Packing bags to get through customs alive

  1. I received a FedEx package from overseas today that was routed through customs in Anchorage. Basically, I had almost the same experience that meemie described here:

    The dustbag now has several red ink marks on it and a tiny cut. The red ink was also on the bubble-wrap that was around the bag. Fortunately, the bag itself was not damaged - otherwise, I would have been compelled to damage...well, somebody. :ninja:

    It seems like we need to come up with some customs-proof packing techniques - like wrapping the bag in saran wrap or a zip-lock bag before putting it in the dustbag? I don't know how much customs needs to see before they decide something is okay - would they just rip open a plastic covering? I'm thinking it shouldn't be tyvek, or they'd just get in there with a knife with possibly worse results.

    My impression was that they didn't take the contents out of the box - just slit the box open, reached in and poked around with a red pen, then taped it up again.

    Oh to get inside the mind of a customs officer...:upsidedown:

    Would there be any advantage to opening the package in front of the FedEx delivery guy? Maybe for insurance purposes.

    Anyway. I feel very lucky - this time. If anyone has any ideas about how to avoid this kind of thing, or whom to yell at when it occurs, please share!
  2. LP, thanks for the tip off. i had missed reading meemie's thread. that's awful that customs can be so careless. anyways, i'm glad nothing happened to your bag or we would have seen you on the 5 o'clock news.:push:
  3. Ah ... I knew that this would come up at some point! This is why I'm always extolling the virtures of being honest with the Customs Agents!!!

    If in the US, you are allowed up to $800 duty free. So, let's say that you purchase a City bag overseas for $1200 (exchange rate for Euro). While you would declare the entire $1200, you are only assessed duties on $400. Even if the Customs Agent uses the highest percent (3%), you would pay $12.00!!! So ... I guess the question then becomes ... is all of this worth it for $12.00 and the possibility of getting *caught* and forever being on the Customs List for eternity?!?!?
  4. I wish you were right, but this doesn't match up with my experiences.

    I've been assessed customs on even imports under $800, and those over $800 I've been assessed from the first Dollar and not only excess over $800. And the rate I've been charged every time is 9%.

    I've heard of the $800 allowance (I thought it was $1000, but could be $800) but only when you're coming back from abroad and declaring the value of your purchases as you go through customs in a US airport. For shipments into this country, they charge you for the whole thing, no allowances.
  5. LP, how was the package marked? As a gift or..? and value?

    If customs just pokes a hole and waves the red marker around, then shouldn't we wrap both the dustbag and the bag in bubblewrap etc? then the dustbag is saved too?

    .... also, is this just a fedex or courier shipping problem?

    So glad that your bag is safe and sound!
  6. hi LP..... i send millions of dollars of photographer fashion film and harddrives all over the world for my business, and its always risky!! i have had wet packages, lost packages.. packages stuck in name it
    so.. i always put handbags inside giant ziplocks to protect from water...

    i really dont know about the red marker,, or packages being cut open, but i would say regardless of where you send something,, US, or overseas, pack it as if it was going to be left out in the rain.. as it may be. also, bubble pack if you can.. I am in manhattan, and every day i see the fedex trucks and ups trucks tossing literally, throwing the boxes out from the truck onto the street...they must break tons of stuff every day..... it really bugs me when i see that...
  7. Oh no, how horrible LP!! :sad: Good thing your bag is ok... and did you say "a tiny cut?" on the dust bag? :wtf::cursing:
  8. Yep, irissy, I said a "tiny cut" on the dustbag - just about half an inch. Can you imagine if they'd cut the leather?! I would've had veins popping. :cursing: + :hysteric:+:throwup:

    Okay, I didn't really intend this as a discussion of custom disclosures, but since we've gone there - as a rule, you are allowed an $800 exemption on goods you carry with you into the US after a trip abroad, and you are charged duty on the amount above that. This same exemption does NOT apply to goods mailed to you from outside the US. The rate of duty assessed varies, but IMO seems to average out around 9%-10%, as Deco says.

    I did some research on the on the Customs and Border Protection site and found a useful document that says this:
    • bona fide, unsolicited gifts will clear Customs duty free as long as their fair retail value does not exceed $100
    • Mail order goods from overseas—those ordered from a catalogue or over the Internet, for example—will also pass duty free if they are worth less than $200.
    So if you have someone send you an item marked as a gift, if it has a value above $100, you may still be required to pay duty on it. If the item is merchandise, the exemption goes up to $200. So the "pretend it's a gift" idea really doesn't make sense to me for US-bound packages.

    However, no matter what is marked on the customs form, US Customs and Border Protection still apparently has the right to slice open your package and rummage around with a red marker and x-acto knife.

    toni, I like the idea of giant ziplocks. In my case, the bag was in its dustbag, then wrapped in bubble wrap, and they just cut through the bubble wrap.

    peppy, I don't know if it's specific to FedEx or couriers, but the doc I quoted from the USCBP site made a point of saying that using the postal service was better from a customs processing perspective, so I thought that was interesting.
  9. i've been charged duties and taxes on items marked as a gift and value declared at 20 dollars.
  10. ^ maybe they just didn't believe it was a gift? They seem to be pretty skeptical about gifts in general. Did they charge you duty on $20 or on a different value that they assessed?
  11. omg...for some reason it didn't hit me until now...but I think that's why I have a small cut and a red spot on my pistachio first! When you said yours came from Anchorage, it triggered throughts about my own package because it did that too! It was also sent via FedEx. UGH! This is terrible! I received my bag months ago, but now it just hit me. I wonder why they do this!
  12. on 20 dollars
  13. angelie, that's just mean! The agent must have been having a very bad day!

    oh jdy, how awful!! On pistachio! :crybaby:
  14. Glad that you bag was unscathed... Hmmm...thought that the customs officer can only open the package in front of the receipent?
  15. stef, that might be true if you're going through customs personally at a border crossing, but for the mail - they open and inspect all the time.

    I just found a place on the CBP website to enter a question/complaint, so I described this situation and asked what's going on and is there any recourse? And then it said there was a 2-month backlog of emails, so I'm not holding my breath for a response, but I'll post if I get one.