Beware MA Boutique

alyra

Member
Feb 14, 2006
271
1
Now I may be an exception, but I figured I'd post an FYI and I had to vent somewhere. :smile:

I'm usually found in the AW and PS threads, and I've ordered from Europe about 10 times over the past year from various online boutiques (Les Nouvelles, Stylebop, ASOS) and never had a problem, never heard about customs, usually receive my packages quicker than if they came from California (I'm in NYC).

I ordered a Darel Syracuse Bag from MA Boutique on December 25. It was on major sale, and I had wanted it a few years back so I figured what the hell. A non-leather cheaper bag for variety and rainy days. I paid $31.95 in shipping, even though I had signed up for their newsletter and that was supposed to qualify me for free shipping on my first order. That hurt, as I usually don't go for much more than free (LOL).

Anyway, they shipped the next day by TNT International, a carrier I had never heard of. I check the tracking and it goes from London (where MA is based) to Leiden before heading to NY...even I know that's an inefficient direction, but whatever. It arrives at JFK airport on the 29th with an estimated delivery date of the 31st (last Monday). The 31st comes and goes and no bag. I wait a few days, and tracking still has it listed as held in customs. I email MA (there is no contact info for TNT in the US), and ask what is going on, and I mention (since the shipping now sucks) that I should have gotten free shipping in the first place. They take two days to respond, saying they will check into it (this was Friday evening) on Monday (yesterday) and say they will refund the shipping. About an hour later I get a notice from Paypal of a reimbursement of $12. I write back saying again that I paid $31.95. A few hours after that I receive the rest.

Yesterday, I receive a call from a TNT representative. Customs needs to know what is in the box, and my social security number (I had the guy send me the info from the gov. because I was nervous about doing that).

This morning I receive an email from MA Boutique saying customs needs to know what is in the box (They sent it! They don't know? Besides I told customs yesterday through TNT). At this point I had had it, I emailed MA and TNT and said "Send it back."

This afternoon, I get another phone call from TNT. They want my credit card because I owe $160 in brokerage and customs fees. WHAT? I responded that I had already sent them and MA an email asking for the bag to be returned. (Check out TNT on Google, there are complains like this a mile long on various forums). I emailed MA again, livid at this point, saying I refused shipment of the bag, and I wanted a refund by tomorrow or I will open a claim with Paypal and AMEX.

Buyer beware!
 

redney

Lovin' Life!
O.G.
Apr 21, 2006
14,038
5,384
It sounds to me like it is US Customs you should be upset with, not the store. Whenever a foreign product is shipped into the US, it goes through customs. The customs officers decide to assess value. Perhaps because the bag is "designer" they deemed it expensive and thus you received the customs bill?

If you still wanted the bag, if I were you I would call the customs office and asking to speak with someone who can explain the charges to you.

If not, just have them send the bag back, and thus you would not pay any fees.

Good luck with whatever you decide to do.
 

alyra

Member
Feb 14, 2006
271
1
It sounds to me like it is US Customs you should be upset with, not the store. Whenever a foreign product is shipped into the US, it goes through customs. The customs officers decide to assess value. Perhaps because the bag is "designer" they deemed it expensive and thus you received the customs bill?

If you still wanted the bag, if I were you I would call the customs office and asking to speak with someone who can explain the charges to you.

If not, just have them send the bag back, and thus you would not pay any fees.

Good luck with whatever you decide to do.
I only paid $190 for the bag. $160 in customs seems excessive particularly as I've never had to pay it before. I sent it back. MA I am upset with since I emailed them on Thursday morning and didn't hear anything back from them (except for we'll look into it) until today, they use a courier service of dubious reputation, and it seems to me they are responsible for providing the correct paperwork for customs clearance, not me. Just my opinion I guess. In my reading here I haven't heard of anyone paying customs (and what is a brokerage fee?) here in the US when they buy from Europe. Maybe I've just been lucky somehow in the past.
 

alyra

Member
Feb 14, 2006
271
1
I just received an email from TNT saying it will cost me $120 to return the bag. I'm sorry, this whole situation is outrageous.
 

redney

Lovin' Life!
O.G.
Apr 21, 2006
14,038
5,384
I only paid $190 for the bag. $160 in customs seems excessive particularly as I've never had to pay it before. I sent it back. MA I am upset with since I emailed them on Thursday morning and didn't hear anything back from them (except for we'll look into it) until today, they use a courier service of dubious reputation, and it seems to me they are responsible for providing the correct paperwork for customs clearance, not me. Just my opinion I guess. In my reading here I haven't heard of anyone paying customs (and what is a brokerage fee?) here in the US when they buy from Europe. Maybe I've just been lucky somehow in the past.
I see. Is MA Boutique (I don't know this store) in the UK? My experience in working with retailers outside the US is that response time is not as fast as perhaps retailers in the US or very large international retailers (e.g. ASOS, Net-a-Porter) provide. So perhaps it's a difference in expectations of service?

