View Full Version : Can I have a grumble?

9th February 2008, 12:27 AM
I'd like to moan.

First of all I'm really pleased. I took the plunge and spent a lot of saved-up pennies on a 70 - 300mm lens that was advertised as second hand on another site. I collected it from the Post Office yesterday afternoon and I've been playing with it today. (pics later)

It's taken ages to get here from USA, I thought it had got lost or broken, or stolen.

Anyhow, a card had been left by the postman, it was one of those printed ones that says they couldn't deliver. This was a bit different because it said there was a Customs Charge to pay - 22.84, which seemed a lot.

Had to pay cash, didn't really look at the box until I got home. On the side was a label that said it was 14.84 VAT (NOT import duty, excise duty or 'other') and 8 handling charge.

I phoned the customer service people about it, because it seemed a lot to pay. They said it was their standard charge and everybody has to pay it. He also said that they (Royal Mail) had already paid the VAT on my behalf after inspecting the contents of the package. (It hadn't been opened and inspected.) We get parcels from the States quite often, we've got family over there, never had to pay anything extra before. There's nothing on the Royal Mail site either.

They told me to phone Customs, who said it was nothing to do with them and Royal Mail was passing the buck, so I should talk to Postwatch.

Postwatch said it's nothing to do with them because it's not a postal charge. They've had a lot of complaints about this seemingly arbitrary fee, that in many cases is disproportionate and that there's no indication on the 'bill' that it's a compulsory handling fee. Royal Mail will not tell Postwatch how this charge is calculated. They told me to talk to Trading Standards.

Trading Standards said it's nothing to do with them. Because it isn't something you buy it's outside their remit, but they are getting a lot of complaints and I should take it up with Royal Mail!


I don't mind paying VAT (yes I do really), I'd half expected it, but I'd never heard of any sort of 'handling fee' when the postage has been paid for. The delivery form was also misleading, and there was no suggestion of any alternative means of collecting the parcel, from a customs office somewhere, which could avoid this fee.

Moan finished. :o

The lens is lovely, and it works too :)

9th February 2008, 01:23 AM
Haven't you heard? That's the 'improved' and more efficient Royal Mail. They have adopted the money-extraction business philosophy common in British business today. Or to put it another way, less for more!

The only way you'll get taken seriously is to write to the chief executive directly. Adam Crozier is his name and the registered office is 148 Old Street, London EC1V 9HQ.

Also, if Royal Mail are misleading people (and that can be by omission of relevant information) in anything that constitutes advertising material, then the Advertising Standards Authority might investigate the matter for you. They won't get you're money back, but they would make RM state the truth in advertising their services. www.asa.org.uk

Nick Temple-Fry
9th February 2008, 01:25 AM
Out of your system now?

Then enjoy the lens - I hope you made a saveing over UK retail.

The UK has believed in free trade since the mid 19'th century, it's like a lot of politicians promises.

(It may well be challengeable in law - like bank charges on letters etc - any penalty (unless defined in statute) must reflect the cost of the service)


9th February 2008, 06:36 AM
I wouldn't pay it Ellie... :)

9th February 2008, 11:16 AM
I wouldn't pay it Ellie... :)

thats the thing though, they wont release the item till you've paid :(, is quite a common problem tbh, but there are ways of not gettin stung like asking the sender to put gift on the box, or replacement for damaged goods, or even getting them to mark it a lower value ie 50.

ive bought lots of things from use/japan and not been caught yet thankfully.

9th February 2008, 11:36 AM
Here's how you work out what you're supposed to pay on camera lenses:

6.7% duty on the declared cost of the lens
17.5% VAT on the combined cost of the lens, the duty, and the shipping
Handling fee (variable? but under 20)

Parcels from family members etc. usually slip through customs, but ones from shops - who have to declare full value for their insurance (and their business records) - usually get hit.

9th February 2008, 11:52 AM
You should have purchased the lens from Kerso on here, he pays the duty on anything he imports.

Jim Ford
9th February 2008, 12:26 PM
The Royal Mail service is appalling these days. I posted a cheque to a member of this site, with a '1st Class' stamp on it over a week ago and it's still not arrived. I now have to go to the expense of stopping the cheque because of Royal Mail's incompetent, third-world service!

It seems that a '1st Class' stamp isn't a guarantee that it'll arrive in a day or so - it isn't even a guarantee that it'll arrive at all!

Jim Ford

9th February 2008, 03:02 PM
The Royal Mail service is appalling these days. I posted a cheque to a member of this site, with a '1st Class' stamp on it over a week ago and it's still not arrived. I now have to go to the expense of stopping the cheque because of Royal Mail's incompetent, third-world service!

It seems that a '1st Class' stamp isn't a guarantee that it'll arrive in a day or so - it isn't even a guarantee that it'll arrive at all!

Jim Ford

Totally agree! I've had client's cheques to me disappear in the Royal Mail mire. The service is absolute rubbish these days unless you pay 'premium'. Write to Adam Crozier and tell him so. He's presiding over a shambles and deserves to be told. The 'Peoples' Post Office indeed! Those caught participating in the dismantling of Britain deserve to be made outcasts of society in my view. :mad: (sorry for the rant, but aaaaaaaaaghhh!)

