When importing products from the US it is important to remember that no one knows what they are doing.

For some weeks one of my customers has been telling me about a problem he has had with the importation of t-shirts from the USA.

His business, it seems, involves bringing in a range of shirts, which get stored at Admiral Document Storage; some of which are displayed in a small number of local shops.

Each shop only gets a couple of copies of each shirt in the main sizes. If they don’t sell, then they are taken back; if they do sell, additional copies are moved out of the warehouse and placed in the shop.

That sounds straight forward, but that is only the start of the story. For where a t-shirt design does sell particularly well, a licence fee is paid to the supplier in the USA and copies of the shirts are produced under licence for the UK market and distributed to suitable shops across the country.

All this seems a fairly logical and reasonable way of running a business, but as I have learned over the years, nothing in business is ever quite like this.

The problem, my customer explained, is that when he brings in small numbers of shirts from America there is a customs duty to be paid. Normally that is arranged without any difficulty, but this month’s supply caused him a particular concern.

Having run the process of importing the t-shirts for a number of years he knows when the shirts are likely to turn up, and when this month’s supply didn’t show up by what he took to be the due date, he started making phone calls.

Eventually these calls led him to the transport company Parcelforce who were due to deliver the parcel of t-shirts to our customer. They said that they could not deliver the parcel because it had not been cleared by Customs.

A quick phone call to Customs revealed that they were saying the opposite. The parcel, Customs said, had been cleared and was waiting for Parcelforce.

“Oh no it isn’t,” said one side. “Oh yes it is,” said the other. And so it went on.

For weeks, and weeks, and weeks.

Eventually, with pressure being mounted by my customer, and his GP expressing concern about his blood pressure, the suppliers in the US, Customs in the UK and Parcelforce were able to agree that yes, the parcel had now been cleared, £18 was due in duty, and a form was being sent to my customer.

This seemed to be a change of procedure (normally he had just gone to his local sorting office, picked up the package and paid the duty) but websites are everything these days, so he followed the new orders.

He read the form, and following instructions, went online.

On the Parcelforce site there was a notice at the top saying that he had to enter his reference number which was on the letter he had received from Parcelforce, printed top left.

And there, lo and behold, was a reference number, top left. He entered it.

It was rejected.

Given that the number was 13 characters long it was, however, quite possible that he had mistyped the code. He did it again. And again. And again. Always without any luck at all.

Eventually he went back and read the letter from Parcelforce. One third of the way down the page on the right was another code. He entered that code, and bingo! He was in.

My customer paused, and I thought that to be the end of the story, but no it wasn’t.

“I phoned Parcelforce,” he said, “to tell them that the website was wrong, and that the code number needed from the letter was the number further down the page. The lady I spoke to was very friendly. ‘Oh yes,’ she said, ‘that’s a mistake’.”

You can find more information on our facilities on our website at www.archive-document-storage.co.uk. Alternatively you can call us on 0800 810 1125.

Admiral Document Storage Ltd
Bloxwich Lane
Tel: 0800 810 1125

Email: info@archive-document-storage.co.uk