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Regarding the destructive force that is customs. 
24th-Jan-2013 02:35 am

I wanted to share a couple of lolita/customs horror stories that have recently affected me as both a seller and a buyer on the egl_comm_sales. These aren't monetary horror stories. Getting a massive customs bill sucks, but getting a package that customs has downright destroyed is far more devastating. I was wondering if anyone else has any similar experiences to share, and I was also hoping that these tales may be somewhat cautionary, especially to sellers. Adding a few extra layers of protective wrapping than you normally do can really go a long way, as it turns out.


I'll tell my seller horror story first.

I recently sold a dress to someone overseas. Because of the high customs charges in the buyer's country, I was asked to under declare the package. I sympathize, and I often ask for the same courtesy from sellers for the same reason. I wrapped the dress up adequately, in a tight, secure layer of plastic/padded wrapping and a sturdy cardboard box. I then proceeded to FedEx it.

What happened next was that US customs, since all FedEx packages travel through Memphis TN, decided to open the package for inspection -- by slashing the darned thing up with a heavy duty boxcutter. This was completely unnecessary, I should point out, because FedEx boxes have a very simple pull-to-open tab.

The buyer opened her package to discover that the boxcutter not only cut through the box, but also the wrap AND her dress. It left a devastating gash right in the front of the dress near the waist bow. Nothing could be done to recuperate the loss, unfortunately, because the item had been marked down. Would customs have treated the package any differently if it had been marked higher? We can only speculate about such what-ifs, but I'm not 100% convinced that it would have saved the dress from irreparable damage. Customs seems to handle packages violently more often than I thought, which brings me to my next horror story. This one has a happy ending, thanks to a quick-witted and proactive seller.

I traded my Milky Planet OP for a JSK this month, and when I received my package in the mail, I noticed that it had been inspected by customs. To my horror, it had a MASSIVE slice and rip in the outer layer of the packaging. It looked like they forcefully took a boxcutter to the middle, and ripped open the package with their two hands like Hulk Hogan would his shirt. I thought for sure that my item inside was completely destroyed.

When I opened it, I saw that the boxcutter did indeed slice though the package, and into its contents. The seller was a complete Godsend in this instance, however. She had wrapped the dress in a sturdy plastic garment bag, and although the garment bag was practically destroyed, the dress inside was 100% safe.

If there's a moral to anything that I'm sharing, it's that we need to be very careful as both sellers and buyers. We need to go the extra mile when we package our items for sale. As buyers, I think we need also to be proactive and ask our sellers to pack everything in several layers, as securely and safely as possible. Personally, I'd pay extra for more packaging after what almost happened to me today. I wish I could turn back time and add several more layers of wrapping in my past buyer's package, as I feel terrible about what happened to her dress because of customs. I know that personally, when I sell dresses from now on I'm using 3 or 4 layers of bubble/plastic wrapping on the garment. I'm going to make everything into Fort Knox, because there's no way I'm chancing the heartbreaking situation that my buyer had to go through because of customs.

Has anyone else has their lolita packages, either bought or sold, damaged or destroyed by customs in the past?

Comments 
24th-Jan-2013 08:04 am (UTC)
This is not a lolita experience, but through my work we sometimes use FedEx for the very heavy packages and have had MANY items lost or destroyed by their Memphis employees. There was one incident where many flag pole kits were opened and the "gold" balls stolen, because they apparently thought it was real gold.

I just thought this might be useful information in case you haven't already reconsidered whether or not to use them.
24th-Jan-2013 08:11 am (UTC)
Good God, how awful! It's unfortunate, as I've had many great experiences with FedEx in the past, and even recently. They've been fast and reliable for shipping so many times -- and then something like this happens, shattering your perspective of the service.

I'm not sure that Canada Post is far better, considering the state my package arrived in today, but I will be using them exclusively from this point forward.
(Deleted comment)
24th-Jan-2013 09:10 am (UTC)
That's so horrible I'm going to forget I even read it. Lalalala stupid crap like this doesn't happen for real lalalalala.
24th-Jan-2013 08:24 am (UTC)
Unfortunately yes, even several times. I had a package destroyed by customs ( as in not delivered because they made a mistake), I've had content missing after inspection of customs, I had ripped clothes after inspection as well and I have received a completely soaked and very smelly package after been in customs for more than 4 weeks.
Not very happy stories I'm afraid and unfortunately you can't do much about it especially not if your package has been marked down. It's the one thing I trully hate about ordering outside Europe.

