I’ve been a believer for many years in continuous process improvement, which basically means that when a problem occurs, you look for the root cause and do something about it so that the same problem doesn’t occur again. So for example, if someone returns a pattern because they thought they were buying an art print, I look at how I can make it clearer what is being sold. The thing about feedback is that you have to understand it before you can act on it.
Recently, I’ve heard from a couple of people in Canada that their orders took much longer to arrive than they had expected. One told me, when her order finally showed up, that the package had been cut open, then taped back shut (presumably in Customs). When the second person received her order, I asked if it looked like it had been opened, and she said the flap of the envelope had been taped, so that one was opened too. I’ve been puzzling over this. Why would Customs need to open the envelope? The customs form says clearly that the contents are cross stitch charts and the value. What else would they need to know? Were they curious? It didn’t make sense. The problem was that shipments were being delayed because Customs was opening them — but why?
Then I had a request from a regular customer in the UK, where cross stitch charts are supposed to be duty-free, to add “printed matter” to the customs form. He told me they are having their shipments held up in Customs, they have to pay the duty, and then apply to get the duty refunded. (I’m not sure why it has to be so circuitous, but maybe British Customs doesn’t open the packages.) I suddenly realized — if “cross stitch chart” doesn’t automatically tell you that it’s “printed matter”, you must not know what a cross stitch chart is. Canadian Customs must be opening the packages to find out what’s in them. At least this is the first explanation that makes any sense.
There is already a numeric code on the customs form which indicates the content is printed booklets, and this code is part of a supposedly internationally-agreed upon system. I don’t know why that isn’t enough, but apparently it isn’t.
So I’ve changed the wording on the customs form to “cross stitch booklets (printed matter)”. I hope this will help international orders go through faster. I don’t know how Customs works (and I’m sure it’s different in every country) but I can imagine that if they can determine whether a package is dutiable or not by looking at the customs form, it goes through quickly, and other things go into a pile for some backlogged person to open.