Foreign calculator sales on eBay



#2

Hi, I have been having problems with some eBayers from foreign countries asking me to falsify customs forms. I saw serious legal penalties if you are caught. Why should I risk jail time to save a foreign buyer customs money? They should ask before bidding instead of after winning. Either way my answer is no. Anyone else having this issue?


#3

I have several thoughts on this.

First do you really think a foreign government can, or would even try, to put you in jail because of a supposedly falsified customers form? Especially when we are talking about customs fees of around $50 or less.

Second just because someone is willing to pay say $500 for a calculator doesn't mean it is really worth that. For example suppose you had a perfect new condition 15C with the original box and all documentation all in new condition and I bid $500 on eBay. Now you ship it to me via UPS. Someone leaves the package under the wheel of a 747 and 1,000,000 lbs of airplane run over the package and destroy it. No problem you say, it's insured for the full value of the sale. Well guess what, UPS is only going to pay what they think the item is worth. Unless you lie about what is inside the box, and they can't disprove you, I can guarantee you there is no way it will be anywhere near $500. You will be lucky to get $25 out of UPS for it. I know because this has happened to me although the details were different.

Now consider how corrupt the customs officials in most if not all countries are. There was a very good post from someone in Italy on this topic a few weeks back. In one case the customs officer refused to give the up the package that weighed $40 lbs because he didn't believe a package that heavy from the USA was only worth $50. An old Apple 2 monitor was in the box, and he did pay what the customs forms said the customs official just didn't believe it, to get the item out of customs he would have had to have the seller send an updated value with a false amount. The same seller said that in some customs offices he could tell the official there that it wasn't worth what he said and the open the package and show them that it was a 20 year old calculator and the customs officer would re declare it to have a value of $10 or something. Again the exact details were a little different but not by much. He also went on to say which customs office it went through had a lot to do with all this. If you find and read his post you will have ZERO respect for the customs agents dealing with used items. I would have no problem declaring a lower value for the item.

You can read this post [link: http://www.hpmuseum.org/cgi-sys/cgiwrap/hpmuseum/archv016.cgi?read=92651]in this thread.[/link] The post is by Chris Roccati, near the bottom of the thread. It is easy to find because it is very long and well formatted.

Chris W


#4

I read this post, I understand. However, I don't really care about what happens overseas. I don't wish to violate federal (American) law. Why should I for a stranger in any case? I'm not a goody 2 shoes, but would you risk jail, even if it is a far less than 1% chance, for some stranger in order for them to save money?


#5

Get a life!!!!


#6

I agree with Namir's post and have two things to add:
1) You can't insure an item shipped from the US for more than the "value" on the customs form. This may effect some peoples finagling with the worth of an item, because to ship from the US to many "foreign" countries you will need to insure used toilet paper or it will be stolen.
2) Governments will put people in a cage for 10 or 20 years for the "crime" of smoking flowers. People are still jailed in the middle east for posessing alcohol. Coffee has carried the death penalty. Governments need to be lied to. Government is not your friend.

#7

Quote:
However, I don't really care about what happens overseas.

IMHO, this is *the* basic problem of too many US citizens (or inhabitants?), including their politicians. It's a pity it shows up in this forum, too. Don't be astonished about the reputation of USA in many countries overseas. "Everybody is a foreigner", depending on the point of view.

Edited: 18 June 2006, 12:27 a.m.


#8

I have not heard of many non-Americans caring particularly much about US laws and customs. In fact, I regularly hear non-Americans (especially those engaged in piracy) openly stating their contempt for such.

#9

The customs declaration in packages leaving the US is not for the US government. As long as the item is not export-controlled goods (e.g., military gear) the US government doesn't care what you report on the customs declaration.

Thus, even if you (as a US sender shipping overseas) falsify the customs declaration, you will not get into trouble with the US government. It's the recipient's foreign government which will be the source of trouble. They won't go after you (they can't) but they will go after the recipient.