9th February 2008, 04:04 PM
Photocracy has it spot on, and to me it is tantamount to being ripped off. When you pay for a 1st class stamp, stick it on an envelope and send it on in the mail, you are paying for a service. This service you are paying for is delivery of that envelope to the recipient. However, this service is not guaranteed:eek:

The only way you can guarantee delivery is by paying a premium rate for registered delivery. So, I ask... when you purchase a 1st class stamp... what is it that the Royal Mail say you are paying for...?

I guess the answer is... 'hope' is what you pay for...:)

What other service is there that you have to pay for but you don't get a guarantee of...?? I pay a Dry Cleaners to dry clean my suit, I expect them to dry clean my suit. If they don't clean it well enough or I am not happy in any way, then I have grounds for compensation. I pay the Electricity Board to deliver my power, I get it. I pay for a gardener to keep my garden tidy, he does. Why then if I pay the Royal Mail to deliver an envelope, can they not be guaranteed to deliver it?

R MacE
9th February 2008, 04:26 PM
The handling charge is standard if the item goes through Customs. In my experience buying from a Dealer in the USA will almost always attract duty/vat. As for the service from the Royal Mail in general, I've over 750 transactions on ebay and only had one item lost (I was the sender) but it did turn up eventually and was returned to me. The ebay transactions include shipping to/from USA, Europe East/West, New Zealand, and of course the Far East. I ordered an OP Tech Hood Hat from Speedgraphic on Thursday and recieved it Friday.

Personally I can't complain but I suppose my luck will run out sooner or later.


Scapula Memory
9th February 2008, 04:52 PM
I had a problem with them last year when I caught the postman putting a sorry we missed you card through my door at 0830 in the morning. The time on it said 11:45. He did not have the package and it seems to me they had no intention of even attempting delivery.

I went to the sorting office and they were very apologetic, and incredibly someone else was complaining about the same thing. So I assume this slackness is pretty much routine.

Jim Ford
9th February 2008, 08:06 PM
The only way you can guarantee delivery is by paying a premium rate for registered delivery.

No, registered delivery doesn't prevent the mail getting lost - it only provides documentary evidence when it's lost!

Jim Ford

9th February 2008, 08:07 PM
In our village if you miss the 1130 post on Saturday your letter doesn't go until 1630 on Monday. The improved delivery service means we get letters at lunchtime instead of just after breakfast. When I was a lad and temped for the Post Office we delivered mail twice a day, but only once on Christmas Day. Whatever's happened?

9th February 2008, 09:28 PM
In our village if you miss the 1130 post on Saturday your letter doesn't go until 1630 on Monday. The improved delivery service means we get letters at lunchtime instead of just after breakfast. When I was a lad and temped for the Post Office we delivered mail twice a day, but only once on Christmas Day. Whatever's happened?

The problem is now its run as a business and not as a royal public service.

9th February 2008, 11:58 PM
I buy a lot of things from the US & Canada. I always ask them to send the items by USPS or Canada Post. Most of the time they go straight through without any additional costs.

With Fedex, UPS or any other carrier I always have to pay the full VAT, DUTY & Agency Fees.

It is UK Customs & Revinue rules and the Post Office/Royal Mail Parcels are simply doing what they have to do. Agreed they sometimes get it wrong and do a bad job of doing it but vast majority of the time the junk mail and the bills arrives every day without fail...;)

10th February 2008, 12:49 AM
We live less than a mile from the sorting office. Our 'normal' mail gets delivered some time in the afternoon, usually after 2:00 pm. Sometimes it comes in a bundle, with several days letters all at once. A fair amount goes missing.

My gripe about this package and the charges is that the delivery, and any necessary handling, was paid for in the states - it's called postage and is paid by the sender. There are international, and reciprocal, agreements in place.

On the parcel it said, in capital letters on a red-printed sticker, that "THE PACKAGE CANNOT BE DELIVERED UNTIL THE CHARGES ARE PAID IN FULL". You can't read the label until the package is in your hands. I collected it, they didn't deliver it. The notice that was put through the door made no specific mention of any handling charge, it only refers to "Customs Payment". The whole thing is misleading.

Does the Post Office have a license to charge whatever they want, and also withhold mail if the recipient doesn't, or can't, pay - when the declared postal cost has been prepaid by the sender and is clearly displayed on the item?

11th February 2008, 11:57 AM

If you still have a reference number of some sort, Ask the Royal Mail for evidence that they paid the VAT to Customs and then confirm this evidence with Customs. Tell RM if they cannot produce evidence you are going to report them to the police for apparently obtaining money by deception. That should get their attention.

