We’ve just visited the customs police this morning, in order to secure a late Christmas package from my cousin.
This was the fourth time Scott has been through the following procedure, so he knows how do it now.
Once you know what to expect, it’s not so daunting, but even so, expect to take a morning to retrieve a package.
First, we receive a letter from the border police saying they have a package we must come to retrieve.
We are required to sign for the letter itself.
It might also be interesting to note that our post office closes at 11.30 for lunch, opens again at 1 p.m., then closes for the day at 2 p.m.
Conclusion: do not dawdle if you want to get that letter.
The letter tells us to report to an address in Banská Bystrica, a 45 minute drive from our village, to retrieve our package.
The post office entry that faces the street is not the entry you use. They will tell you that once you’ve waited in line and get to the post office window.
They motion to go around the back into a sort of shipping depot area.
Scott said the first time he did this he had to ask a couple of guys out smoking where to go.
There’s an unassuming door at the back in the corner.
Once you walk through that door, you are faced with a small anteroom with one closed and shuttered window, a couple of chairs to wait in, and three doors. Locked doors.
You timidly knock on a door and hope someone will open it. (Scott knows which one, now that he’s done this four times).
When someone does open the door (they will, eventually, if it’s not lunch hour – more on that in a minute), you hand them the letter you signed for, and they close the door in your face.
You wait. Scott reassures you they will open the door again.
They do: to give you a piece of paper and to tell you to go to another door and give that to whoever opens that door.
The other door is actually through an open doorway that leads to three more closed, locked doors.
Scott knows which door to go to.
It’s opened by a stern, and not a little scary-looking, uniformed, kind of skin-headed cop. He can only be a cop with that look on his face and the dark uniform, with three gold stars pinned on his right chest.
He is in very good condition (you don’t want him to get physical with you, is what I mean [‘though he’s kind of cute in a very “scary uniform" kind of way])
He tells us, quite sternly, that our package has a value that may require us to pay duty tax.
Scott tells him it’s a ‘gift’ and the official is unmoved.
He shows us the value quoted on the customs papers. The sender (my wonderful cousin who puts up with a lot from her expat cousin) included a value of about $150 on the customs papers she needed to complete in order to send the box in the first place.
The official tells us he must calculate the value into Euros, and before Scott can tell him what that would be, he closes the door in our face, and we wait.
This takes about ten minutes. We sit in the waiting chairs.
He comes back and tells us that we’re going to have to pay €24 in duty tax, gives us our paperwork and sends us back to wait while he generates an invoice for us.
We sit back down again to wait. For another ten minutes. We hope lunch hour doesn't start at 11.30.
The closed, shuttered window opens, the official is there and he passes Scott the invoice he must complete, by filling in his name and our address. The window is closed and shuttered again.
After Scott has completed the invoice, he knows what to do.
We must walk back to the main post office, to pay the invoice. We stand in line just like In most other post offices around the world.
Once we get to the window, we pay the invoice and the teller stamps it PAID and we take that piece of paper back to the first door we knocked on.
Whoops! Wrong door.
The lady tells us we have to go back to the scary sexy military dude because we have to sign more papers.
This time, the guy actually smiles and doesn’t try to intimidate us. Scott signs something and then we go back to the first door to retrieve the package.
He has to sign some other papers before they hand him this very valuable gift from my cousin.
This is Scott’s fourth time doing this. He knows half the staff here. They even smile and say hi to him.
Once he came to retrieve a package when it was very close to lunch time.
Even though they’ve been very friendly to Scott, they still made him wait about 45 minutes while they had their lunch.
All this: tells us we might have to change our routine.
It looks as though getting any kind of package from outside the EU is a really dicey thing.
Especially if it has a value of over €100 Euros.
Maybe this means I can go to the U.S. more often; eh, Scott?