Broker fees are a scam and I want everyone to stop paying them right now. In this post I’m going to teach you how to avoid paying any and all broker fees. Legally. Because I hate them. And I like you.
Here we go.
(if you’d like the quick cheat sheet so you can see how easy it is, skip to the bottom of the post, then come back up here to read exactly how to do everything)
I’m happy to pay UPS or any other company whatever fee they charge to deliver my package but when they want to randomly charge some arbitrary amount to “broker” my package as it crosses the border I start to get my back up.
And when I get my back up, I get angry and start typing furiously on the computer looking for answers.
2 months ago … I got my back up.
I had ordered (yet another) chicken door opener off of the Internet from a nice man somewhere in The United States.
Before it made it to my door I got this email from UPS.
When I got the email my first thought was I’M NOT PAYING IT. I’ll send the stupid chicken door BACK. Broker fees are a scam. A complete scam.
#1. What the fine folks at UPS don’t tell you is what exactly these broker fees are going to be. As soon as you allow them to be your “broker” by saying “yes go ahead” in your reply email they can charge you any amount they want.
#2. What the fine folks at UPS also don’t tell you is YOU can broker your own package. It’s called “self clearing”. And it’s ridiculously easy.
This is how I responded to the UPS email.
The first email I got in return was basically … “Um … I’m not sure about that. You’re gonna have to call this number”. I did not call the number. I emailed them again. A day later I got what I needed from UPS to “self clear” my package.
- Instructions on where how to self clear the package including phone numbers and fax numbers (cause this is 1982) which has a spot for stamping by customs.
- The commercial invoice which also has a place for stamping by customs.
- And the regular invoice provided by whoever shipped you the item.
Here’s the email they sent me and all the documents that came with it so you can see what they look like:
Legally they have to give you this information. They cannot say no. They cannot claim it can’t be done (although they have done exactly this in the past). In my case after my email got to the right person I got a very prompt and efficient response from UPS. No hassles.
If you get an email like the one I got just copy and paste the body of my email and include your shipment order number. (I blurred mine out).
If you don’t get an email first and someone from UPS brings your package to your door asking you for the broker fees say no. SAY NO. Say you’re going to self clear your package and send them on their way. The second you sign anything, you can’t go back. You will have agreed (knowingly or not) to UPS acting as your broker.
Once they leave call UPS and at 1-800-742-5877 and press “3”. You will be connected to broker services. Tell them you’re going to self clear your item and you’d like the documents you need for that emailed to you. Make sure you have your tracking number handy.
Once you have the documents you need you just take them to your nearest CBSA office. That’s the Canada Border Services Agency. You’ve probably never noticed a CBSA office before but they’re all around us in Canada. We’re filthy with CBSA offices. You just didn’t know it. What you need is a CBSA office that handles self clearing of items. Those are Inland offices and they’re fewer and farther between than regular CBSA offices. They’re usually at airports but can also be found other places.
If you’re lucky there’s an inland office near you. Mine was at my local small airport, a 20 minute drive away.
Here’s a link that will take you to a map of all the Inland Offices in Canada so you can check right away if one is near you.
How far you want to drive will probably depend on how much money your broker fees with UPS would be. So let’s talk about that a tiny little bit.
UPS has decided that they will charge you a percentage of whatever the value of your package is. So if you have a package that’s worth between $40-$60 UPS has randomly decided they will charge you $16.75. If your item was $40, then you’ll be paying almost 40% in broker fees. 40%!!!!!!!
The higher the value of your package, the lower the percentage you pay for your broker fees BUT they still charge more money based on how much your package is worth.
So you pay $16.75 for a $40 package, $30.40 for a $150 package, $71.80 for a $750 package and so on. The higher the value of your package, the more money you’ll be paying.
EVEN THOUGH THEY ALL TAKE THE EXACT SAME AMOUNT OF WORK by UPS. Scam.
You can see the full list of the UPS broker fees here.
I took my documents to my local CBSA office and told them I was self clearing an item. I was one of two people there by the way. No waiting in line, no paying for parking even! I didn’t have to explain what I was doing to them, didn’t have to convince them I was allowed to do this, I just gave them my documents and they said, thank you ma’am, I’ll be back in a second.
And in a second they were back with my forms (now stamped), an additional form, and a bill for my duty and taxes to pay. In this case there was no duty because the item was made in the U.S.A. and I just had to pay my Canadian taxes on it. I paid my bill and they brought me my B-15 form. That’s the form you need to send to UPS to prove you paid your duty and taxes.
Your item is now self cleared.
Self clearing just means you pay the duty and taxes yourself. That’s all it means. That’s it. There’s no brokerage office, no mounds of paperwork, no nothin’. Instead of UPS paying your duty and taxes ahead of time, you pay them when your item arrives in Canada.
Broker fees. Scam.
When you get home, scan the B-15 form that border services gave you along with the form titled “self accounting procedures” and email it to UPS.
By the next morning my package was delivered.
Is it a pain? A tiny bit but I felt GREAT after doing it. Suck it UPS. I’ll self clear my own items. Also, I’m confident that the Canada Services Border Agency is up to date on when or when not to apply duty. UPS has been known to apply duty to things they shouldn’t. Like paper goods. Instruction manuals, books, concert tickets should all be duty free.
Other online buying tips for Canadians? If you have the option, don’t use UPS or Fedex. Instead have your item shipped by USPS which is The United States Postal Service. No scammy broker fees there.
Cheat Sheet for Self Clearing
- Do NOT agree to UPS acting as your broker. Not through email or when they’re at your door.
- Email or call UPS and say you are going to self clear your item. Ask them to email you the necessary documents.
- Bring those documents to your nearest Canada Border Services Agency (must be Inland offices)
- Pay your taxes and get your stamped forms back along with the B-15 form they provide.
- Email the forms back to UPS to prove you paid your owing taxes.
- Wait for your package to arrive free of charge.
Go back to top of post.
Happy online shopping and everyone say it with me one last time. UPS can suck it.
note: I searched and searched for information pertaining to Americans having to pay broker fees on things they order from Canada but from what I can gather either those broker fees don’t exist or … Americans never order anything from Canada.