Derry, Northern Ireland

Derry, Northern Ireland
A book I'm working on is set in this town.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Just when I think I'm an idiot...

Someone who is, supposedly, much more intelligent than I does something so mind-numbingly stupid, I feel like a genius. I'd dealing with that while handling a number of international book dealers who are, apparently, unable to follow simple instruction, even when they're given those instruction written to a 5th grade level.

You see, in the last few years, international trade has become more difficult thanks to customs regulations being tightened and customs officials trying to actually find problems in imports and exports. Whenever they do, they can seize goods, charge nasty fines, and maybe even make a few bucks for themselves. That's what Canada was doing with their customs officials; they got a percentage of any fines they levied...then came 9/11 and fear was added to the quest for cash.

Well, now that most governments are going broke thanks to their amazingly insane focus on cutting taxes and firing government employees and killing their economies rather than trying to help keep those economies going, they're being even more difficult to deal with.

Now something to keep in mind is -- books going into the US or UK are zero rated for duty, meaning no matter how expensive the book is, if it's a book, you don't pay duty to get it into the country. Period. But you do have to declare it at full value. That's the law. And book dealers know this. I know because I've discussed it with so damned many of them.

But what do some still do? Under-declare the value of the books they're shipping into the US or UK. That's a felony. When it's discovered, the book gets seized, you get threatened with jail and fines, and from that point on your shop is under the customs microscope. It's ridiculous because it achieves nothing in savings but can wind up costing you thousands of dollars or pounds.

The problem is, even when you send out e-mails with letters specifically detailing exactly what needs to be done to bring...say...a million-dollar shipment worth of books into the US for a fair, so many supposedly literate people just will not do it. Then will claim we never told them that was needed, even though we can see they not only received the letter of instructions, they acknowledged getting it in an earlier e-mail. And when they do supply the paperwork they're asked for, half the time it's wrong. Export licenses (which can be necessary for certain types of books coming out of the UK) do not match up with information on the packing lists. Only part of the information that is needed on the packing list is on it (and that's with them being sent an example of what information is needed).

These are not uneducated people. Many of them are highly literate and have inventories that would make any library in the world ecstatic if they had even half the books. Yet they act as if we're still in the 1950s, when theirs was a rarified world and customs was sleepy and unconcerned about their shipments. It ain't that way no more and they can't accept the new reality. Customs officials will now go to the internet to find out the prices of books they think are undervalued...and have caught a number of dealers by doing that very thing.

But no matter how many times someone is caught trying to pull a fast one, they keep on trying. Maybe they're just crazy as a whole; having worked at an antiquarian book shop, I can attest to some of the people there being bat-shit crazy. After all, didn't Einstein say one definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result?

Hm...maybe I shouldn't complain about feeling so smart. It don't happen much in my universe.

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