Edited at 2013-01-24 09:48 am (UTC)
24th-Jan-2013 06:02 pm (UTC)
The soaked and smelly one made me cringe. I would be absolutely livid if that happened to something of mine in the mail. What could they have possibly spilled on it or done to it? : (
24th-Jan-2013 08:27 am (UTC)
I don't really have any horror stories about the customs killing the items we buy but, I have some more trouble with the darn high prices they are charging here in belgium.
My husband got me 2 items from BL. both ordered seperatly... well, I ended up paying as much as the packedge itself for it... :(
yesterday my friend had to pay half of the amount of the price she ordered :s
I think that customs is just trying to destroy us :(
24th-Jan-2013 10:10 am (UTC)
Same here, i once ordered a metamorphose dress during their sale and customs cost me about half of the dress + shipping.
That's also a reason why i don't buy big lucky packs (like IWS Q___Q!) because i'm terribly afraid of getting hit by custums..
24th-Jan-2013 08:30 am (UTC)
That's why it always comes in handy to pay for insurance AND airmail (provided one can afford it).

One time, my purchase got SO mangled from Japan to here, but everything was fine. Canada Post. :(

A month ago, I had bought something else and it had to go through customs, and they were very nice as not to mess anything up in the box. They just took a quick look and sent it on my merry way.

Insofar, I had to pay for customs once because the seller put the amount on my package way high for them to look. I usually put the price between $5 to $10. That way, 99% of the time, my buyer doesn't have to pay for customs or any other duties that may arise (there could be that 1%, but no one has told me that they had to pay extra. So far, anyway).

I'm iffy when it comes to UPS, though. I mean, the majority of the time that my items come from them, and I be not around, they just leave it on the porch.

Edited at 2013-01-24 08:30 am (UTC)
24th-Jan-2013 06:06 pm (UTC)
The only issue is, if you mark an expensive item as 5 or 10 dollars, customs might treat it in the frivolous matter that I described above. I mean, I'd like to think that if a package was marked at 100-500 they'd treat it with more respect considering its value, but to be quite honest, that's probably wishful thinking on my part.
24th-Jan-2013 09:25 am (UTC)
You know there are so many people out of work these days and yet these people who do a horrendously bad job are somehow employed, and it's so frustrating there's no trail about who it was exactly that messed things up when it comes to customs. They always want to shirk the responsibility! Anyway, I've never had something destroyed/lost/damaged through customs, and I'm in the UK. I did once have a package start to be delivered to the wrong address but luckily I had tracking and noticed it was at the other end of the country! I rarely buy outside of Europe these days anyway.
24th-Jan-2013 06:09 pm (UTC)
I know, right?! The job of being a customs inspector (in Canada, anyway) is a pretty sweet job. It pays well, and I'd like to have it. I know for sure that if I were a customs inspector, I wouldn't be slashing open people's fabric items with sharp boxcutters... geez.

And they really do shirk the responsibility. I've complained to customs several times. A couple of times, it was because they overcharged me. A couple of times it was for damage on items. I've only ever received one (very half-assed) apology, and that was for when they overcharged me. It shows their priorities, I think.
24th-Jan-2013 10:22 am (UTC)
When I ordered a Lucky Pack from AATP last year, the box came to me almost completely destroyed. The top had a big gash and the sides were also broken. Luckily, everything was still alright, but:



It was pulled open this much without me even having to cut or pull anything. That's the only time I've had customs handle my package roughly, usually it gets delivered quite well.
24th-Jan-2013 06:11 pm (UTC)
Luckily, your lucky pack was in that nice protective bag that I see! I think that really helped keep it from getting cut open. : )
24th-Jan-2013 10:32 am (UTC)
oh jeez thats terrible! Im so sorry you went through all that :(
is customs that apathetic to the packages and its contents? Thats unbelievable...
Is it just packages through Memphis, TN this happens to?
Fortunately i never went through such an ordeal, my packages arrive very intact...
It might be because i always chose EMS and my packages go through San Francisco, California customs
and never take more than 4 days to arrive
At most the boxes my packages arrive in are dented a little but i dont think customs ever really inspected my packages
despite having so much mail last year
24th-Jan-2013 06:14 pm (UTC)
No, it's not just Memphis, actually. My second story was about Canadian customs, because the package was sent from Australia to me, and wouldn't have had to pass though the United States at all. So unfortunately, my border patrol agency is just as bad.