In any case, declaring an item for customs purposes is different than pricing something on eBay. The collector value of an item is quite a bit different than the value for insurance (or customs!) purposes.

It is difficult, if not impossible, to get insurance for collector value. Instead, what is the value of this 30-year-old HP calculator as a calculator. It's old. It has cosmetic flaws. It doesn't have as many features as the modern HP-33s. It isn't as reliable.

Suppose there was no HP calculator collector community. Suppose it was just an old calculator that you bought 30 years ago, and recently found in a drawer. What would it be worth as an old calculator?

Not much; and that's a reasonable customs value.

Some collectables, such as old rare coins, have a universally recognized and accepted collector value. Most antiques do not. What may be a valuable old HP calculator to you is an old piece of junk that Aunt Hilda throws in the trash (or sells to coburlin for a pittance) when Uncle Pete dies.

#10

It doesn't work that way. Packages are checked. If proper customs fees haven't been paid, the package gets impounded. What happens then is not EVEN what you expect!

The package isn't impounded by a government, it's impounded by a company. A company that is very diligent because they make a FORTUNE performing this "service". They will send the recipient a notice, with instructions to phone them to arrange final delivery. When he calls, they will tell him how much to pay to get the package.

By how much to pay, I mean shipping (yes, whatever you originally paid to ship the package is GONE), the company's fees for providing the "service", and finally any customs duties you may have forgotten to pay.

And what happens if you don't pay? No, you don't get arrested - but you will never see your stuff again - they sell it. You pay and they win, you say no and they win.

My experience: a friend in France sent us a bottle of Dom for Christmas, without declaring the contents & paying the duties. We received the Dom box (less the bottle and the included bubbly) and a letter. To make a long story short (and believe me it WAS a long story): shipping $12.50 US; "service fee" $40.00 US (!!!!!); customs fee (you are NOT gonna believe this) $2.50 US.

#11

I agree that determining the true value of a used collectable item can be tricky. In fact, it may not be possible. What better way though, than to value it as the price the buyer was willing to pay, and the seller was willing to sell for? The only two people involved in the transaction have agreed on a value. An in the case of an eBay type auction, the second-place bidder is also right in the ball park.

#12

Chris; I have been robbed by UPS and their "insurance" too. That's why i do not use their "service". Bad as it is; i ship by USPS.

#13

I would not buy from someone who would be willing to lie about the value of the calculator. It seems obvious that if she would lie about the value, I should not be surprised if she lies to me about the condition, too.

I'll lie about the value for you, but don't start crying when the near mint 15C you bought from me arrives with missing segments, an unreadable back label, and battery corrosion ;^).

But seriously, folks; I would not lie about the value. Nevermind the law - What's left of my conscience is worth more than that.

Edited: 18 June 2006, 1:16 a.m.


#14

Ask your concsience if it's comfortable blindly obeying laws written by lobbyists who've payed thousands of dollars to get law makers to look the other way with regards to public interest and fairness.
Each persons conscience is the final arbiter of whether a particular law should be obeyed. That's the way human beings are made, it's a law of God if you will, and it's a good thing because life is seldom black and white. I'm not at all sure suckers with their head in the sand go to heaven.


#15

Um, Steve... I think I just said something like, "nevermind the law." That's approximately 180 degrees off your assertion that I'm a sucker who blindly obeys every law. Some laws are unjust.

Interestingly, there is no US law against lying in general (probably the same in most other countries). I think most lobbyists and politicians might have trouble with that one. However, since you brought it up, not lying is a "law of God," which I consider to be above the man-made laws of any government.


#16

Quote:
Um, Steve... I think I just said something like, "nevermind the law." That's approximately 180 degrees off your assertion that I'm a sucker who blindly obeys every law.

