In the wake of 9/11, many customs procedures have changed, including overseas shipping procedures. FedEx for example now requires an on-line SED form that's tied directly into federal government data bases. This requirement started last week when I tried to ship a package to Singapore. Vinh Vu of Gingko Audio experienced first-hand what entering Canadian soil to participate at a trade show can entail. His report is published below in the hopes to educate others and prevent similar mishaps in the future.
|"With extreme disappointment, we have to inform you that even though we were excited and ready to be in Montreal for FSI, we will not be. Our enthusiasm was shattered Thursday morning at 4:00AM at the Canadian border by a tangled web of red tape and arbitrary & inconsistent interpretation of the law, albeit with a very consistent message - pay the broker if you want to go through.
|We worked extremely hard in the last two months to get ready for the show. We were excited with a chance to showcase our newest product, the Tubulous speaker. The show organizer had told us that a broker had been designated to help us with the customs paperwork but that we would have an alternate option to fill out the paperwork ourselves to save the broker's fees. Being a
|fledgling and cash-poor company, we chose the second option. Also, with all the rush to get the speakers ready, we were not sure until the last minute what exactly we would bring across the border.
We brought with us the fully itemized list of all the stuff we had in our car, ready to present it at the border and to fill out the paperwork. We had been told that since we were only bringing the items in temporarily to display at the show and then return with them to the US after the show, all we needed to do was to pay duty taxes that would be refunded when we exited Canada. Alas, that was clearly not the way to go.
After 6 hours of frustrated dealings with three different customs officials and two different brokers (since we arrived at 2:00 AM, the assigned broker's office was closed and we had to talk to yet another broker at the border) the answer was: Use the broker and pay the fees. Every time we talked to a different person, it was a different story but the underlying message was the same - use the broker. Even when we finally obtained the proper temporary export forms (you'd think that should have been simple), we could not fill them out in sufficient details to satisfy the requirements (whatever those were) because that's what the brokers are there for. You see, the detailed list we brought was not enough. For every item, we'd need details such as country of origin and actual value, with proper back-up documentations to support our filing - which of course we did not have.
|By 8:00AM, we got the message and were ready to succumb to the official pressures but by that time, we were faced with a real business decision - could we pass the red tape and arrive at the show with enough time to set up? This was with all of 2 hours sleep in the three days leading up to the show. Even if we waited for the assigned broker to prepare the paperwork, there was still no guarantee that we could get it done in time for the show. We had to still make it to Montreal and were at the border with only a cell phone. Perhaps with the right broker, it would have been a cakewalk now but at this point, we had lost faith in the system.
|We threw in the towel, turned back to reenter US (even that was not an easy process as we needed more paperwork to leave Canadian customs), and arrived in New Jersey sad but wiser. Perhaps we should have known better and chosen the path of
|least resistance, paid the broker and gone on with our business but we honestly had faith in the Canadian system, especially when we had done so last year without an incident. But as one of the custom officials admitted - it depends on who you get at the border. It's all a crap shoot.
We are very sorry we could not meet with you at the FSI but we are sure you understand our situation. We hope to have a chance to see you at another show under better circumstances.