They are probably allowed to make a genuine admin charge, but the amount (8.00) seems disproportionate to any costs incurred by Royal Mail. If you want to pursue the matter, try my first suggestion; then, if RM are able to show that VAT was paid, write to the chief executive by recorded delivery and print PRIVATE AND CONFIDENTIAL on the envelope. This will ensure it reaches his personal attention. Ask him to provide a cost breakdown of how the 8 charge is calculated as you belive it to be disproportionate. Specifically, ask for a description of the process involved where RM pays the VAT for a customer as well as his evaluation of the cost of this transaction. Copy your MP with this letter. You will at least get a response. Offer only the minimum information to explain your case. The more you say, the more you give experienced buck-passers and 'rebounders' the ability to waffle their way out of it. Short, single sentence questions are killers to waffley officialdom.

None of us should stand for this kind of rip-off. ;)

11th February 2008, 12:36 PM
8 is pretty good - not long ago, they were charging double that... Found this which might be interesting reading:


11th February 2008, 01:26 PM
Good idea Rob. I've got the package and there is a reference number on it.

£8 is pretty good
I don't think so. It's an additional charge, and one I've never been aware of before. Postage costs are supposed to include all necessary handling and as far as I know has been the responsibility of the sender since postage stamps were introduced. A delivery or "handling" fee that the recipient has to pay is unreasonable, not just for me but there are plenty of people who wouldn't be able to pay it. Not everybody has got a spare £8.

We're being conditioned to accepting the need to pay for the same thing several times over. Look at car tax + road pricing + congestion charges + surcharges for 'dirty' vehicles + fuel excise and VAT - all apparently for maintaining and building our roads, yet they're still full of potholes!

11th February 2008, 01:39 PM
I'm not saying that the various reports of negative experiences with the postal service are are false, far from it, but I'd like to balance the thread and sing the praises of our local post office. I think the good eggs in the system do need our support and should be differentiated from the bad ones, who are usually a small minority.

The other week I ordered something on eBay at around 11PM on a Friday night, the order was processed and posted on Saturday morning and the item arrived first thing on Monday. Occasionally, 1st class post does take a day or two longer than hoped for, but I'd say that 99% of what I send and receive is delivered next day.

As for the customs charges - first of all, if you order from abroad and don't expect to pay the relevant customs feee, well all I can say is - why? Sure, if you get away with it, feel good about it, but please don't complain when you do get the bill. As for the handling charge, the Post Office charge is, in my mind, perfectly reasonable. They have to process the paperwork on behalf of the customs dept. And the charges are much higher if your package is delivered by a courier companies.


11th February 2008, 04:06 PM

I wasn't really having a go at local post offices, many of which are staffed by dedicated community-spirited staff. I think we'd all stick up for the plight of the local post office. It's more to do with Royal Mail's 'corporate strategy' for want of a better term, and it's increasingly 'less for more' policy direction. If VAT applies then so be it, we cannot argue I agree, but an 8 admin charge for what probably involves a few minutes work by low paid staff is a rip-off. The banks have slowly been tackled for this kind of overcharging. Also, I wasn't making accusations against Royal Mail, but I was merely suggesting that Ellie asks for proof that they have indeed done what they say they have done. No harm in that, particularly in the present climate where large apparently reputable corporations do get caught with their 'hands in the till'. Look at the recent television company/premium rate line debacle. Nonetheless, I appreciate you wanting all sides of the debate aired.

12th February 2008, 01:33 AM
I wasn't really having a go at local post offices
No, nobody was. We've also had some excellent service from Parcel Force, it's the people that make it work, not the system.

And that's actually where my complaint lies, with the system. I don't think it's fair to make any additional charge for 'handling'. Packages, letters, everything that goes through the mail system is 'handled' a number of times - it's the way they get collected, transported and delivered.

Would it be fair to make a flat rate charge of 8 if the VAT is 1.50? What if they change their system (and it's a system that's unaccountable because they won't tell anybody how it's worked out) to one that is a proportion of the VAT or Duty? What would the 'handling charge' be then, for something that generates 100 duty?

Also, how do I know the VAT was paid? I don't have a receipt.

Ian, please don't take my message personally I'm just rebelling against the voice of reason - didn't do it as a teenager, so I'm doing it now. ;)

15th February 2008, 07:51 PM
The Royal Mail is becoming a joke, I've always wanted to support the local post offices etc, but am starting to look forward to other companies coming in and offering general everyday postage services. We've been getting a lot of mail that has business mail stamps on them, so hopefully they'll give the RM a run for their money. I know it's not local post offices faults though - although the post office I go to on a twice weekly basis is miserable as anything and doesn't inspire support - even though i do give it.
As for cutoms charges - I hate em!!
I bought Gar a cowboy hat from America (1 month after we'd been there - i know - but he was there lol) I paid £39 for the hat and the had to pay the UPS delivery driver another £19 odds to get it released! There was no chance he was going to give it up without the moola!! In fact I had to drive to the local cash machine with him following me to get the parcel released!!

Jim Ford
15th February 2008, 09:10 PM
These days you really have to think carefully before sending irreplaceable stuff through the post. As I've mentioned before, it's no good the Post Office saying send it 'recorded delivery' or 'signed for' - it doesn't stop them from losing it, it only provides documentary evidence that they've done so!