It’s a rainy back-to-school Monday here in Bavaria, and I’ve just had the honor of meeting one of the snidest and snottiest persons in a local customs office.
I recently ordered an orthopedic harness for Tobi from the United States, and despite the Labor Day holiday weekend, it managed to get to Frankfurt quite quickly (on Tuesday of last week in fact). The customs office there kept it for a few days and then decided to forward it to the local customs office in whose jurisdiction I fall, they sent me a notice in the mail on Saturday that there was a problem with my package and that I needed to come there.
So that’s what I did this morning. After taking a number and waiting, I was called to the counter for processing. I asked him if there was a problem with the package and he said, yes, there wasn’t an invoice. I replied that I am sure there is an invoice, which prompted him to go get the package. He handed me a knife, and I opened the plastic pouch containing the customs declaration. I showed him where it listed the item along with its price in US $.
He stated that, well, that’s a form of the USPS, anyone can write what they want on there. I looked at him incredulously. “Do you expect the american postal service to use european custom forms? Are you serious?” “Well, no”, he replied, “but that isn’t a substitute for a normal invoice, a copy of which belongs in the pouch on the outside of the package. Any worldly company would do that.”
I wanted to tell him that I’d been filling out customs paperwork in all variations while he’d still been in diapers, but I thought better of it.
I replied “Well, I suppose there might also be small companies that aren’t up to your worldly standards.” He glared. “I’m sure there’s an invoice inside”, I said and opened the package. “No, I’m sure there isn’t”, he replied.
Of course there was an invoice inside. He was chagrinned, but then began to gloat as the total on the invoice (124 $) didn’t match with the (122 $) on my PayPal printout. “Ah,” he said, “look, the invoice is incorrect”, again gloating. I pointed out that the invoice listed $ 85 for the item and $ 37 for shipping and that the incorrect total (124) was a mistake but that 85 + 37 = 122, matching my PayPal slip. Finally, he backed down.
“Well, you do realize you’ll have to pay a 19% import tax on the invoice total of $ 122?” “What?” By this time I was practically beginning to shriek. “The item only cost $85 – the rest is shipping”. He replied “Yes, but according to EU law…..blah….blah….blah”.
He left me standing at the counter for almost 10 minutes waiting for him to complete the paperwork. Then, he placed it on the counter and said the cashier would be with me in short time and walked away. After a few minutes of more waiting, another customs person finally came to the counter, slapped a rubber stamp on the paperwork without barely looking at it and took the money that I’d laid out five minutes earlier.
Yes. It’s been that kind of morning.