Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Customs Confusion

Ok, I'm back and ready to roll. I have responded to all your comments while I was away now. Photo updated, check. Song parody updated, check. Poll updated, check. Time for a new post.

I had to fill out one of those stupid custom forms before coming in the USA. Again. Why do they want all of this information anyway? Are they actually tracking how many Belize key chains are brought into the country?

“Sorry sir, we’ve reached the country’s maximum quota on collector spoons…”

Sometimes I don’t even know quite how to fill it out.

Given Name. Boy, I hope they don’t research my school years because I’ve been given a lot of names before.

Birthdate. Why do I still have trouble putting it into the format with the day before the month? It’s like the metric system; the USA just had to be different than the rest of the world and put the month first. I secretly want to put 31 Feb but am too chicken for fear they won’t let me back in.

Countries Visited on the Trip. They give you enough space for 3 or 4. Two years ago I visited 7 in a single trip. I had no idea what to do. I tried to write in this micro font that turned out pathetic. How do rock stars on tour do it? Is there a special addendum I’m not privy to?

Oh, and I do love the questions:

Are you bringing in plants? Err…does this rare jungle tree parasite count?

They even ask if I’m carrying soil. The nerve! I showered…

Oh, and my favorite: Are you carrying over $10,000 in cash? Good one! Oh how I wish I had that dilemma! “Count it Martha….you Sure? Whew! $9,914” And if you did list it as ‘Yes’ I’m sure the inspector guy will just call his ‘Taxi Buddy’ outside to single you out and take you for a ‘special ride’.

Of course there is the big dilemma too. Do you go for broke and lie, claiming nothing so you can go through the fast line or do you look like an idiot listing out all those stupid trinkets you bought while making up prices because…let’s face it…you now have no idea what they actually cost. In fact, you don’t even want to know because that will just validate and confirm the reality that your trip cost way more than you budgeted.

Yes, it's just another mindless beaurocratic process where all must suffer to catch the one or two that would take advantage.

37 comments:

lime said...

my last overseas trip i was carrying back jars of insects in formaldehyde without the proper documentation. (my son loves bugs and my friend i visited is an entomologist in a tropical country). i declared it and fortunately was allowed to keep my bugs.

as for your poll in he sidebar...the new fee for checking even the first bag is just f***ing wrong on so many levels. first you can't carry as much stuff on board with you and now you have to pay to check even the first bag. it's just a matter of time before they fly us all in a crammed into a cargo hold with only the clothes on our backs.

NYD said...

Welcome home. Can't wait to see what souvenirs you brought us.

Jacki said...

I loathe going through customs. Last time we came back from Denmark I got into an argument with a customs official and wouldn't stop yelling so he finally just let us go. But for some reason Peter's name got on some "watch list" and so every time we came through customs his laptop and Blackberry would be confiscated. And our bags would be searched. So the last time this happened I was so pissed I just started yelling as soon as we got up to the "special" customs desk. The customs official didn't even get Peter's laptop cracked open before he just shoved our papers at us and told us we were free to go.

Bee said...

Welcome back VE!

I have to fill those suckers out every time I visit my grandparents in Mexico. They ask me if I’m smuggling pork meat, I always have to say “Nope, nope. Just goat meat”
True story.

Jeff said...

I like your Country Boy song.

You know, I never get hassled when I travel. Although I'm guessing North Dakota's security isn't as strict as Central America's.

Kanrei said...

Welcome back. I hate travel.

damon said...

My favorite question is still,"Did you pack your bag by yourself?"

To which I like to reply," Heavens no. I have people for that."

Megan said...

My son was conceived in Mexico but I didn't declare that when I came home...

Kurt said...

The trick is to travel light. I always take just one carry-on bag, and I am never stopped.

Beth said...

I agonize over those stupid things. Horrors! What if I make a mistake?
And the consequences would be??? I doubt I'd be hauled off to jail.

VE said...

lime - Ha! I've been over from Europe to USA in a cargo hold with only my clothes on my back. It was called a 'military hop' and I got pnumonia from the whole thing. I agree with you on the luggage thing though!

nyd - I've got pictures to share...probably tomorrow or Thu at the latest.

jacki - Ha ha. I'd love to see you screaming at the officials! I almost had my portable DVD player stolen in Atlanta when they had me pull it out to run through the scanner separately but then it didn't show up. I think the employees were capitalizing on confusion and people in a hurry. I made such a stink that it suddenly appeared through the scanner at a much later order than when it went in. I should have reported it...but was in a hurry of course.

bee - Shhh...don't tell anyone but I've been smuggling pork meat in and out for years! Ha ha...good story.

jeff - Ha! Good one. Are there still people in North Dakota? I thought there were only those dummies they used to use for nuclear testing sites...

kan - Thanks. Yeah, it seems to me the market is ripe for a company geared toward customer service! I saw it with Emirates Airlines in Dubai...

damon - Ha ha...that is a funny question, isn't it? That's more like something my Mom would ask me as a kid!

megan - I'm calling homeland security right now!!!!

kurt - Believe me, I travel light. I used to do all carry on always. But when going to countries very far away and for a long duration, they have made it impossible or impractical to do carry on anymore. You just cannot go to the tropics without sunscreen and it costs a fortune if you try and buy it there. This trip I brought my own snorkel gear so that adds some bulk and weight. The size limitations for carry on keep going down and down. Internationally many places allow only one item as carry on and that would include a purse or brief case. Plus, it's always such a battle to find overhead space when you get loaded into the plane by zones. Unless its just a 3-5 day trip; it just isn't worth the hassle to carry on anymore.

