A bit of a horror story re buying and shipping stuff from India

#1 Jan 8th, 2009, 17:30
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I’m writing this post to reveal some of the things you may run into if you plan to buy furniture or other large items in India and wish to ship them back home. In part it is a warning not to be as trusting as we were in purchasing a bookshelf. Sorry if it's a bit long-winded.

Back in October of last year my girlfriend and I were wandering around Cochin, which is well known for its antique shops. Initially we didn’t have our minds set on buying anything, until we came across a three-storey shop called NewCastle Gallery, which held all kinds of beautiful items. One member of staff gave as a grand tour of the building, offered us several soft drinks, and took us to the roof of the building to enjoy the views. We spent a couple of hours just looking and talking. And in the end, we had set our eyes on a bookshelf that we seriously intended to buy. We told the guy we wanted to sleep on it and call back home to Europe to confirm how much we would have to pay in taxes upon its arrival. He started to pressurize us to make the purchase immediately, but we left and told him we would be back tomorrow if we still wanted it.

After making all kinds of calculations we went back the next day to bargain for the shelf. Quite peculiarly a Kashmiri man was now there to continue with the business, even though the guy of the previous day had totally slagged of all Kashmiris, calling them cheaters and sellers of poor quality products! Anyhow, this particular guy went into an hour long monologue on how he had found a guru and how everything in this Universe is One. As true as that may be, all we wanted was to do business. After what seemed like forever, we actually got round to discussing the price of the product, at which point the man from the other day also joined in from somewhere. After a couple of hours of haggling, we arrived at an agreement, after which they called a representative of a shipping company to estimate how much it would cost to make a secure box for the shelf and ship it to our homeland. They explicitly promised to take all necessary precautions in securing a safe delivery.

Finally we found a reasonable price for the whole deal: product and shipping.

Fast forward one and half months. The shipment arrives at the port in our home country. We discover to our dismay that the officials here demand an extra 200 euros for loading the damn thing off the transport vehicle and into storage. We pay up. They say they will store it for 3 days after offloading, after which they will charge 35 euros per day for storage. Ok, no big deal, but the shipment company back in India has not sent the official documents required to release the shipment to us. We spend a stressful and hectic three days calling and e-mailing all over the place to get the documents, and luckily they arrive on the last day before extra charges start running. This taught us a thing or two about the logistics of shipping and how you can be at the total mercy of what others choose to do, or not to do.

So we head off to the port to pick up the shipment, and after the usual bureaucratic necessities, we finally have the permission to go and get our long-awaited shelf. And there it is, lying on a wooden board, all scratched up, cracked in places, looking so pitiful I almost want to cry. The “good folk” at the NewCastle Gallery and the shipment company they work with hadn’t even bothered to PUT IT INTO A PADDED BOX. Imagine the wooden shelf arriving from humid India to wintery Europe, being thrown from place to place amongst boxes, without protection…

Needless to say we were enraged. But what could we do? We had no insurance, and if you call us idiots on this account, you’re justified in doing so. I sent some pictures of the damaged shelf to the store and shipment company, and they both sort of blamed each other and feigned surprise. Bullshit. But I know there’s nothing much we can do about it anymore.

Even though we had to do a little touching up on the shelf, and it came to cost us far more than we had expected, the outcome of this episode is a happy one. We have a smashing bookshelf with a bit of a story behind it!

So, if you plan on buying anything that you plan on shipping home, make sure of every single little detail, have them make documents on everything you agree upon, find out if there are any extra costs in your home country, etc. We did some of this, but not comprehensively enough, and had to learn the hard way.
#2 Jan 8th, 2009, 18:54
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How much was the shelf, and how many shelves?
#3 Jan 8th, 2009, 19:03
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It's a cautionary tale indeed.

One expects a professional to be professional. Unfortunately, often they are not.

Should I ever be in a similar situation, I will remember your story, and demand to know the packing details, and even to supervise it.
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#4 Jan 8th, 2009, 19:52
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Originally Posted by Nick-H View Post and even to supervise it.
& that's the thing, watch it being packed & strapped - Im amazed at the thievery charges in the UK - 200 euros for loading the damn thing off the transport vehicle
Last edited by Paleface; Jan 8th, 2009 at 19:54.. Reason: nothing really
#5 Jan 8th, 2009, 19:57
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#5
Quote:
Originally Posted by Vasko View Post Anyhow, this particular guy went into an hour long monologue on how he had found a guru and how everything in this Universe is One.


zounds!

I was in the same store with the same guy! he was a smooth operator, that's for sure! he and I sat down and talked about yoga even tho I said I had no interest in buying anything because "I'm a poor yoga teacher," I said (my usual line.) he had one guy bring us a pot of chai, I think he would have sat there all afternoon until I bought something. I must say, tho, he showed some beautiful Buddhist thangkas -- that cost about $500 US apiece. uh...no.

at least in the end you love your bookshelf! that's what counts despite the hassle.

last time I was in Chennai I bought two beautiful bronzes at what was a great price in US dollars, a Buddha and a Kali. the package took almost three months to get to me and I was PO'ed, so I kept emailing the store. I told them if I don't get my stuff soon I'm calling the credit card company about my shipping charges. as it turned out, because the shipping took so long, the store ate the $80 shipping fee and I got a credit on my credit card.

