You think you’re so clever, but you forget about the VAT


in Daily updates, Geek stuff, Rants

So much for saving money by using price differences between the US and UK version of Amazon. Today, I received not my headphones, but the duty bill for them:

Cost of headphones from US$75 (C$85) (£40)
Shipping from USA to UK: US$26 (C$29)
UK Value Added Tax: £12 (C$25)
UK Parcelforce Clearance Fee: £14 (C$30)
Total: C$169 (Ack! Ack!)
Delivery time: about five weeks

Cost on (with all taxes and shipping): £74 (C$156)
Delivery time: 4-6 days

In any case, I suppose I will cycle the five miles or so out to Kidlington (where the depot is) to pick them up either after my tutorials today or tomorrow. Many thanks to Jessica for her help with the ungainly trans-shipment process above.

The moral of the story: ye who think you can get $160 headphones for $85 are probably mistaken.

[Update: 9:01pm] I rode the six and a half miles to the pickup depot. I paid the $100 in taxes. I put in the headphones with the flanged eartips… and was disappointed. It sounded more precise than the default iPod earphones, but not enormously better. An hour later, I tried the foam eartips and I understood. Tori has never sounded more astounding. If it keeps up for a few years, the Etymotic ER6i headphones will have been worth every cent.

[Update: 2 August] It should be further noted that the Etymotic customer service people are unusually polite and helpful. I wanted to order the larger flanged tips to see if they work as well as the medium foam tips. There was no time spent on hold at all, and I was immediately put in touch with someone who is going to send me the large flanged eartips internationally for free. Such things are always pleasant surprises.

[Update: 8 August] I got the larger and smaller alternative eartips for the Etymotics today. The large flanged ones work much better than the normal flanged ones, but don’t sound quite as good as the normal foam eartips. That said, the normal foam ones get somewhat gross quite quickly and are hard to clean. I think I will mostly stick with the large flanged eartips.

[Update: 30 January 2007] I had a few minutes of abject panic today, when it seemed that the right earbud in my pair of excellent but expensive Etymotic ER6i headphones had dropped to 10% of its original volume. I had been listening for a few straight hours, working on a paper, and found myself wondering why the song I was listening to was so biased to the left. Thankfully, when I called their very helpful tech support people, we realized that it was just a clogged filter. I replaced it with one of the replacements included in the original set and all is well. (Actually, the right side is a bit louder now, but the filters are $2.50 each and I should wait until the other is more clogged).

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Anonymous August 1, 2006 at 11:23 am

What kind of headphones cost $160? And why would anyone buy them?

You are no longer allowed to complain about being short on cash, if you are buying such decadent items.

Milan August 1, 2006 at 11:29 am

If I had known they were going to cost so much, I would not have purchased them. Initially, I bought headphones that cost about $70, but which fell apart in a little over a month. (the Sony EX-71s) Instead of a refund, they sent me a replacement pair. I sold those on eBay, and then ordered the Etymotic ER6is, which I expected to be about $85 plus shipping: a bit more for headphones I have heard are superb and quite durable.

I had never been charged duty on any packages before and, if you remove that little surprise, the price looks a lot more reasonable. If the headphones last for three years and I listen to them for several hours a day (as is entirely normal for me), I would say the investment will still have paid itself back.

All that said, I do feel embarrassed about spending so much.

Jessica August 1, 2006 at 4:25 pm

Urgh, the best laid plans of poor college students often go awry.
On the bright side, I’ve had my Etys for almost two years and they continue to operate beautifully, in spite of my rather abusive behavior towards them. I really ought to be nicer to my electronics.

And Anonymous, take a little while and cruise around You’ll soon discover that there are a lot of people who happily pay considerably more than $160 for headphones. Of course, it’s arguable that they have more money than brains, but who am I to judge another’s obsession?

Milan August 1, 2006 at 4:32 pm

“Of course, it’s arguable that they have more money than brains, but who am I to judge another’s obsession?”

Stereos of the rich and famous

R.K. August 1, 2006 at 11:57 am

Everything I have heard and read about the Etymotic ER6i headphones suggests they are a good buy for anyone who want lose or abuse them.

$163 / (365 * 3) = $0.14

$70 / 90 = $0.78

If the Sony’s cost $70 and lasted less than two months, using the three-year figure for the ER6is shows them to be a much better deal.

Jessica August 1, 2006 at 5:43 pm

Hmmm…$13,000 is a bit steep, even with the naked lady attachment.

Milan August 1, 2006 at 9:03 pm


You will be astounded to learn that the naked lady isn’t even included.

Antonia August 2, 2006 at 12:09 pm

Glad the whole saga is finished to your auditory satisfaction, if not your financial.

Audiophile August 4, 2006 at 2:12 pm

The real glory of headphones like the ER6is doesn’t come out until you listen to something classical and dramatic. Give it a try.

Milan August 4, 2006 at 4:01 pm


You’re quite right. I just finished listening to the entire 9th on the new headphones and it was definitely the piece that improved most, compared to how it sounded on my iBook speakers or my old headphones.

DBT August 4, 2006 at 6:39 pm

…while the two white girls next to me talk about the opera!
La Traviata…
I only saw it once, but, like, oh my God, I cried.

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