Saturday, July 13, 2013 Charges More For Alaska Shipping Because of Customs

I know, everyone has stories about people being told that Alaska is a foreign country so they charge more or won't ship something at all.  This is not new.  But this is 2013 and it's ridiculous.

The off-brand battery that I bought for my handset for my landline phone at Frigid North a while back was not charging well anymore, even though the original Panasonic battery in the other phone was still reasonably better.  Phone conversations suddenly ended because the battery would go out.

I finally decided to check on line and immediately found the original Panasonic battery at  It was less than $5.  When I put it in my cart,  a popup window said I could also buy two more batteries for under $8.  The other battery is starting to lose juice fast too, so I said ok.   I looked up the shipping options and saw that Alaska and Hawaii would be charged more.

But when it showed me the bill it was three batteries for about $12, plus $2.95 shipping. That sounded fine.  The off brand battery I'd bought at Frigid North had cost about $18.  So I clicked to go to the checkout.  I gave them the pay info and then clicked purchase.

That's when I got a receipt that showed the shipping was $9.80 almost three times what I'd agreed to.  But I was checked out already.

So I did a chat online with someone.  I explained I understood that Alaska and Hawaii sometimes had higher shipping charges, but he should get the IT folks to show that before we've paid, not after.  He sounded like he might or might not pass the word on.

A couple days later I got an email saying it had been shipped - USPS first class.  I know that the post office is pretty equitable about the cost of postage.  I got the online USPS calculator and put in their zipcode in City of Commerce and my zipcode in Anchorage.  I didn't know how much it would be, but I guessed 6 ounces.  $2.53.  [When they finally came it turned out to be 4 ounces which the calculator says should be $2.24.]

Then I repeated this and put in a Seattle zipcode instead Anchorage.  $2.53.

So, as I suspected, there was no difference and they were charging me three times as much because someone believed it cost more to ship to Alaska.

This time I called and talked to a very nice woman who listened.  At first she was programmed to say, but you're in Alaska, but I got through that.  She understood what I was saying and put me on hold.  When she came back she said, it's because it has to go through customs.

Wait.  Alaska is a state in the United States.  You don't need a passport to come here and you don't go through customs.  Customs?  That's ridiculous.  It's not true.

She put me on hold while she went back to talk to someone else.

Now she said it was more because it was shipped in two different shipments.  We have lots of different warehouses. Why, I asked, would they do that?  It was three identical batteries.  They all should come from the same place.  It would have been cheaper for me to buy four batteries (ordering the two/fer price) than three batteries because the battery is much less than the shipping.  I also mentioned my issue about not being told the correct shipping price until after I bought the product.

She got it down, wrote it up and said she'd get it to the people who could help.

A couple of days later, I got a customer satisfaction survey online from Overstocked.  I decided to leave it in my email until I got the batteries.

Then a day or two later, the batteries arrived.  All three in one package.

Next I found the email with the link to the survey and explained it all once more.  That the price was the same to Seattle as to Anchorage, so we shouldn't be charged more, that there was only one package so I shouldn't have been told there were two, etc.

The survey was clearly sent because I'd used their customer service and I'm guessing they'll be able to track the two people who helped me and give them feedback - I said they were fine, they didn't have the power to fix things.

But how long will Alaskans continue be treated like another country?  


  1. When I was in graduate school, on the first day we had an assembly in which the dean welcomed all the new students -- people from 47 states, and 132 different undergrad universities, and 13 foreign countries, including France, India and Hawaii.

  2. I've had companies tell me they don't sell to Alaska. Period.

    I think that it's time we collected a blacklist of companies that treat us as second class citizens and publicize it.

  3. I got two comments on Sept. 20, 2013. The second one read:

    "I feel ya man, shipping in Alaska is crazy. I wonder if it has to do with so many towns being so remote. Or maybe people are just biased."

    Both had links to a shipping service in Alaska. I've deleted them both because they didn't just come out and explain the link they put in and how it might help the problem discussed in this post. Steve T if you are a real person, try again.


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