Seeed Studio Experience

I’m going to share our experience dealing with one of Nvidia’s very few authorized resellers. Doubtless this is not the right forum, but it needs to be shared somewhere.

Obviously, getting hands on any Jetson product is nigh impossible, much less the Xavier NX. So when Nvidia’s own web page showed that Seeed Studio had them in stock, we jumped. They were backordered, but promised in a month or so. We thought they must be a trustworthy supplier, so we ordered three.

Couple months pass, promised date passes, and finally the order is cancelled because of lack of stock. Okay, fine, I get it. But MIRACULOUSLY, they are selling the dev board embedded inside of a cheap case and bundled with a $25 SSD and WiFi Antennas. In other words, they are taking the stock they receive, rebundling it, and scalping it. Something that surely must violate their authorized reseller agreement. At least it would for most companies; not sure about Nvidia.

That’s bad, but worse, Seeed emails saying sorry but our order of 3 NX dev boards is cancelled, but we should order these $850 beauties instead. Classic bait and switch scam…from an authorized reseller. Because we really thought we needed it, we order one of their Xavier Scalper editions for $850 plus tax and shipping.

A week later, we get notification that DHL is holding the shipment hostage for an ADDITIONAL $257 in duties. Absolutely no indication from Seeed that we might encounter this; not on the web page, during checkout, or anywhere. DHL says we should be able to refuse to pay and have it sent back. But Seeed refuses to respond to our inquiry, finally just now sending a message saying that we have to pay, otherwise DHL will destroy the package and we’ll be out $1000. We just caved and paid.

SOOOOO, we are now out a whopping $1300 to have an authorized reseller ship us a 2+ year-old, $400 computer. This is just trash-company kind of stuff! We are a VERY cash-strapped, not-for-profit startup run by volunteers and funded by donations, so this hurt. A LOT. I get that these are being scalped on eBay because Nvidia can’t deliver product. But Nvidia now at the very least seems complicit by allowing their resellers to perpetuate this kind of thing.

Regardless, I thought I’d share so that others don’t get trapped by this scam. And perhaps Nvidia may wish to take some action. Unfortunately, our action based on this and 12 months without product availability is likely to eat the (large) sunk development costs and abandon the Jetson platform entirely. We are very sad in many ways.

user73728,

Thank you for sharing this. We will look into it and resolve.

We looked into the issue, and I hope this reply will clarify things.

Having your original NVIDIA devkit order cancelled is something no one wanted, and I’m sorry it happened. Normally it’s fine for our authorized distributors to accept orders for items that they have on backorder with us, because they know we will ship those items, and they will be able to fulfill the customer’s order. However, with the supply crunch last year we ultimately had to cancel backorders from distributors when it was clear we could not fulfill them. In your case, Seeed then appropriately cancelled your order, and also offered their custom system as an alternative.

Let’s talk about that custom system. You wrote above:

they are selling the dev board embedded inside of a cheap case and bundled with… In other words, they are taking the stock they receive, rebundling it, and scalping it.

This is not correct. Their custom system does not include any parts from the NVIDIA Jetson Xavier NX Developer Kit. Instead, it includes a production Jetson Xavier NX module, their own A206 carrier board, and other peripherals as you mentioned. Seeed can price their products however they like of course, but I will point out the production Xavier NX module is $479 from Arrow in single unit quantities, and their standalone A206 carrier is priced at $199. From the $849 system price, that leaves $171 for heatsink, SSD, Wi-Fi, case, power supply, assembly, packaging, and profit.

(Please see these Jetson FAQs: What is the difference between Jetson Developer Kits and Jetson modules? and Can Jetson developer kits be used as production systems or as part of a product?)

A week later, we get notification that DHL is holding the shipment hostage for an ADDITIONAL $257 in duties.

I get it. After all the pain, you are now surprised to find that US Customs wants money. It’s unfortunate, but the fact is you ordered a Seeed Jetson SUB Mini PC to be shipped from China to the USA.

Absolutely no indication from Seeed that we might encounter this; not on the web page, during checkout, or anywhere.

I went through their order process myself to see what notice might be there to help the unwary. During the Order Review part of checkout, underneath the Order Total dollar amount, it does say “(Import duties excluded).” The Customs, Duties and Taxes section of their Shipping & Order help page has more detail, e.g., “You should expect to pay any amount charged by the government in your respective country.”

In the end I think you and I both share some responsibility for the travail you’ve experienced, but Seeed seems pretty much blameless. NVIDIA started things off when we were unable to fulfill the original order from Seeed, and that led to the rest of your experience.

I’ll close by saying we plan to share some good news later this month about development systems.

@prlawrence, thanks for checking on this and for the detailed reply.

You are likely right that much of our beef is with Nvidia itself. I’m one-degree removed from most of this debacle, so perhaps I should have dug a bit deeper. I was basing my scalping assertions on the first couple of screens worth of detail (pics and description). After digging deeper, obviously their A206 carrier board is designed to be essentially identical to the dev kit carrier; I guess the point would be to allow someone to use the same form factor in a production environment? Obviously, I likely mis-assumed on that count. I want to open the box and find out for sure that it’s the A206 and not the dev kit carrier (I trust this company not even a little), but I won’t since we’re likely going to sell it on eBay (see below for why we can’t just return it) and “new” is likely better than “open box.”

Regardless, I stand by the rest. Perhaps there’s naivete on our part, and the exorbitant pricing is not scalping, per se. But to turn around and just happen to be able to offer such a high-margin “alternative” (you know well that their actual costs in Shenzen on the carrier and accessories are well south of $100 and they certainly didn’t pay anything close to retail on the NX) when our backorder was cancelled certainly felt predatory. And their lack of response to email requests (receiving only an off-hand threatening one well after our initial contact) is inexcusable.

