Saturday, February 9, 2008

Customs Agents: WTF?

I'm not sure if people know about the kind of waste going on with our customs clearance agents?

Yesterday I went to fetch customs documents from my broker in order to pick up parcels from the airport cargo area. The boxes had been sitting there for a few days so I was anxious to get them, as I urgently needed them for my business.

Earlier in the week I had gone back and forth with my broker, trying to get the right classification of dozens of pairs of socks, just one of many items in this shipment. It seems the customs agents thought that they should be classified simply as cotton apparel.

This ruling caused me all kinds of problems.

These are specialty socks that have a very narrow application, like how you wouldn't wear soccer socks out to dinner or anywhere except on the soccer field.

The customs agents wouldn't have it though. The socks were to be classified as apparel - which requires a special visa from the manufacturer due to import quotas - or nothing. The repercussions if I chose to have the socks classified as they should be were that my receipt of the shipment was going to be delayed probably for about a month and it would be likely that all past and future shipments would be heavily scrutinized.

In other words, they'd just dick with me and waste my time/resources. I don't need that.

I couldn't wait that long so I contacted the manufacturer, who provided me with certain pieces of the required information. But they had no idea about this visa thing. They had, I was informed, exported many many times to the USA without any problems.

Seeing that the manufacturer was unable/unwilling to get me this visa and was also about to go on holiday for Chinese New Year, I decided to throw in the towel and do the only other possible thing that could possibly get me my shipment in an expedient manner: destroy the socks.

Their destruction was scheduled for Friday morning. When I met up with the broker yesterday afternoon I asked him to describe the event.

What he did was to go to the bonded area at cargo with a customs official and opened as many boxes as he could until he found the socks. Then he took a knife and slashed each pair until they were unwearable.

I was flabbergasted hearing this. At least just take them away and ship them somewhere else, for crying out loud! Why make them completely unusable?

He told me that that was nothing. Just a couple of weeks ago he was tasked with destroying 3 cargo containers worth of clothes. This meant taking them over to an incinerator.

I can't believe how wasteful our customs officials are. My socks were ruined because of a classification problem and the 3 containers worth - well, who knows what the issue was there.

But as I recall, we've had several natural disasters recently, one the worst in this country's history. I think they still need help down there.

Also, is there a day that goes by where you do not hear about parts of the world that are so poor that they cannot feed and clothe themselves?

Hmmm... I see a meeting of needs here. So why is stuff like this happening?


wincity said...

These people are robots. Everyone of them working for the government. I always say that the world would be a much better place if we just cut every level of government by half.

Dinosaur Trader said...


Very interesting story.

However, a pair of socks killed my great aunt camilla. So I say, destroy socks and fuck the poor people.

I won't even wear socks anymore.


The Lonely Trader said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Lonely Trader said...

Actually, it isn't the customs people that are the problem -- to blame the "robots" as you call them, is like trying to kill the cockroaches as they crawl out from under the sink. You've got to kill the big mama cucaracha.

The real problem is that there is a very powerful textile lobby in the US, which influences the legislation on import quotas and tariffs that your elected officials enacted.

Those customs agents are merely instruments of protectionist trade policies that you likely tacitly approved of by voting for your district representative. Perverse, but true.

But it is all for not, because more people then just Europeans and Americans read Ricardo. And a falling dollar won't bring our textile industry back anytime soon. This, unfortunately, won't kill all the useless protectionist laws on the books.