Breaking News – good customer service (and secrets revealed) at the Zollamt!!1!

My mom sent me a package a couple of weeks ago that got snatched by the customs office (Zollamt). This isn’t the fault of the Deutsche Post – they have their issues, as does the USPS (see The Generic Nutty Bar Incident). It happens occasionally and is always a frustrating turn of events. The Zollamt is conveniently located (for truckers, their main customers) on the edge of town next to many scenic warehouses, staffed by delightfully indifferent (if not outright surly) customs officials and served by a bus that only comes once an hour. So it’s an ideal place to go and schlep an unwieldy package while on foot.

Like this, but without the style or charm.

Imagine my surprise at getting there and being helped by a civil, informative individual! We had to go through the typical dog-and-pony-show of opening the box and telling little stories about the contents (which were clearly listed in excruciating detail on the manifest), but the Sachbearbeiterin volunteered to tape it back up for me. Plus, she showed me the exact equations they use for assessing a custom charge. Then she let slip a tantalizing little factoid.

The limit for packages marked as gifts to be delivered customs-free is 45€!

I had no idea there was an actual rule about this. I figured the Zollamt snatched personal packages at random to put the fear of Ordnung into us. Now that I know, we will never receive a package with more than 45€ worth of goods in it. Because, as nice as the woman who helped me was, I’d like to avoid ever having to go out to the Zollamt again.