new review of Southern Winds International

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paul sanderson
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Joined: Tue Apr 01, 2014 2:10 am

new review of Southern Winds International

Postby paul sanderson » Wed Apr 02, 2014 4:08 pm

I moved back to Australia from New York after losing my wife to cancer. I chose Southern Winds International, with some reservations, after reading posts on this site. It was a very hard move for me to go through emotionally. Making it worse from the start was the truck breaking down and arriving late that morning. I was due to catch a plane in the late afternoon, so there I was helping carry down a lot of the heavier boxes from my 6th-floor walkup apartment to ensure I could get to the airport in time.

But I paid my expenses with Southern Winds in a timely manner. I did the same with the cost of the Australian Customs (AQIS) exam with the moving company here because it was excluded from the agreement.

These were Southern Winds International's clearly listed exclusions:
WHAT DOES THIS SERVICE EXCLUDE:
AQIS exam, fumigation, 3rd party / handyman service (large wardrobes / items difficult to set-up), flights of stairs, long carries (walk more than 75 feet from front door to truck), shuttle, motorcycles, unpacking boxes. Destination agent GST excluded on additional services.

Southern Winds has a hold on the delivery of my shipment because of a U.S. Customs inspection. The company should be aware of a possible U.S. inspection but it was not in the list of exclusions in the agreement. Why have a list for you to be aware of/agree to in signing the agreement, by a company that's been doing this a while, if you're not going to stick to it? But I offered to pay the actual cost of the inspection anyway, $325, as shown in the invoice Southern Winds received. Southern Winds is insisting on added costs such as "ADMINISTRATION FEE $225" and "COORDINATION FEE $75" taking the cost of the examination of my shipment from $325 to $847.

I am going through extreme grief over the loss of my wife. Michael Gilbert at Southern Winds is well aware of that. Yet, once a money issue was involved, the tone/approach of his emails, with no justification, has been incredibly upsetting to me, causing me severe mental/emotional duress. He has even sent the same email to multiple email addresses of mine at the same time, sometimes attaching copious irrelevant previous correspondence.

Yesterday I sent a letter to the company here, Australian Vanlines, asking why the shipment is on hold when Southern Winds can provide no legal basis for doing so. I have paid all money due in accordance with the agreement. First thing this morning there were 3 emails in my inbox from Southern Winds resuming that pattern of harassment, attaching documents they had already sent the day before. The tone, perhaps in relation to my correspondence with Australian Vanlines about them, now seems to be carefully modified, but the demand is no less.

As I've mentioned, I offered to pay the $325 anyway, which I think was fair. It was more than fair given such things as my having been assured that the cost of the shipment would be lowered from the estimate if I reduced the weight, with no mention of container volume. That was part of my choosing to use Southern Winds. I spent days getting rid of household goods, books, chairs, clothing, dumbbells, a heavy vintage sewing machine, etc., hundreds of kilos, and yet the price was not lowered from the estimate by a single dollar.

Getting settled back here has been tough enough already. And now that I am ready to move into a place, I am facing an apartment with no furniture. I'm someone who functions on an ethical basis, and Southern Winds just keeps skirting around the principles involved. I can't afford to pay for the furnished unit I'm in and one I'll be moving to, so I'm going to either have to let the new apartment go, which has taken so long to find, or have to borrow a mattress from someone and sleep on the floor within the next day or two.

As if my grief over my wife isn't enough to cope with every day. I moved back to Australia to get away from the memories of fighting her cancer together through four hospitals in New York, and this is what I'm faced with here--because Southern Winds is demanding a payment they are responsible for according to the contract, and making it far worse by charging exorbitant administrative costs they should be absorbing, instead of profiting from the situation.

MusicMom
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Joined: Wed Feb 25, 2004 11:51 am
Location: DC Metro

Re: new review of Southern Winds International

Postby MusicMom » Thu Apr 03, 2014 7:25 am

I am truly sorry for the loss of your wife, and for any stress you may be feeling during this time of healing.

