Over ten years ago I departed from the good ole’ USA and there were many things I did right and a few things I did not do so right. One of the bad things I did was try to ship an expensive car to Costa Rica and I learned about 80% import taxes on automobiles, so I quickly learned how to ship a car back to the USA and sell it at an auction! One of the things I did right was hire a shipping agent who I spoke with on the phone and met with when I arrived at my final destination. A shipping agent can mean the difference between having a migraine and arriving to your final destination and your whole house is unpacked and your flatware is already in the drawer waiting for you to fix dinner.
Making an overseas move was one of the biggest decisions and learning experiences that I have had in my life. I came to the realization that in less than a few days you can move a 10,000 square foot house or set up a fully operational business across the world, if you have the right team in place to make it happen. A shipping agent is absolutely an important player and if you try to move without one you are truly going to get a learning experience. In my second move further south, I tried to do it on my own and the cash I needed to grease the wheels of Latin American business operations simply exceeded the amount I would have paid if I had used a professional who is experienced in shipping
So here is a funny story:
On my second move to a Central American country I wrapped all my household belongings and I packed my two 40 foot containers all by myself, which of course saved some money. I wrote out my inventory list and called the trucking company to come get my containers…this was easy right. Not really, that is when all the paid education started surfacing. After about five ben franklins I realized I had been suckered by a very crafty bunch of so called customs agents, inspectors with fake customs badges. I probably paid them more that day than they made the entire week…another Gringo gets fleeced trying to save a buck. It is not the first story of its type nor will it be the last!
Here comes the 300lb Customs Inspector
So after about a week of haggling, threats that I would have to empty my containers and unwrap them (The initial wrapping consumed 10 rolls of shrink wrap) and let and inspector check to see if my inventory sheet was accurate. I think they called it an “inventory audit”. Do you know what an inventory audit means…it means I need $50 or I am going to waste your precious time! Well, my two forty footers finally got sealed, stamped and loaded on the boat…they were on their way. Everything is great, two days later on Thursday I get the call, my stuff made it and they would bring it to the house bright and early Friday morning. I call the locals I recruited for $10 a day each and five showed up bright and early. We killed two dozen Dunkin donuts, no container; then we knocked down about $30 in Tacos and Burritos which was not the best choice for riding the elevator, no container; then sometime around 4:30pm on Friday the phone rings and the custom agent has arrived and my containers are out in front of my swank high rise on one of the busiest streets in town. I am thinking there is no way we will unload the containers in less than 12 hours. Two containers, five movers, one freight elevator, 23 floors up, 4:30pm. The truckers start talking to my movers and they tell me that they cannot leave the containers overnight, which is not really what the translation was. The translation was for $50 I can help unload or in reality, watch you unload the container.
The truckers are paid off…no problem containers can stay all weekend. Now Gordo the customs agent speaks to my movers. He explains that he has to inspect everything that comes out of the containers and that he has to be home at 6:00pm. It is 4:45om and he lives an hour away. Realizing that the amount of stuff would have stretched a quarter mile down the sidewalk he decides that maybe he should just crawl around in the 110 degree containers and look for contraband? I am thinking, there is no way he is going to do that, #1 he would break everything and he would soak everything I owned as he was already sweating like a freakin pig. I am starting to get hot at this point! Finally, he tells the truckers that they have to take the containers back to the shipping zone and that he might come back in a month. Jesus Mary, I am about to snap!
The mover comes up to me and says something about confidencia (like trust me) and asks me for $200 in cash. Five minutes later the truckers were getting in their trucks, the customs agent was getting in his car and it appeared everyone was leaving? I am panicked at this point. Well, what was really happening was the truckers were going to sleep in their cab which they were planning to do anyway, the Customs agent was on his way to happy hour and my movers were unloading the container, finally! The day ended up costing me a luxury car payment and about a bottle of Jack Daniels.
Now, I am not advocating greasing the wheel as in some countries it is illegal, like the USA. What I am saying is that I did not pay any ‘tips’ on my first journey and my second one, I paid out the nose. My advice is use a shipping agent and you will have a much more pleasant experience and fewer run-ins with Gordo and the ‘moving mafia’.
Here are some final ‘tips’ that won’t cost you a dime in grease money:
Taxes: Taxes on international shipping rates vary from country to country. If you have questions or concerns about the amount of taxes on shipped items, you should talk to an international shipping specialist to get some advice about tax rates.
Custom Regulations: Custom regulations must be adhered to at all times when you are shipping or receiving items via international shipping. Every country has its own custom regulations. If you are unsure of what the regulations are, you will need to find out. The easiest way to find out what customs apply to what countries is to speak with an international shipping specialist directly. Alternatively, you can also access the Internet and immediately get the information you need pertaining to custom regulations.
Homeland Security: Homeland security is a big issue these days and it may have a strong affect on international shipping. Again, an international shipping specialist can best advise you on what you need to know about what items are safe to ship and what items cannot be shipped. You can also use the Internet to find out what is acceptable. The important thing is that you do your research and make sure you behave responsibly—when in doubt, do not attempt to ship it. Always ask someone if it is okay to ship certain items if you are not sure what is legally allowed.
Hazardous Material: Some hazardous material cannot be shipped via international shipping services. In contrast, some can be, if they are shipped as certain way. Ultimately, you will once again be required to speak with an international shipping specialist or you will have to find the information on the Internet. Visiting one or more international shipping company websites can prove revealing.
To learn more about International Shipping and Relocation CLICK HERE to get FREE quotes for shipping and to receive the Escapeartist most frequently asked questions brochure via email.