Cautionary Tales: Shipping Products into Ecuador

On July 15th I arranged for my new U.S.-to-Ecuador shipping company, MyUS, to consolidate three packages and send them to me in one box to Quito.

MyUS had been promoting its ability to save money for customers by doing this kind of consolidating.

The box -- apparently held up at SENAE (Ecuadorian customs) in metro Quito -- contains products from nuts.com and  Amazon and a few bottles of a thyroid supplement .. all previously sent in a total of three packages to my new mailbox at MyUS's Florida warehouse.

Today, MyUS's partner company DHL/Ecuador notified me that the box is undeliverable because it weighs more than the four-kilogram limit, requiring 'permissions' that I do not have.

Either it must be abandoned or sent back to Florida at a cost of $200.

I emailed MyUS, suggesting that they arrange for the permissions or pay the freight back to Florida to re-package.  I pointed out that as a first-time customer I have been depending on MyUS to ensure that my package was in compliance with the rules for international shipping.

cccmedia in Quito

Sorry, but you are a victim of the incredible incompetence in the postal and the customs department. The company that you dealt with is obviously incompetent and irresponsible.
Customs was quoting the 4x4 rule. They got that wrong, This rule states that is your package must weigh less than 4 kilos, and can not have more than 4 of any one item. This is supposed to sail through customs with no delay and no duty. I should be designated as a 4x4 shipment on the outside of the package. It is better if you put the address information and other permanent information in Spanish. You can only ship 5 of these 4x4 shipments per year. The purpose of using a consolidated service such as you used is to send your purchases to a personal consolidator's address.They call this muling. One of their people would fly round trip to Florida, and carry as many of the orders as possible in their lugage.

Dear ACTION,

I appreciate your assistance in explaining the situation.

Checking the DHL email that said the package cannot be delivered, I see that you have it right that the weight limit is four kilograms (not pounds) and I have corrected that in my opening post.

MyUS exceeded the 4 by 4 limit you cited by causing the consolidated package to exceed the 4-kilo limit, so SENAE seems to be correct in holding up the box as overweight.

What seems odd is that instead of requiring a penalty, the only possibilities (according to DHL) are abandonment of the box or returning it to Florida for $200.

MyUS did not respond to my email on Tuesday afternoon or evening except for a 'bot' auto-response saying they are assigning a number to my case.

cccmedia in Quito

Previously we had no issue with DHL, it came through quickly, no issues with customs, and got delivered to our door by servientrega for about $10 extra fee.

Last two times have been a nightmare, DHL lost a package and couldn't find it. Another package got sent all over the world and eventually arrived, got through customs but DHL demanded an additional $150 to deliver it for "handling" (previously there was nothing to pay), when supposedly the sender (family member) was told they had paid for "door to door" service and there would be no extra cost (we knew there would be a small cost as a local delivery company brings it to the door - that is fine).

The package was under the 4x4 rules and contained about $20 of 2nd hand kids books and a couple of kids' comics.  We refused to pay and then they demanded $200 to send it back. lol. The irony of the situation didn't register with them ($150 to have it brought to us, or $200 to send it back) but then this is Ecuador and things don't have to make sense.

Who knows what should have happened, I'm of the thought the person we spoke to just got it wrong, and then obviously couldn't walk it back and doubled down on their mistake as they tend to do.

Told family now to just not bother trying to send anything and hopefully something happens with Correos in the not too distant future, as things were much smoother then

There are plenty of legally registered couriers (also known as freight forwarders or consolidators) that specialize in delivery between the US and Ecuador.
The cost is about $6 per pound as of 1 August 2021.
I have found these shippers to be much less of a hassle than DHL, UPS, etc.. Examples of couriers include SPUCourier, Deblex, GlobalBox, and Laarbox. It usually takes 12 days from the time I order on Amazon until I have the package in my hands. Additionally, I keep my shipments to under 7 pounds.

The shipper MyUS notified me today that it may be possible to obtain the permission that is required to shake loose my current order that is being held up by SENAE near the Quito airport.  Such permissions are apparently available to be obtained online.

Both MyUS and I are querying DHL/Ecuador to find out what is involved in obtaining the permission.

cccmedia in Quito

lebowski888 wrote:

There are plenty of legally registered couriers (also known as freight forwarders or consolidators) that specialize in delivery between the US and Ecuador.

I have found these shippers to be much less of a hassle than DHL, UPS, etc.. Examples of couriers include SPUCourier, Deblex, GlobalBox, and Laarbox...

I keep my shipments to under 7 pounds
.

Good stuff, Dude.