I'm not a professional mover, but I have seen this item addressed several times on this board by the pros. I copied and pasted this paragraph from our article on international moving (emphasis added by me):
http://www.movingscam.com/articles/a-gu ... l-shipping
1. The Shipper

This is you, the person doing the shipment. You are also the “Exporter” (the person exporting goods from the country of origin) and the “Importer” (the person importing goods into the destination country). It is very important that you understand that as the “Shipper” you are accepting responsibility for the legality of the goods that are being shipped, any import duties, supplying paperwork, and, most importantly, any charges that might arise in the event of some unusual occurrence like a port strike, a customs inspection, or an unusual delivery situation. Therefore you need to make sure that you know all of the rules for importing to the specific country to which you are shipping. You should also budget extra money in the event that it is needed.


We don't know what caused US Customs to inspect your load, but whatever it was, it is not the mover's responsibility. Just because it wasn't listed in the exclusions doesn't mean they have to pay for that extra cost.

What are the documents you are being emailed? Could they be an attempt to explain what it is you're asking about the extra administrative fees? Lastly, I'm not seeing how sending you emails twice over two days (granted to multiple addresses yes, but "Send" was clicked only once each time) can be considered harassment. Is his tone threatening? Have you asked him in the past to not contact you any more? Are they beyond the scope of your business relationship?

It seems to me, and please tell me if I'm understanding you correctly, that you're willing to pay the cost of the inspection, but not the resulting administrative fees. If you were able to receive a sufficient explanation, either from Southern Winds or from another professional international mover, what those fees might be for, would you feel better about paying them? I'm making an educated guess that a Customs inspection requires staff members of the moving company to be involved, and the fee simply pays for that extra work, but one of the pros is going to have to confirm for sure. What would it take for you to feel better about paying these fees and moving on to delivery? I don't see how you're going to get out of it, nor do I see that they are asking something unreasonable. It's best to pay it, get your things, and move ahead on the next portion of your life, but I'd like to see if we can get you an understanding of the purpose of those fees so you don't feel you've been scammed.

MusicMom
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Location: DC Metro

Re: new review of Southern Winds International

Postby MusicMom » Fri Apr 04, 2014 6:56 am

Paul, a seasoned pro has given more information for you:

JAHaddow wrote:First you need to know that the exams are ordered by the Customs office at each port and are random. That said, I have found the over 90% to 99% of import household goods shipments are now being examined. When I quote an import container I now urge the shipper or company that is requesting destination services in the US to plan for the exam.

There are two possible inspections that can occur. The first one is called a VICAS exam which is an x-ray of the container. The costs for this range from about $250 to $500 or so. These costs are charges from the steamship line for the documentation and the costs for the container to be x-rayed. There could be costs for demurrage if it takes a long time waiting for the exam to be completed.

The second is called a CET extensive examination. This happens if the customs examiner decides that they want a more intensive exam and has the container pulled to a bonded warehouse where that facility provides a crew to unload the container. Once unloaded, the customs officer comes in and examines the shipment for whatever they wanted to see. The cost for this is charged by the exam facility. The charges have a myriad of fees they charge. The costs can range from $1300 for a 20' to $2000 or more for a 40' container. Just a quick note, Each exam facility tariff should be available somewhere on the US Customs website or the exam centers website.

If the shipper is the only person in the container, that shipper pays the full cost for the exams. If you have a partial of LCL shipment then the consolidator usually charges you based on how much of the container your shipment took.

Now, here is the rub. Some companies will charge more for the exam as additional profit. Others will just charge the costs with possibly a small handling fee. Each company is different.

I would ask the NVOCC or the forwarder to document the charges and provide a detailed list of the number of shipments in the container showing the master bill of lading so you can determine what percentage of the container your shipment took. I would then ask for receipts from the steamship lines and the exam facility and demand that they prove that you were charged according to the percentage you used. I am not sure if there are any rules on how a company charges for inspections and if they can mark these charges up.

paul sanderson
Posts: 3
Joined: Tue Apr 01, 2014 2:10 am

Re: new review of Southern Winds International

Postby paul sanderson » Sun Apr 06, 2014 9:52 pm

JA, thanks for your post.

