If you live in Canada and have ever ordered anything from RightStuf, Amazon.com, or any other online retailer, based in the US you’ve likely noticed something: shipping to Canada is expensive. For anyone who hasn’t bothered to look, these are RightStuf’s shipping rates to Canada:
Things aren’t much better at Amazon.com, where it’s $4.99 for the first item, and $2.99 for every additional item. The shipping rates aren’t always a problem though. If I’m ordering a $50 item, I don’t really mind paying $7 for shipping, but if I’m ordering a $5 item it’s kind of irritating to pay more for shipping than the item itself.
But the real issue with ordering from places in the US when you live in Canada is the Goods and Services Tax that gets applied at the border, which varies depending on the province you live in. (What you actually pay is a Provincial Sales Tax combined with the GST, which in Nova Scotia adds up to 15%) Now, the GST gets charged on pretty much everything in Canada, and you automatically pay it if you order from Amazon.ca or any site based in Canada, so that isn’t the problem. The problem is the additional $5 they charge when your package clears customs. Essentially they’re charging you money for having had to charge you money.
For an example, let’s say I wanted to order the first five volumes of One Piece. At RightStuf, each volume is $5.96, which adds up to $29.80 for five. That’s a pretty good price for five volumes of manga. Since I’m ordering five items, the shipping cost is $17, bringing the total to $46.80.
Now, if I were to order the same five volumes from Chapters, which is based in Canada, I’d be paying $9.99 for each volume, for a total of $49.95. But with Chapters, orders over $25 are shipped for free (same thing applies to Amazon.ca).
So, the price before any taxes are applied isn’t all that different. Ordering from RighStuf, which charges almost half as much for each volume, only saves me about $3 at this point. This changes once we apply taxes.
One thing to note about the GST charge for items crossing the border is that it won’t always be applied, even though it’s supposed to. I have no idea how the system works, but sometimes items get through without being charged GST. I know that they usually don’t charge it on items marked as gifts, but items from RightStuf and Amazon.com aren’t normally marked as gifts. It’s basically a game of chance as to whether or not you’ll have to pay it.
Assuming my order of One Piece Volumes 1-5 gets the GST charge applied to it, the price goes up by 15%, bringing it to $53.82. There’s also the additional $5 they charge just because they can, bringing it to $58.82.
Now, I briefly mentioned the Provincial Sales Tax earlier. It’s important to mention, because books sold within Canada are exempt from that particular tax. So while normally you pay PST + GST, with a book you just pay the GST, which is only 5%. When I order those five volumes of One Piece from Chapters, I don’t get charged the 15% that I eventually would when ordering from RightStuf. So my total cost from Chapters is only $52.45.
So, despite RightStuf charging almost half per volume, it actually ends up costing more in the end. Also, the order from Chapters would take 4-7 days to get to me, depending on what day of the week I order, while the one from RightStuf would take a minimum of two weeks and possibly up to four weeks.
Of course, I could just order $150 worth of stuff from RightStuf and avoid the shipping fee (though still incurring the GST charge), but I just don’t like spending that much money all at once.
Anyway, all of this nonsense is generally the reason I don’t jump whenever there’s a huge sale at RightStuf. I should probably move to the US. Or just out of Nova Scotia.