Thai Customs rule change delayed delivery

This item appears on page 25 of the November 2011 issue.

I stay part of the year in Bangkok, Thailand, where I have an apartment. In fall 2010, for the first time, I used a luggage-forwarding service called Luggage Free to send over some of my possessions. It was just household bric-a-brac (clothing, books, DVDs, etc.).

Sometime in September 2010, I contacted Luggage Free by a form on their website and arranged to have them pick up four pieces of luggage from my home in North Carolina on Oct. 13. I also spoke with a company representative by phone and was informed that they would take care of all forms and fees and my luggage would be delivered to my door in Bangkok hassle-free.

I also asked the representative about Customs and other matters and was assured that if I provided a detailed list of the contents, they would contact me regarding any items that might cause a problem. I did so and transferred certain items to my carry-on luggage.

My recollection is that the rep on the phone was unable to quote an amount at that time and that my credit card would be billed once delivery was made. It was my understanding that the charge would be around $400 (about what the airline would have charged for that much excess luggage).

I did not request a specific delivery date but was assured that my four suitcases would be there by Oct. 22 in order to be delivered to my Bangkok apartment on the day prior to my arrival on Oct. 23.

On Oct. 13 at about 10 a.m., a gentleman in an unmarked minivan arrived at my home and picked up the suitcases and luggage pieces. I was given a small slip of paper that served as a receipt. Around Oct. 15, Luggage Free informed me by e-mail that my luggage was in the Bangkok airport. Upon hearing that, I discarded my receipt (which simply mentioned four pieces of luggage).

In November I was informed in an e-mail from Federal Express (FedEx) that Thailand Customs wanted to charge duty on every item. The total charge was 12,381 baht (about $415).

Both the duty and the amount of the duty threw me. Duty was being charged on all of my things, whether the items were new or not new. The Customs service estimated their value and charged accordingly.

I sent e-mails to Luggage Free many, many times begging them to deliver my luggage as contracted, but, essentially, all they did was throw up their hands and say they had no control over things in Thailand. In fact, e-mails were passed between the company, the Customs agent at FedEx and myself.

At one point, I was informed about the duty due and that my original passport was needed by an agent of FedEx in Bangkok. A messenger came by my apartment there and collected the passport.

On Nov. 15, Federal Express finally delivered the four pieces of luggage to me, along with my passport, at my apartment in Bangkok. I paid the delivery person 12,381 Thai baht in cash.

The receipt was marked “Tax Invoice/Receipt” and showed the following charges in baht: “Duties & Taxes: 10,897; Overtime/Misc.: 200; Clearance Service Charge — Formal: 1,200; Total Tax Exempt Amount: 11,097; Total Taxable Amount: 1,200; VAT 7%: 84, and Amount Due: 12,381.”

Luggage Free ended up not charging me anything for the delivery of my luggage from the US to Thailand.

Looking back on this episode, I feel this was something that Luggage Free did not expect to happen.

To sum up, I wish I had just taken the extra suitcases along with me on my flight and paid whatever fee the airline (Korean Air) would have assessed. That way, if my bags were not inspected by Customs, then all would have been well and good and I could have proceeded to my final destination. If they WERE inspected, then I could have paid then and there on the spot and been done with it.



ITN e-mailed copies of the above letter to Luggage Free (153 W. 27th St., New York, NY 10001; e-mail and Federal Express (270 South Service Rd., Melville, NY 11747; the e-mail went to a rep’s address ending in “”) and received the following replies.


As Mr. Wilkinson articulated in his letter, his shipment with Luggage Free was not completed satisfactorily, which I regret. I know his experience with us was an anomaly, but I also realize that that is small consolation. However, I still feel it imperative that I explain the situation in a little more detail.

With Luggage Free having a service area of over 120 countries worldwide, one of our challenges is to remain aware of dynamic Customs regulations for unaccompanied shipments. To do this, we partner with many of the world’s leading freight carriers, maintain local brokerage and agent relationships worldwide and embark on continued education and research into Customs rules and regulations, country by country.

Doing so allows us to provide a full-service experience to our clients, whereby shipments are cleared through Customs on their behalf and delivered to their final destinations.

When an international order is placed, Customs documents are prepared specific to each country, on behalf of our client, in advance of the shipment. To do this, we require a copy of the client’s packing list. This list is reviewed by our dedicated Customs team to identify any items that may cause a delay in the Customs clearance process, and Mr. Wilkinson’s shipment was no exception.

In fact, upon reviewing his packing list, he was contacted prior to his shipment and asked to remove a few items (ex., honey and OTC medications) that had been flagged as problematic by Thailand Customs. Everything else on his list was deemed to be okay for a normal Customs clearance.

Unfortunately, as we now know, things changed by the time his shipment arrived in Thailand, and his shipment was ultimately held in Customs for a number of days, resulting in his delayed delivery.

Customs laws and regulations are extremely fluid and can change with little or no notice. Despite our best efforts to always ensure expeditious clearance, Customs clearance is ultimately done only at the sole discretion of each country’s Customs authority.

I’ve talked about the proactive measures we take to avoid situations like this, and I think it’s important to note that those efforts allow us to successfully delivery well over 99% of our shipments on time, as agreed upon.

What’s more, in the face of an anomalistic problem, such as this shipment involving Thai Customs, I think it is also important to recognize that we continue to work with our partners and Customs until the shipment is ultimately released from Customs.

What’s more, we did not charge Mr. Wilkinson for any part of his shipment, which is a marked departure from the policies of most carriers worldwide, who make no guarantees for a delay in Customs.

As we’ve expressed to Mr. Wilkinson, his experience was an anomaly, and Luggage Free remains dedicated to providing the type of service to which luxury travelers have become accustomed.

JEFF BOYD, President, Luggage Free, 153 W. 27th St., New York, NY 10001


We received the e-mail regarding Mr. Wilkinson’s luggage shipment to Thailand.

This situation is an excellent example of the issues that can arise when clearing a shipment through Customs. When a Customs officer makes a decision regarding duties and taxes, the clearance agent has no choice but to abide by it or the shipment will be held indefinitely.

While we sympathize with Mr. Bentley’s frustrating experience, we hope that your readers understand that no air carrier has the authority to override a decision by Customs.

SALLY D. DAVENPORT, FedEx Media Relations