I had never received a package that had been fully inspected before yesterday. It was quite a shock to see how they treat what they inspect.
24th-Jan-2013 10:40 am (UTC)
Stories like this make me soooo angry. If it happened in my country I would write a long and angry complain letter. If they wouldn't reply I would call them everyday.
This is not normal. They ask ridiculously high fees to handle the packages like this?? wtf
24th-Jan-2013 06:15 pm (UTC)
Exactly! It's not right at all. They charge us $10 just for handling in Canada. So basically, I'm paying $10 for them to attempt to almost destroy my items. It makes no sense.
24th-Jan-2013 11:26 am (UTC)
And they ask that you pay them to mangle your package (Inspection Fee) ... I don't WANT you to mangle my package! Why would I PAY for it!?
24th-Jan-2013 06:14 pm (UTC)
I know! Here in Canada, we pay $10 JUST for "handling".
ie the "we've graced this package with our touch pay us $10" fee.
24th-Jan-2013 11:40 am (UTC)
I have used Japan Post, Polish Post (Poczta Polska) and UPSP and I can tell that I had a really nice experience with all of them.
However, a lolita in my community was caught by customs and they claimed that her bodyline coat was actually worth more than it was and she had to pay customs fees which ended up being as much as the coat itself on BL.
I always send my items in a cardboard box and the dress inside is secured in plastic. However, when my latest dress traded on egl came to me, the envelope was damaged (but the dress was alright, I'm so happy).
I have had heard some really bad things about FedEx before. I prefer DHL.They are always polite and when the item wasn't delivered they would either call you or leave note when there will be next delivery (even with time)!

I feel really sorry for you all who had such problems =/ Were I you, I'd totally sue them!
24th-Jan-2013 12:12 pm (UTC)
While this is not a customs story, I was reminded of it when I read of the box cutter. I recently moved house and in one of my boxes, I placed a Btssb bag on the very top. After moving house, I wasn't paying too much attention to which boxes I was opening but carelessly sliced some open with my sharp scissors only to find out that I'd just made a big gash right through my Btssb Bag. I wanted to punch myself in the face for being so foolish ; ^ ;
24th-Jan-2013 06:17 pm (UTC)
OH NOOOO ;___; That's a horrible story, I'm incredibly sorry. Did you end up having to throw it away? Or is it still usable.
24th-Jan-2013 12:31 pm (UTC)
This happened to me recently, I was really hoping it was an isolated case. I got the AP LP JSK in sax along with two other LPs for friends. I noticed the bag that the LPs are held in had a gash in it so I checked everything inside. Fortunately nothing else was damaged, but it scared the bajeesus out of me. A bit bummed the bag got damaged, but patched that so it's at least still useable.
24th-Jan-2013 06:18 pm (UTC)
I think those lucky pack bags really save you in situations like this. I bet if it hadn't been packaged in that extra AP bag, your items may have been cut open ;__;
24th-Jan-2013 01:33 pm (UTC)
Reading about people who have had items go missing from packages always makes me worried about lucky packs.
A lot of the time we have no clue what we will actually be getting in them so what is stopping customs from removing items from them?

If this were to happen to a buyer with a blind lucky pack I don't think they would have much of a claim unless they can prove what was meant to be in there and what went missing.
And on the off chance that a buyer could provide evidence and get covered would they be covered for the cost of the pack, or for the actual cost of items inside? (since lucky packs always contain items worth more than the actual pack cost!) Personally I have the feeling that they'd only cover for the former and not the latter.

It's stuff like that which gets me really worried, it's made even worse when you think about how many dishonest people are out there.
24th-Jan-2013 03:11 pm (UTC)
Most insurance claims will only accept the declared value or the value on the original payment invoice, whichever is lower. It's pretty much a fail-safe to prevent people from scamming the post office for insurance. If something in a lucky pack did get damaged, you can potentially get covered for part of the cost of the LP, but honestly, it would be easier to just claim your money back if they destroyed it completely because there's no good way to prove the value of just part of it (and they won't take anything aside from original invoice/payment info, so tag price means nothing).

On the flip side, if you buy from a seller/company who doesn't mistakenly writes a higher value than it actually should be (or is just plain stupid because I've had an SS company do this before), and you get hit with customs, if you have the invoice to prove that you paid a lower price, you can submit a claim and they will refund you the difference.

