So, around the second week of November 2004, I was feeling the winter chill, as my oldest brother had stolen one of my favourite hoodies, absconding away with it under my very nose.
“What will I do”, I asked myself, “now that that ugly bastard has my jumper? Sure, I can’t go cold.”
So, on Wed the 17th of Nov. 2004, I officially became a member of the Neighborhoodies community, a New York based clothes merchant, specialising in customised hoodies, t-shirts and underwear with emphasis on high quality and, unfortunately, high cost. But I wasn’t deterred by the cost (my mother was paying), so I dived head first into their design process, choosing a nice font, colour scheme and township to parade around on my chest. Four days later I was ready.
So, on Sun the 21st of Nov. 2004, bearing nothing but a t-shirt with Al Capone on it, I ordered my hoodie. According to the confirmation e-mail, it was “1 x Zipperless () = $66.99”, with a separate tally for the shipping: “FedEx Shipping… : $26.95.” And with a total of: “$93.94”
The conversation with my mother went a little like this…
Me: You love your youngest son, don’t you mammy?
Mammy: Yes, son.
Me: Then, shut your face and give me your credit card.
According to the same e-mail, I would have to wait approximately “2 to 3 weeks” for the damn thing. So, I waited and waited and waited and waited and waited…
-2 to 3 weeks later-
And I waited until Tues the 7th of December 2004, when at 08:09:00 in the morning, my dad, John Meehan, signed for a delivery with the odd signature “John Meehar”. My face was positively cherub with joy as I flung on the hoodie, for what I hoped to be a joyful period of at least one month wearing nothing else. And I was happy as I could be. Perhaps even happier than when food is placed in my mouth or when I watch a good movie with some Ben & Jerry’s. But my happiness would not last.
Christmas flew by, as did new years, completely uneventfully. In fact nothing happened straight through to 17th of January 2005, when I received an invoice notice dated 3rd January, stating that I owed €73.80, for duty and tax. My pants were full of shock as I read through this notice, completely ignorant of what has just happened. At first I thought it was but a simple joke MTV were playing on me.
“Come out, you fucking joker.” I yelled at Ashton Kutcher, who I assumed was hiding behind a plant or outside. But fifteen minutes shouting his name displayed no results so I had to consider other options. Perhaps I had to pay this exorbitant amount, which was the cost of the hoodie plus shipping anyway. But the invoice didn’t explain itself.
“Ah, those silly bitches in FedEx just made a mistake. Sure, I’ll e-mail them and sort this mess out. No problem.”
So, that evening I perched upon my home computer and dashed out a witty yet insightful e-mail to email@example.com. It went a little like this:
I recieved an invoice numbered X-XXX-XXXX with a payment due of €73.80. The invoice is in relation to a sweatshirt that I bought from a website, neighborhoodies.com, which was shipped to me through you, FedEx.
I am wondering what this amount is in relation to because as far as I know the shipping charge was included in my order with the previously mentioned website. Could you get back to me as soon as possible as this invoice has left me perturbed.
Within 24 hours I received a reply:
Can you please re-check the invoice number you have quoted as the amount due on this invoice is 40.63, and it's made out to a company.
Of course, I hummed and hawed over my own stupidity. What a way to begin a fierce battle with a such a commercial behemoth.
I'm very sorry.
My invoice number is Y-YYY-YYYY
I felt re-energised like a rocket just pumped with more fuel, or perhaps an old man with a new zimmer frame. This should be resolved whip-snappish.
“Mother, I rock ass.” I announced. The 18th of January.
It was not until the 4th of Feb 2005, that their reply came. I was sore after the wait and my ignorance was amplified by this, dumbing me down to the level of a parakeet.
Their eventual reply sounded like this:
Thank you for your email. Please accept our apologies for the delayed response.
The above invoice relates to import taxes, levied by
Irish Customs & Excise. By way of explanation, all goods entering Ireland may be liable for import charges in accordance with Customs & Excise regulations. Any monies due on a package are paid in advance by the carrier, so that the goods can be cleared, and delivered, in a timely manner.
