Your Amazon Order Might Lock You Out of Trusted Traveler Programs

You wouldn’t think online shopping could get you in trouble with customs, but if you accidentally order counterfeit merchandise on Amazon it just might. If you plan on doing a lot of traveling, you probably want to double check your orders from now on.

Last year, Harper Reed, an engineer at Paypal, ordered a suitcase on Amazon. It was a Rimowa, which is a high-end luggage brand that usually costs several hundred dollars. On Twitter (see below), Reed explained that he paid full price for the suitcase and that the listing looked like any other item being sold on Amazon—except it wasn’t. Reed never received the suitcase, was quickly refunded his payment of $700, and then went to Neiman Marcus to purchase it there instead. No explanation from Amazon was given and, while he was a bit perturbed, he carried on with his life.

Then, come November, Reed applied for renewal of his Global Entry status, a Trusted Traveler program for “pre-approved, low risk travelers” offered by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). It speeds up the airport security process for approved travelers, saving you a lot of time and grief. But to Reed’s surprise, he was denied. Unbeknownst to him, customs had flagged him for importing some counterfeit goods. Guess what it was? That’s right, the Rimowa suitcase he never actually received. According to Hilary George-Parkin at Racked, a spokesperson for CBP confirmed that having past violation of customs laws or regulations on your record can make you ineligible for Trusted Traveler programs. Whether it’s intentional or accidental, you’re screwed. You can appeal the denial, but the process can take months, making every trip you take during that time a frustrating experience.

So what happened? It’s impossible to say for sure (CBP doesn’t release specifics), but U.S Customs probably intercepted the shipment of the counterfeit bag as soon as it arrived, then Rimowa was sent a seizure notice with the names of the importer and exporter who are breaking the law. Meanwhile, Reed was refunded for the bag and carried on none the wiser. From there, Rimowa likely had an opportunity to take some kind of action, but since going after the exporter is a costly pain in the butt (as is the middle-man, Amazon), they chose the easier target: Reed. He got flagged for importing counterfeits, and was thus denied Global Entry.

Counterfeits and scams from fraudulent third-party sellers is a growing issue on the Amazon marketplace, so it’s more important than ever for you to pay close attention to the items you’re buying—especially if they’re being shipped to you from overseas. Watch out for massive discounts, learn how to spot fake reviews, double check who you’re buying from, and don’t hesitate to reach out to Amazon customer service if something seems amiss. When in doubt, buy luxury and big brand name items directly from their stores and websites. Cases like Reed’s are rare (this may even be the first case like this), but it’s a stark reminder that buyers truly do need to beware.

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About peterjang73

A nerdy father of two, a husband of a beautiful and understanding wife, an engineer who loves anime and tinkering with PCs and games, but most of all, loves God.
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