As for lucky packs, thankfully people working in customs outside of Japan most likely don't know a think about lolita (and the value of brand items). Also, I've generally found that many brands will put the accessories in the middle or near the bottom of the box for LPs, so the customs worker would really need to dig a bit to get to the smaller stuff, and the bigger stuff probably look a bit too obvious to just steal.
24th-Jan-2013 02:21 pm (UTC)
I was hit with - eeer - customs search that one time I pre-ordered Meta's Jewellry Butterfly. I'd usually get a stamp on my package and a slip saying the customs opened it, but this tim I had to be present. When I said I couldn't, because I had to be at work, the officers said they were holding my package off the charts and if I wouldn't come the next day they'd have to file it as being "kept". Which would cost me approximately $250.
24th-Jan-2013 03:02 pm (UTC)
Do they really expect employers to give their workers time off (with very little notice) so they can watch a parcel being opened, or an employee to lose pay to take leave? That's ridiculous. Were you able to be there for the opening?
24th-Jan-2013 03:14 pm (UTC)
this kind of thing is so dumb for FedEx/other companies! By destroying their customers package, they're having people lose faith in their service! If I ever have to ship overseas, i'm scared to mark down for the package! i dont want something terrible to happen and then the buyer cant get any money back or anything :(
24th-Jan-2013 06:23 pm (UTC)
That's exactly how I feel about sending packages marked down after my experience... but it's such a catch 22. The dress I sold that got damaged was worth about $500 because of its rarity (yikes, I know). If I bought a dress that was marked at $500 and I had to pay customs on it, it would turn into about $750 -- so I understand why people ask for things marked down very well. This is just a risk you need to be willing to take when you ask for it, I guess.
24th-Jan-2013 05:00 pm (UTC)
Yes, a package I sent was ripped badly by customs and returned to me as they couldn't read the adress, as they ripped it... Ive also had about 5 packages ripped open, including the one containing my VR jsk! Luckily the contents were fine in all packages. Unreleated to loli, but I also had a large box containing bottles of mead broken as it was delivered to me, so even private shippping companies make mistakes and drop things!
I usually pack expensive items in boxes just to make sure they're alright.
24th-Jan-2013 06:26 pm (UTC)
As for packing in boxes, that's what I did with the dress that I sent via FedEx because I felt that a box would be far more secure than a bubble envelope. What I wonder is, if the dress had been in a secure bubble envelope, would they have still taken a boxcutter to it? Or do they reserve that kind of appliance for cardboard outer materials? I don't think I'll ever know, but I usually use a well packed bubble envelope, and I've never had this happen when I did that.
24th-Jan-2013 05:20 pm (UTC)
I actually just received a parcel about an hour ago, which has been thoroughly mangled by the postal service. It was sent via Australia Post and was taken up by USPS when it reached the USA. Thankfully, the seller had wrapped the item in a bag, because she apparently only used a layer of thin paper for the outer wrapping:

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Image and video hosting by TinyPic


I also received a box from Japan a few days ago (via EMS), which had a hole in the side large enough for me to fit my entire arm inside the box without opening it.


This article is a few years old, but basically Popular Mechanics magazine sent some packages using various services and included g-force indicators in the boxes. What they found makes me horrified with certain carriers: http://www.popularmechanics.com/technology/gadgets/tests/which-shipping-company-is-kindest-to-your-packages
24th-Jan-2013 06:28 pm (UTC)
That's actually really awful... it looks like the envelope is just paper, not even a secure bubble envelope. In this instance, I might be upset at the seller as well, because that paper envelope just doesn't look secure enough for the contents to be kept safe (and clearly, it wasn't).
24th-Jan-2013 06:10 pm (UTC)
I've never had problems with FedEx so I'm disappointed to hear these stories. When I worked at an electronics store, our main distributor would always ship UPS. We would get mangled packages at least once a month, but the worst was around Christmas time. Boxes would come to us damaged daily with holes, rips, and punctures, straight up open, or, if the thief was feeling especially sneaky, retaped. In the 2011 Christmas year, we found that everytime we tracked a box go through a specific sorting facility, we would have several items stolen, the invoice magically not in the box (like we didn't know what we ordered. seriously?!), and the box retaped. Since this happened to us several times, we called the sorting facility and they caught the thief in the act. They hire extra help during busy times and don't have time to do background checks or thorough interviews.
We were always able to get stolen items reshipped to us or get our money refunded, but it's easy for a business. I think regular customers have a hard time because the shipping companies assume that they would rather lose a customer or two than a large business owner who ships daily.

