UK customs added 43% to one customer's checkout price

At Hello!Lucky, we strive to help our customers connect to their "happy place." Unfortunately, high customs charges recently got in the way. Read on for a real customer story.

Two weeks ago, Hello!Lucky shipped a $61 greeting card order to a customer in London. Normally, we would have shipped this from our U.K. office (to our knowledge, we're the only small U.S. greeting card business that has an office in London), but for reasons that are too boring to explain, this particular order got shipped from the U.S.

We received an email from the customer 10 days after her order had shipped; nothing had arrived yet. As any responsive company would, we immediately fulfilled her order again from our U.K. office at no additional cost and gave her a discount towards a future purchase.

The next day, we received the following email from the customer:

Dear Sabrina,
I was afraid this would happen...today I got a note from the Royal Mail after all. They weren't able to deliver the package today because a customs charge needs to be paid (GBP16,87).
What should I do? Should I return one of the packages once I get both? Or not pick up this one?
I do think the charge is a bit much by the way, and I was not expecting the cards to be shipped  from the US, since I saw on your website that there is a 'Hello Luck UK' contact as well...
Well please let me know what's best to do.

We instructed her to not pick up the order; it would thus be returned to us.

So we ask you:

  •  Is $26.48 in customs fees and duties reasonable for a $61 greeting card order? That is a 43% premium on the purchase price.

  • Can small businesses really be expected to do business internationally if they face duties like these?

  • Is having packages returned to sender due to the unexpectedly high customs and duties a good use of taxpayer dollars?

TPP passed last week and will enable the President to negotiate trade agreements that will hopefully raise de minimis customs exemptions and/or harmonize and lower duties to avoid situations like this one.  If you agree that you want to be able to ship and shop internationally with ease, let your local representative know!

Here's to everyone being able to find their happy place!