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Import to Switzerland: being charged for services you never asked for

When you order good into Switzerland, they will pass the customs office, where VAT and possibly import duties are levied. The customs office does not charge any duties if the total amount to be paid is less than 5 CHF Practically, given 7.6% VAT, this means that you can import 5 CHF / 0.076 = 65.79 CHF for "free".

As soon as you exceed this amount, it gets complicated. All of a sudden, the carrier charges you for the customs declaration it does in your name. What really blows my mind is that the fee to pay to the carrier (more on that later) actually plays into the whole equation.

Let's assume you order goods for 100 CHF, which is well above the free import limit. You also paid 10 CHF for shipping. The carrier charges you 20 CHF to do the customs presentation for you. There, they determine that import duties are 5 CHF, and you end up paying: (100 + 10 + 20 + 5) * 107.6% = 145.26.

That's fun, isn't it? I continue to be amazed by all the ways in which the government sucks money from your pockets.

What's similarly baffling is how some carriers deal with this. The Swiss Post (and their ally TNT) makes you pay taxes, duties, and fees on delivery, and their charges are the lowest when compared to the other carriers. With this approach, you have the option to refuse the package, if you're willing to deal with the vendor to get your money back.

DHL is the only other carries I know who does things like the Swiss Post. However, due to their extraordinary crap performance and service, I could never recommend them to anyone. The three letters of DHL, a German company, apparently stand for "das heisst langsam" — "this means slow".

None of the other carriers give you the option to accept the duties and their services.

For instance, GLS delivers your parcel, and some weeks later you get an invoice, asking for the taxes and duties, and charging a fee of 45 CHF for their service, which you've never really asked for and which you could not refuse. UPS, FedEx, and DPD fall into the same category, but their charges are lower.

The one and only time I had used GLS to have something shipped to me, I called them up to complain about their invoice, and replied with an invoice of my own, in which I charged the same amount for "opening and reading your letter" and "giving your call-centre employee the chance to talk to me directly". They got the message and dropped the invoice.

The next step should be to play them off against each other: create some pencil art, write an invoice for half a million, and pay UPS to deliver the package to GLS headquarters. Attach a miniature audio transmitter to the invoice for added fun.

NP: Goldie: Timeless