Border Crossing in the commercial lane

We finished a fabulous second year in our new building on 14 Mill East and are ever so grateful to have such phenomenal customers. Thank you so much for letting us be a part of your lives.

It never really stops at Karger

The South African shipment is here. After a long journey to Buffalo in the midst of winter, I could barely contain the excitement as we unpacked 45 little boxes all neatly taped and protected in organic materials. You can often smell the fresh grass and smoke from the fire in the village where the baskets were woven. They have arrived on a consolidated shipment in New York organized with our South African partners. Due to our declining Canadian dollar, it has been challenging to keep the prices of “Fair Trade” items imported from third world countries reasonably priced. In order to continue supporting these communities, I have been driving across the border to make up for the dollar by saving a little on high shipping and brokerage costs.

My first experience in doing this was horrendous and it turned into an 8 hour journey as I had no idea what I was getting myself into. From locating the storage warehouse in down town Buffalo to knowing the tariff codes for countries and individual items, it was certainly a learning experience.

The scariest part is having to merge into the commercial lane with the big transport trucks to avoid being flagged into a waiting area so that you can pay your $10 fee for using the border for commercial purposes. My VW station wagon appears trivial and insignificant amongst the 18 wheelers and they often dont make it easy for you to get in between them.

Coming back was a comedy act. You have to get out of your car to be able to hand your passport and papers to the crossing inspector who is in a booth very high designed to accommodate the big trucks. I could barely reach to hand the frustrated and grumpy man the papers which kept blowing away in the fierce wind.

After standing outside freezing and feeling stupidly out of place, they point you to park your bitty car amongst the giants and head into the customs building. If you are there for the first time and don’t have your brokerage papers prepared, you are directed to stand in line to use the one and only computer and figure everything out on the spot. I thought the tall booths were intimidating but if you don’t know what you are doing, a long line of restless importers starts forming behind you. If you can at all relate to a woman in her 50’s, this is when you can really start to feel the heat. I recommend bringing a towel. Seriously, how embarrassing, I had no idea what all the tariff codes were. My broker always did that. Thank goodness this nice gentleman importing car parts helped me as he wanted the line to move on. I would have been there all day!

Once you have these papers printed, you stand in another line to hand them into the customs officer for review and wait in what looked like a giant lock down area. This is where you find out if your goods and car are flagged for inspection. If you are fair and honest, you have nothing to be afraid of. I found this part rather relaxing and finally had time to go to the bathroom but some of the other drivers which were on much tighter schedules paced back and forth anxiously.

Finally someone called my name and I was back at the front of the desk to answer a few questions. “Are you certain these items are from  Africa”?  “The duty is very high for that country. Oh you are from Elora. As in Elora Gorge Elora? I love Elora, he smiles. I used to go there as a kid with my family. Is it just as pretty?” he asked. “Please take your papers and pay the cashier behind the glass and have a safe drive back”. That was it for interrogation. It seems like every time they find out I’m from Elora, they tend to soften up a little. It depends who you get but so far everyone has been pleasant in the customs building.