Gj shipped his personal effects from the netherlands on oct 9th. 1 small pallet, it fit in a car. smart tv, computer, weight set...various toys and keepsakes and such. About $5,000 of stuff. They got held up in customs for x-ray, then devanned, and the entire container was gone through and hand inspected. Finally, on Dec 4th, after an extra week of delays getting it from chicago to st louis. The shipper here in the US sent us the forms to fill out, he had his passport with the visa and entry stamp, and a copy of his I-94, a packing list of exactly what was in it and bill of lading, and the cargo release from the shipper to the warehouse where it was shipped to for us to pick it up.
I called the warehouse before it arrived and they said we needed a customs release, and all we had to do was take the forms to the customs office and they'd give us the release to bring down to pick it up. I called customs, explained that he was bringing his personal effects in and we needed a customs release and they said to bring the paperwork to the office and they'd give us the release. I asked if there was any fee or anything else we needed and they said no.
So it's a whole day trip to do this. We're 3 hours from the warehouse each way. Had to make arrangements for the kids and take a day to do it. We got to the customs office with the paperwork, gave them a copy of his passport, all the paperwork. They looked at it, and then said..."2 things and you aren't going to like it. First, our system doesnt say anything about it being inspected, so we are going to have to go down and look in boxes and things. Second, you've got to get a broker." We asked what the broker was for, you need a broker to talk to us as a middleman between you and us. we asked when they could go down and look at it since we were from out of town, he said oh, it's down at XXX (which for the record is about 10 minutes away) so maybe tuesday or wednesday next week, you aren't going to get it today."
We explained that it had already been through the most intrusive examination in New Jersey but they insisted it had only been through an x-ray. We called our agent in New Jersey whom we'd been dealing with regularly already due to the unbelievable wait on all the customs exams and the "lost week" sitting in chicago, he told us yes it had been examined and he had proof, he asked for an email to send it to. I asked the customs agent, with him on the phone still for an email to send proof to that it was already done, then handed him the phone. The customs agent said "our system doent show it was done. I'm going to sound harsh here, but we get paid a lot of money to do this job, and we make the rules. We say we need to put eyes on it, so that's what we're going to do" then handed me back the phone. Customs agent then handed us a list of brokers in the area, a couple of which were downstairs that he suggested we try.
So we went down and found the first one, she said "they do this all the time if you're importing this just happens, and you're lucky this isn't a commercial shipment, then this is much worse." So we had to sign power of attorney for her to represent us, and said she'd talk to them. She said her fee was 85$, to be paid in cash or money order, and the warehouse has a 50$ extra fee for the customs exam also.
She told us to go find a coffee shop and wait, she'd see what she could do. This was at about 930 am. About 10 minutes later she calls and says they'll go look at it at about noon, so maybe you can get it today. Then she calls again about 1015 and said they were on their way right then already, and to come by and pay her before we go get it.
Found an ATM, got the cash for the broker fee, warehouse fee, and extra customs exam fees (lord we'd already paid about 250 in extra customs exam fees from the intrusive exam they did in jersey!) then went to the warehouse since she said they would leave the customs clearance fee with them. We called the warehouse at around noon hoping they'd be done and to make sure they left the release. They said they had, and it was all ready to be picked up.
Got to the warehouse, apparently they weren't charging us the extra 50$ because the customs lady got there (we'd dealt with 2 other men, no idea who she was) and took one look at it, saw the customs has opened this box tape all over everything and said she didnt need to touch it and left.
So apparently we were forced to use a broker we didnt need, for an exam we'd already had. I'm considering filing a complaint with customs. Any thoughts or suggestions?