VE said...

beth - Yeah, I agonize over it too. Oh well, we are all just pawns in the fear and intimidation game for them.

Anne said...

I always bring back chocolate, so I have to check the yes for food box and most of the time they wave me through anyway.

Quickroute said...

I hate this form. You even have to fill one in and clear customs if you're just connecting via the USA to somewhere else. Blood boils!

leelee said...

I collect key chains AND fridge magnets....I hope I got one of each..

HUGS!

VE said...

anne - Amazing they don't stop you. If I did that they'd have me over in some holding tank for a month I'm sure.

quickroute - Wow, didn't know they did that if you're only passing through. How irritating. That's the USA govt!

leelee - I pick up key chains for my kids from everywhere I go. They both have cork board full of them in their rooms.

leelee said...

That's fun..I bet they love them...

HUGS!

RED MOJO said...

Dad went on a tropical vacation and all I got was this lousy keychain!

That does sound nice. You spoil them. LOL

VE said...

leelee - It is getting quite impressive with all the places I've been (and them).

red mojo - But they went with me. And come to think about it, this was their 6th and 7th country. How many kids could say that when you grew up? Talk about spoiled.

Serena Joy said...

God forbid the country should be taken over by filthy rich plants that write big and have too many names. So, am I getting a keychain?:-)

Welcome home!

Nessa said...

One trip when I was about ten, I was held at US customs until my mother came back with enough cash to pay for all of the bottles of Austrian rum she was bringing into the country.

Carla said...

...and don't you feel safer for all of that. phew!

Bonnie the Boss said...

BTW I write my dates the english way. I haven't had a problem. Mind you it has been quite a while since I left the country.

colbymarshall said...

Yes, I have $10,000...oh, wait...it's only $10. My bad.

VE said...

sj - Sorry, they confiscated your keychain at customs. I told them it was made out of Mayan pottery...

nessa - Must have been good Rum!

carla - I do as soon as I bolt my door, turn on the security system and let out the dogs!

bonnie - I don't have a problem with it; just the relearning thing

arizona - Yeah, what's a few zeros among friends anyway!

Annie Ha said...

imagine having to argue with your father in law (who doesn't speak the same language as you) that "one per family" doesn't include you, even though you have the same last name, because technically you aren't his family, but really just because you dont.exactly.trust.his.judgment.

Alex L said...

I dont why any one would stick with the imperial system, Its just silly whats easier than ten into ten into ten etc etc.

cathouse teri said...

I grew up in the military, married a military man and am now working very closely with military contracts. Which means, I find it often necessary to mark the date in that military way you mention.

I still have to stop and think hard before I remember how to do it.

Glad you're back. ;)

VE said...

annie - That would be hard. You should have stuck some ivory tusks in his pocket right before customs inspection...

alex - I don't like imperialists. Look what they did in the clone wars...

teri - I spent 6 years in the Coast Guard...which is sort of like the military. We did fire guns occasionally; we just were never any good at it. So I know what you are talking about.

Queen Goob said...

My sarcasm would so get me arrested and I'd spend 14 years in a third world country prison herding goats and making baskets for the tourists.

VE said...

queen goob - Don't knock it; goat herding is a lucrative business!

Anndi said...

A few trips ago, I explained to my daughter that they had a smellometer in the x-ray machine and her shoes were bound to set off an alarm (the TSA dude laughed and we got through right quick).

After her sneakers went through she told me in a hushed voice that it must be defective because it didn't ring.

Ah yes... innocence!

Yes, my name is Arizona said...

We had to fill one out, too, when we got back from Greece. When we went through customs in the airport my son was screaming his head off so they let us through and didn't ask any questions. Its always a plus to have a screaming toddler with you when trying to get through customs!

monica said...

Have you heard about the french guy at the customs in the USA - he also had to answer several quesions, and the custom person came to the line asking about sex? the french guy was a little bit surprised, but - wanting to cooperate in every way - asnwered: "preferably twice a day..." hehe... :o)

C said...

Welcome home! So, did you bring back anything exciting to share with us? I hate those stupid customs forms we have to fill in upon re-entry. Do they even look at them?

When we went to the Dominican Republic, we had to fill out some papers and pay a $20 U.S. departure tax. The guys at the customs desk didn't even look at the papers! One of the guys we met at our resort forgot to fill his out, and the customs people took it and put it in the pile with all of the other papers!

When I was a kid, we used to go to my Dad's country (Trinidad & Tobago) every year for holidays. One year, my brother (he was around 7 years old at the time) wrapped a turtle in tin foil and packed it in his suitcase!!! When we got home, he took it out and it was still alive! It managed to survive the plane ride! CRAZY! I have no idea how he managed to get that turtle through security/customs! My parents were in shock when we got home and they found out what my brother had done!

VE said...

anndi - Smellometer. That's a good one...I'm gonna have to borrow that one from you!

monica - Sounds like the French! ha ha. Welcome, by the way.

c - That turtle story is wild! I had to pay taxes to leave Belize to go to Guatemala AND to leave the country and they were both different. Uggh!

VE said...

arizona - That's true...screaming kids are effective. Of course, the key is to have them screaming when you need them and not when you don't.