I noticed that, but it seemed contradictory to say never mind the law then say your conscience won't allow you to disobey a law. Now I understand you were referring to lying about the value and not the law per se. However, aren't we discussing something called 'declared value'? Isn't declared value just that? Just because a calculator sells for, say, $500, does that mean it has an objective value of $500? Probably greater than 99.9% of people on earth would only pay a small fraction of that amount, if anything, for it. True, this particular calcualtor sold to this particular person for $500, but aren't the customs laws designed to extract a fair amount of duty from an item with some objective value to the society, so, say, an importer couldn't import thousands of computers into the country and undercut the local manufacturers? If the above is sound, then it's neither wrong nor lying to declare a more objectively accurate amount as the declared value.


#17

See message #10.

If I have just sold an item for $500; I thought it was worth $500, the buyer thought it was worth $500, and the backup bidder thought it was worth almost $500. Since I (the shipper) am doing the "declaring," I should declare somewhere around $500, based on the documented (in the case of an online auction) estimates of the three people most closely associated with the transaction. It seems to me to be a little (okay, a lot) dishonest to agree that it's worth $500 the day I sold it, and then to think it's worth only $10 the day I ship it.


If somone else thinks declaring a $10 value is the right thing to do, then by all means, that person should do the right thing.

And lastly, if anyone reading this has a good looking, good working 15C, 42S, 41CX, 27S, or 48GX that's only worth $15, I'll take it. ;^)


#18

Quote:
See message #10.

If I have just sold an item for $500; I thought it was worth $500, the buyer thought it was worth $500, and the backup bidder thought it was worth almost $500. Since I (the shipper) am doing the "declaring," I should declare somewhere around $500, based on the documented (in the case of an online auction) estimates of the three people most closely associated with the transaction. It seems to me to be a little (okay, a lot) dishonest to agree that it's worth $500 the day I sold it, and then to think it's worth only $10 the day I ship it.


If somone else thinks declaring a $10 value is the right thing to do, then by all means, that person should do the right thing.

And lastly, if anyone reading this has a good looking, good working 15C, 42S, 41CX, 27S, or 48GX that's only worth $15, I'll take it. ;^)

Ron, I hope you understand i'm not trying to declare below market value to your opinion. I can understand and appreciate it, even admire it. I just don't think someone who has just spent $500 on a calculator should have to fork over another 20% or more when the object has little intrinsic value to the society as a whole. Enlightened governments exist to ensure the well being of their citizens, and every citizen should be willing to do their part, but we all know that bureaucracy often tilts the scales against the little guy. People with influence work toward and often succeed at getting laws passed that are financially beneficial to themselves, often exclusively. Are they then on higher moral ground for obeying those laws than the person who declares a more common value to a 30 year old '$500' calculator?


#19

I'm not offended, Steve. We all get paid the same for our various opinions ($0).


I was only addressing the issue of answering a question honestly. I doubt many of us would go off bragging about paying $500 for a calculator that's only worth $10. Or if we see a nice 16C being sold by Cobur... for $875, who among us would say, "That's only worth $10?" We would be more likely to say, "$875?! That's only worth $100."


As to whether or not a government should profit off the sale - That's an entirely different question. It's like paying taxes though. Pay the absolute smallest amount you can pay, while playing by the rules. The problem is that the other player (the government(s)) get(s) to make up all the rules. Same thing with import fees, I think. The governments makes up the rules we have to play by. The rule sequence we're in here is something along the lines of:

1. Seller must tell government how much item is worth.
2. Government may challenge value by either raising or lowering value to suit government's best end.
3. Buyer must pay government any amount set by government.

Probably nothing much settled here, but it's been a fun discussion anyway. I wonder what eBayCalcFreak(USA) has decided...


#20

Quote:
I'm not offended, Steve. We all get paid the same for our various opinions ($0).


I was only addressing the issue of answering a question honestly. I doubt many of us would go off bragging about paying $500 for a calculator that's only worth $10. Or if we see a nice 16C being sold by Cobur... for $875, who among us would say, "That's only worth $10?" We would be more likely to say, "$875?! That's only worth $100."


