I’ve talked about my “special” relationship with the Postal Service before. I am not sure if my bad luck is to blame on the disproportionally higher number of mailings I tend to send out than the regular person or if I give out some sort of bad vibes into the universe, but I have a buttload of stories to tell about my experiences with the Postal Service.
The latest is this: A few weeks ago, I went clothes shopping for my niece. Everyone with kids or nieces and nephews can relate to the amount of fun that it is to shop for them. I also picked out some tank tops for my sister (why the hell not? She’s a mom and doesn’t treat herself to something new every often) and then wrapped it all up, filled out the customs declaration form and sent the
package envelope to Germany about 6 weeks ago. I wanted to surprise them. It’s fun to send surprise packages. You’d think!
On Saturday, my sister received a notification that her package is being held at the Customs Office and that she would have to come and pick it up. Oh, and please bring supporting evidence (= receipts) for the items in the package.
Does anyone see anything wrong with this at all?
This was a personal package with my personal return address on it.
The customs form was filled out truthfully and the value of the items did not exceed the value that you’re allowed to send to foreign countries (= 45€).
Those were gifts and my sister obviously did not have receipts for them.
Well, and to be completely honest, I wasn’t quite sure if I still had the receipts either.
But the Customs Office wanted to see receipts, because if you can’t provide receipts they “evaluate” the contents of your package and possibly impose import taxes on your “gifts”.
Usually, I am pretty good about keeping receipts at least for a little while (esp. when it comes to bigger purchases or items that I think have a possibility of being returned for whatever reason), but I was going to send this stuff overseas and was most likely not going to return it. Hence, the receipt-out-throwing.
Luckily, I found the receipts for at least three of the kids’ shirts (because there were some other items that I bought for me on the receipt) and I was able to find the tank tops that I bought for my sister on the store’s website.
So, I scanned everything and sent it to her and had her print it all out, and then she had to drive half an hour to the Customs Office yesterday to show the receipts, only to find out that they hadn’t even actually opened the package.
They didn’t even verify that I had filled out the customs form correctly and that the receipts matched the items. I mean, WHAT’S THE POINT THEN?
My sister was ranting and raving how ridiculous it is that she has to drive out there for a perfectly fine and legal package sent to her kids from her aunt in California and how frustrating it is, and she asked what I would have to do to make sure the packages weren’t going to be held up again in the future.
The Customs Officer didn’t have much to say to that. He said that I had done everything correctly and there was nothing more I could do. He was very understanding of our frustration and apologized for the inconvenience, but explained that “severe disregard of the regulations” had become rampant lately and that they had no other choice as to increase the inspections of mailed items and that honest customer like us had to bite the bullet and had to provide receipts and pick up packages in order for them to catch more of the actual violators.
This was not the only incident in the last few months. I sent a few packages to friends that got inspected, were seriously delayed, or also had to be picked up at the Customs Office.
I’d really like to know what the criteria are that determine if a package is going to be delivered or send to Customs. I don’t think that people should be asked to drive 30 minutes or longer to a Customs Office (with unacceptable hours, mind you) to pick up their (totally legal) packages. I don’t think I should be asked to provide the recipient of a gift with the receipt of said gift.
You know, I’ve always been an honest person. I was taught as a child that being honest is the right thing to do. I believed that being honest will get me where I want to be in life. The realization that being honest and doing the right thing doesn’t always mean that you’re treated accordingly, and the fact that we have to pay the price for other people, who don’t play by the rules, has been a tough pill to swallow.
I get it. Taxes on imports suck and I wish just as much as the next person that there wasn’t a monetary limit on how much you can bring into a country from overseas, but the laws are the laws and it just infuriates me that some people wreck it for the rest of us; it’s the longer delivery times, the not knowing when – or if! – the package is going to make it, the unnecessary hassle with the Customs Office and receipts, and whatnot.
I mean, if you have to try and play the system, at least be smart about it. Or just bite the bullet and pay the import tax, so that other people can send their packages in a normal fashion again.