Anyway, I've paid brokerage fees when items from outside the US have been shipped with DHL and FedEx. I've also paid customs for shoes purchased in Italy. It's just the way international retail works sometimes.

I agree with you that $160 on a $190 item is excessive and you were right to send it back.

Sorry it happened but again I think it's customs that's a bigger pain in the noodle.
 

LoveM&S

More Bags, Pleeease!
O.G.
Oct 5, 2009
1,129
48
I'm sorry you had a tough time with them. MA Boutique sounds disorganized. And TNT is really pain in the neck! I can't belive they tried to charge you $160 customs and brokage fees. Outrageous!! When I received a $800 bag from Europe, I paid about $70 to DHL. The US customs charge is 7 or 8%. I'm not sure what exactly the rules are. But I usually don't get charged to a few hundred dollars things from overseas. I might be wrong, but I vaguely remember it will be charged over $500 item.

I have read some horror stories about TNT in the forum. If I were you, I would avoid them completely. You are not the person who paid their service. Let MA Boutique handle them. Just let tell them you are rejecting the package because of TNT's outrageous brokage fee. I hope they will do the right thing. Good luck!
 

alliemia

love shopping!!!
O.G.
Jun 18, 2008
8,149
9
NY
www.purplecaterpillarcreations.com
I only paid $190 for the bag. $160 in customs seems excessive particularly as I've never had to pay it before. I sent it back. MA I am upset with since I emailed them on Thursday morning and didn't hear anything back from them (except for we'll look into it) until today, they use a courier service of dubious reputation, and it seems to me they are responsible for providing the correct paperwork for customs clearance, not me. Just my opinion I guess. In my reading here I haven't heard of anyone paying customs (and what is a brokerage fee?) here in the US when they buy from Europe. Maybe I've just been lucky somehow in the past.
It's not tax on declared value they were assessing, it was brokerage fees. TNT is a freight forwarder, and they were charging you a fee to clear your shipment. The store that sent it really shouldn't ship internationally by a freight forwarder, because tey are screwing their customers. They should use Royal Mail.
 

yoyotomatoe

Live~Laugh~Love
Jan 16, 2012
5,074
887
Atlanta/Toronto
I'm sorry you had a tough time with them. MA Boutique sounds disorganized. And TNT is really pain in the neck! I can't belive they tried to charge you $160 customs and brokage fees. Outrageous!! When I received a $800 bag from Europe, I paid about $70 to DHL. The US customs charge is 7 or 8%. I'm not sure what exactly the rules are. But I usually don't get charged to a few hundred dollars things from overseas. I might be wrong, but I vaguely remember it will be charged over $500 item.

I have read some horror stories about TNT in the forum. If I were you, I would avoid them completely. You are not the person who paid their service. Let MA Boutique handle them. Just let tell them you are rejecting the package because of TNT's outrageous brokage fee. I hope they will do the right thing. Good luck!

Well I feel that as a buyer it is ultimately the buyers responsibility to pay for whatever custom/brokerage fees that are due...that is the risk a buyer takes when purchasing internationally. That is why many sellers on ebay state that they as the seller are not responsible for customs/duties or whatever fees accrued on delivery. That is why as a seller/buyer I do not do anything international just to save myself this hassle.

I do think the amount they are charging OP is a little ridiculous and I don't understand why they are even charging her any sort of custom fees. OP is the $160 for custom or brokerage? Because I cannot see why customs would tax you that much for such a low priced item...I am wondering if it is brokerage fees since they are charging you $120 to return it. Brokerage fees have nothing to do with customs, rather they are fees charged by the delivery service.
 

bostonte

Member
Feb 6, 2012
18
0
The brokerage fees are what kill you. That's the fee the company charges to process your item through customs. It's based on their fee schedule, not an offical rate. Some brokers charge reasonable fees (just a few dollars for a simple package) others use it as a profit center and its not uncommon to have a $60 fee on a basic inexpensive package in addition to anything customs charges you.

Sending the item back might get rid of the customs fees, but it won't get rid of the brokerage fee. As far as they are concerned, they still provided the service of at least attempting to clear you through customs. So watch out for even more nasty letters from TNT trying to collect.

When shipping via someone like UPS, FedEx, or TNT if you know what to do you can even select your own broker (in theory to select one with a fee schedule you like). If you don't specify, you get the default. Depending on where its coming from, where it enters, and the class of service that may be good or bad.

Usually, using the postal service in any country is a good way to avoid this practice. They tend to have either no fees or quite reasonable fees.

The seller should know this, they were shipping to the US not some uncommon nation they've never dealt with before. You can't be the first person.

