Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Bringing in a package from overseas via Express Mail Service (EMS)

Ilang beses na ako nabigo sa pagbili ng bike bag ng Vincita. First time, the bag was unavailable during the Thai Trade Fair held last April. Second time, I asked a law school friend, who visited Bangkok, to meet the owner or go directly to the Vincita shop. But due to language difficulties and miscommunication, hindi natuloy yung meeting. And according to her, the Vincita shop was far from her hotel. The third time naman, Doc Arman of Tiklop offered his Thai friend to buy the bags for us in Bangkok. Sadly, after 2 months of waiting, hindi rin natuloy. (No worries, Doc. Not your fault.)

This was driving me insane! I needed the travel bag for my Brompton BEFORE my trip to Vietnam next month!

So two weeks ago, I contacted Vincita and asked them to send the bike bag via courier service. Gem Sinhaseni of Vincita obliged and was very helpful. She emailed me the rates:

Federal Express ThB 5,000.00 (or PhP 7,000.00)
UPS ThB 6,000.00 (or PhP 8,400.00)
DHL ThB 9,837.00 (or PhP 13,772.00)

Grabe naman ang mahal! Eh di mas mura pang bumili na lang ako ng tiket sa CebPac at kunin ko mismo dun sa Bangkok, di ba?!

And then there's EMS (Express Mail Service), which cost just ThB 1,380 (or PhP 1,932.00).

EMS na ako.

I wired my payment to Vincita, including the price of the bike bag, the freight charge and all bank fees.

Vincita B-132 Transport Bag for BromptonThB 1,650.00 (or PhP 2,310.00)
EMS Transportation Charge: ThB 1,380.00 (or PhP 1,930.00)
Bank Charges: US$ 30.00 (or PhP 1,260.00)

TOTAL: PhP 5,500.00

Mura pa rin yan, considering the Brompton B Bag costs $215.00 (PhP 9,100.00) sa US.

After confirming receipt of the money, Vincita sent my bike bag via EMS. (Thanks, Gem and Surang)

I thought EMS was door-to-door. Hindi pala.

3 days after the bank transfer, I received a notice from EMS stating that my package was ready for pick-up at the EMS office in Pasay, subject to corresponding customs duties.


"Customs" and "Duties" are two words you don't want to hear in the any sentence.

Breath in. Breath out. I have to pay more. (My wife's going to kill me when she finds out)

Fine. But how much?

I checked the Bureau of Customs website to find out how to compute for the tax.

It floored me!

The rate of customs duty for bags (according to the 2010 AHTN Book) is 15%! (On the other hand, electronic products like the iPad have no tarriff. Go figure.)

Then you add VAT at 12% of the Total Landed Cost (a much bigger amount. Refer to the BoC formula).

Plus PhP 250.00 for Import Processing Fee (IPF)

And PhP 265.00 for Customs Documentary Stamp (CDS).

My computation summed up to more than one thousand five hundred pesos!


Anyway, back to EMS.
EMS is located in the PhilPost Compound at Domestic Airport Road in Pasay City. They are not open on weekends, so I was forced to go on a business/working day. I was the first customer, arriving there before 8am. I handed the notice and my picture ID to the receptionist. She told me to wait.
Still empty at 7:50 Monday morning
After 35 minutes of waiting, they finally found my box and the customs examiner called my name. I approached him and he asked me what was inside. I answered, "Bike bags," and then he opened the box. He made sure they were what I told him they were, and that there were no contrabands. He pulled out the invoice and we walked over to his office.

In his office, the customs examiner started computing for my tax. He told me about the 15% rate of duty, the 12% VAT and the other fees. I nodded like I didn't know about it. He took out his calculator and punched away. I was tempted to ask him why computation was still done manually but I stopped myself. But it's a legitimate question, right? I'm sure there are simple computer programs (like, err, EXCEL?) out there that can make life easier for all of us. 

I was expecting to see my initial computation (OR EVEN HIGHER), but was pleasantly surprised to be imposed a lesser amount. He just billed me a little over one thousand pesos.

I found out later (after figuring out his "computation") that he didn't convert the invoice amount from Thai Baht to Philippine Peso, and he lowered the amount of customs duty. Now whether this was done by accident or mistake (which is possible) or on purpose, I don't know. I'm just glad hindi niya ako tinaga ('coz he could have).

Back to my story. So I went over to the cashier and paid the amount. She issued a receipt and I went back to the receptionist up front. She crossed-check my entry in her books, and then billed me PhP 40.00. 

Forty pesos?! Didn't I just pay one thousand at the cashier?! What's this for?! At bakit 'di na lang pinagsabay?

I later realized that the receptionist did not work for Boc, but for PhilPost. The PhP 40.00 was for PTCC (don't ask me what it stands for).

So after I paid the PhP 40.00, I got my box and left.
The Vincita box at the trunk of my car
Although I am very happy and satisfied with my purchase (which only cost a reasonable PhP 2,310.00 really), I did spend an arm and a leg to get it here. Mas mahal pa yung over-all transportation costs ko than the item itself!

Lessons of the story:

1. If you want to purchase an item abroad, fly there, buy it, and bring it home yourself.

2. And if you can't, find a friend or relative who's going there and buy the item for you.

3. If you still can't, but are willing to wait, send the item via a real door-to-door delivery service, which should take at most, siguro, one month.

4. If you can't and are in a hurry, try sending via DHL or UPS, just to avoid all the hassle of dealing with customs. (But be prepared to pay a premium)

5. Use EMS as a last resort. If you do go this route, make an initial computation of the tax, so that you know how much to bring when you go pick up your package at Pasay.

Good luck!


  1. anticipating your vicnita bag review! :)


  2. I had an ems experience from taiwan to saudi arabia bringing in biologic product for my tern and its delivered door to door. No hassle.
    Sa pinas kasi ang unang iniisip ay kung papaano magagatasan ang mga kliyente.

  3. Yeah. Btw, available na ba ang brompton locally? any info?

    1. Malapit na. I think this March dadating. Here are the bike shops that will carry Bromptons.

      Iron bike
      Cool stuff 168

      Bike town

      Paulinas (cartimar)
      Paulinas (MOA) coming soon


      John Wilkie

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