It may be 1992, but as yet there seems little sign that Customs and Excise have slackened in any way from their vital job of maintaining our high moral standards – obviously far more important than stopping the tons of drugs imported every year. If you are sent anything larger than a packet of cigarettes from abroad, there’s a decent chance these brave guardians of our morality will have examined it.
Now, TC naturally does not condone anyone breaching the law, even accidentally, and we’re sure you’d want to do everything in your power to help Customs and Excise. So here’s some tips everyone should follow to reduce the risk of importing anything illegal.
- Basically, if you’re doubtful, do everything in your power to attract Customs’ attention to your package so they, with their superior wisdom, can decide what to do. Be careful not to disguise the nature of the contents. Anyone looking for video tapes will be expecting packages of a certain size and density and if, like me, you’re a terrible butterfingers, by the time you’ve securely packed a tape in newspaper and Sellotape, it’s possible to end up with a package that looks nothing more like a squashed Toblerone than a video-cassette, and which might slip past Customs.
- On the other hand, Customs officials are basically like you and I, so it’s not unreasonable to assume some of them may well be interested in, say, comic art. Now, you don’t want anyone who’s been corrupted by filth like “Hellblazer” to examine a package of comics, as they may prove capable of putting them into their correct context and might not even consider them obscene. This would never do, so be sure not to label the contents of your packages in any way likely to attract the interest of a fellow-fan.
- You can buy, on the semi-open market, aerosol cans of spray which make ordinary envelopes go transparent. Since Customs probably use these, be sure not to send goods in padded bags or wrapped inside other things, as this could make things more difficult for them.
- When ordering items from abroad, remember to use your own name. If you have just moved house, there’ll probably be lots of mail for the previous occupant lying around and their name can easily slip into your subsconscious, only to emerge when you’re filling in an order form. If this did happen, and the package was seized, when Customs turn up on your doorstep, you might, in all innocence, utterly deny all knowledge, and express shock and amazement at the old occupant being involved in whatever-it-is.
- An even worse mistake would be to put in the wrong address, especially if you then accidentally went to the Post Office and filled in a request to have your mail forwarded from this wrong address. The potential problems here are too horrible to contemplate: should Customs alert the police, they’d go round to the wrong address! Imagine the embarrassment you’d feel when you see your neighbours getting raided…
- It might be tempting to get things sent to your work address as this helps reduce the chance of some bastard nicking the goods in transit (few thieves will have much interest in “holiday brochures”, “computer manuals” or “stationery catalogues”). However, printed matter from abroad arriving at the offices of a multi-national company is not likely to be noticed by Customs, so it’s really much safer to only use your home address.
- Ideally, you should very rarely receive packages from abroad. Customs officers are only human, and if friends and contacts overseas frequently send you packets of entirely legitimate material, the inspecting officers will eventually get bored with reading Swedish TV magazines, Dutch sportswear catalogues and Japanese video-recorder instruction manuals and pass your mail over with barely a glance, which might mean that some impoundable material (ordered in complete innocence, of course) would get through.
While these suggestions will unfortunately not make certain that Customs are able to preserve the sanctity of the British Isles, it should allow them to concentrate their energies on the crucial task of trying to keep Britain out of the 20th century, and the 20th century out of Britain…