Tuesday, 14 May 2019

Warning When Buying Yarn From Abroad

Image courtesy of cornbreadandhoney
One of the great things about the internet is that it has democratised the craft industry and allowed small producers and designers to reach a worldwide audience. Craftsy and Etsy showcase marvellous products that you can't find in the shops in your local area. But watch out - you could get caught out.

For a while I've been looking for wool to knit Andrea Mowry's So Faded jumper. I hadn't found a colourway that really popped out at me until I came across the Starry Night three skein set from cornbreadandhoney, a seller based in the US, on Etsy (see photo on the right).

Look at those gorgeous yellow and blues. They ticked all my boxes and I placed my order. The yarn worked out pretty good value with the dollar/pound sterling exchange rate and I was happy to pay to a larger than average postage charge considering the seller was posting from the US.

All seemed well until a Royal Mail bill for £20.87 arrived on my doorstep this morning.


It was for a £12.87 customs charge plus an eight pound 'handling fee'. The need to pay customs duty on the yarn because I'd bought it from abroad hadn't occurred to me. It wasn't mentioned on the seller's page although to be fair I wouldn't expect an owner/maker who sells all over the world to know the customs laws for each country.

Next I looked on Etsy to see if customs charges were mentioned anywhere. I went to the 'help' page and typed in 'customs duty'.  In the information for sellers there's a page stating that buyers are responsible for paying customs charges - as you would expect.

However I couldn't find any information for buyers warning about potential customs charges. There was no mention of them on my receipt or despatch notification.

Considering I'd already spent quite a bit of money on the yarn, and if I didn't pay the charges it would be sent back to the seller, I paid the customs charges. Now I'm waiting for the delivery. I'm sure the yarn will be fabulous and I mean no disrespect to the seller at all but I do think I should have been warned about extra charges. This was Etsy's reply when I contacted the company:
"Customs fees vary greatly from country to country, and fees aren't applied until the item reaches your country. Because sellers aren't able to predict what customs fees, if any, will be applied, we're unable to hold them responsible for unexpected fees or taxes."
The reply dodges my original question, which was why Etsy doesn't warn buyers about potential customs charges, at the checking out stage, when they are buying items from abroad.

Buyer beware!

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