As to whether or not a government should profit off the sale - That's an entirely different question. It's like paying taxes though. Pay the absolute smallest amount you can pay, while playing by the rules. The problem is that the other player (the government(s)) get(s) to make up all the rules. Same thing with import fees, I think. The governments makes up the rules we have to play by. The rule sequence we're in here is something along the lines of:

1. Seller must tell government how much item is worth.
2. Government may challenge value by either raising or lowering value to suit government's best end.
3. Buyer must pay government any amount set by government.

Probably nothing much settled here, but it's been a fun discussion anyway. I wonder what eBayCalcFreak(USA) has decided...

Thanks Ron. This could be seen as mild instance of the circumstances outlined in the Doctrine of Double Effect (
DDE )
i.e. an act producing a desired good effect but also an unintended, though not necessarily unforseen, bad effect. What's interesting is it can be seen from both sides: Your good effect is honesty, while the bad effect is increased cost to the buyer. My good effect is savings to the buyer, while the bad effect is dishonesty. I think we disagree as to where lies the greater good (no pun intended).


#21

It is funny to follow thru this threat here where you are arguing about government laws that have to be obeyed or not. It is not the government who should be blamed at the end of the day, at least in the western and civilized world, it is the people who votes for politicians and so the citizens are the sovereign of a certain country. In short "every society has the government it deserves". Think about it.
Best regards Stephan

BTW what I am willing to pay for a certain item I like to posses needs not to match what its actually worth when it comes to value.


#22

Quote:
It is funny to follow thru this threat here where you are arguing about government laws that have to be obeyed or not. It is not the government who should be blamed at the end of the day, at least in the western and civilized world, it is the people who votes for politicians and so the citizens are the sovereign of a certain country. In short "every society has the government it deserves". Think about it.
Best regards Stephan

BTW what I am willing to pay for a certain item I like to posses needs not to match what its actually worth when it comes to value.

I largely agree with that as long as you take 'society' as a unit with a unified will. In practice there is usually no such thing and there will exist a larger or smaller number of citizens denied the government they deserve. Such disenfranchised citizens are in a position similar to the members of this board regarding the calculators they desire or deserve. The larger society is unwilling or unable to provide them. Is that our fault, and to what degree? I suppose one can always make a stronger effort to bring about a desired change but there's usually a line beyond which one is unwilling to go due to the sacrifice involved. If the effort was less than 100% I guess it's legitimate to say failure was earned to a commensurate degree. Still, 100% effort on the part of one individual is no gaurantee of success, though it would be no small reward to have a 100% clear conscience on the matter.

#23

As a rule of thumb, you should state the correct value. It is *really* unlikely you will get into trouble when mis-stating the item value though - and it will save your buyers a bunch of money.
I can only speak for my experiences with the German customs, other countries might vary.
- letters / padded evelopes almost never get checked, so it seems to be safe to sneak them through; they even rarely get checked when a higher customs value is stated
- small to medium parcels might get checked, I'd say 1 in 10 will have to be picked up at customs
- larger packages most likely will get checked and will have to be picked up at customs

At customs, you need to provide a sales receipt. An ebay printout is fine (as long as the item#) is included - they obviously have access the the ebay database. Customs is calculated on item+postage. Stating a lower or higher value might bring up some questions - so better state the correct value. (I once received a calc I paid 5 USD for with a stated value of 500 USD - it took me close to an hour of discussions...). At times, they have an automated customs collection system, based on the stated value - you will have to pay the customs by COD. If you are expecting several packages, you cannot be sure which one it is; overstating the value will let you pay too much - and it's next to impossible to reclaim.


#24

For private people it's very expensive to import something to Sweden from outside the European Union. Once I bought an item that went quite high on eBay. The seller did not accept anything but the auktion price on the declaration, that cost me another USD100 to pay COD.

In Sweden it's the total cost, item + postage, tat counts. 3% something in penalty on USA merchandises, then anoter 25% VAT (highest in the world) and the whole thing topped off with a fixed fee of SEK100 (about USD 13.50) for their most unappreciated services...


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