Log in

No account? Create an account
11 Marts 2005 @ 19:02
There is no such thing as a free book  

A couple of weeks ago, I received a book in the mail. The book was a complimentary copy, sent to me by the publisher because I had written one of the articles in it. Naturally, I was quite pleased to get it.

The publisher and I are on opposite sides of The World's Longest Undefended Border™. Today, I received in the mail an invoice from a customs broker which was apparently responsible for the awesome task of shepherding the book across said border and paying the appropriate taxes to the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency on my behalf. Now, the book sells for US$35, which works out to CD$43.50. Here are the charges listed on the invoice:

GST on the book:3.05
"Entry fee" charged by the customs broker
for paying the GST on the book:
GST on the entry fee,
because it is a charge for a soi-disant service:

Now, if the publisher had sent the book through the regular postal systems of the two contries involved, I could simply have paid the $3.05 myself at the post office, which is a short walk away. I would then have my free copy of the book for something reasonably close to free, and the CCRA would receive its modest due, and all would be well. But instead they used another carrier (which shall remain nameless), which in turn engaged the services of the customs broker, and so I get to pay (or somebody—apparently the university received the invoice first and has already paid it; I don't know whether they're going to ask me to reimburse them—gets to pay) about half the retail price of the book, and the CCRA gets an extra loonie or so, and the customs broker, who is the one completely superfluous character in this story, pockets a startlingly tidy sum.

What I don't understand is why this is legal. If I (or the university) were to borrow money for any purpose other than paying taxes on imported goods, and pay it back less than a month later, the lender would not be permitted to charge an interest rate of 541%; that would be usury. And yet somehow in this situation, when neither the university nor I even had any warning that the "services" of the customs broker had been engaged, the customs broker is entitled to charge us $16.50 for advancing $3.05 to the CCRA on our behalf. Okay, granted, the $16.50 is a flat fee, not a percentage of anything, but given that the "service" for which it is being charged is of no value whatsoever, it's about sixteen and a half dollars too much. The customs brokerage business is one hell of a racket.

Nuværende humør: annoyedannoyed
love, play & inquiry: sillytrochee on 11. Marts, 2005 16:45 (UTC)
But to oppose such a middleman, sir, would be against the very virtue of Free Enterprise and the Spirit of Competition, not to mention the Invisible Hand of the Market and the Will of the People Laws of Capital.

likewise, of course, for laws against usury. What impingement against the Puritan Virtue of Hard Bargaining Work do you propose?

In other words:
what are you, some kinda commie?
Q. Pheevrq_pheevr on 12. Marts, 2005 10:05 (UTC)

Well, yes, I suppose I am. If this is how capitalism works, I can't afford it.

Besides, what am I paying taxes for up here in Soviet Canuckistan if not to have the government protect me when the Invisible Hand of the Market tries to give me the finger?

love, play & inquirytrochee on 12. Marts, 2005 11:05 (UTC)
*wonders if the sarcasm of his previous post was apparent*

"amen" to everything you said just now.
Q. Pheevrq_pheevr on 12. Marts, 2005 12:40 (UTC)

Oh, yes—if the sarcasm hadn't been apparent, I wouldn't have referred to "Soviet Canuckistan" in my response.

(Deleted comment)
Q. Pheevrq_pheevr on 12. Marts, 2005 10:06 (UTC)

Thanks. In this particular case, I think I will go get 'em by writing a polite letter to the publisher thanking them for the book and suggesting that they might want to look into the possibility of using the postal service in the future.