Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The incompetent CORRUPT getting much better Mexican Aduana, and the great DHL guys in Guadalajara

How to go mad living in Mexico . . .

*See Jan. 7, 2014 update at bottom*
Mérida, Yucatán --
People who live outside this country are naturally curious about what day to day life is like in Mexico. I share this experience for those who are accustomed to routinely ordering all sorts of things from electronic marketplaces, like eBay or Amazon. I was a regular customer of both for years, but not anymore. Most of their offerings are now far beyond my reach.

The overwhelming majority of products offered by U.S. retailers on eBay are simply not available for delivery to Mexico. The same is true with most foreign retailers who are authorized eBay dealers. They won't do business with you if you're in Mexico. There are occasional welcome exceptions. I bought a small item from a Shangai merchant on Christmas Day, 2011. He sent it by ordinary parcel post, and said that I would likely receive it within four to six weeks. If it never arrived, I was assured a full refund. I had made up my mind not to even think about the item until March 1. It got here in 17 days, all marked up with Chinese characters, and in perfect condition. I was amazed.

Anyone who has ever dealt with Amazon knows that virtually everything which can be bought or sold is available there. If Amazon doesn't have it, you don't need it. But a huge percentage of the merchandise offered on is not available to customers in Mexico. By definition, any third-party product order - an item sold by some other company, but processed by Amazon - will not be shipped to this country. It must be an Amazon store product, and in almost every instance, it also must be sold by and through an internal subsidiary known as Amazon Export Sales Inc. If it's not, you usually can't get it here.

The issue has nothing to do with the reliability of package carriers or express mail services. Amazon generally uses DHL Global, a German company which provides crackerjack service. If you live in Vladivostok and DHL is hired to deliver a package from Kuala Lumpur, you'll likely get it a few days early. That's the way those Germans run things. Until they come up against the Mexican Audana, that is.

The Aduana (ah-dwan-ah) is Mexico's customers enforcement and import duties collection agency. It is also the Mother of All Bureaucracies, even in a country which absolutely lusts over bureaucracy (a holdover from Spanish colonial days). Think of the worst state drivers license or vehicle registration office with which you've ever had to deal, and that place was highly efficient compared to the Mexican Aduana.

A few weeks ago I decided to purchase some camera equipment from Amazon. Luckily, it was deliverable here through their Export Sales division. The price of the products was $749 on the Amazon website, with free U.S. delivery in five days or less. For delivery to Mexico, the price was of course much higher -- almost $1,000. The extra $250 included $60 in shipping and about $190 in import taxes, which Amazon collects and then pays electronically to the Aduana. Amazon negotiates the duties with the Aduana in advance -- a long and complicated undertaking, I'm sure -- which is one of the main reasons why so few of their products are deliverable here.

The products I ordered from Amazon were available at one local store only. High quality DSLR equipment is very hard to come by in Mérida, although it's a capital city of a million people. For exactly the same items, the store price was $16,500 MX pesos. That's about $1,225 USD. So it made more economic sense to order from the U.S., even with shipping costs and import duties factored in. (Many things are higher here, contrary to what most people may assume, but that's a story for another day.)

Long story made short, Amazon shipped the merchandise to me on June 15 via DHL Global Express, and the package arrived in Mérida on June 21. Not bad, really. Except that I still don't have it. It's been sitting in the Aduana warehouse at the international airport for three weeks, and there is absolutely nothing I, or DHL, or Amazon, can do.

A few days ago I arrived home and a DHL vehicle was parked one house up from mine. I waited for the driver to return, thinking and hoping that he just might have my order. He didn't. The driver told me packages are stacked to the ceiling in the Aduana warehouse. No, they don't open all of them. They couldn't possibly do so, nor are they interested in individual inspection. They merely check bar codes and serial numbers against computer records of electronic payments - but they do it according to their own timetable.

Amazon has already refunded my $60 shipment fee. If I don't have the package by July 20, they'll refund my purchase price and of course the import duties, which apparently the Aduana doesn't care about. Then Amazon will have to wait for God knows how long to get its merchandise back . . . if it ever does.

But take heart, shippers. Package delivery here is poor, but outbound service to the U.S and Europe is great, especially if you're sending drugs. "Narco Feds" operating out of Mexico City airport sent huge amount of drugs to U.S., Europe, aided by Mexican customs agents.

P.S. When that real estate broker takes you out to show you properties in this town, and tells you how much you're going to love your new Mayan lifestyle, be sure to ask him/her, "Now agent, is parcel delivery service from Canada and the U.S. nice and prompt here?"

Aug. 17, 2012 - I've revised my opinion on this situation, at least to some extent. I'm no longer letting DHL entirely off the hook. Here are the facts:

My first package shipped in mid-June never arrived. Amazon canceled the order and refunded my purchase price in full, but they invited me to try again. I made the mistake of doing so. The second package, like the first, never arrived. It got to the Mérida International Airport just fine, but then once again vanished off the DHL radar screen. Each box, by the way, weighed 7.1 lbs. How does a 7.1 lbs. package go missing, twice? Collectively, that's about $2,000 USD worth of merchandise somebody will have to pay for - DHL, its insurers or Amazon. But not me. I got my money back, and I won't be placing any further orders with Amazon while I'm in Mérida.

DHL was hired to deliver the merchandise to me, not to an airport warehouse run by the Mexican Aduana. They failed to do so two times within a month, and obviously could care less. At least a dozen e-mail inquiries to their international tracking center went unanswered.

My questions are just four:
Is this any way to run a country?
Is this any way to run a national customs agency?
Is this any way to run a supposedly prestigious world-wide shipper?
How many people in town are carrying around new Canon equipment - free, courtesy of Amazon - and what are their addresses?

Updated Jan. 7, 2014 - Lots of people continue to read this story, which was written almost a year and a half ago. I owe readers an update, and DHL an apology . . . I think. So here goes:

I've lived in Guadalajara since early September 2012, and I've had excellent delivery service whenever purchasing from Amazon Global Exports. Perhaps it's this city's local Aduana staff, perhaps it's the local DHL team. Last week, on New Year's Eve Day (Tuesday, Dec. 31) I placed an order for a book around 3:00 p.m. It went out that same night, at about 9:00 p.m., with a projected delivery date of Jan. 15. Early Friday morning, Jan. 3, one of the extremely efficient muchachas where I live tapped on my door and said, "Señor Eduardo, disculpa, hay hombre de DHL con paquete para entregarte a ti".

That item arrived about 65 hours after I ordered it online - less time than it took my daughter, who lives in Wichita, to fly to Guadalajara via Houston (a holiday travel experience from hell, for both of us).

Books and printed material, by the way, are not subject to those horrible import duties. But almost everything else is, and the tab is now up to about 30% of the purchase price.

One final note. I ordered another very small item yesterday. Amazon shipped it last night, but a check of the DHL Tracking Center says they're all snowed in across the country, and can find no trace of my package. Uh-oh.

For those suffering the cold up north, it's no picnic here, either. At 1:00 a.m. it's about 60 degrees in the GDL metro. I've actually had to shut my windows.

July 13, 2012 - Corrupt Aduana at Cancún International Airport
June 2, 2012 - Cancún a primary gateway for Europe-bound dope

1 comment:

  1. Fly to Houston and back when tickets are cheap. Otherwise you are absolutely right