The R60 000 tshirt

Published on 2/12/2016

You might remember I tweeted in January about having to pay R58 500 for a tshirt waiting for me at the Post Office. Well, I finally got it.

I ordered the NAlware tshirt from blipshift in November. This is a single print run business where users send in art suggestions; there is no guarantee of a second or third print run. Shipment was scheduled for early December, and it arrived at the Johannesburg International Mail Center on the 19th of December.

Fast forward about three weeks and my wife went to the local Post Office to pick it up, where they pointed out that they needed to collect R58 500.60 on behalf of Customs for import duty and VAT. That’s about $4 300 for a $15 tshirt. So naturally I started the process of contacting Customs to try and sort out this pretty hilarious mistake.

First I called the SARS call center. I explained the situation to an agent which promptly burst out laughing, and then asked me if I had actually paid R60 000 for a tshirt. I replied “Of course not. I’m not Jacob Zuma.”, at which point she laughed even louder. Anyway, I got a phone number for JIMC who instructed me to just contact the post-master and get the parcel returned.

The post-master stated that they need instruction from Customs to return the parcel, and that I should contact the local Customs office in Goodwood. He gave me the direct line of a Customs agent there. And so the run-around began.

I tried for a week to get hold of anyone on the phone. The direct line would simply redirect to the switchboard after 5 minutes of ringing. On the third day, the lady at reception tried four different numbers, and eventually I ended up with a domestic parcel agent, who tried two more numbers, and then finally just read me a number back that I should try later. It was the exact same direct number I had started with. So now I had six new numbers to try, and try them I did. Every morning while sitting in traffic I scrolled through the call history on my phone and tried every single one again and again. Finally I reached a lady at the Customs office who said I just need to print my invoice and proof of payment, take it to the Post Office and instruct them to send it back with the papers attached.

This I did, and two weeks later, today, I picked my tshirt for a total customs fee of R163. To be honest I had expected the ordeal to be much worse, and apart from the “we don’t hear telephones ring” mentality at the Goodwood Customs office everyone was really friendly and helpful.