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Jordan

Shanghai Customs Office Nightmare Importing Skincare

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Hi all, wondering if anyone can give me some advice? I ordered 1600rmb of skin creams online last month from the US, to be delivered by UPS. Customs in Shanghai seized the goods on arrival, UPS tell me its because the value is over 1000 RMB. After countless emails, and telephone calls to UPS, having to photocopy my and my wife's passport, visa, letters explaining the situation to Customs etc etc, UPS told me I have to discard some of the order to bring the value to under 1000RMB. 

This seems crazy, and no one I know has heard of this ruling before. Now UPS say I have to wait another 4 weeks for Customs to discard the items! And write a begging letter asking them to kindly throw my stuff away! The attitude of the UPS staff stinks too, seems they try to make the situation as difficult as possible. A Shanghainese friend of mine told me only a bribe will fix the situation! Anyone know anything about this nonsense? Cheers.

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0 experience with this, but if the shipment was packed into multiple boxes you might be able to call UPS and have them break the shipment into two separate deliveries, or possibly return one box to the sender so you can get a refund or a re-shipment.

You will probably have more success if you call the country of origin's UPS office, explain the situation, and then have them pass the command to their Chinese co-workers.

It will have more effect if it comes from them and not you.

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Here's how UPS works. Regardless of there being an actual requirement to declare, they do it anyways because they can collect extra fees on the "service", it's also not uncommon for them to just claim "customs" as an excuse, and pocket the money themselves. Your UPS stuff is dead, refuse it and initiate a refund... then order it from someone who isn't retarded.

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ou need just one thing, it's called 关封 guanfeng = customs cover, where it states the stuff you're importing is for personal use blah blah. This is how you fix this:
1) get the number of the master bill of lading of your shipment
2) get the number of the bill of lading of your shipment
3) get the original invoice
4) get the original airwaybill
5) get photocopies of all the above PLUS photocopies of your passport, residence permit, entry stamp (and FEC/WP just in case)
6) go to the customs branch office at the no.28 west jinling lu 金陵西路 which is 10 min walk from People's Square. 
7) tell the officer you need the Customs Cover. They'll let you fill in a request form. If you don't know how to do that / can't read chinese they'll help you out as long as you have the declared value of the goods and the master BL number. can't recall any other mandatory info atm. 
7.5) register the request and pay. this is done in the same office but at a different counter.
8.) get the request form stamped by your employer
9) go back to the same place and submit the stamped request along with the photocopies. 
10) get the Custom Cover
11) MAIL the custom cover to UPS. I said MAIL not EMAIL, you have to mail them the original hardcopy of the customs cover. better if you notice them over the phone/via email beforehand, also to get the exact address of their office and the name of the guy who should receive it and process the clearance (do I really need to specify this?). leave something written. maybe you can mail it to them via UPS for maximum irony.
12) have them clear your shipment
13) enjoy your american skin creams

of course if you don't have a res permit to begin with, forget what I just said and start looking for local products (or cheaper shipments). Also the odds that you'll receive a refund if you refuse the shipment are low, because you are not actually able to refuse it if they can't clear the shipment in the first place. And the seller is usually not accountable for delayed shipments due to customs issues or confiscation in the destination country. I'd recommend you to check your e-commerce website policies before filing a claim. You might end up losing the dispute.

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The simplest option is to refuse the items and take it as a learning experience. You can try to get the package sent back, but you're probably not going to want to go through all the trouble it will take to do it. 

You've got to realize how many people are trying to sneak product into the country to avoid paying import taxes. At the border of Hong Kong, some guys were even sliding iPads along a cable across the border until they got busted. 

In my experience, you can't ship more than two or three of any one item without customs assuming that it goes beyond personal use. Also, if there are many different products but of the same brand, they'll assume the same thing. 

If you ship anything, use USPS, and only send a handful of product packed with other silly items or snacks. Every box gets opened and checked, so if it looks like a nice care package from home, it will pass without trouble.

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I have learned that if you ever buy stuff from overseas, never buy too much. I used to have tons of problems with Customs because my Amazon orders were sent via UPS (I've even encountered a rule where you can't have more than 10 or was it 20? books in one box at a time - I had to have several destroyed at customs). 

If possible, always buy stuff, especially beauty products, health products, and food through Taobao, since the Taobao sellers have already dealt with customs or somehow found cheaper ways to smuggle the products in.

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Been there; done that. It was a nightmare. We had to hire a Customs Broker (maybe a forwarder is the same thing). Everything had to be translated into Chinese, along with pictures of the itesm. They were very picky about the translation. For example, some of it was clothing. One piece was wool. They had to know what kind of wool. It went back and forth. They threatened to send everything back. Blah, blah, blah. The process took so long, Customs charged a penalty (we acted as fast as possible and it was only 2 or 3 weeks). Between shipping, Custom fees and penalties, and the Customs broker, we paid a 70% premium. I felt like I was scammed. All but one product was originally made in China.

But, keep it under 1,000 RMB, and you won't have any trouble, except they will likely open some of the packages. They recently opened some vitamins that I ordered.

We were told that we could avoid paying some or all of the Custom fees if we have recently returned from a foreign country and had airline tickets to prove it.

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Trust me, from someone who's had to use UPS since 2008, I think their Customer Service has improved considerably. It's hard to avoid UPS, since a lot of overseas stores don't give an option.

And yes, the rules can seem very capricious, if they aren't actually so. Sometimes it all has to do with luck. Hope things work out for you.

I also agree with Emerald Bay, use USPS (if sending from the US) whenever possible. I've had USPS Priority Mail stuff reach me sooner than UPS 2-day shipping, since the UPS got bogged down at Customs. I suspect USPS is dealt through a different channel since it's delivered through the local Post Office system.

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Been there; done that. It was a nightmare. We had to hire a Customs Broker (maybe a forwarder is the same thing). Everything had to be translated into Chinese, along with pictures of the itesm. They were very picky about the translation. For example, some of it was clothing. One piece was wool. They had to know what kind of wool. It went back and forth. They threatened to send everything back. Blah, blah, blah. The process took so long, Customs charged a penalty (we acted as fast as possible and it was only 2 or 3 weeks). Between shipping, Custom fees and penalties, and the Customs broker, we paid a 70% premium. I felt like I was scammed. All but one product was originally made in China.

But, keep it under 1,000 RMB, and you won't have any trouble, except they will likely open some of the packages. They recently opened some vitamins that I ordered.

We were told that we could avoid paying some or all of the Custom fees if we have recently returned from a foreign country and had airline tickets to prove it.

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Some good advice there thanks. What riles me is there's no consistency in China with these things at all, and nothing is in writing (at least not in English), like they just make the rules up as they go along. Will call UPS' US office first....Then try never to use UPS again! Cheers.

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Welcome to China. 
As a matter of fact stuff is in writing, but it's in Chinese, as you said. And, yes, there is consistency, even though one may have no perception of it because of the language barrier and the fact many officers just don't know what's going on outside of their department. 
The only one master key to avoid (some) hassles in this country is to know the language. Sometimes even this is not enough though.

As for what concerns your shipment, USPS is going to give you the same problems. There's a cap of 1000 rmb on each postal shipment, including private forwarders and national post ASFAIK. 
So I'd suggest either 1) to break your future shipments into smaller parts or 2) to find a professional importer who can bring stuff in in HIS name and sell it to you afterwards.

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