Every little shipment is an adventure

When I was younger, my family moved around frequently, from city to city or sometimes relatively short stretches within town. This usually required renting a truck from U-Haul whose every panel was plastered with the slogan “Adventures in Moving.” Usually the adventure part involved exhaust fumes coming into the passenger cabin, an overheated engine, or some small electrical fire, so the phrase “Adventures in Moving” became a standard inside joke for several years, as our minds filled with images of disaster.

People don’t want moving to be an adventure. Likewise, an importer does not want a shipment to be an adventure.

If, for example, you remind your shipping vendor about three times to make sure FDA Prior Notice is filed and noted on the airwaybill before shipping the cargo, several days before and on the day of departure, you would like that to happen. It’s not sort of a Las Vegas, “hey, if this doesn’t pan out, I only wagered a little bit of money and it’s no big deal; it’s the experience of just being here that I came for” kind of thing, it’s a “will I see my cargo at all and how much will the FDA penalize me and will I ever be able to convince the shipping vendor that they owe me that money since it was their mistake after all, and if so, will I ever see the refund” kind of thing.

Adventure is not what we want; it’s not the experience of shipping something, it’s the getting the cargo in a timely manner that I care about. I’m all for zen-like experiences, you know, when I’m on a four hour bicycle ride or jogging around Greenlake, or maybe if I'm cooking a really good meal. In such cases, I don’t mind something being about the process and not about the result.

But importers are not particularly excited by shipping products. That’s why we usually let someone else handle the freight arrangements. Importers are excited about receiving products, and then actually selling them.

So, when I found out on Tuesday that, in spite of at least three days reminders from my supplier and me, requests for fax copies (which we did not receive), I was a little peeved when my customs broker told me that the cargo might be refused because no prior notice was filed. Or, if the FDA decided they would release the cargo in spite of lacking prior notice, they could still penalize me some amount of money which is likely to be whatever tiny amount of money I could possibly home to profit from this shipment and then some.

My customs broker went ahead and filed prior notice. It turns out that I got the shipment in a timely manner. But the remaining unknowns still make me very irritated. I was paying a premium for my particular shipping vendor because they never screw anything up, but they did this time. So I’m not very happy about that.  I think my next shipment will be handled by someone else.