The only invoice with a charge to Southern Winds International is for the $325, and then Michael Gilbert wrote in an email that there were added charges related to "the inspection - very expensive." "Very expensive?" Aren't the charges on invoices exact amounts? And he goes on to tell me I can call (internationally) to verify. I wouldn't tell me charges made to a company I'm not part of for their load. And I'm in no condition to go through all the rigmarole that would involve, being shuffled from one person to another, etc. Nor should I have to do it.

Where are the charges to Southern Winds International made by invoice? All the charges they say they paid that they want me to pay in relation to my shipment. And then there are administrative costs piled on that were not agreed to in the contract either.

And, anyway, a contract is binding. Only the AQIS exam was included. The possibility of a U.S. customs exam was not even mentioned. Why not? If they incur these general charges, not from any duty or such on my goods/my shipment re a customs exam, as part of their consolidated shipping process, it's their responsibility not mine.

Some companies include or exclude certain fees and others don't. That's what the terms of an agreement are for; otherwise any and all kinds of charges, routine or not, could be added along the way. It was not included in the agreement, and the agreement was drawn up by an experienced moving company. It's the basis we use in choosing one company over another.

This company has obviously proven to be unreliable from the other issues I refer to in my post.

I was even sent a "2nd Notice" to pay the new charges effectively one business day after the first notice was sent. Isn't that pretty much unheard of? A little suspect in relation to the charges?

If everyone acquiesces to such added charges, especially with no documentation of them, that's how this kind of thing is perpetuated. If they insist on holding my shipment illegally, there is obviously leeway, from that elusive "very expensive," for them to substantially lower the price they are illegally demanding in order for my goods to be freed.
Last edited by paul sanderson on Mon Apr 07, 2014 4:00 pm, edited 1 time in total.

MusicMom
Posts: 19323
Joined: Wed Feb 25, 2004 11:51 am
Location: DC Metro

Re: new review of Southern Winds International

Postby MusicMom » Mon Apr 07, 2014 7:19 am

But they're not doing anything illegal. They are giving you poor customer service, I'll give you that. I'm going to see if I can track down a guy I used to talk to who works there and see if he can find out some info for you, but it's been a while so I can't guarantee anything at this point.

What I would recommend you do is to pay the inspection fee, the admin fees, and get your stuff delivered, then talk to the head of the company about getting either a better explanation or a refund of the administrative costs. The inspection costs will have to be borne by you, whether or not it was listed in the contract, because that is out of the hands of the mover.

Then, when everything's been delivered, file a complaint with the Federal Maritime Commission. Again, they're not doing anything wrong, per se, but you do have the right to make your opinion known about their service for you. And if the FMC determines that SW did in fact do something wrong, they are the ones who can get you money back.

Unfortunately, digging in your heels about paying this is only going to make things worse. They're not going to release your shipment without paying for that US Customs inspection.

MusicMom
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Joined: Wed Feb 25, 2004 11:51 am
Location: DC Metro

Re: new review of Southern Winds International

Postby MusicMom » Tue Apr 08, 2014 7:26 am

I sent an email off to the person I know at Southern Winds. Hopefully he'll reply soon, see if we can get to the bottom of this.

Speaking of emails, what was your response to the multiple emails Michael sent? Did you ask him why he was sending it to so many of your addresses?

MusicMom
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Joined: Wed Feb 25, 2004 11:51 am
Location: DC Metro

Re: new review of Southern Winds International

Postby MusicMom » Fri Apr 11, 2014 8:17 am

Hi, Paul, I wanted to check in with you after a few days and find out how things are going with communicating with SW.

paul sanderson
Posts: 3
Joined: Tue Apr 01, 2014 2:10 am

Re: new review of Southern Winds International

Postby paul sanderson » Fri Apr 11, 2014 4:59 pm

I guess you didn't get a reply from the person you know there? I'm assuming they're unaware of this review.

Paul

MusicMom
Posts: 19323
Joined: Wed Feb 25, 2004 11:51 am
Location: DC Metro

Re: new review of Southern Winds International

Postby MusicMom » Tue Apr 22, 2014 8:29 am

Honestly, I've just come back from vacation and haven't yet checked that email account. I'm not trying to get involved though, just wanted to see if they were getting in touch with you for your various questions.

What contact have you had in the last week with them? Any resolutions? Have you replied to the emails that you were sent?


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