For example when I lived in Canada everyone knew to avoid UPS like the plague for international shipments since every single package always had brokerage fees of $40-60 and duty -- but shipping via Canada Post made it in with nothing, and FedEx or Purolator would be maybe some duty plus $5-7.
 

alyra

Member
Feb 14, 2006
271
1
Thanks for the explanations. I had no idea about the brokerage stuff or I would have stayed far away. If I get up the courage again to buy from overseas I will find out who does the shipping first. I actually asked MA boutique about TNT when I first saw the tracking, and they replied "they have a great reputation." Um, I don't think so. Sorry for the harshness of my original post. I was really upset by the phone calls and emails that felt like extortion, especially since I was completely unprepared.
 

LoveM&S

More Bags, Pleeease!
O.G.
Oct 5, 2009
1,129
48
Thanks for the explanations. I had no idea about the brokerage stuff or I would have stayed far away. If I get up the courage again to buy from overseas I will find out who does the shipping first. I actually asked MA boutique about TNT when I first saw the tracking, and they replied "they have a great reputation." Um, I don't think so. Sorry for the harshness of my original post. I was really upset by the phone calls and emails that felt like extortion, especially since I was completely unprepared.
I totally understand your feelings. I will be so upset, too, if I get charged that much! I have never get charged that much fee to receive a package like a bag from overseas. Even over $1k bags were much less than it. I only heard about TNT from this forum. And the other regular carrieres are reasonable as bostonte explained nicely. There is a import tax calculator on the internet. You can check it beforehands about the customs part.


The seller should know this, they were shipping to the US not some uncommon nation they've never dealt with before. You can't be the first person.
bostonte explained very well what I thought. This is not a regular amount of fee. Especially US has more relaxed rules about importing goods than other countries. I'm assuming the bag you ordered is a regular leather or other simple materials, not exotic leathers. I think your package is in kind of free pass category as materials wise and price wise. I'm wondering if MA Boutique issued the customs form correctly or not.


Well I feel that as a buyer it is ultimately the buyers responsibility to pay for whatever custom/brokerage fees that are due...that is the risk a buyer takes when purchasing internationally. That is why many sellers on ebay state that they as the seller are not responsible for customs/duties or whatever fees accrued on delivery. That is why as a seller/buyer I do not do anything international just to save myself this hassle.
I understand what you said. That's the rule. But OP's case, it's really outrageous amount. If MA Boutique explained about TNT's special brokerage fee in advance and OP agreed with it, it's not right to refuse the package at all. But this is not the regular amount of fee. If TNT always charge that much amount of fee to their recievers, MA Boutique should explain about it in their policies. I know we need to pay the customs, duty, tax and whatever it charges on importing goods. But something is not right about OP's case.


It's not tax on declared value they were assessing, it was brokerage fees. TNT is a freight forwarder, and they were charging you a fee to clear your shipment. The store that sent it really shouldn't ship internationally by a freight forwarder, because tey are screwing their customers. They should use Royal Mail.
I didn't know what the difference between a regular carrier and a freight forwarder. I googled it and still don't understand it, even though I also checked it in my native laungage!:biggrin: Sorry for off topic. But what is a big difference? I'm curious.
 

alliemia

love shopping!!!
O.G.
Jun 18, 2008
8,149
9
NY
www.purplecaterpillarcreations.com
I didn't know what the difference between a regular carrier and a freight forwarder. I googled it and still don't understand it, even though I also checked it in my native laungage!:biggrin: Sorry for off topic. But what is a big difference? I'm curious.
A freight forwarder generally handles accounts for large importers, helping them get their shipments cleared through customs. They charge a fee for working as a broker. When an individual uses a freight forwarder for just a single importation, they are still getting charged a broker fee, as if they are a client. It's totally unnecessary for just one parcel to use brokerage services. Mailing the item through the mail and just filling out the customs declaration is enough for individual parcels.

Basically, your shipper hired a broker to make a formal customs entry packet and had you charged for it. Considering, you aren't a large importer, it's not necessary to use TNT.
 

alyra

Member
Feb 14, 2006
271
1
alliemia said:
A freight forwarder generally handles accounts for large importers, helping them get their shipments cleared through customs. They charge a fee for working as a broker. When an individual uses a freight forwarder for just a single importation, they are still getting charged a broker fee, as if they are a client. It's totally unnecessary for just one parcel to use brokerage services. Mailing the item through the mail and just filling out the customs declaration is enough for individual parcels.

Basically, your shipper hired a broker to make a formal customs entry packet and had you charged for it. Considering, you aren't a large importer, it's not necessary to use TNT.
I'm just a mom in NYC who wanted a knock around bag. What a mistake that was. I have yet to hear back from MA Boutique, and I'm expecting my daily harassing phone call from TNT this afternoon. Sigh. Thanks to all of you ladies here, I won't make this mistake again. Thank you. :smile: