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Customs and Post in Germany - beware of receiving food

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For the second time recently, I received a long letter in the post from customs (Zollamt) saying they were holding a parcel for me from New Zealand (where I'm from) and asking me to pay 28 euros to get it sent to me.  Both times the parcels had been sent by my friend in NZ.  Both times she had clearly spelled out the address, put on the customs declaration and value and signed it.  Last time I refused to pay, tried ringing them for an explanation and got a very helpful man with poor English who tried to explain and didn't manage it.  I asked them to send it back, and instead they sent it to me, free of charge. But I never discovered the problem.

This time, I wasn't so lucky. I had 7 days to respond, but 'responding' meant posting the form to the Post Office for them to then collect the parcel for me from Customs (hence the charge).  Which would take a couple of days, and the letter had already taken a couple of days to reach me.  I assumed they allowed for this (they would in the UK - but forgot, this is Germany. So when I saw my tandem conversation partner yesterday, I asked if she could ring them for me, which she kindly did, to find out the problem. She got someone very impolite, who asked her for the identity number on the letter (it was left blank).  She told him there was none; she was told he couldn't help her. She then described the problem and read out to him the items on the customs form. 'It's the chocolate,' he said.  'It's - ' and here he used a Deutsch word I can't recall which basically has 'gefährlich' in it (dangerous).  Chocolate is a dangerous item??!!   But he was right - both times my friend had sent chocolate.  

We then asked if the item could be sent to the Post Office in case my payment arrived late. 'It's already been sent back to NZ,' he said.  The process is entirely automated. They start counting from the time they date stamp the letter before they even send it to you.  'Day 7' was the previous day.  

So, my poor NZ friend who spent a hell of a lot on posting a large parcel with birthday and Christmas presents to me, will soon receive the parcel back.  She is disillusioned with German customs.  I am puzzled.  Having lived in the UK for 20 years, another EU country, I had assumed that sending and receiving chocolate would be fine - the UK customs had never had a problem with it. Not so in Germany.

So, to everyone out there - beware of receiving any food items from overseas (biscuits may be included here) since they will be inspected by customs, and you will have to pay Deutsch Post 28 euros to get them delivered to you unless you want to travel for miles to the customs office yourself.  And whatever you do, start counting from the date stamp and don't make any allowances for delayed post or being away on holiday for the weekend.  It will be sent back!

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I received chocolates from outside the EU and was not charged anything. I visited Zollamt in person, the package was opened and then the Zollbeamte let me on my way.

 

It seems from your description this is what they offered to you: to come and open the package. If there is some tax to pay, then you should pay it, this is the law. New Zealand is not part of the EU, so you should not assume to receive anything from there tax free.

 

Calling Zollamt = BAD IDEA. The call center guys do not know anything about your package, they only look what is in the system.

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I was curious and googled for "zollbestimmungen lebensmittel"

1. It's not allowed to import animal products like meat and milk (cheese) into the EU

2. In a processed form and when the product contains only small amounts, it's allowed. examples: cookies, bread, chocolade

http://www.zoll.de/EN/Private-individuals/Travel/Entering-Germany/Restrictions/Animals-and-plants-products-containing-animal-or-vegetable-substance/Protection-against-animal-diseases/Provisions-on-the-import-of-animal-products/provisions-on-the-import-of-animal-products_node.html

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I get packages of food and clothing from my daughter in  the US all the time.  First, the value has to be less than something like 35€ or they may access tax.  I don't think this includes the shipping cost.  Also, NO medications or vitamins.  And anything from Ebay or China will be checked out.

My daughter lists the shipment as presents.  If she sends clothes, it is washed first and sent as used clothing.  Cookies, candy, chocolates, even pork cracklings have been no problem.   I have lived here for almost 8 years and learned this from experience and several trips, years ago only, to the Zollamt 30 km away.

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6 minutes ago, fraufruit said:

It's silly to mail chocolate int he warm months anyway. I learned that the hard way.

Which reminds me of the story from many years back when I was involved in a High-Energy Research project at DESY (Hamburg).

One of our Ph.D students requested his supervisor to bring a bottle of Ribena (blackcurrent juice) in order to impress the dragon who looked after the student housing.  Unfortunately the supervisor's suitcase had either not been carefully packed or mishandled enroute with the result that the bottle burst.

 

Said supervisor's socks etc. were died a dark purple & smelt/tasted of blackcurrents.

 

 

 

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I have been here for twelve years so my input.   I have found the packages with a high value/insurance rate are the ones most often picked up.   I have had food sent from stateside with no issue.  I just tell friends to label it candy or believe it or not tortillas.  Never an issue,  In fact my last package to be stopped by the zoll was a christmas present I had a friend send.  She had it valued at 500€ and surprise the zoll picked it up. That was about five years ago.  Now I just tell friends value it under a hundred.  Then again I rarely order anything expensive from the U.S. anymore.  Anyway better luck next time and now you know.  

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beware of receiving mail.  They take it.  They sometimes open it.  Most recently they hold it hostage.

 

when asked they say "no of course there is no duty on personal letters"   "then why are you holding it"  "because deutsche post"  "what do I have to do"  "send them a copy of the receipt showing the value of the goods and pay 28.50 so they can open all your letters to be sure they are of no financial value"  "but it's MAIL- it has no value!"  "well you can file a customs declaration online as an importer"...

 

hahahahaha!

 

there is no sure method of avoiding the zoll.  freaking quagmire to end all 

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41 minutes ago, perdido said:

That was about five years ago. 

 

yeah.  5 years ago I didn't have problems either.  Things have changed.

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Just now, fraufruit said:

It's silly to mail chocolate int he warm months anyway. I learned that the hard way.

 

- you do realise that NZ is on the other side of this planet, and thus has more or less opposite temperatures to what we are currently experiencing, don't you?

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1 hour ago, robinson100 said:

 

- you do realise that NZ is on the other side of this planet, and thus has more or less opposite temperatures to what we are currently experiencing, don't you?

 

Of course I do. However, it is the destination that also counts. I mistakenly sent my daughter in law chocolates a couple of years ago to the U.S. in May. In Georgia, it can be very hot at that time of year so she received mush.  I will say that I ordered them from the U.K. and the small company re-sent them when it got cooler. Best customer service ever.

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1 hour ago, robinson100 said:

 

- you do realise that NZ is on the other side of this planet, and thus has more or less opposite temperatures to what we are currently experiencing, don't you?

...and it's the whole route which counts: the package can be ok both in NZ and Germany, but it will have intermediary stops in Singapore or Dubai where it can be hot in contrast. Yes, quite risky, I would agree with FF.

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So your beef might be with the post, not customs, at least in part.

 

I was hopping mad recently at an exorbitant customs charge on a package delivered to my door and got someone at Zoll to tell me that the customs on the thing had only been €11, the remaining 20-something euro was dhl, the dishonest bastards, charging me to go pick it up. Any other time they breeze past my place without even leaving a note, leaving me to have to track down my packages manually and rescue them armed with nothing more than a photo ID from God knows where, but when there's some blood money to be squeezed, THEN the presumptuous pricks are suddenly able to find their ways into the Hinterhof. 

 

Well, let me tell you, customs isn't so damn far that I'd pay those self -satisfied shits to pick it up for me, I'd rather spend half a day going to pick it up on the other side of town. And wtf is this anyway, showing up and demanding cash? Used to be, you'd get a note saying your stuff is at Zoll. Now dhl are taking it upon themselves to taxi your shit around at arbitrarily high rates, they name you a price, claiming it's Zoll, without mentioning that in fact 2/3rds of it is the tip they've given themselves, and you're supposed to just fork it over! Cash! We can't find our own ass with two hands and a map but we can make change for a fifty! Wankers!!

 

PS I don't much care for dhl/post, in case I've been a bit vague on the matter

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yeah, in part it IS Deutsche Post/DHL behind it :)

 

it's very hard to pick apart the spheres of responsibility.

 

but the Post seems to be really milking the situation.  The very short story is that for "packages" without a "valid" "customs declaration" (no that form your relative/friend fills out at the USPS to declare the value is apparently not good enough in random cases), it has to be physically opened and inspected.

 

the Zoll is not allowed to do this (at least with items sent by mail) due to privacy concerns. apparently a Deutsche Post employee acts "on your behalf" to open the packet or mail and they charge you 28,50 for the service.  see here:  https://www.paketda.de/news-postverzollung-gebuehr.html

 

these fees are new in the last couple of years - I think this explains why the last time my brother forwarded a big pile of mail, they opened everything (including the letters themselves) and forwarded it to me.  this time they wanted me to pay.

 

but I DO think the Zoll should have answered my question about why the USPS customs declaration (which was properly and accurately attached and filled out) was not good enough and what other documentation should have been attached to the package since IT HAS NO VALUE. That is a Zoll requirement.

 

No explanation from the Zoll...just "oh...deutsche post"  and "you can file a customs declaration online next time"...which requires registering as an importer and all kinds of other crap.

 

they both suck.

 

 

 

 

 

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@dessa_dangerous if that happened recently I think you should file a complaint with the post - part of that whole scheme involves a requirement that they NOTIFY you and give you a choice about whether you want to pay for the service.  They are not supposed to attempt delivery unless you return the notice letter to them accepting the service

 

they recently started charging 6 euros on top of the 28,50 in the case that you actually have to pay any duty on the package if you choose to have them deliver it.

 

 

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dude, would you please give that a rest?

 

could you possibly READ what I posted?  In fact the Zoll does have an obligation to explain what a "proper" customs declaration on mail should include.

 

if they don't believe the declaration on the package, fine, but to say "you have not provided one" is pure bullshit.

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You really need to lose that stress and anger. They have no compulsion to actually believe what is written on the declaration but you just want to moan on and on here that things aren't being done how you want. I offered twice to help you but that doesn't seem to fit in with your constant moaning.

You could sort this in 5 minutes if you go along to them, but again you don't want to, you'd rather just spout off here.

 

You say there is a customs declaration, they say not. Did you go along and see it for yourself?

It would be so much easier to go along, sort it out, pay nothing as I'm sure there will be no Duty, then return home with your mail.

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Unless this has changed within the last year you also realise that they only hold on to things for 14 days before sending them back at the sender's cost, but you have to pay a daily storage fee from 7 days onwards.

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