Thursday, June 2, 2011

The High Cost of High Fashion

If I've learned one thing this week, it is this: never, EVER come between a fashionista and her handbag.

The tale unfolds thusly: I now work in the freight industry. There is a thing called Customs. In Australia, if you import goods over the value of A$1000, GST is incurred. And that's when the shitfight starts.

Did you know that about the GST? I did, but only because a few months ago I heard about Gerry Harvey's rants about the strong Australian dollar killing our retailers, because people were shopping online and importing, rather than buying at their local Harvey Norman, like he would have wished. He wants all online buys to be taxed, not just those over a certain value.

Now, the strong Australian dollar is causing Aussies to go a little crazy in their online shopping. I'm not talking about indulging a little more than usual on ASOS or Net-a-porter, I'm talking everything from cameras to shoes. And guess what? If you ship through my freight company (I don't know about others, but I imagine they have a similar process), once the goods have passed Customs and Quarantine they will hold them - until someone pays the duties and taxes.

This is a Prada Hobo. It retails for A LOT. Let's say you're a fashionista wanting to blow their monthly bonus on something they've been coveting for a while. And that item? They find it cheaper on a foreign website, and pay to have it shipped. Except the value, when converted to Aussie dollars, is over $1000.

GST kicks in, and that's 10% of not only the value of the goods, but is also calculated on the transport and insurance costs on top of that. There's a Customs clearance fee too, plus some duties depending on the type of goods (eg. leather). Plus a brokerage fee for the freight company. It all adds up. So when you get a call from the freight company saying basically that your Hobo is being held for ransom, that's when you are NOT HAPPY JAN. Especially when a $1400 handbag incurs an extra $300 in duties.

I do not write this post out of self-interest because I'm sick of being yelled at by bright young things wanting their leather jacket NOW. I write it to educate my fellow shoppers, so that if or when you get stung, you'll be prepared. And can budget appropriately.

Have you ever been stung by Customs or Quarantine? Tell me your import nightmare stories.

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