Sunday, 19 February 2012

Shipping News

[Picture from a fellow blogger's page, PJ's Temple]

Contributed by Haresh  Karamchandani

Besides the on-site service that NATC provides to its clients, a significant portion of our business entails sales and supplies of  genuine IT-related goods to our clients. 

All the stuff is usually imported via courier, Fedex, UPS, DHL from the US of A. Recently we have had some issues which would be interesting to share:

Fedex: All shipments on Fedex from the US to Monrovia would follow this route - US - London - Nairobi - Monrovia (Kenya Airways). Due to heavy passenger traffic on the Nairobi - Monrovia route, our boxes would get indefinitely delayed at Nairobi Airport and would be at the mercy of Kenya Airways. In one instance the boxes were delayed in Nairobi for 20 days! Normally we promise delivery of specially ordered goods within 10 days and this time around we could not keep up to our commitment thanks to Fedex using this particular route. 

Fedex has STOPPED using Kenya Airways after this incident and has entered into an "arrangement" with Brussels Airlines and Air France, so things are back to normal or even better as we now can keep our delivery terms to our valued clients.

UPS: After we had the above bad experience with Fedex, we decided to experiment with another courier company for a shipment of a huge HP Multi Function Printer weighing over 100 kgs. This Printer was shipped from California, USA to the UPS Hub in Ontario Canada. This is where the troubles began. Firstly UPS decided to "hold" the shipment as it was an "unknown" shipper as this was the first time we were using UPS. The rules are that if its an unknown shipper the shipment would have to be quarantined for a week before being lifted  on any Trans Atlantic flight. We were not informed of this strange rule in advance, and at this stage had no choice but to hang on and play along. 

The cost to ship this printer was initially agreed upon before the shipment and was arranged to be on Freight Collect basis, meaning that the freight would be paid by the consignee on arrival before delivery. 

Now some guy in Ontario must have had an hangover the night before preparing the shipping documents and made a grave calculation error! (See photo above)

The normal way of calculating Dimensional weight is LxBxH/5000, L= Length in Centimeters, Breadth in Centimeters, Height in Centimeters. This would give a Dimensional weight in kgs. Courier companies apply this formula whenever the actual weight of the shipment/box is lower than the dimensional weight. They normally would charge as per whatever is the higher weight. This printer had dimensions of 77cms x 77cms x 80cms. This works out  to about 95 kgs of Dimensional weight, the actual weight was 60 kgs, so UPS had to charge as per 95 kgs. 

The "hangover-ed" guy in Ontario, calculated a figure of 219 kgs and mentioned this figure on the Air Way Bill (AWB) thereby changing the whole invoice for freight to more than double of what was initially agreed upon!!

When the printer arrives at the airport customs at Robertsfield, the duty calculation is normally like this: (Cost + Freight + Insurance) x 20%. They took the higher charge freight factor while calculating the duty amount thereby increasing our duty payment bill drastically. There is no way one could reason or argue with the custom officers and we had to quietly pay up and clear the Printer, which was already delayed for so long in Ontario.

The box was cleared and brought to the UPS Monrovia office after we paid the higher duty at RIA customs. We now had to pay the freight part to UPS and take delivery from them. They insisted we pay the freight amount that Ontario had charged. Even after we tried to reason with them that its a obvious calculation error, and that they could verify the calculation as the box was sitting right there in their office, the local UPS staff would not understand. They did not even have a proper weighing machine in their office and we had to take the heavy printer to SN Brussels Cargo to get the actual weight! 

After a long drawn exchange of emails, telephone calls, yelling and screaming, begging and reasoning with UPS Abidjan, UPS Ontario and UPS California finally the matter was sorted out and UPS Monrovia was instructed to "accept" the initially agreed freight amount. 

Dealing with the Monrovia UPS office was so impossible as they are FULLY CONTROLLED by a boss sitting away in Abidjan. They would not even breathe unless their boss in Abidjan permitted it!! And this boss in Abidjan was either busy in some meeting at the US Embassy, or would not reply to the emails or telephone calls!! After a lot of persistence we finally broke through and got what we deserved, but this delayed delivery further by another week. In retrospect it may have been better to import the printer by sea instead!

Conclusion: These big courier companies such as Fedex and UPS have a monopoly over air freighting goods all over the world and the bigger they get they lose sight of customer services. Or maybe because Liberia being a very small piece of their business pie, they DO NOT give any importance to this part of the world. They use commercial airlines to bring in consignments as the volumes do not justify them to bring in their own aircrafts. I am sure if the above would have happened in Europe or in any first world destination, the consignee would be fairly compensated. Instead these courier companies behave as if they are doing us a great service and favor by handling or accepting our goods! 

As far as NATC is concerned we have decided that we will not promise our clients 10 days delivery anymore and we ensure that we mention "Subject to Fedex/UPS" on all our offers. We have no choice but to continue to buy from the USA as this way we are assured of Genuine and High quality goods, cant say much about shipping services though! We purchase all items from source, HP - DELL - LENOVO - APPLE - CANON etc. This could be done from places like Dubai as well, but we have learnt that the standard of goods purchased from Dubai are strangely much lower, and even though we pay much more in terms of cost by purchasing in the US at least we are assured of highest quality standards for our customers.

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