I didn’t choose Amazon (by mistake), paid double the price, and this is what I learned about optimizing costs and processes - and why it was still worth it!
There’s only a few things that are less exciting than placing an order. We live in a world of within-24-hours delivery thanks to Amazon Prime. But what if you chose the producer’s online retail store over Amazon? I tried it halfway intentionally and accidentally.
TL;DR: I bought the NOMAD Wallet Case for the iPhone X through their online store. Later, I saw that Amazon offered the case which would have saved me shipping costs, customs costs, many messages and waiting time. Why it was worth the lesson, read the whole story with costs and timeline ;)
- 44,95 USD case
- 19,95 USD shipping
- 04,50 USD discount
- 60,40 USD in total (= 51,61 EUR)
For comparison, the current price at Amazon is 34,41 EUR with free shipping.
- April 30: Ordered case, with standard shipping from USA 🇺🇸 to Germany 🇩🇪 (5–15 days expected delivery time)
- May 1: Shipping started
- May 8: Checked tracking number and saw that since May 4, 2018, the package has been held in customs at Frankfurt airport with no progress. I asked @nomadgoods on Twitter what to do, received an answer after only 2 minutes and sent an email. Also sent a tweet to @USPSHelp and received a more or less helpful answer but their response time was great (8 minutes).
- May 8 to May 15: Little back and forth via email with Chloë (customer happiness person at NOMAD) which was friendly. I saw her making an effort. During that time I learned that USPS was responsible for the package until arrival in Germany. What follows was in the hands of DHL (Deutsche Post).
- May 9: Through some not so super straight-forward search & find process I found the „Transit Custom Office“ in Frankfurt. In fact, before I wrote the German Federal Ministry of Finance on Twitter because their Twitter account was shown at the bottom of the official German customs page. I was not surprised they didn’t reply. So, I wrote an email to email@example.com
- May 11: Only two days later (I’m not being ironic here) Deutsche Post DHL replied (via firstname.lastname@example.org) because customs had forwarded my email to them. The DHL answer was actually helpful because they told me exactly what happened and what next steps I would have to expect: 1) My package was transferred to the customs office responsible for my address. 2) I will receive a letter notifying me about the arrival of dutiable shipment 3) When received, I could pick up the package at my customs office.
- May 16: DHL-powered notification letter arrived with a week of time to pick up the package.
- Today (May 18): Picked up the package.
Process and costs at the customs office - and a big surprise!
The customs office was 1,7 kilometers away from my place, an easy 20-minutes walk. In the customs building I walked into the room (#309) but was made aware that I’d have to wait. This is how the process continued:
- Person #1 checked my request and gave me a waiting number (by hand - no machine!). So, I took a seat in the waiting room and waited until my number was shown.
- Person #2 let me open my package in front of him to check what’s inside (good thing) and told me the following steps: Pay and return to him to receive the package. But now, I had to sit in the waiting room again until my number would show on the display again.
- Person #3 showed me the customs fees I had to pay (9,26 EUR). Note: Up to 22 euros are duty-free, everything after is taxed with 19 percent „Einfuhrumsatzsteuer“ which is the German import-turnover tax). I paid and I was wondering why the payment would take so long. Then I learned that at the customs office use a 56k Modem internet connection. Holy horse! It’s 2018 and the last time I used a Modem was 18 years ago or so. I tried to understand and asked - because it didn’t look busy when I was there - whether they would to deal with not many things (import, export, parcels, etc.) which he denied. There’s actually a lot of work and having a Modem connection is a bottleneck. The boss of the customs office should be made aware of it and he just looked at me with a resigned face. This lack of modernity is also visible in the building itself, it’s a very old 1970s building from GDR times. In fact, when I passed by these buildings I often they were abandoned anyway. The reality is close to my idea: In the past the building was purely the customs office, only the customs. Today, customs is just a tenant among others. Berlin government clearly doesn’t prioritize this customs office in the very east of Berlin.
- Back to person #2 (Mr. Wehrmann) where I got the package and left.
The customs office building in Berlin-Marzahn (east Berlin)
The whole process happened in 3 different rooms, and I still can’t get over the Modem speed. That was a time jump into the 90s, for sure.
The delay at the customs office in Frankfurt could have been prevented because from Deutsche Post DHL I learned that the sender’s package (NOMAD) was lacking customs information. I’m not sure what information was missing (I forgot to ask) but this is something that NOMAD could take responsibility for if their goal really is „to provide the best international shipping experience possible“ as Chloë wrote me.
About the case: It’s definitely robust and solid. A bit bulkier than I thought and would have liked but together with my screen protection it should prevent damages fine.
I paid 60,87 EUR (almost twice the Amazon price) in total, had wrote emails and tweets and waited 2,5 weeks instead of 2–3 days if delivered through Amazon. So what I can say? This case better last a decade or so to be worth the time and effort I had to put into it. All that because I accidentally decided to choose the producer’s online store and not the German Amazon store. At least, now I know what price to pay when wanting to „milk my own cow“ instead of using the warmed-up Amazon cow. However, using Amazon has its own price which is e.g. bad working conditions and partly inhumane salaries for workers dealing with packages. If you don’t pay the price, somebody else does. Always!
Happy photo cos happy end - after two and a half weeks
I think at the end what I did was conscious, ethical shopping. It’s expensive (twice as usual) but guilt-free if us hedonists actually feel guilt whatsoever.
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