Almost everyone has a horror story to tell.
When people find out what I do, they tend to share their terrible tales of importing. Some have happy endings, others not so much.
I was chatting to a friend of mine on the phone recently and she dropped into the conversation that she had once imported a white LED dance floor for her DJ business here in the UK.
So I asked how it went?
She said “Chadd, I wish I’d known you 5 years ago. The whole thing was a nightmare, I was so stressed. I couldn’t sleep and at one point I thought we’d lost the whole thing and our money too.”
I listened to her story, and what I heard was a tale I’ve heard many times before.
They’d decided to import from China because of the significant saving they’d make. To buy the same floor here in the UK would have cost them £10,000, to import just £5000 instead.
That’s a big difference.
So she’d found a seller on Alibaba and checked out their reviews. All seemed good. They’d been great at responding to her questions and eventually they negotiated a price.
Because the aim was to keep the costs down, they opted for sea freight. Slower but cheaper. She sent the payment over to the escrow service and the dance floor was on it’s way.
All good so far.
The first surprise came when she realised that the price she’d been quoted didn’t include import taxes. A rookie mistake but easily solved with some extra cash.
But that wasn’t the worst of it.
What she had no idea about was that the shipping she had paid for would only bring the cargo to the docks, and that she needed to arrange for someone else to get it off the ship and deliver it to her!
This might seem obvious to those in the industry, but for a newbie who’s used to UPS and DHL who bring things to your door it was a big surprise.
The next few days were filled with panic planning and sleepless nights while she tried to find the extra cash for the import duties and someone who could take care of her cargo once it hit UK soil.
All the while, customs were threatening storage charges if she didn’t get it organised in time.
Evetually, with the help of a good freight company she got it all organised… Only to find out that she needed a EORI reference number in order to get the goods through customs.
More delays and more stress ensued as she waited for HMRC to come back to her, while her goods were racking up storage costs at the docks.
Now her story has a happy ending. She may have had bags under her eyes and a few extra grey hairs, but the dance floor was delivered and all was well.
But it didn’t need to be so stressful.
A good freight company, like Millennium, would have been able to prepare her for what needed to be done, making importing easy and avoiding the bumps along the way.
But I guess that’s the point isn’t it? She didn’t know what she didn’t know. I guess that’s why it’s always good to ask the experts.