Importing a Guitar from America

I’m well and truly fed up today! A customer’s been in moaning to me (why me?!) because he’d bought a guitar from America (that he saw and played in Promenade Music) and it’s cost him a lot more than he thought it was going to.

The crazy thing is, I tried to warn him about the additional costs he’d have when he mentioned he was going to buy the guitar from “the states” but he just didn’t want to listen to what I had to say.

He’s now bought the same model that he loved when he played it in our shop (must say, ours was beautifully set up by our guys) and he’s now got a guitar from the US that’s playing terribly!

To be fair, when it left the US, I’m sure it was well set up but it’s been up at 35,000ft in the aircrafts cargo hold at -55c so what can he expect? It’s rattling and buzzing all over the place and he’s got no UK warranty!

He’s also ended up spending £131.36 more than he could have bought it from us. He’s basically turned what he thought was a £533 gain in to a £131.36 loss!

He should still thank his lucky stars, I know of a guy who bought a guitar from a fraudulent site and lost $6K after doing a bank transfer! Anyway, here’s how it’s all gone wrong for Mr Moaner.

How it started
On March 1st, the customer saw the guitar in our shop at a discount price of £2,099. After trying it, he told me he could buy the same model for £1,566 from the USA and asked if I’d sell him ours for that price.

I tried to explain that he can’t just divide the US$ price by the days currency rate that he’d seen online because there were a lot more factors to add on. He didn’t want to know what I had to say and cut me short by saying “Look, can you do it for £1,566 yes or no?!” I told him I couldn’t and he left!

How he thought his purchase In America was going to work
That night, he went and bought it online from a very respectable US retailer (although he doesn’t seem to think they are now) who had advertised the guitar at $2,349.

This is a very fair US price as the US RRP is $3,132 and the dealer was discounting it by $783 down to the $2,349.

The dollar rate was £1 = $1.50, so he thought it was going to be as simple as dividing $2,349 by $1.50 to get to £1,566 (if only it had been that simple for him!)

His Purchase In America
His first mistake was the £ to $ rate you see online is called the spot rate. His credit card company charged him their standard 2.75% foreign exchange fee (he’s fallen out with them too) and of course you don’t get the $ to £ spot rate.

When he got his credit card bill, the guitar hadn’t cost him £1,566, it had cost him £1,627.

So now he’s paid £1,627 (not £1,566)

The Delivery
So he bought it and gets the guitar in to the UK by a major international household name freight carrier (he’s fallen out with them too).
As he wasn’t used to bringing guitars in to the UK, the only thing he thought he was going to have to pay for was the Air Freight (although he hadn’t factored this in at all).

He told me that he’d seen on a guitar forum that someone had said that you can get a guitar from the US to the UK for $40 (lol). Oh dear, how wrong was he!

International freight companies have a whole load of very legitimate extra charges on top of the Air Freight that they have to factor in including:
– Air Freight (that’s the obvious one but trust me, it’s not $40!)
– Fuel Surcharge
– Airport Security
– Airline Handling
– Transit from Pick Up point to Airport
– Cargo Transfer
– Cartage Fee
– Deferment Fee for using their Duty Deferment Account to pay taxes to HMRC.
– Documentation for preparing, supplying and sending the relevant paper work.
– Customs Clearance fee

His full door to door delivery fee including insurance (but excluding taxes) was £174 which he thought was outrageous (I think it’s a really fair price)

So now he’s paid £1,801.00 (not £1,566.00)

UK Import Duty
The guitar was shipped and when it got in to the UK he had to pay UK Duty which is currently 3.2% for an acoustic guitar (good job it wasn’t an electric guitar, that would have been more!).

Now how naive is this, he didn’t even realise he was going to have to pay duty to HMRC (you’ve got it, he’s fallen out with them too).
Because duty’s worked out on the delivered price, he had to pay 3.2% on the £1,801 which is £57.63 So now he’s paid £1,858.63 (not £1,566)

As well as duty, he had to pay UK VAT at 20% which was an extra £371.73
So now he’s paid £2,230.36 (not £1,566)

So the total price door to door cost for importing the guitar from America cost him £2,230.36 (not £1,566 like he thought) which is over £650 more than he’d originally thought and £131.36 more than he could have bought the same model (that he’d tried and liked), from us for!

To Sum Up
On top of the £131.36, it’s taken him a load of time to sort it out, given him a load of grief on the way, he’s no UK warranty and he has a guitar that’s playing terribly and is sounding more like a snare drum than a guitar (not quite, but you know what I mean). it’ll cost him at least £40 or £50 to get it set up properly. Oh yes, I didn’t mention this before, the reason why he came back to us was to get the guitar set up for free?! No joke, can you believe it?! I asked him why on earth he thought we’d do this when we hadn’t sold it to him and it was because we’re a main dealer for the brand of guitar he’d bought. Honestly, I despair!

Anyway, the moral of all this is … if you’re going to import a guitar from the US, at least read this page and have some sort of a clue what kind of costs are involved.

Better still, don’t bother, just buy one from us and enjoy the whole experience of buying your dream guitar!

Written 16 March 2013

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