They have a five-day window in which to request an RMA. Surprisingly, they DID just get back to us on this. Guess what?!? Not only do we have to pay return shipping (we expected this), but they are offering us only $660 once they get it, claiming they have to pay import customs on the return. Not sure I believe that, and they sure-shootin’ don’t disclose that in their return policy. But no matter what, buying from Seeed is effectively a one-way street. Again, this is an authorized reseller–one linked directly from your website–and it reflects extremely poorly on you.

Regarding the US import duties, it is possible that the final price included small print. Again, I was one step removed. But a good company will provide full and prominent disclosure of these duties, not just enough to escape legal issues. They should give estimates, especially a company like Seeed who knows darn well that their US customers are used to working with high-quality domestic resellers like Amazon, B&H, Adafruit, Digikey, etc. Global shippers like DHL and UPS offer shipping choices that bundle the duties into the shipping costs, and they will also provide estimates of the duties if you choose otherwise. Perhaps in their desire to offer “free” shipping to appeal to US customers, they are not allowing their customers this option. Again, just very poor.

Finally, if shipments from Seeed do incur additional import duties, does this apply to unmodified Nvidia products (dev kit, SOM, etc.)? If so, then I strongly encourage you make this very, very clear in the “find a reseller” process. Because 25%+ added to the cost of this hardware is quite a lot to hide behind fine print. And if they don’t incur duties, this simply reinforces the seeedy nature of not clearly disclosing import duties since they would therefore be an unusual/unexpected expense.

Again, I really appreciate the follow-up. Truly I do. It speaks well of you and Nvidia to make this effort and to claim your share of responsibility. My desire is not to throw shade, but to help others not to make a similar painful mistake. And hopefully help you improve your overall customer experience. I like Nvidia products and will be a curious observer as you provide news on developer systems. And I’ll be very curious to see how things go with Orin. But we’re likely to be on the outside looking in, at least for the time being.

Hello user73728,
This is Ivy from Seeed and lead of Seeed’s Online Services, thank you for your feedback and please accept our sincerest apologies for the poor experience. We hope you do not mind us addressing you here directly. And thank you prlawrence for helping to clarify some of the issues on our behalf.

Apologies for not being able to provide accurate customs fees on the website. Actually, we have been working closely with DHL and other suppliers for a long time to explore DDP services (Delivered duty paid) to help with customs clearance and provide the clearance fees upfront. However, we have not been able to offer this to retail customers due to the sheer diversity of products we offer and the countries we ship to. Rates also vary according to the product categorization and value. So far, we have not been able to access accurate calculations and our financial regulation will not allow us to launch this service with such risk.

Our customer service replied the email within 24 hours regarding the customs duty issue. Since it is indicated on the website’s checkout page and our shipping terms page. All product prices are exclusive of import duties. With this kind of cancellation, customer service is required to ask customers to pay for the shipping and tariff fees. But we understand we need to be considerate regarding your complaint since we could not fulfill your initial order on time.

Regarding the return fees, this consists of the estimated return shipping and the taxes for importing the product into China (13% of the product value). This is not mentioned explicitly in the returns policy and we admit this could have been stated more clearly. We have arranged for this to be updated as soon as possible. Thank you so much for pointing this out.

We deeply value each of our customers and my team will continue looking into opportunities to introduce DDP services for our retail customers. We really regret that your first experience with Seeed has brought you much inconvenience and despair and we would hate for it to have tarnished your relationship with NVIDIA. If you have other suggestion or feedback regarding Seeed‘s service in the future, you can also contact me directly. If you do choose to give us another chance, we would be happy to make it up to you. Either way, we wish you and your startup the very best of luck, whoever you choose to work with.

@user132624, I appreciate your reply. Certainly I wish your company the best as it attempts to improve customer service. And I applaud your company for fully complying with US import regulations. I know many companies lie about the contents or value of shipments to avoid tariffs.

To help you better communicate to your team, here are the items that should be addressed:

  • True DDP is certainly ideal. But if this is not feasible, then surely you can work to implement an estimate.
  • MINIMALLY at checkout (once shipping country has been confirmed) you must provide a clear and highlighted warning (ideally with an “I understand” check box) stating that “Shipper may withhold delivery until import duties of up to XX% are paid”. Apparently “XX%” for the United States is 30.
    • Simply putting “Import Duties Excluded” in parentheses only at checkout is not at all sufficient, as most hobbyists simply won’t know what this implies.
  • At checkout, ideally ALSO require a check box next to a link to your (updated) return policy stating that the customer has read and understands it.
  • Update your return policy to state clearly that the customer will pay:
    • 13% of the value of the product (call it a restocking fee if you wish…I still can’t wrap my mind around the utter insanity of paying re-import taxes on returned goods).
    • TWO TIMES the shipping cost since you also apparently force customer to repay you for the initial “free” shipping.
  • Because of the requirement to repay the shipping costs, you then must ALSO show the cost of shipping on the checkout page with the “free” shipping noted as a discount. Or perhaps strike through the actual DHL cost and put “FREE” next to it.
    • As a bonus, this will make the value of the free shipping seem even higher.

It seems as though most of your policies have logical explanations and you as a reseller are welcome to set your own policies as you see fit. The main sin here is the lack of clear disclosure. And in the case of the return policy, clear dishonesty (unintentional if we give you the benefit of the doubt), and not standing behind the policy as written. I hope for the sake of future success with customer relations that you will be successful in getting the above changes implemented.

@prlawrence since “all product prices are exclusive of import duties,” I’ll just reiterate that Nvidia’s US site really should make it clear on the reseller link that purchases from Seeed will ship from China and will thus be subject to 30% import duties.

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