Do you keep your shipments under seven pounds because of the 4 by 4 rule?

Four kilograms is 8.8 pounds.

cccmedia in Quito

Yes, exactly. Keeping my order to 7 lbs seems to keep it under the radar. That allows for situations when the retailer underestimates shipping weight. So far that tactic has worked out for me.

How much do these courier services usually cost? I am a model builder, & I am trying to figure out the most economical way to get my kits from the US to Ecuador.

Damon.

Dagretto wrote:

How much do these courier services usually cost? I am a model builder, & I am trying to figure out the most economical way to get my kits from the US to Ecuador.

The Dude seems to have found a relatively economical method, so I would refer to you his posts above.

MyUS has already debited my bank card for about $100 .. and I don't know yet the cost of a document called Control Sanitario that apparently is required to get my consolidated package out of SENAE 'prison'.

cccmedia

I have a Desktop computer I want to bring from U.S. to Cuenca when I move. Its over the weight limit. I only paid $700 but its a powerhouse. Would it be economically feasible to bring it or replace it in Ecuador?

kmok1956 wrote:

I have a Desktop computer I want to bring from U.S. to Cuenca when I move. Its over the weight limit. I only paid $700 but its a powerhouse. Would it be economically feasible to bring it or replace it in Ecuador?

I'd consider bringing it on the plane if logistically possible .. provided your airline can quote you a reasonable fee for the extra weight.

However, there are other considerations before you make your final determination...

1.  Do you have a permanent residence lined up for Cuenca?  If not, the logistics of moving a desktop computer around may make bringing it to Ecuador unwise.

2.  Would the logistics and your perception of lifestyle in Ecuador make replacing your unit with a laptop computer advisable?  I have a MacBook Pro laptop and -- partly because it's so easy to move from room to room -- would not go back to a desktop computer.

3.  If you buy new in Ecuador, you will have a warranty of at least one year.

4.  If you are using a non-Apple product, consider the upgrade to Apple.  My early desktop computers and laptop PC's were a variety of other brands.  These days I prefer Apple because of its ease of use and what its products can do.

cccmedia in Quito


I do not have a financial relationship with Apple and do not receive compensation for mentioning its products.

We now return to the matter of my Nuts.com/Amazon.com/thyroid supplements order, which I last updated five days ago.

DHL/Ecuador emailed me today saying essentially that they are helpless to do anything under the circumstances (lack of a permit) and the package may have to be returned from Quito to the MyUS facility in Florida.

I emailed back that they must not send the box to Florida without my permission.

DHL claims it is still waiting to find out what it would theoretically cost me to pry the package loose from customs jail.

cccmedia in Quito

I visited Vilcabamba in April of 2019.  I got to know people who had lived there for about 5 years.  They said that almost never did packages arrive, no matter what system was used.  Everyone who visited from out of the country was asked to bring various things with them in their luggage so that they would actually get there.  Apparently this kind of thing is an ongoing problem.

Just today at a Mall in Quito I got a quote on a 10 lb box shipped here from Alabama.  Last I checked 10lbs was more than 4kg.  Someone is looking to screw with you and needs/wants you to pay them off as it would be cheaper than $200 is my best guess.  I've also gotten quotes from Fedex for 15 lbs shipped to Medellin.  They wanted from $520 to $565 for one way one box of vitamins.  For about that much money I shipped my 109kg self, 2 X 20kg suitcases   (1) 10kg   (1) 12kg luggage back and forth to the US.  I came back with what is about $250 in vitamins in the USA or what would be in Colombia around $1250 - $2000 worth of supplements. 

Someone in customs doesn't like you.

Some party messed up, but I doubt the main culprit is SENAE (customs).  They have the right to interdict packages that weigh over the limit.

DHL Ecuador, the in-country shipping partner of MyUS, hasn't been doing me any favors.

Despite my messages, DHL still hasn't notified me how to get the paperwork to obtain a document called 'Control Sanitario' which apparently is necessary due to the overweight.  DHL Ecuador's position to date is that it's not their problem;  that the customer needs to work it out with 'public' entities.

Seems like a lazy approach to me.

MyUS promoted its supposed ability to save customers money by consolidating packages.  Instead, in my case, the consolidation of packages has caused headaches that have yet to be solved.

