Welcome back to This is India! I always have funny/weird stories about India to share with friends or family when I talk to them. This is just meant to be an honest portrayal of my life in India through short anecdotes. I also share here what I’ve been up to online outside Hippie in Heels.
What I was up to other than here:
- So, I got back from Indonesia and was supposed to do work but instead spent way too much time doing everything but. We met up with friends, went to a reggae festival, and on Monday we took a trip up to Sindudurg to stay at a friends new resort (the same guy who owns Coco Shambhala) which was heavenly.
- I decided to do some budgeting this week and see where my income comes from and where my money goes. Quite a few surprises in there, haha. My biggest income is from the annoying ads you see as you read my blog posts (so kind of have to keep them, ugh, sorry!) and my biggest expense BY FAR is food. Literally, 70% of my money is spent on food. Our rent is covered through Ben’s work so this is actually not an exaggeration. We go out for lunch and dinner most days and I was really surprised when I saw how much we spend. I can’t even tell you because it’s ridiculous. Erm, time to learn how to cook!
- The budgeting came from the fact it’s time to do taxes again (boo) and I was looking over all my income and expenses from 2017. I used to use H&R Block India expat services but now I’ve shifted to using a US-based company; it’s actually another travel blogger’s sister. My taxes are kind of complicated and did you know self-employed people pay an additional 15% self-employment tax? My taxes are really high and I have no retirement fund so this year, I needed to get all that figured out, hence hiring someone to help!
- We are actually going to go to Kuala Lumpur in a few weeks for Ben’s birthday to see his friends that live there. I’m really excited. I’ve been to Malaysia twice I think, but never KL.
- I’m reading the Alice Network, a book about a spy in WWI then bouncing forward to WWII and whole other story that in the end will I guess come together in a big way (haha, fortune teller over here!).
Now your story,
Let me start with the fact that I feel like this story is pretty boring, but in my reader survey you guys were all saying you want more stories from India and that find even what has become mundane to me, a little interesting.
Living here as an expat comes with challenges and there are small things that remind you YOU’RE IN INDIA, not the USA and that often comes along during times you are dealing with sometimes customer service and things that involved paperwork (banking, etc).
As a blogger, I sometimes have items sent to me in India to try out, review, or wear on Instagram. I tell brands to send what they want but that I only promote it if I actually like it. I also tell them if they use the regular post, it might not show up. When items come into India, they then use tracked services like DHL and FedEx and usually send it “express” which costs a FORTUNE to make sure it actually arrives.
I deal with this importing packages a lot, and it’s always as annoying as this story is – but since this happened this week, I thought I’d tell you about it.
Getting items through customs and delivered is basically a battle. I do it at least once a month and it’s the worst. So, here’s how it goes down.
You have something sent to India with FedEx (let’s say), then once it reaches Mumbai, FedEx calls you to say it’s in customs and you need to submit “KYC” docs to clear it. So, you email them, the package clears, and it comes to your doorstep where you pay a customs fee in cash.
It never works like this, though!
So, I knew I had a package coming which was sent from California. It arrived the next day in Mumbai.
But, I never got a phone call. So, I asked the company sending something for the tracking number, they replied with the number and said FedEx had called them two days prior asking for my phone number, which the company gave them. The package had been sitting in customs in Mumbai for days. I called up FedEx India who said they didn’t call me because they didn’t have my number – I told them that they did because they called specifically to requests it from the sender. They said, “Oh yes, I do see we have it…”
Okay, so not a huge deal. Realistically when you pay hundreds of dollars in shipping costs for express shipping, they should probably be on top of telling you when it’s reached customs and you need to take further steps.
So, the next step is to send KYC docs. These mean “Know Your Customer”. I have done this so many times, yet there are always issues with my documents. Years ago, I sent them in my name but I needed to show a lease with my name on it and couldn’t so the package was “auctioned off” in Mumbai. Another package was already coming with the same scenario but this time with a letter from “Ben my husband allowing me to accept a package in his home” (could only be permitted from a husband or father) which had to be NOTARIZED I was allowed to the package.
I learned from that and started putting Ben’s name since his name is on the lease. Well, Ben is not the same as Benjamin, so that next package was declined. So, I have to submit Ben’s passport, driver’s license, visa, photo ID, and lease.
After a couple days of back and forths and a letter to the customs agents, my KYC docs were accepted.
The FedEx tracking said the package would arrive the following day, after all, I’m only a 45-minute flight from Mumbai.
Two days later, no package and I called on a Friday saying “what’s going on, when is the package coming?”. They said 1000% it will come on Monday, madam, as they are closed on the weekends.
Monday nothing. Tuesday nothing. I called Tuesday to the Panjim, Goa office where the package had been sitting for two days asking why they didn’t bring it. They explained what should have been obvious to me:
They start work at 11 am, they have to stop at all the places before my house which is an hour away. They have lunch from 1-3PM. Work ends at 8 PM. They don’t have time to make it as far as my house because every day there are more packages to take which are closer to their office before they reach my house.
I asked: “but my package is express – doesn’t that take priority?” They said they just did things this way and no priority ones didn’t matter because how could they get the truck to me faster?
I was told maybe Friday they could bring it but it wasn’t guaranteed (and I was headed to Mexico) so they said it’s best I come to the office and pick up the parcel.
I had to drive almost an hour to the capital to pick it up in person and pay the customs fee. So, hundreds of dollars in express shipping and you get to pick it up yourself.
This has happened before when a package took two weeks to arrive from Panjim (also express) because they didn’t have enough people to deliver to my area of Goa.
Basically, this is just a small thing – getting a package isn’t a huge deal. But imagine this is how most offices are run… from the internet people to the gas and water company making paying bills a lot of fun!
This is India!
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