A couple of days ago I got a letter from Parcel Force, the UK postal service, advising me that a package I'd ordered from the United States had arrived. However, before it could be delivered I would have to pay import duty.
Well, it never even crossed my mind that I'd have to pay import duty as I'm not savvy about such things, I rarely travel and the only other things I've ever ordered from the US are two secondhand books which cost me £0.01p and £1.49 each on Amazon with £2.75 postage respectively. The first book was Franky Furbo by William Wharton and the other A Sinless Season by Damon Galgut, neither of which I could purchase in the UK for a reasonable sum.
( By the way I have written an article about Damon which also includes a review of his Man Booker nominated novel In A Strange Room over at The View From Here. There's also an interview with Damon, and if you've never read any of his work I heartily recommend all his novels and suggest you start with either The Good Doctor or The Imposter. )
To drift off on a tangent for a moment...Why don't publishers put authors' back catalogues into digital format? I can't believe it is that difficult or expensive to do so when all the manuscripts are already stored digitally. It seems utter madness to me that authors should lose out on sales because people can't find or afford older publications. For example, at the time I wanted to read A Sinless Season it was only available in the UK for some ridiculous sum so I ordered it from the US for a total of £2.76 of which Damon would have received nothing. I would have happily have bought an electronic copy for a few pounds which I could have downloaded immediately and not been forced to wait several weeks for it to arrive from the US. Doesn't that make sense? Now okay, so maybe it's impractical to get all authors' work into digital format but both Galgut and Wharton are, in my opinion, big names in literature. Why hasn't it been done yet?
Anyway, I opened my letter and my import duty and the £8.00 "clearance" charge (whatever that is but it sounds like just an excuse to con me out of some more cash) amounted to £38. 24. Yes that's right £38.24 or $61.62.
Wait for it...
Are you wondering what expensive item I'd bought? Had Mrs T splashed out on a tiara on a box of chocs the size of the Statue of Liberty? Nope, I'd merely bought some tennis equipment which had cost $209. 91 which included a $34.95 postage charge from the US. Now to covert that to pounds and deduct postage the actual cost of the equipment was £108.58. So my import duty and clearance charge is over A THIRD of the value of the goods.
You know what Readers, and I rarely say such things,
BUT I HAVE BEEN SCREWED!
I mean it's one thing to protect your own economy but when you don't make the same product in your own country and it's for personal use I call that ONE BIG RIP OFF.
I hope the government uses my £38.24 for something sensible.
But I'm not counting on it.
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