd all be stiffed for bringing books back from our holidays.

I'll scan the invoice when it comes through.

Joe said...

http://www.lulu.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=99748

My post on Lulu forums, and also another with a similar problem:

http://www.lulu.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=99736

Hmmm what is going on... there is NO import tax for books...

call paul said...

Wow. How fascinating that the blog posting that get the most comments are either scantily dressed men or ficticious delivery charges. I am with Chris on this one - Don't answer the door!!! Nobody, including the UPS delivery guy, will be expecting to pick up £100 in CASH from anyone. That kind of thing goes straight into somebodies pocket.

Keep the books and then maybe Lulu will call you to discuss this.

The Pirate King said...

Well, when the invoice arrives later, I'll pop it in the scanner and keep you all informed!

The Pirate King said...
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The Pirate King said...
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Alison said...

Aren't books exempt from VAT, etc? Thus why is the taxman involved ... or are the rules different for import?