Last week I was asked by my client to fly out to Munich to install two very expensive TVs into their clients HQ, everything went well, no issues getting into Germany with no requirement for a work permit, however the larger of the two TVs, a 75” flatscreen got totally smashed in transit, when it was couriered to site.
On Monday I was asked to return to Munich and install the replacement 75”TV, but also take some media players and a network switch on the Tuesday (yesterday).
As there wasn’t enough time to sort out the customs documents before flying, we had to make the decision to take the equipment and declare it at the red channel in Munich Airport customs.
On arrival at Munich airport, a reasonably short queue to get my entry stamp into the EU at the border control, then on to baggage claim, shortly after I arrived into the customs area to make the declaration for the equipment.
The customs officer was quite surprised, but after I explained the very last minute decision to send me here with kit, he agreed to deal with the situation.
We went to an empty table and proceeded to examine the equipment. It quickly became apparent that the value of the equipment was going to exceed the €1000 limit, and that the kit would be impounded whilst I went to find a freight forwarding company to issue a customs declaration.
This was expected, but, the nearest company was outside the terminal, so a taxi was required to transport me there. The first 3 taxis refused to take me the 2km to the company offices, so back to customs to get some more help, the customs officer informs me that the taxis have to take me and to tell the driver it’s illegal to refuse.
Back to taxi rank, first taxi flat out refuses, apparently doesn’t speak English and won’t listen to my protestations, luckily the taxi behind understood and I was soon on my way.
But then the driver tells me we have arrived at the building and points to the door, I pay and get out, walk over to the door as the taxi leaves. On pressing the buzzer, the security guard tells me he doesn’t speak English, in my schoolboy German, I try to explain what I need, he doesn’t understand, but then a young chap appears, the guard asks if he can translate, he agrees, I tell him I need to find a freight forwarding company to make the declaration, he explains this to the security guard.
The guard scratches his head and says no, not here. Ok wrong building, thank you mr taxi driver.
The young chap takes pity on me and tells me he thinks he knows where I need to be, and so we set off for another building.
I won’t bore you with the details but let’s just say I visited 6 buildings on several levels before eventually finding the one I need that has a freight forwarding company.
I left the airport at just after 12.30pm, it’s now 4.45pm, I feel like I’ve been through a time warp of explaining to various people what I need and being pointed to another office, anyhow, the guy behind the current desk says yes he can help, but he needs an invoice from my client to their client with the serial numbers of the equipment and their clients EORI number, so after some frantic phone calls back to UK, my client tells me he’s working on it.
the freight forwarding company tell me they close at 5pm, it’s now 5.15pm, but we battle on, eventually the invoice arrives followed some 20mins later by the EORI number. The guy tells me it will cost €120 for their services, I pay the bill, he gives a slip of paper with a number on it, tells me to give that to the customs officials back at the airport.
I ask if he can call me a taxi, he laughs and says no taxi will come here, you have to walk! He then tells me there is a train station but it’s the other side of the freight yard and to be careful of the trucks and fork lifts buzzing about.
I thank him and leave, the journey back to the airport was ok, I only nearly died twice, fork lifts move quite fast.
Back at customs I show the officer the number he looks at me as if to say WTF, but then types it into his computer, he gets up and disappears out the back for 15 mins, returning with my kit and asking me how I want to pay the import duties, by card I say, he points to the cashier, I make the €280 payment, grab the gear and leave.
In a taxi, it’s now 6.45pm, and I’m on my way to my clients clients HQ, the senior project manager has agreed to wait for me, but tells me the replacement 75” TV is stuck in customs and won’t be there till tomorrow afternoon. My return flight is first thing in the morning. By 9.45pm I’ve installed the media players and switch, I’ve checked everything works, and I made it so that when the new 75”TV arrives they just have to plug it in.
Grab some food, get to hotel at 11pm, ask hotel to book a taxi for 6am to get me back to the airport in time for my test to fly COVID test.
5.45am alarm goes, 5 min shower and in reception by 5.55am, nobody there, no taxi, nothing. Eventually find some kitchen staff, they tell me Reception opens at 7am, arghhhh, but they book me a taxi and write my card details into a note for the receptionist.
It’s 6.20 am and Stirling Moss is driving me to the airport, 30 minute journey in 15 minutes flat, at one point I swear I was sitting upside down!
Make it in time for the test, negative, no queues and sit for a coffee before boarding and writing this blog.
So the last 36 hours have been a living hell, I’m €400 lighter, the job is still minus a very expensive 75” TV, I’m flying back to the UK, tomorrow is a board meeting in the room with the European heads of the clients client, with a hole where a tv should be.
Pre Brexit, NONE of this would have been necessary, we had the ability to freely move goods around the EU with no need for custom declarations or import fees.
Why have we done this to ourselves, our closest trading partners and we have closed our door on them!
An absolute disaster, welcome to the new Brexit reality.
As an addendum, I want to make clear that I travelled with the equipment knowing that I would have to declare it at the German customs authorities in Munich. The figures paid were for the Freight forwarders services and the amount due for import duties/vat and were not a fine.
My client and I decided that it would not be worth trying to take the goods across the border without declaring them as if caught this would have incurred stiff penalties and maybe even deportation, something that I was not prepared to risk for such a small sum.
I would suggest to anyone if the same situation to do exactly as I did and declare the goods, and then deal with the requirements of the local customs officials as best you can.
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I’m hearing similar stories all the time. The cost of sorting spaces and servicing parts is now completely out of kilter with the cost of the actual parts. But if we don’t jump to it, then we are letting our clients down and leaving the door open to our EU competitors. So much for all these opportunities. How long does this have to go in before someone starts to own up that this is the greatest self inflicted economic Cock up in the history of the UK.
Oh how you brought back memories: I lost a day of my life desperately trying to export two computers from France for a UK event. And if I didn’t get it right then the computers wouldn’t be allowed in the uk or back into France. And I swear the word ‘carnet’ is seared into my brain.
Never again I thought.
Forty years later Brexit.
Oh how wrong I was.