Beware Customs Fees on Overseas Purchases

Dorothy PerkinsFellow style blogger Vera Sweeney got an unpleasant surprise after ordering clothes from Dorothy Perkins, which is essentially a slightly more upscale British version of Forever 21.

She writes:

I placed my order and then a few days later received an email telling me I owed $85 in taxes to Customs. I figured it was spam and deleted it. Then I got a phone call saying the same exact thing.

Come on ... I wasn’t told I had to pay that???

In the end, I had to pay for the package to come to the US and the fees were actually MORE than my order total. MORTIFIED!

Wow, Vera! This is good information for us to remember when we're thinking of ordering from overseas retailers.

I've ordered from British retailers Topshop and ASOS and never had to pay customs, but now I'm wondering ...

Has this customs problem ever happened to you?

It doesn't seem fair to me that the website didn't make it crystal clear to Vera that she might face customs charges. Dorothy Perkins has a detailed explanation of shipping costs to every international country it will ship to -- but in order to find a blurb on customs charges, I had to actually leave the site and search for it on Yahoo!

Here's what has to say:

All orders are subject to checking by Customs which may delay the delivery of your order. Any additional duty or customs charges applicable in the destination country are payable by the recipient.

Even then if I had read this blurb, I would never have guessed that the amount I'd have to pay in customs would exceed the amount of the order!

I looked for more information on how customs costs are determined. actually has a helpful blurb on its site about customs:

The recipient of an international shipment may be subject to such import taxes, customs duties and fees, which are levied once a shipment reaches your country. Additional charges for customs clearance must be borne by the recipient; we have no control over these charges and cannot predict what they may be. Customs policies vary widely from country to country; you should contact your local customs office for further information. When customs clearance procedures are required, it can cause delays beyond our original delivery estimates.

Basically, what this tells me is -- don't ask the retailer how much it's going to be in customs fees.

They don't know.

From what I can gather, it's hit or miss as to whether your overseas purchase will be charged a customs fee -- and if it is, it can be fairly high. One regular overseas buyer of clothing and bags said she mentally adds on 20 percent for potential customs costs to the price when she's trying to decide whether or not to buy, then decides whether or not it's still a good deal.

It all seems a little crazy to me. Perhaps in the future, I'll just buy online from businesses here in the States!

How about you?


Image via Dorothy Perkins

clothes, shopping, horrors


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tinyp... tinypossum

I've bought from Boden and never had a problem, but then I always buy from so maybe they treat that site differently. I know some of my purchases have come from the UK, though. 

Linds... LindsayFerrier

Nope, she said that the customs fees were more than the cost of the clothing. That's what freaked me out!

tinypossum, I buy from Boden all the time- I'm guessing they have a distributor here in the US because I'm pretty sure all my packages have come from the states.

Rhond... RhondaVeggie

It's really hit or miss. I know a number of people who order cigarettes from abroad because they are half the price but if customs catches you they work out a bit more expensive and you need to get to a main post office to collect them. My mother only tried it once because she was caught the first time and it was a 28 mile round trip and the customs charge was more than the cost of her order.

One correction though. Dorothy Perkins is not slightly upscale of forever 21, it's much better than that. Ann Taylor Loft would be a better comparison. I have stuff from Dorothy Perkins that is more than ten years old and still in good shape. It's not like your friend was buying cheap junk and got slapped with an extra fee, it's stuff that she will get her money's worth from anyway.

Marsh... MarshaCWP

Wow.  I've ordered from the UK a few times, and have never been hit with this fee.  I guess I've just been lucky.  I wonder if the size of the package increases the chance of it being stopped.  All my packages have been small:  a book or a beauty product not available in the US.

mrsuk... mrsukyankee

I've gotten smacked by customs in the past but I'm in London and ordering stuff from the US.  Here, I believe customs is interested in anything over a certain amount of money & then they are meant to charge a percentage...I've never had to pay more than my bill! 

Sandya6 Sandya6

I am trying to deal with this situation, and Dorothy Perkins Customer Service (CS) has been absolutely useless. I ordered clothes worth $174.25, and am charged customs fees of $61.25. There is no Customs charge for personal orders under $200.00, the US Customs and Border representative confirmed it. Then DP shipping agent sent me the invoice DP had issued for my package-for $205.00. I told them it is incorrect, but they refuse to do anything about it. DP CS tells me that they issued the correct invoice, and that their shipper is not the one who has been communicating with me. DP has left me to deal with this mess that has been caused by their mistake, claiming that they have no contact with their shipper- I find this very hard to believe. It appears as if DP is sending stuff via their shipper who is pawning off things to the other group that contacted me, and they are making money off innocent customers who don't realize that US Customs is not actually imposing any tax. I have never had issues with any other British store in the past, and never been charged spurious customs fees. DP's dealings are shady and despicable-not only are they cheating trusting customers, they are also fleecing the US Customs and Border of money they are claiming in its name! All I want is for DP to refund my money now, and I shall make sure that neither I nor any of my friends/ acquaintances ever do business with them. I hope some customer advocate can help me.

nonmember avatar Nancy

I'm another victim. I made the foolish mistake of placing 3 orders from Dorothy Perkins. Lord help me. So far I've been hit with cutoms fees of $97 and $112. I hope the last order doesn't get hit with fees too. The first two orders were valued at over $200 each. The last order was less than $200. This has been an expensive lesson. Interestingly, I've ordered from ASOS, House of Fraser and Oasis Clothing without being charged customs fees.

nonmember avatar becky

I am wondering how you found out about this custom fee? I received an email from and I don't know if its a phishing spam or legit. It just wants me to give my credit card info, but it has the DP order number on it. I don't know what to do.

nonmember avatar nonmember3

^ I received the same email and it seems ur the only one in the same situation as me, it looks extremely sketchy.

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