When I got the package I was almost afraid to look inside but there were my beautiful bronzes. When I looked at the shipping documents, the store sent the bronzes to their store in cochin to be shipped! WHAT?!? why couldn't they ship from Chennai? that's why it took so long, they went to the other side of India first!
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#6 Jan 8th, 2009, 20:31
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#6
Most folk selling stuff will have no/little experience in shipping stuff abroad. Like the shop did here, they will call somebody.

Unfortunately, once they have received their money, most such shops will save money on packaging, or the shipping company will.

A normal tourist has no idea of shipping charges or port charges in home country or India. If the money has been paid, he/she is normally at the mercy of shippers/shops/receiving agents and ports.

Unless one is a regular and large customer exporting stuff for commercial reasons (and maybe even then), the best thing to do is to do things seperately- ie buy, package to your satisfaction and then contract to ship the stuff after finding out exactly what charges might be involved. Go with a reputed shipping/freight forwarding setup; they will not be that much more expensive than another less known one.

Or at least be present for the packaging if you don't contract seperately.


Handling/port/demurrage charges in europe/US and even some Asian/African/South American countries can be prohibitive. It is best to get into a comprehensive agreement with no hidden costs. Door to door services are commonly available which bypass the chances of your being saddled by these kinds of charges.


And, if the stuff is expensive, insure it.

Meanwhile, for Vasko, glad the damage wasn't too extensive. Enjoy the bookshelf
#7 Jan 8th, 2009, 20:40
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#7
Enjoy the books on the shelf.
#8 Jan 8th, 2009, 20:43
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Originally Posted by Paleface View Post How much was the shelf, and how many shelves?
The single bookshelf stands at over 2 meters and is less than half a meter wide. It is a beautiful dark wood (teak, I think) and had already been nicely worn down by time before the shipping episode . We really do like it a lot.

Initially they asked for 30 000 rs and we bargained it down to 15 000 Rs, which is still expensive, but we figured we'd never find anything of the kind back home. Shipping was an extra 10 000 Rs. I haven't a clue what the "real" prices of these things are, but it suited our budget.

Imagine that, Sama, you being in the same store. I'm sure they did the sweet talking bit. Except the Kashmiri fellow was a bit frightening with his never-ending sermon of universal brotherhood, etc. Maybe he just tried to wear us down. And succeeded, too.

We didn't really have the chance to supervise the packing, as we were leaving the next day. They showed us a bunch of e-mails and pictures from satisfied customers abroad and we believed them. Somehow we expected them to be professionals, given that they have a huge store that probably deals abroad mostly.
#9 Jan 8th, 2009, 20:46
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Originally Posted by Wonderonomic View Post Enjoy the books on the shelf.
Thanks (to capt mahajan too)...

It's full of classic books on India!
#10 Jan 8th, 2009, 21:05
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Originally Posted by Vasko View Post Thanks (to capt mahajan too)...

It's full of classic books on India!
Reminded me of the story of a businessman buying a chest in Mumbai. Send it home to England via airfreight, and discovered that there were people living in it still.

Now that's a surprise ?

You lucky nobody lived on your shelf.
#11 Jan 8th, 2009, 21:34
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Quote:
Most folk selling stuff will have no/little experience in shipping stuff abroad. Like the shop did here, they will call somebody.
That is either not true of the shops on the tourist trail --- or at least they claim it isn't! I remember my tourist trips around these shops, and the offer of shipping, the assurance of experience, telling that they put lesser amount on invoice for tax, was copious.

Of course, it could have all been total bullshit!
#12 Jan 8th, 2009, 22:03
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Originally Posted by Nick-H View Post ...telling that they put lesser amount on invoice for tax...
They offered to do this, but we declined as we are fearful & law-abiding citizens.

Oh, on a side note, I threatened to spread the word of their shabby customer service if they don't offer any explanation for their unprofessionalism. Apparently now I'm doing it...
#13 Jan 8th, 2009, 22:08
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#13
Right.

So that's NewCastle Gallery, Kochi, that you're talking about, yes?

#14 Jan 8th, 2009, 22:11
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#15 Jan 8th, 2009, 22:34
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If they've done it regularly before they should have plenty of references and be open & unguarded in walking you through the trials & tribulations of the whole shipping process. Stone, marble, brass, bronze and wood all have at least some transportation challenges. Wood items being particularly susceptible to damage due to motion shock & changes in temperature/humidity from one region to another.

Anytime you ship items, the seller/shipper should always be open to your input on the selection & packing of the shipping container/materials for minimizing shipping costs & maximizing safety. In fact, unless you have had previous business with said dealer -it is highly recommended to be present to supervise, at least the initial stages of the product packing procedure.
We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time. ~
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