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Great Customs Experiences

Old Aug 13th, 2004, 05:01 PM
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Great Customs Experiences

Along the lines of the "Rude Customs Agents" thread, does anyone have any really great experiences with customs in any country that they'd like to share?
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Old Aug 13th, 2004, 05:13 PM
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Customs agents have always been nice to us. Once we were the very last flight at night, and thanks to a lost bag, the last passengers to go through customs. We'd been gone for a month, and the officer was so unbelievably kind. He welcomed us home, commiserated with us on our loss, and best of all didn't search very much!

When I accidentally packed a knife in my carryon, customs officials missed their chance to be hateful to me, but I posted that on your other thread!
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Old Aug 13th, 2004, 05:15 PM
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Now if this thread turns out right, Statia, I'll copy it and email it to Customs and Border Protection- a division of the Department of Homeland Security, how's that?
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Old Aug 13th, 2004, 05:17 PM
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Sounds good, Spygirl!
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Old Aug 13th, 2004, 07:19 PM
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Never. And I seem to have been put into their computer system to be checked everytime I enter the US. SFO's agents are one of the "best".
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Old Aug 13th, 2004, 07:45 PM
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In July we had a great experience coming into LAX. Our Customs agent was a nice Asian man who was thrilled when he saw my husbands passport. He started speaking Italian to us and shared that he had studied for many years in Italy. He was the friendliest agent I have ever encounterd. He chatted with us for quite some time. Guess those agents are not all bad.
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Old Aug 13th, 2004, 07:46 PM
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No great experience..just polite..
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Old Aug 14th, 2004, 06:08 AM
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Some years ago I witnessed something akin to the following:

Traveler to CA: Are pornographic movies from Amsterdam allowed into the US?

CA: No, sir. You don't have any do you?

T: Yes, I do.

CA: Are you sure?

T: Yes. Here they are.

CA: Are you sure they are not just travel films?

T: Yes, I have looked at all of them.

CA: (Somewhat disgustedly) I am afraid that I have to confiscate them.
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Old Aug 14th, 2004, 06:16 AM
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Clearly, Customs Officers are taken much more seriously in the United States then we take them in Thailand, or anywhere else for that matter. We normally just walk through the Green Channel and keep going.

However, we have had one or two run-ins with Customs Officers over the years that were more amusing than anything else.

Back in 1997, when the Asian meltdown started, the Thai Government virtually decided that it was unpatriotic, if not treasonable, to go for a holiday abroad. We had been in Singapore for a few days and returned to find that the normal Green Channel and Red Channel had been replaced by a Foreign Channel and a Thai Channel. We had already filled in a dual customs declaration, but we hastily retreated and filled in two separate forms. I then headed through the Foreign Channel taking with me all of our luggage, that included the Kashmiri carpet and jewellery that we had bought in Singapore. My wife went through the Thai Channel with nothing but her handbag.

When we were reunited outside I asked her if the Customs Officer had not queried her lack of luggage. "Yes," she said, "I told him that I had only gone to Singapore for lunch."

The second occasion was back in 98 when we had been in Europe on holiday and my wife bought a piece of Lladro, a rather large piece! I tried to nonchalantly walk through the Green Channel, pretending that the 3 ft. cube box on the trolley didn't exist. We were promptly jumped on by Customs and told to go to the Red Channel. There, Madam went to war and here I have to do some namedropping. She informed the Customs Officer that the carton contained a gift from the Grand Duchess of Liechtenstein and that she was not going to open it. In support of this preposterous lie, she produced a dinner invite and a copy of the menu. We left with the Customs Officer busy ?waiing? the invite and the menu.
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Old Aug 14th, 2004, 06:22 AM
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Maybe we have been lucky...but we have always had nice agents. Hope that continues!

Anyway, once it was just the kids and I returning, and the kids were little. We were way over our duty free amount, and I noted absolutely everything and knew I would have to pay. The agent must have seen the exhaustion in my eyes and just aid to keep going and he smiled.

Another time our entire family was traveling together and once again we were over our limit...but the agent was funny about it. He looked at our form and giggled and said "you had a really good trip didn't you?". It was a sincere smile and he was very friendly, although he did motion for us to go to where we needed to pay. We didn't mind...we always know those are the rules.

