Thursday, April 22, 2010

Ripped off Again, Again, Again and Again?

Once bit, twice shy. Fooled me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me. So why the title? How come you keep on getting taken advantage of again and again…? Well for one thing, when you change cultures, they change the rules, the language and even the laws. However, nobody volunteers to tell you all the little details that could keep you from the pitfalls. Or they tell you, but you are only half informed and that is almost worse than uninformed because you think you have a leg to stand on. When the leg gets taken out, you land on the backside of frustration. (Hm, sounds like I need a small vacation?)

If you have been following the coconut oil saga the last couple of years, you may have heard about how we have to go into South Africa and import our bottles so we can get something of quality and style that works for a higher value product. Yes, there are plastic bottle manufactures in Mozambique. But, they are styled for cheap oil, with tiny pour spouts and cheap caps. We managed to find a local store that said they were importing from Swaziland, the quality and price were acceptable, and they said they could deliver on a 1-2 week notice. Amazing! When we placed our last order, they could not fill it and after digging, they admitted they were buying this bottle from SA and taking it across 2 borders before selling to me. Last resort, go back to buying direct from SA.

Backing up two import events to August of 2009, while paying a ton of import duty I was informed by the guys in customs that if I had a certificate of origin stating the jars/bottles were made in a SADC country (Southern Africa Development Community), then the import duty would be zero. I would still need to pay the value added tax (VAT), but it would save up to 20% on the price of the bottles. (I sure was ready for that.)

So, with my latest order I insisted on a certificate that cost me 250 Rand, plus 14% VAT. OK, it will save me money at the border so lets do it. Well, getting the certificate drags out until I can’t take the vehicle I expect (that was definitely a down day for me) and end up having to find a different one. I arrive at the office to submit the paperwork and the guy behind the desk says, oh by the way, this certificate does not apply to this product code until 2012. (You see these laws are phased in over 8 years.) So you will need to pay the duty anyway. It also seems the government has allowed the Metical to depreciate against the Rand so that they can also apply the higher rate at the border and collect more taxes. On top of that, they hike the exchange rate to value the goods several points over what the banks will give you so they can charge even more tax. When I paid, I did not fish through my coin purse to extract the last 16 MT, expecting them to give me change for a 20. When I asked about change, they said, we don’t give change here!

So, I paid for the certificate which ended up being worthless, then paid the full duty anyway (about the same cost as the certificate, so I paid twice), at a rate that is 10% higher than the bank rate, and got no change! Since I had not brought enough Meticais with me to pay the “extra,” I had to exchange with a money lender. So, I felt ripped off 4X, maybe 5. (Actually, I think I need a long vacation!)


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