Adventures in importation land

April 1, 2013

I’m learning the hard way that buying a Leica lens from a foreign country can trigger some annoying alarms at the customs.

At first, everything is nice and fast, and UPS moves the package from New-York to Mexico City in less than 24 hours. Then, as things slow down to the Mexican pace, a few days later UPS-Mexico notifies you through the tracking page that more documents are needed for clearance. This is where I sigh heavily, and have some really rude words for the concepts of government, and borders.

The whole mechanism is quite simple. If you’re a Mexican citizen (or company, or resident, …), the local law requires that you have an importation license to get expensive stuff from abroad (that’s if the package states the actual value of its contents: you can try to lie through border officials too). The good thing is, if you are a normal citizen, there is a procedure that you can complete by filling a few forms to promise the government that you are really importing stuff for your own personal use.

When designing this greedy government-y importation-taxing process, I guess no one thought of dummy tourists buying expensive stuff during their stay on Mexican soil (hello it’s me!), since those forms require tax payer IDs, and other taxation paraphernalia. It reminded me of software design: when a developer leaves a imprudent comment in code “you should never get there”… Of course someone will, you big dummy programmer. :)

So we’ll see how this get through, or if I will have to ask the nice customer service of Adorama to send my stuff to… France, and then wait a month for a friend’s visit (working around the bug we just found here…). That’s if the french gods of importation smile at me anyway. I always expect bad news from governments.

The good thing is that living here, in old Oaxaca, has made me completely impervious to what I call — hopefully not sounding racist, really — the Mexican pace: things tend to happen when they’re ready to.