Meantime, my attorney in Quito is AWOL.

cccmedia in Quito

Today I made a purchase in an electronics store for $11.30.  They requested my passport, my signature, my address and me to wait in the store for 30 minutes while the salesman ran outside, went into "the basement" to find the product.  Having been born and raised in the USA the comprehension of the value of ones time seems to us ubiquitous.  Having traveled much throughout Latin America, I've yet to meet a culture where I can say that business sense seems native.  For those involved in international sales I do see the sophistication and comprehension, but that is the exception not the rule.  I do not think the LACK of what I consider [common business sense] here in Ecuador (and the rest of Latin America) is disassociated with poverty.  It is not, and should not be the only metric, but when people do not value the time of others, or that of their own employees, the fact that (for example) electronics cost 2-4 times as much as they do in the USA does not seem so surprising.  Can you imagine the look on the face of the typical US Department store customer going to buy an $11 item and then being expected to wait for 1/2 hour without notification? 

I do not believe these things are unrelated.  The notion that the Government is somehow protecting its populace by NOT allowing them to buy vitamins (for example), and especially vitamin D3 which the Governments should be GIVING away rather than paying for severe Covid19 cases on hospital I find amazing.  They appear to me to be little more than bureaucrats drunk on their own power who have little or no concern over the public good.  3.9kg is good, but 4.1kg we must protect the people from.  It is official, I AM AMAZED.  PS - If your attorney does not pick up the phone, he is not your attorney.  My son is an attorney and specializes in business law (in California).  I just finished my visit, the typical 1/2 hour drive he answers the phone 2-3 times.  With regards to your counselor I say boot the slacker.

Concerning my customs-delayed, overweight package ...

DHL Ecuador emailed me today with the news that a $200 fine is being imposed as of today as the package has been held at Customs for a month.

The company also advised that an additional $500 will be charged if the package is returned to Florida. I emailed back that that's unacceptable.

I told DHL Ecuador to take no action just yet, as I also received an email from my attorney today.  He missed my earlier emails about the stalled package as my messages were going to his Spam.  He also missed my phone message, although the reason for that is not clear.  I emailed him -- with attachments -- to bring him up to speed.

cccmedia in Quito

Why is this sounding familiar to stories I heard back in 2019?  Sigh.  Could someone have flown with your package from the US instead?

Hard to say.

We're still learning the ropes of The Situation era when it comes to receiving packages here.

The biggest lesson on this thread so far is that it is essential not to order or allow consolidation of a package over 4 kilograms .. unless you're knowledgeable/experienced in the trámites  that can ensue.

cccmedia in Quito

My attorney, Sebastian Cordero, today sent me his first substantive response to my shipping problem.

In an email, he said DHL Ecuador's proposed solution of a Control Sanitario is impractical because it is extremely expensive and would take months.  This is something that commercial importers use .. and requires testing of food samples.  He said it would be less costly to have the box returned to Florida (even though DHL Ecuador said that would cost about $500 .. plus the supposed fine of $200 for a month In the hold).

I have now requested that the shippers contact Sr. Cordero and seek a solution.

cccmedia in Quito

My attorney just emailed me about the overweight package held at Ecuadorian customs for over a month...

"You are solely responsible for knowing in advance what are the requirements to send things from the United States to Ecuador.  The courier companies are not responsible for this....

"I suggest that you contact them so that the package can be returned (to Florida) and any expenses that are generated must be borne by you.  If you leave the package abandoned, the Ecuadorian customs may generate extra expenses for you."

--

If agreeing to the above advice and the itemized charges for return as listed by DHL Ecuador, I will be paying just over $500 plus a $200 fine for exceeding a 30-day limit;  I will have received nothing as the package will be back in the U.S.;  its contents may or may not be re-deliverable to an address in Ecuador.  Given the $250-plus costs of the contents and the $100-plus already collected from my bank by the shipper, that's potentially a total loss of about $1,100.

There will also be a legal fee from my attorney.

cccmedia in Quito

cccmedia wrote:

Concerning my customs-delayed, overweight package ...

DHL Ecuador emailed me today with the news that a $200 fine is being imposed as of today as the package has been held at Customs for a month.

The company also advised that an additional $500 will be charged if the package is returned to Florida. I emailed back that that's unacceptable.

cccmedia in Quito

You seem to be of the opinion that for some reason you have a say in the matter. 
You don't. 
You seem to believe that finding the fine(s) unacceptable means you won't have to pay them.
You will.
You seem to hold the opinion that somehow the rules must be just, fair and reasonable.
They don't.
You seem to believe the mistaken notion that we have a justice system.
We don't.
We have a legal system, and it truly has no regard for your opinion in this matter.  I don't think you will be able to leave the country (dead or alive) without these fines being paid at the border. 
What is true is this:
Time is money, and right now, it's not on your side.   Neither you or your attorney can make these fines disappear.  I suspect the attorney simply doesn't wish to disagree with you for fear of losing your business.  I think the spam story is nonsense.  Tick-tock, tick-tock....

