How time flies. It’s been ages since I updated this place; one reason being, I’ve been hellishly busy during the last few weeks. I was on holiday for most of January, and for the whole of February I took on the RPM Challenge again.
This year I didn’t think I’d be able to write ten songs – it was a bit of a stretch last year – so this time I went for the other target of 35 minutes of music. To make things more interesting I opted for just two tracks, with the intention of recording something that’s equivalent to two sides of 12″ vinyl.
I recorded a new track as a sort-of christmas present to the internet. It seemed like an appropriate gesture, even if the end result was less than a hundred per cent satisfactory.
It’s another instrumental guitar/bass/drum track piece, which will probably be the last one I do in that format. This type of arrangement is getting a bit stale to me, and I want to try a few new things anyway.
It wasn’t until I had to attend a conference on ‘cinematic wireless’ several weeks later that I found myself on the early morning streamliner from Low Central. There had been a great deal of uncertainty surrounding the election result, which made for a gloomy mood nationwide for several weeks afterwards. Business was bad, and rumours were rife.
I’m a regular commuter.
You will find me on the 0712 from Low Central station or the 1836 back from Avalon Street East, on the second Cross Line that runs between the north-east and south-west reaches. My employment isn’t particularly remarkable but suffice to say I started my days as a lowly-paid apprentice in the main Drawing Office during the war years but for whatever reason, even as I rose to the top of Research & Development, I found myself as the trusted member of the company who represented the ageing Director on business trips.
Since this particular case is now cut and dried, I figured there’s no harm in reproducing my complaint to PF and the reply I received. The ‘incoming links’ to my previous post made for depressing reading however…someone seemed to think I want to rip off HMRC by trying to avoid paying customs VAT, which is categorically not true!
That sort of reaction’s a shame really, because I’m actually very sympathetic to RMG’s workforce. What’s causing my frustration (and others too, such as the writer of this excellent piece) is a management decision, and the employees have to work under difficult conditions: a changing business model in which bulky online mail order items are replacing letters, for instance. Furthermore, some poor souls have to deal with the letters and e-mails of complaint, and take the flak off us via Twitter too.
This whole affair has a negative effect on customer trust and satisfaction, and must be harming morale among RMG employees. I want these articles to be constructive, not “whingeing” as someone put it. What I’d like to see happen is the system being made fairer for all concerned. Customers shouldn’t be made to feel like criminals when they buy goods legally abroad and are fully prepared to pay customs; and RMG shouldn’t need to resort to clawing back extra revenue through trumped-up charges.
The nature of the delivery business IS changing, and if the RMG’s commitment to its customers is more than lip service, this practice of forcing us to pay for unsolicited services needs to stop. Otherwise, it’s simply an act of hiding behind a change in the law to make more profit on their part.
My e-mail of complaint was:
Many of us shop online, and quite often the stuff comes from abroad and incurs certain customs charges. I don’t mean things like alcohol and tobacco: I mean ordinary consumer goods like DVDs, music CDs and electronics.
This article isn’t about HMRC and Customs either, or avoiding paying what you legally should pay; their website isn’t the most user-friendly around, but it gives a detailed run-down of what customs duty and import VAT are, and how much you should expect to pay for what. This is about the UK postal service’s part in this…and what we can – and can’t – do about their policy on delivering parcels sent from abroad.
Customs charges and postage
Import VAT is levied on most imported goods from outside the EU, and is usually charged at the standard 20% rate. When calculating how much import VAT you need to pay, bear in mind that HMRC charge a percentage of the item(s) AND the postage cost. When ordering stuff from abroad, you need to take into account both the cost of your items AND the shipping!
When you order from abroad, the sender attaches a customs note that indicates the contents of the package and their value. It is then processed by HMRC, the relevant charges levied, and is then passed on to a UK courier for delivery to the recipient’s address. This is where it gets problematic.
I often wondered whether Mrs K genuinely had a cause for celebration whenever she invited her two children out for dinner or whether it formed some convenient excuse just to eat out and be a little extravagant. There was certainly an air of forced obligation when I escorted her daughter to the now-familiar fish restaurant – although, considering how the events earlier on that day had played out, it’s fair to say her daughter was escorting me – and met the elder of the two females of the family outside. It was at this point that I realised how infrequently I’d seen Stu in the company of his own mother in public, which may or may not have been the real reason for his outward look of unease. Oddly, he seemed to be guarded around his sister too, so I certainly felt as though I was in a bit of an awkward position. It was about to get even more awkward.
I wanted an interesting – but not too technically challenging – guitar project to give me an alternative to my trusty Jazzmaster when recording guitar overdubs. I liked the idea of a shortscale and since the Mustang circuitry is a little less complicated than the Jaguar I bought up a Japanese-made body and neck and set to work.
Generally the build isn’t a huge departure from the 1965 reissue that Fender currently sell, although I’ve gone for CIJ hardware (tuners, bridge, pickguard and tremolo) to make sure the parts are all compatible and fit correctly. There are some small yet significant differences between the USA and import instruments that aren’t necessarily noticeable to a player but can be problematic when building one.
The following week passed without incident. That is, without incident apart from the delivery of the music album I’d managed to win at auction and the quiet satisfaction I enjoyed in her attempts to hide her enthusiasm when it arrived. I’d received an update msg from Stu, ominously in the coded format of the company’s internal cipher that instructed me to sit tight while he worked out the particulars of the contract negotiations, but otherwise the whole job was still up in the air.
Standing in the middle of the shallow stream, wearing dark green waders and casting out his line, the Fisherman eyes me with a strange mixture of tired disdain and fatherly familiarity.
“You should listen to your elders and betters, ya know?” He speaks with seriousness and urgency behind the façade of friendliness. “My kids are about your age and they’re exactly the same. Always pokin’ their noses in where they don’t belong. Bitin’ of more than they can chew…”