MM writes: Does it really have to take three hours to clear a package at customs? I simply cannot see the logic in not so much as considering a more efficient and expedited way to conduct this vital transaction. There is no particular excuse as to why people must sit half their entire day in the queue at customs.
You arrive after fasting and praying three days asking the universe to help you find parking After this task, and depending on your method of import, you attend either the cargo office or, well, customs. The sound of the word has me traumatized after my experience. Frustrated clerks, frustrated customers, frustrated cashiers and frustrated security — and all with very good reason! It is hard to imagine what the staff must go through wrestling with an antiquated system, increased customer flow and a busted ticketing machine two weeks before Christmas.
When you have finally made your way inside, you are greeted by an amiable security who attempts to assist with maintaining order and answering customer queries during a time of chaos as the ticketing machine has decided to go defunct again.
“Musical chairs again?” a customer chimes as she walks through the door to notice the ticket machine down and people moving from seat to seat as they progress through the seated crowd It is apparent that this woman had experienced the machine failure and crowded waiting area before.
Anyone who has had an experience with customs on one of these dreadful days must admit, there has got to be a better way for them to do this.
In today’s technological era there is no reason people should be forced to spend 3+ hours to clear a package. And two separate counters to calculate duty and then on to the other to pay it?
Pull a ticket, sit, wait, get called up (eventually), hand over paperwork, get duty calculated (and make sure you get your item code beforehand too), some stamping of documents, sent back to ticket machine (if and when it is working), pull another ticket for payment, sit, wait, get called up, pay, sigh of relief as you finally walk outside and the sunshine touches your face after spending all day at customs.
Why can’t more of this process be automated? Why can’t people simply forward their invoices to customs through a secure online portal, have their duty calculated, pay online, print barcoded receipt, drive to customs, have barcode scanned and verified, grab package and go?
Sure, there may be a few more logistics to this process than that, but it takes less than a quarter of the steps and less than half the time, redirecting precious manpower to other vital tasks.
In a country that the livelihood of the entire population relies on importation, I would expect that automation of the customs payment process would have taken a step up the priority ladder. The place is chaos, there must be another way. Sure, you can hire a broker, or ship direct using a courier, which is my usual approach; but that still does not settle the fact that there is an enormous amount of wasted time, paper, labour and general resources as a result of not exploring more efficient and contemporary ways to service the public and collect customs revenue.
First of all, I have tried and tried to find logic behind the two-step process. I cannot understand why customers must go to the laptop on the wall to search for item codes only to be told (after having to sit and wait again) that they have selected the wrong one and sent back to search again. Obviously the random individual who decides to import a few gifts will not know which of the thousands of codes (many similar in description and duty) the Customs Department would prefer to have associated with the import in question.
Three hours is unreasonable, and yet if you get in and out in two it is cause for celebration. Other customers who frequent this department said they will tackle it as a two-day process, going in to finalize paperwork and have duty calculated on day one and then back to pay and collect their import on day two. Oh, how I sympathize with anyone who must go there more than once per year.
Now, it is not that I am impatient, or just wanting to complain, but the fact is — there must be a better way!