I have merely been reporting the latest facts in the case.

Your implication that my attorney was trying to avoid losing my business by agreeing with me .. is a complete misreading of his message.

The insinuation about "spam" implies that I or my attorney was lying.  Wrong again!

Your "dead or alive" comment is gratuitous and snarky.

Your interpretations about what I seem to "believe" or "hold" are merely your unsupported opinions .. most of them false.

Your condescending tone is unwarranted.

Clean up your act.

cccmedia

Development in MyUS "delivery."

The MyUS partner here in Ecuador, DHL Ecuador, was not responding to emails from my attorney for a week and a half, until today.

Finally, Dr. Cordero got through to a key guy on the DHL "clearance team" today, arranged for the package to go back to MyUS in Florida, went to the bank to make payment on my behalf .. and the package is on its way back North.

It appears my total costs on the shipment (upon reimbursing the attorney outlay) will be $1,200 or more, including $400 plus tax for the attorney legal fee.  And I haven't received a thing.  There will be an additional expense if it's determined I can have the thyroid supplement bottles re-sent to me in Ecuador.

cccmedia in Quito

Why hire an attorney?

For at least four reasons ...

1.  The customs system is opaque, largely because it is filled with Spanish legalese.  It's set up so that the customer or consignee, not the shipping company, is the legally responsible party to comply with customs rules.  But good luck finding an official document that's not written in Spanish legalese that explains the customs regulations.

2.  The system Dr. Cordero successfully navigated is not Expat-friendly.  An experienced attorney can produce a favorable result (resolving the case at whatever cost), whereas I don't think most laymen Expats could do so expeditiously on a first-time basis.

3.  Customs had already started charging me fines.  It was $200 last month .. with another fine of undetermined amount potentially due after 60 days (Sept. 14).  DHL warned me in an email that fines could eventually reach $3,000 if the matter went unresolved.  The attorney's actions have apparently stopped the issuance of fines.

4.  Having an attorney handle this briskly .. takes a load off my mind immediately, despite the absurdity of paying $1,200-plus and getting nothing of value yet in return.

cccmedia

Lesson #2.

Earlier on this thread I stated the lesson we have learned .. not to ship any package weighing more than four kilograms unless prepared to deal with the consequences.

Here is Lesson #2...

Do not expect a shipper/consolidator to have your interests in mind.
They are legally protected from liability when there are customs violations .. and evidently are prone to throw the customer under the bus when things go sideways.

cccmedia

Yikes, this is not encouraging.  Would it be cheaper to buy a ticket for a friend to travel to visit you and bring it with them?

susanilla wrote:

Yikes, this is not encouraging.  Would it be cheaper to buy a ticket for a friend to travel to visit you and bring it with them?

Probably so.  Unless the friend is flying first-class from Sydney, Australia. ;)

cccmedia

Chuckling here.  I volunteer to be a friend and fly economy from the US:)  What do you need me to bring?  I won't do things illegal or smelly:)

Now there are some delays in final billing.  Mientras tanto, my package is apparently being held somewhere in Ecuador, possibly at Customs or SENAE in Guayaquil.  It has been stalled in Customs since about July 19th and may be held there until a payment of about $168 is sorted out through my attorney .. and paid in full by me .. or on my behalf .. or else declared null as a double-billing error.

Due to this apparent delay in having DHL return the box to USA shipper MyUS in Florida, it appears I will have to request that the thyroid supplements be repackaged there .. and sent to me in Colombia where I will be in October.

cccmedia in Quito

Ahhh, so my friends that were saying they seldom got a shipment in the outlying small villages were apparently certainly not the only ones!    This is beginning to sound like a bad class D movie.  Hoping it gets cleared up!  Is whatever you ordered really worth it?   Speedy resolutions:)

Double billing.

DHL Ecuador has now double-billed me for a $200 fine levied by Customs at the 30-day mark.

To cover up the double billing when I brought it up, DHL improperly inflated the freight cost by $200 and ignored the fact that my attorney had already paid the $200 among other charges last week.

I am considering paying the false charge in order to avoid another Customs fine at the 60-day mark next week, which apparently would be more than $200-additional due to the escalating fine schedule.

There doesn't seem to be any way to contest the inflated charges without incurring additional expenses and extending this nightmare.  My attorney recommends paying the full amount charged .. immediately.

cccmedia in Quito

Wow, what a fiasco!  And you were not a newbie to the country. I hope at least you finally get your shipment. A nightmare for sure.

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