Tuesday, November 1, 2011

FedEx Contributing to the Greater Bad

FedEx and UPS have equally neanderthal business practices when it comes to international customs clearance paperwork and fees. By neanderthal, I mean evolutionarily ill-adapted and short-sighted. FedEx and UPS both invariably require payment of brokerage fees and customs duties when those fees are not required. Rather than informing their customers at the shipper site how to label and declare packages to reduce customs duties they initiate the process that causes these unnecessary fees. And by not charging the shipper for the total cost of getting the package through customs (including any duties and broker fees) they can charge it to the naive recipient at the time that the package arrives at their doorstep. Since the recipient may be a vacationer in a hotel or a cruiser in an anchorage, and he's gone to great lengths to make the shipment happen as quickly as possible, they usually just swallow their pride and the fees in order to get the critical part or banking card or whatever. In my case, the total shipping costs, customs duties, and brokerage fees exceeded the cost of the already overpriced refrigerator part that I ordered, a $300 shaft seal, much smaller than a deck of cards, that typically cost less than $30 when the fridge was new.

FedEx and UPS pricing seems to be based on the extortion principle--never set your ransom so high as to incite revenge or law enforcement involvment. And always set it just within the means of your "customer." By making the total cost impact 50 to 150% of the shipped item cost, they can be pretty sure that a desperate customer will pay the exorbitant fees. The worst part is, that most of that money, caused by FedEx "total bad" goes to corrupt political bureaucracies and FedEx call center employee salaries rather than the pockets of the selfish executives that put those policies in place. And FedEx guessed wrong with me. My sense of fairness has inspired me to share my displeasure at their extortion as widely as possible. If I can just make the negative publicity cost them a few customers that will be enough to right the wrong and turn this into a "total good", nudging business and cultural evolution to produce a more well-adapted global shipping business. Fortunately the solution is easy for anyone wanting to avoid FedEx and UPS extortion for packages from the US... ship through the USPS. Though packages typically take more than two weeks when shipped by USPS, they arrive without hassle or phone calls at your doorstep (or marina mailbox), and without any hidden fees or duties to be paid. I wonder if DHL offers similar "total-good" service if you are willing to jump through the hoops required to set up a business account with them. In the end, this "Priority Express" package from FedEx is going to take more than a week to come to me around the world, and it's still hung up in their bureaucracy right now. So USPS would have been faster. Now if I can just convince the major marine parts distributors to accept a "non-preferred" shipper as my preferred delivery option, then we'd be in business. But that's a corporate collusion and market manipulation topic for another post.

So whenever possible use usps.com and avoid fedex.com.

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