Why did my international move cost $4,000 more than the original quote?

When Mark Hassan shipped his personal belongings back to the U.S. from Singapore, he paid his shipping company, Allied Pickfords Malaysia, $11,000 prior to the move.

He didn’t expect any problems when the shipment arrived at the port of Savannah, near where he resides. And he certainly didn’t expect to shell out more cash for the shipment to reach his home.

Unfortunately Hassan’s shipment was selected by U.S. Customs and Border Protection for a more thorough inspection. That delayed delivery for almost a month and resulted in an additional $4,000 cost to Hassan.

Hassan subsequently contacted our advocacy team and said he shouldn’t be responsible for the additional charge. “Shipment was 25 days late without notification. [Port storage] was not in the quote or the terms and conditions [of the contract] but they will not deliver the goods to my home unless I pay.”

Hassan said he wanted the additional charges waived and claimed they were “unjustified” and a “scam.”

However, Hassan’s contract with Allied Pickfords applied only to standard customs fees. A representative for Allied Pickfords replied to Hassan that more intensive customs inspections are “out of the normal scope of customs inspection and therefore it was not included in our quote.”

She added that Hassan’s shipment “incurred additional port storage charges…due to the prolonged time it was under the intensive customs clearance. This is also outside of our normal scope of clearance and delivery and is also not included in our quote.”

The representative included an attachment to her email which outlined “What is included & What is not” regarding customs inspections. Had Hanson linked to Allied Pickfords’ website, he would have found more information, including an international brochure which discusses customs clearance delays that are “out of Allied Pickford’s control and may result in additional expenses.”

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There is also a plethora of information available at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s website, which includes information about moving household goods and personal effects to the United States after living abroad.

It is unclear what information Hassan obtained from Allied Pickfords prior to moving his personal items back to the U.S. In Hassan’s case, it would have been wise to double-check what additional charges, such as port storage fees, he might incur if his shipment was identified for a more intensive inspection at the port of entry, which might delay delivery of his personal items.

Nevertheless, our advocate contacted Allied Pickfords on Hassan’s behalf, but the company did not respond. When our advocate followed up with Hassan a few weeks later to inquire further if the company ever contacted him, he replied: “I ended up paying them so I could get my stuff. They blamed everything on customs and said it wasn’t their fault.”

Although our advocates can’t help, this is a cautionary tale about extra fees when you’re moving. One way to avoid additional port storage fees, for example, is to consult the moving company’s website to see what charges are covered by your contract and which ones are not. We like to remind our readers that it always pays to read the fine print in your contract.

We’re sorry we were unable to help Hassan recoup those additional port storage fees.

Michael Hinkelman

Michael Hinkelman is an award-winning journalist with more than 35 years experience. He has worked for daily newspapers in Atlanta and Philadelphia, most recently as a small-business columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News, before retiring in 2016. In 1993, Hinkelman won a prestigious Gerald Loeb Award for Distinguished Business and Financial Journalism for an investigation into the finances of the Atlanta Public Schools. In 2016, he was a lecturer in media relations at the University of Pennsylvania's Fels Institute of Government. Read more of Michael's stories here.

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