Please find below a quick breakdown of charges;
Declared value by sender - 120.00usd
Exchange rate used by customs - 1.3026
V20 statistical value - 32 eur (added by customs to cover any freight charge, as this is vatable)
Total of the above = 124.12 eur
Duty @ 12% = 14.89 eur
Addtl Duty @ 14 % = 17.37 (EU sanctions on certain USA products)
124.12 +14.89 + 17.37 = 156.38 eur
Vat @ 21% = 32.83 eur
14.89 + 17.37 + 32.83 + 7.20 + 1.51 = TOTAL INVOICE
AMOUNT = 73.80
I hope this answers your query, but if we can be of any further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact us.
Of course I did not hesitate…
"No more Mr. Docile Bitch."
Obviously I did not understand how they could tax the shipping I already paid, or just how they managed to double the cost but I swore on St. Peter's grave that I would not let those bastards rape me dry.
So, I responded. Fri. 4th Feb 2005:
Thank you for your delayed reply, but unfortunatly it
didn't address the bigger problems I have with the
invoice. For one, why do I have to pay you €73.80 for
a item that cost me €74.06 (which includes your
That's 99.6% of the original cost. I didn't hire you
to delivery my item, the website, neighborhoodies.com,
did. I have never had any dealings with you. You
should charge the website. Neighborhoodies.com doesn't
warn of any extra duties, taxes, tariffs etc when one
is purchasing for it.
Why didn't you collect the amount at the door, or at
least, inform me that there would additional charges
I need answers to these questions. €74 was too much
for the hoody I bought in the first place, €150 is
"That should show those yuppie bastards not to mess with me", I thought feebly all the while planning on how I'll send back the hoodie to dodge the fee. But before firstname.lastname@example.org could even consider replying, I found a friendly reminder in the post. Dated 7th February 2005, the overdue invoice notice was spit in the face accompanied by salt rubbed liberally in the eyes. How dare they remind me that I owe them outrageous amounts of money? We had been swapping e-mail for the past month. Although this only came to three e-mails apiece, rather than the tonne one might imagine when told of such a yawning time-span. So, I decided to take this shit up a notch and contact the whores by phone. A daring plan, perhaps fool hardy, but undeniable cool.
"Mammy, could you ring those fuckers and tell them off?"
So, on the 9th of February 2005 at 05:30:00 in the evening, we rang the number given, although it is an English number, and were told "Total amount cleared, nothing owed." Fuck you FedEx.
So, kind reader, you are allowed - I give permission - to assume that that would be the end of this particular journey and it was time to move onto bigger and better things. But you would be mistaken and retarded to even consider that.
3rd of March 2005. Another e-mail almost one month after the debacle was finalised by phone. Went a little something like this:
Thank you for your email.
I do understand your upset that Duty and Tax Charges were levied on your goods but any goods coming into Ireland are possibly liable for this charge.
With reference to the website not stating these charges, they do state that they use Federal Express and on our website does advise about Customs charges.
Federal Express was requested to delivery your goods door to door, which means customs cleared, the goods are not allowed to go any further unless Federal Express pays the Duty and Tax charge levied against the goods to Irish Customs prior to delivery.
The documentation which came from the shipper stated that the goods were valued at 120 USD, this is the information in which Customs levy charges, if this amount is incorrect you would need to discuss this with the Shipper Neighborhoodies.
As the goods came from USA they have also incurred EU Duty, this is where the EU had placed sanctions on USA on certain products for extra duty, which at the time the goods came into Ireland it was at 14% on top of the standard Duty of 12% for clothing, this charge is not within our control and all courier services have had to raise this extra charge.
With reference to on the door payment of Duty and Tax Charges it is not our usual policy to collect on the door for this charge.
I hope this answers your questions, if you need any further assistance, please contact us direct on 00442476 637637 and we will be happy to advise.
Needless to say, I did not even read this reply and even though I just reproduced it here, I still don't know what it contains. But I did reply:
On the ninth of February, this year, I rang your help
line and was told that the amount was cleared and
nothing was due. I did not get an explanation for this
but would be happy to receive one if you feel duty
bound to send it. However, excepting this
circumstance, I do not expect any more correspondence
Thank you for your time.
And thank you too reader, for your time. It was quite the journey, a battle, against a corporate giant motherfucker. I should not have won, I should be a bloody mess of a human short 70-odd euros. But fortunately for me, FedEx is a monster with too many heads, each head unable to communicate with another. This caused plenty of grief and lost time, but I believe it also enabled me to confuse the beast into letting me go with my pockets intact. And what a fine set of pockets they are too.