Since January this year, my friend Leigh and I have been totally obsessed with buying from US based fashion store Forever21. I told you guys about my first purchase back on 20 Jan over here and then did another follow up post after our first order arrived over here. We were so thrilled with the fact that we were getting on-trend items at crazy good prices and without having to sacrifice too much on quality… this was just too good for words…
Since then we’ve had a string of successful purchases and every time we were lucky enough that it just arrived, about a week later, to our doorsteps, without any questions asked. There was once we had to pay a very small customs charge, but it was still super cheap. We thought we had struck gold and that we would never have to set foot in an actual store again! (OK, that’s a total lie – shopaholics need regular fixes, but at least we’d need to shop in-store a little less)
But our most recent order sadly crushed all that happiness, kinda like that moment when your triple scoop ice cream topples over and falls to the ground.
I first picked up that something was different when I got an email from courier company Globeflight informing me that our parcel should be arriving soon. Firstly we had already been waiting much longer than usual and then all our other orders had been coming through via DHL, so I wasn’t sure how Globeflight had now gotten involved with this specific shipment.
A week later they emailed me again, informing me that our parcel needed to go through customs clearance. I figured, oh well, we always mentally prepared ourselves that this was a risk associated to buying from overseas sites, so this was a bummer, but just one of those things really. I just wanted to pay it and get it over and done with. BUT unfortunately it wasn’t going to be that simple. First Globeflight said that the invoice Forever21 attached to the shipment was incorrect. I sent them my invoice infomation along with our PayPal payment confirmation, but they said that this wasn’t good enough. They needed to source it from Forever21 directly, an excercise which ended up taking quite some time. Then they said that customs now wanted to check our stuff to make sure it’s not counterfeit goods. Why would it be counterfeit all of a sudden? It’s from a reputable store and you’ve been able to source the correct invoice info & proof of payment? Anyways, I just had to go with the flow it seemed. Yet more time passed…
Eventually after weeks of waiting and following up daily (otherwise I wouldn’t hear anything), Globeflight said they could send me the invoice of what we needed to pay for the customs and then as soon as they’d received confirmation of payment, we could get our stuff. Yay finally! (or so I thought)
Now before I show you the invoice – I want to note a few things:
- The rand value of the clothing was about R2280.
- We had also already paid $78 on Forever21 for international priority shipping
- Customs on clothing & accessories is supposed to range from 30 – 45%, then they also charge you another 10% as an import fee + VAT. This is the part I was expecting…
This is what I received:
The R1390.96 amount I was OK with. One thing to note though is that they take the value of the item, then add the 30 – 45% plus the 10% and then they charge VAT on that new total amt (not on the original amt). So it works out a little more than you expect.
BUT – it was the other charges adding up to R1372.06 (incl VAT) that had me totally confused. I mean, what the hell was all that about!?! R450 for as a documentation fee!?! The worst part was when I queried it I was told that if I didn’t pay asap, they would start charging me for storage. So wait, it took you over 3 weeks to get to this point and now you also want to start charging me for storage!?! Aaarrgggghhh. Our stuff was being held hostage.
We considered telling them to destroy the clothes, we didn’t know whether we actually even wanted it anymore… but in the end we decided to just pay up to finally bring an end this horrible experience.
I now feel like even though I thought I had wrapped my head around the whole customs thing and I was well prepared, I still got totally blindsided with regards to all the other stuff. For me personally, I don’t think I’ll be buying abroad again anytime soon. But hey, we had a good run at least.
I wanted to share this with you guys just as something to keep in mind if you’re currently considering making any purchases yourselves. You might get lucky like we did at first, but then again you might also hit this level of poo which will leave you hating your purchase forever and ever. So just be mindful really. Prepare yourselves for the worst, and then some more… and maybe a little bit more than that… then I think you’ll be OK.