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More NAFTA Woes

More NAFTA Woes

June 22nd, 2009  · stk

Once again, NAFTA fails to level the consumer playing field. This time, I ended up shopping in the United States for a Motorola MR350R two-way radio. I can't even get the bloody thing in Canada, at the moment. Find out why.

Motorola TalkAbout MR350R Two-Way Radios

On January 6th, 2009, Motorola unveiled its 2009 collection of TalkAbout two-way radios at a trade show in Las Vegas. On June 8th, 2009, Motorola declares the MR350R two-way radio is a "Perfect Father's Day Gift for Adventurous Dads".

I didn't know anything about the Motorola MR350R two-way radio until just prior to Father's Day, when I spied it for sale in a Canadian TigerDirect catalog. After reading the specifications Motorola MR350R Specs Motorola MR350R two-way radios specs Key Features  · Range of 35 miles  · 22 channels (each w/121 privacy codes)  · Dual power (3 AA batteries & NiMH pack)  · Battery Life: 27h (Alkaline), 9h (NiMH)  · Built-in iVOX hands-free  · Built-in LED Flashlight  · 7 NOAA & 4 EC Marine Weather channels  · Weather alert mode  · 20 call tones & "VibraCall" mode  · PTT Power boost  · Keypad lock, audible low battery, emergency alert, flexible charging options.   Click pop-up/link for specs at Motorola's website , the MR350R radio did appear to be an excellent communications tool for around our 5-acre property and floating cabin. Because both locations have spotty-to-no cell phone coverage and the radios also receive government weather alerts, they would be as much for safety, as for convenience.

Unlike most power tools I want, it didn't require a lot of convincing to sell the idea to Rachel. Yay! It looked like I might indeed be getting a cool "Father's Day" gift! All I had to do - I thought - was telephone TigerDirect and order it.

That's when problems began.

To learn why I ended up - again - purchasing the MR350R Motorola two-way radios in the United States and not Canada, why Canadians aren't getting a fair shake from NAFTA and how companies - like Motorola - downplay the Canada marketplace ... read on.

Canadian MR350R Radios: Zero

I hit the Canadian TigerDirect website, looking for the "latest low price" for the Motorola MR350R 2-way Radio, but where the price should be, was a notice saying "This Item is Currently Unavailable".

"Hmmm," I thought, "so much for getting the latest low price."

I telephoned TigerDirect and placed an order for the item. After the representative plugged in the catalog number, he informed me that it wasn't available. He did say, however, that the computer showed that a shipment of 180 units was expected "at the end of June".

I wonder if TigerDirect ever had any of these radios in stock? Maybe they printed the catalog expecting a shipment would arrive prior to catalog distribution time? Who knows.

"No big deal," I thought, "Surely there's another Canadian retailer that has these radios in stock." I headed to the Internet and poked around at some of the other Canadian electronics stores - BestBuy, London Drugs, Future Shop, NCIX and WalMart.


I searched google, targeting "canada-only" sites for "mr350r motorola", looking for a retailer from which to purchase this two-way radio.


"OKAY," I thought, "Time to head south of the border"


American MR350R Radios: Zillions

I swiped the specification title in Internet Explorer 8, right-clicked and hit the "Search with ShopZilla" accelerator. Up popped a page with no less than 14 retailers (all in the United States) offering the "Motorola TALKABOUT MR350". Prices ranged from $56 USD to $79.99 USD ($64.40 CAD to $91.98 CAD), all substantially less than the $107.99 TigerDirect catalog price.

Of course, shipping costs often negate price savings for items purchased in the United States and of course - any "free shipping" deals - only apply within the lower 48 states.

International shipping policies and rates very widely amongst U.S. retailers. Many don't do "International", and some add an "including Canada" (but omit the implied "so don't even ask, you hoser!"). Others allow shipping, but lump Canada in with every foreign country across the globe. I find it laughable that, for example, has the radio for sale at $61.99 USD ($71.28 CAD), but wants $121.42 USD ($139.64 CAD) to ship it to to our postal code, using UPS Worldwide Expedited delivery. Ouch!

It's is often possible, however, to find a retailer that has reasonable shipping policies for Canada. This is why it's worth digging around and trying check-outs at a number of U.S. online retailers. (Amazon has the radio for $61.12 and wants $35.75 to ship it to our postal code, but is also offering a $30 rebate if you sign up for the Rewards Visa Card, bringing the total to $66.87 USD or $76.90 CAD). That's reasonable.

I'm also assuming that the radio was made in North America and that any import duties levied by Canada Post, could be rebated, by filing for a refund: (a) follow the instructions on the back of the E14 invoice; or (b) fill out form CBSA B2G.

NAFTA at Work

Of course, NAFTA is supposed to allow for free trade between Mexico, Canada and the United States. One can see that it isn't working too well. So here's my consumer-oriented solution:

Buy the radio in the U.S. and mail it to friends and/or relatives in the lower 48, taking advantage of any "free shipping" deals. Those friends/relatives then either (a) repackage the item and foward it on, using a reasonably-priced mailing solution, declaring the item as a "gift" or (b) bring it with them, when they next come to Canada for a visit.

Does that sound sneaky? It certainly doesn't support any Canadian stores, nor Canada Post. But what the heck? If the item isn't available in Canada, what other solutions are there?.

And to Motorola Canada I ask, "Why aren't you bringing the latest technology - technology readily available in the United States - into Canada?" (If you go to the Motorola Canada website and search for "MR350R", it returns ZERO results - no specs, no product description, no press releases. It's as if Motorola Canada doesn't really "talk" to Motorola USA).

Shame on you!

And to I say, "Thanks for turning me on to the MR350R radios. Pity you didn't have any in stock, or I'd have purchased two, on the spot."

Shop on, brave hosers!

Some Canadian Shopping Bots:

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  5. Canadian Shopping Bot
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1.flag John Comment
Can't your FireFighter Association or pals get you something like this, without dealing with restrictive retailers and dodgy NAFTA limitations?
Canadian Emergency Services should have buying clout, tax clout and pretty good "mates rates" on prices.
2.flag stk Comment
John - In short, no.

Emergency equipment supplies (anything for fire, police or ambulance) is generally MORE expensive than consumer versions and our department orders only sporadically (volunteer is synonymous with "limited budget"). Also, the radios - though still manufactured by Motorola - are vastly different from the MR350R (consumer electronics) versions. These consumer electronics versions aren't even in the catalog.

Quite happy to have a U.S. "connection", just frustrated that Canadian consumers are getting the short end of the purchasing power stick.
3.flag Dan Comment

I bought a laptop off TigerDirect.

Price on TigerDirect USA: US$740

Price on CAD$2200 + tax + maybe duty (made in Asia) + maybe brokerage

They ship them out of the same warehouse in Naperville, Illinois...
4.flag stk Comment
Dan - Unreal, eh? (Thanks for sharing)

Hmmm ... we just bought an "all-in-one" computer from ... better go check.

Not as bad as yours, but still outrageous:

1) Canada ($742.99)

2) U.S.A. ($549.99)