Wednesday, October 22, 2008

You’ve Got Mail!

I’m a straight up geek. I literally jumped up and down when the Postman rang my buzzer yesterday. I was also relieved I didn’t have to pay any customs.

I knew two friends in the States were sending care packages that would be in boxes not envelopes. Then I started to get worried. I’ve heard many tales of packages arriving with things missing or people having to pay some serious customs fees.

On one Yahoo Expat Group site, a woman said her parents sent her a box of clothes she had left at their house along with some small items. She had to pay 130 euros. When she complained the post office said fine, the box would just be returned to sender.

Another person wrote in and said she left something at her dad’s. He sent it to her she had to pay 90 euros for a small package.

With the holidays soon approaching I’m a little concerned. Was this past week a fluke? What should my family or friends write on the U.S. Postal Service customs declaration? Both of my friends said the packages were gifts.

Receiving a Macbook? I would expect to pay customs on that but why did that woman have to pay customs on her own used clothes?

I am very happy that it’s October and I’m still receiving birthday gifts. Thanks S.D. for the mad money.

The other gift had (among other things, like Halloween stickers. ha):

I like the new layout of Bon Appetit.

I cannot WAIT to read these (thanks S.R). I shouldn’t have let my DOMINO subscription run out. I thought moving to Rome, it’s not like I can buy anything they feature. Now I realize I could still find inspiration in the magazine.


joanne at frutto della passione said...

Care packages from home are always fun. The trick on these though is to declare a very low value on the customs form (a tip I got from an Italian postal employee when I was shipping a package). I think too that there is a minimum value under which you don't have to pay customs on, but I can't remember what it is. For some reason the number $100 comes to mind.

Elizabeth Cobb Durel said...

Hi! We have the same situation over here in Norway. The customs fees for everything are killer expensive.

The trick (sorry customs police, I'm really just kidding. ;-)) is to have your family or sending person take off all the tags.

Then have them label the box "used clothing." And then price the value as it is being sold at a garage sale.

(If you're my mom, you will do all of this, then actually put in a piece of dirty laundry so the package is not a fib...)

Gotta love the mail!

Elizabeth Cobb Durel said...

Also, this goes for everything. The clothes you leave at your mom's house over a holiday, etc...

I'll bet that customs fee came from valuing the clothes too highly. The value line is only for customs, not for insurance purposes.

(of course I am just kidding, customs police, if you're reading this!)

J.Doe said...

Wow!! No extra paying of custom fees?
Rome wants you!

Monika said...

Oh that is great that you avoided tax! I also have paid big bucks to receive small gifts from well meaning friends on my birthday!! I didn't have the heart to tell them to stop sending stuff but after my third payment, I sent out a blanket email saying 'no more gifts!'. Enjoy your magazines :)

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

joanne - thanks for the tip.

elizabeth - that is a good point. Maybe people declare too high an amount for insurance reasons. Unless the box contained Chanel or vintage, not sure why used clothes would be worth a lot.

j. doe - Ha. I'm hope I haven't jinked myself with this post.

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

monika - Your situation is exactly what I was worried about. I have a tight budget.

Why did you have to pay if your friends sent you gifts? Did they check off gifts on the custom forms?

glamah16 said...

That souunds like extortion. Taxes,customs, etc are a pain. Well can you inagine it being in Nigeria or something. Even worse.

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

glamah16 - There seems to be no rhyme or reason. Does the Post Office just pick a number out of thin air?

Speaking of Nigeria. When was the last time your were there?

carrieitly said...

"Does the Post Office just pick a number out of thin air?"

I remember asking myself (and anyone who would listen) that exact same question when my mother posted over my (ancient) CD-DVD drive (value, ohh... $7?) and a used sweatshirt I'd forgotten to pack and customs wanted to charge me €50!

My fiancè actually filed a complaint with the post office, and actually got the money back!

He also asked how they calculate the amount so it could be avoided in the future. Apparently (according to our local PO) Italy does not look at the declared value alone, they have an equation using the declared value and the insured value. What a crock!

Since then my mom's posted packages with a declared value somewhere in the $40-50 range max, removed price tags of anything new, and kept the insurance matching the delcared value.

Of course this sadly means a lot of things can't get posted, or you take a risk of loosing out on fair insurance if the package is lost, but to me it's better than shelling out to Italian customs money for something you've already been taxed on in the country it was purchased in.

As for gifts- refer friends to,'s UK site, and If it's shipped from the EU, no customs charge. And while it may be a little more expensive with the exchange rate, it's bound to be cheaper to ship, and receive.

P.S. I'm still on the hunt for someone who sells Jelly Bellies online in the EU as well. For the moment we've been bringing back huge Costco jars from the States and stocking up on boxes in Brown Thomas whenever we're in Dublin.

Anonymous said...

when i studied in florence the school told us to tell family and friends to write on all packages:

"Used Personal Items"

I never had to pay a dime for my packages! I hope your goodluck keeps on coming :-)

Petulia said...

Carrieitly, may I add to your list :
They deliver for free anywhere in Western Europe and USA

Faith said...

Yeah everything should be used, but definitely insure it. One of my boxes never made it to the UK and it was things I could not replace like this black ball gown I got on sale at Macy's for $20. And I love Domino magazine. See if you can find a subscription on Ebay that ships to Italy. They're so cheap right now except for some like O, Oprah which still charge almost the full rate. But I able to get a 5 year sub to Marie Claire for $8.

Diana said...

I have paid customs on EVERYTHING I have received in Italy which has come from the US Postal Service through the Italian Post Office. The rates vary from 15 to 40 euros -- it is insane. I let no one send me Christmas gifts through the normal postal chanels anymore. Only things which get sent through UPS and FEDEX seem to bypass customs hell. Who knows what's up with all that.

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

carrieilty - 50 euros? That is crazy. Good for your finance getting the money back. Thanks for the website links. I think for Christmas I'm going to ask for some Jelly Bellies.

Eyrn - Grazie.

Petulia - Thank you. I am going to check that site out. I have a huge list of books I want and some of them are not sold here.

Faith - Sorry to hear about your gown. I'm going to subscribe again to Domino. They always send me emails offering a special rate. We'll see if the rates apply to Italy.

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

Diana - That stinks. I would like to know where that money is going.

glamah16 said...

My parents divorced when I was young, so I have no memoeries of it(Nigeria). I have to really think long and hard what relative I would want to go with me there. But thats a ling story....