I was recently hit by customs for the first time with a Meta package. The charge was around $30usd and my package was thankfully never opened. After reading these comments I'm a little freaked out about lucky packs though...
24th-Jan-2013 07:05 pm (UTC)
I bought a Meta Lucky Pack a couple of years ago, and customs didn't touch it.
24th-Jan-2013 07:37 pm (UTC)
This is why I don't like to mark stuff down :/ However, I don't know how feasible this is for everyone, but this problem could easily be solved by placing a piece of cardboard or poster board at the top of the package, like above whatever contents you've already wrapped up that way if customs cuts into it (or even the buyer cutting into their package when they receive it), they won't cut into the contents.
25th-Jan-2013 01:49 am (UTC)
I really like this idea. I'm going to look into getting some thick paper stock to put at the top of boxed items. : )
24th-Jan-2013 08:43 pm (UTC)
Using bubble or opaque polystyrene envelopes may help for one item or two, as these usually only experience a small tear for customs to see what's inside. My packages from the US all came with an inch tear but the items inside were untouched.
24th-Jan-2013 08:56 pm (UTC)
USPS "delivered" Chess Chocolate to my doorstep. And by "delivered", I mean no one knocked or rang or came up the shaky loud steps to our floor, no package on the doorstep or on any of the neighbors', and since it was listed as "delivered" on the tracking site, they no longer had any responsibility whatsoever to help me. They did their part, tough cookies. Must have been stolen right off the porch.

I emailed AP, and they were very understanding and were going to start an investigation with USPS (meanwhile, I was freaking out, afraid I would be out $250+ and also blacklisted). I also called my local post office (several times) to find out what happened, because I was 100% certain that no postman tiptoed to our doorstep, quietly left a package and fled, and that a thief in waiting just so happened to sneak up to our hidden porch area to steal it.

I ended up being very lucky; the local post office sent our regular postman to speak with me while he was on his route. I pointed out the timestamp for the "delivery" to him and explained the situation and that someone was home the entire day the package was supposedly delivered. He agreed that the timestamp was way too early for it to have been him since he gets to our area later in the day. Sure enough, later the next day, he shows up having located the package (I didn't ask - I'm assuming some new guy preemptively marked it as delivered and then just never tried and it was in a truck or at the post office somewhere, since the box was in perfect condition and obviously not left on someone's porch) and delivered it to me.

In the end, I thanked him profusely (since the policy of USPS is that if it is marked as "delivered" then they are no longer responsible, he really didn't have an obligation to help at all, so I'm glad he did) and requested that no package, under any circumstance, be left on my doorstep, so that I don't get the "well it must have been stolen" run around again - I now have to sign for anything that doesn't fit in my tiny mailbox, and you know what? That is just fine by me!
24th-Jan-2013 09:14 pm (UTC)
Also, not lolita, but US customs flat out stole a nice pair of leather and brass goggles. It got there and vanished, no letter (had it been an official destruction of the item, I'd have gotten a letter or something). The seller was AMAZING and replaced the goggles, but yeah... wherever you are, goggle thief, I hope a bird gets you right on the shoulders.
24th-Jan-2013 09:33 pm (UTC)
I'm in the UK and the most I usually get is when the box has obviously had something(s) heavy placed on top and it's completely crushed the structure of the box. I don't know what I'd do if something arrived ripped or torn! Although I moan about them it makes me grateful for our postal service!

This mostly seems to be happening in the US and Canada? I generally wrap my parcels up well anyway but I shall certainly now take that extra bit of care when shipping to those particular countries
24th-Jan-2013 10:24 pm (UTC)
In December of 2011 I made an order with Innocent World-my package was in customs for two weeks, and when I received it it looked like someone had been playing soccer with the box. The dresses where basically balled up and thrown back in, so they where all super wrinkly when I took them out. I'm lucky that's all that happened, I'm sorry to hear you've had such horrible luck with customs.

ETA: I live in the USA

Edited at 2013-01-24 10:24 pm (UTC)
24th-Jan-2013 10:48 pm (UTC)
A lot of horrible stories :/
I'm from Mexico, and after read all this i consider myself very lucky, i have been buying online like for 4-5 years i have never experienced something like this, my packages never were open. But i'll be more careful when i ship to other countries. Thank you for sharing!
25th-Jan-2013 07:15 am (UTC)
Seconding this. I've been so lucky not to be hit with fees and for all my packages to arrive untouched. I honestly think there should be SOMETHING that can protect you from customs in terms of if they damage it.
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