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Old Aug 14th, 2004, 07:00 AM
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After ranting on the other thread about officers at San Juan/ Puerto Rico Airport, I will also gladly rave about immigration at LAX.
On one occasion I happened to come across an officer who turned out to be a true Sitcom Fan with in- depth- expertise on M.A.S.H in particular. At that time I had just completed my mandatory one-year-long service in the German army, which somehow turned out during the obligatory interrogation and we ended up discussing military ranks, the respective characters on M.A.S.H and how they compare to foreign armies...had a real nice conversation and even some laughs while the line behind me was not exactly getting shorter.
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Old Aug 14th, 2004, 07:25 AM
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BJX (Leon/Guanajuato,MX); Sept '03:
We arrived with at least 10 suitcases of space bag compressed mostly white towels, bed "linens", and household "stuff" thanks to Continental's liberal no fee "baggage limits".
Anyway, despite my fears that everything was going to be "sequestered" for duty, they waived us through after a brief conversation with the honcho.
Our plea that the hotels got "all" the moderately priced white cottons must have struck home.
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Old Aug 14th, 2004, 07:34 AM
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My dear, good custom agents were in the old days when one could bring back limitless amounts of duty free and they wouldn't bat an eyelid.
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Old Aug 14th, 2004, 09:47 AM
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When I was a small kid I went on a trip to India with my mum.

You weren't allowed to import expensive items like TVs, radios etc without paying some kind of duty, I don't remember the details, this was early 70s.

The Customs Officer asked my mother the normal question about whether we had any blah, blah, blah and she said no.

I piped up with "But mummy, what about the record player?"

Of course, we were eventually allowed through without charge since toy record players did not attract any duty but my mum was not best pleased, I can tell you.

On another occasion, as a young adult, I remember landing at LA immigration with an apple in my bag that I'd intended to eat on the plane. When asked I recalled it instantly and brought it out of my bag. The agent said I was not permitted to bring it into the country (fair enough) and insisted on confiscating it to be zapped. I asked if I couldn't just eat it standing right there and then come through his queue but jobsworth wouldn't let me. I can't see how letting me eat it would be any different from my having eaten it on the plane since it had already been carried into the airport building and the air around it exposed to whatever it would be exposed to if I ate it.
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Old Aug 14th, 2004, 09:51 AM
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A positive one in the U.S.--we were bringing back two Japanese woodblock prints that were old enough to qualify as antique, and the Customs agent wasn't really familiar with them. So the supervisor came over, and we listened to a great 15-minute lecture on the subject.
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Old Aug 15th, 2004, 04:19 AM
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Food items always seem to raise flags when arriving at Customs. One friend a flight attendent arriving from the Caribbean with canned fois gras arrived at San Juan. The Customs Agent insisted she could not bring it in, at which point she promptly opened the tin and started to consume it. This, of course, caused a back-up;; the Supervisor arrived inquiring what the problem was. Seeing what was happening and realizing that tinned food prepared in a factory was permitted, told the agent to allow my friend thru with as much fois gras she had carried home.

Likewise, I had found the same fois gras while in France and returned home with whatever had been on the shelf in the French market. Remembering what happened to my friend, I did declare this and had the tins packed on the top of my carryon bag. Sure enough passing the Customs agent and his seeing the words fois gras, asked to see the item. When shown, he smiled and said - "go ahead, everyone brings that home."

Or the infamous California orange, another friend took from a plan from NY to SFO. She still had this orange in her bag when she met me in JFK where we were continuing onto Turkey. She managed to carry it around the entire time in Turkey and sure enough on our return to NY, one of those little beagles sniffed her out. So my friend took out the orange to show to the agent - clearly marked on the orange stamped "product of California" - they wouldn't allow her to take it home!!!

So you never know. Otherwise, I've never had any issues with Customs Agents, most times we aren't even questioned.
 
Old Aug 15th, 2004, 08:44 AM
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Are beagles most effective in tagging people with food?? I noticed Sandi mentioned that a beagle found the orange that her friend forgot was in her bag. A beagle at SFO sniffed out my French pastries.
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Old Aug 15th, 2004, 10:46 AM
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You ask an interesting question. Beagles are employees of the Dept. of Agriculture, (only partly kidding-they have well-justified retirement ceremonies for them) and are part of what is called the "Beagle Brigade"-beagles are used because of their acute sense of smell, their gentle nature and diminutive size, AND because they are known to really like food! People don't mind being regulated by a beagle, as opp. to say, a German Shepherd or another similar such herding dog (other branches of the USG DO use big dogs-like the airport explosive sniffer dogs).

And they work pretty cheaply too-a nice doggie treat will do just fine!
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Old Aug 15th, 2004, 11:21 AM
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The only bad customs experiences I've had in 50 years of travel were in Paris and Seoul--once in Paris and twice in Seoul. All three instances were over 10 years ago. I can't think of any orgasmic "great experiences," but not very many bad ones either.
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Old Aug 15th, 2004, 11:31 AM
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Do the beagles know they're underpaid?
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