U.S. Customs and Chinese knockoffs
August 26, 2006 3:06 AM   Subscribe

I'll be entering the U.S. after spending 2 months in China. In my luggage I'll have 3 fake watches, 3 fake Polo shirts, a pair of fake shoes, and a fake North Face backpack. Will U.S. Customs find out, and if they do, what would they do?

I'm an 18-year-old U.S. citizen who's entering alone with 3 checked bags (yeah, a lot). I also have some real Polo shirts that I don't want taken away if they confiscate the fake ones.

Another thing: My North Face backpack is a big hiker-style pack with the North Face logo prominently featured on the front. If I completely rip off the logo (by dethreading it), that'll solve my problems in regard to the backpack, right?

So: any personal experiences or insight about what I'll face at the customs checkpoint?
posted by jbb7 to Law & Government (28 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
customs won't give a shit. seriously. nobody will care in the slightest. don't bother taking any of the labels off or anything.
posted by sergeant sandwich at 3:10 AM on August 26, 2006


They will attract more notice if they are still packaged than if they look they are part of your personal gear (as opposed to recent purchases).
posted by TedW at 3:18 AM on August 26, 2006


I came back from China (to the UK) recently laden with a number of copyright-infringement fake backpacks, shirts etc...Honestly, as long as they are not in plastic packets (ie for selling on) I don't think customs give a hoot.
posted by Rufus T. Firefly at 3:29 AM on August 26, 2006


You won't have a problem unless, for example, the three fake watches are all the exact same watch.
posted by nathan_teske at 3:47 AM on August 26, 2006


They won't care. Or even look. And if they looked they wouldn't care.

As long as your quantities are low so they don't think you're running a business as an importer, and they're not full of drugs, explosives or fresh food, they wont even blink.
posted by Ookseer at 4:14 AM on August 26, 2006


Even if the watches are exactly the same, Customs won't care. I brought back purchases very similar to your list, and nobody blinked. The three watches were identical "Rolexes", still in plastic wrappers.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:35 AM on August 26, 2006


I came back from China with 100 DVD's. Not a problem.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 5:40 AM on August 26, 2006


Although your concern is understandable, you have no reason whatsoever for concern.
posted by little miss manners at 6:46 AM on August 26, 2006


According to the US Customs people, it looks like you can bring in up to $800 of stuff without import duties, provided you declare it on the customs declaration form you'll get when you board your aircraft to the US.

In theory you need receipts for what you bought in China, and proof of US origin for the stuff you brought from home, but in practice they probably won't care so long as you don't look like you're importing wholesale quantities.

You're best off being honest (provided you are roughly under the $800 limit), as the customs people will be highly suspicious if you say you aren't bringing back anything. They'll probably search your bags for alcohol as you're underaged, but provided you've declared your watches and other stuff, they won't care when they come across them.
posted by cardboard at 7:13 AM on August 26, 2006


I travel internationaly quite a bit, to and from the US, I can't even remember the last time I was searched by customs. Plus, as long as its for personal use and reasonable quantities they won't care. They've got bigger fish to fry.
posted by ASM at 7:15 AM on August 26, 2006


You could always UPS or Fedex your luggage beforehand and avoid the whole checking luggage process and retrieval after you land.
posted by Kensational at 7:49 AM on August 26, 2006


People do this all the time. I have never heard of anyone getting hassled over it.
posted by caddis at 8:23 AM on August 26, 2006


An acquaintance of mine went to New York a couple of years ago and bought something like 100 comic books. When customs at the airport asked him about them on the way home, he just shrugged and said he brought them with him as reading material.

If he can get away with that, you can pretty much get away with anything, bar bringing home a shipping crate full of contraband.
posted by macdara at 8:41 AM on August 26, 2006


Wait, what's the problem with saying you bought 100 comic books in New York?
posted by odinsdream at 9:31 AM on August 26, 2006


i've known people who have had their fake DVDs taken away at customs upon entering the US so it does happen. I even heard of a guy who had his modded PS2 taken away.

But I've never heard of anyone getting a fine or anything, just a stern lecture and their stuff taken away.
posted by afu at 9:52 AM on August 26, 2006


Wait, what's the problem with saying you bought 100 comic books in New York?

You don't get the personal exemption if you are exporting them for resale. So you have to declare them and pay duty. 100 books might seem a bit high for personal use.
posted by smackfu at 10:25 AM on August 26, 2006


I flew back on a Chinese airline and when we arrived at LAX, Customs pretty much waved through anyone not Chinese. A lot of those folks were bringing back BOXES full of stuff. (I wish my "Rolex" hadn't quit working after three days, though, it is so pretty.)
posted by Miastar at 11:06 AM on August 26, 2006


eah, all my 'Rolexes' quit before long. BUT - they each came with a very nice stainless steel mesh strap that I have seen sold here for about five times what I spent on the watch.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 12:43 PM on August 26, 2006 [1 favorite]


"They'll probably search your bags for alcohol as you're underaged, but provided you've declared your watches and other stuff, they won't care when they come across them." Never happened to me (coming back from Europe, several times), nor to anyone I know that went there on exchange. Which is a good thing. Single US nationals hardly ever seem to be directed to the 'search' line. The last two times I've gone through, they haven't even looked at my declarations form.
posted by devilsbrigade at 1:31 PM on August 26, 2006


Last year, from Italy to the USA, I carried a couple bottles of wine as well as cigars and was neither searched nor stopped. I was 18 at the time.
posted by The White Hat at 3:35 PM on August 26, 2006


Like everybody else has said, they won't care. Just don't act all nervous and whatnot or they'll get suspicious and probably search you for drugs.
posted by cholly at 4:43 PM on August 26, 2006


In fact, you're allowed to bring back alcohol if you're underage. On a high school chaperoned trip to Europe, the teachers bought tons of alcohol and had students carry it through customs because there is a limit to the volume of alcohol allowed, but it was legit for 17 year olds to carry the same amount through. Worked great, customs didn't bat an eyelid.
posted by heresiarch at 2:34 PM on August 27, 2006


they'll yawn their asses off
posted by PenguinBukkake at 3:19 PM on August 27, 2006


I'd like to point out that often, nay, frequently the "fake" shit is manufactured at the very same facility as the legit facility.

I hear this from my my girlfriend's father, who is a Shanghai lawyer working for a British firm.

And, sometimes, such as in the case of Louis Vuitton, the major "legit" label distributes the "fakes" through back channels, thereby ensuring the items sold in the boutiques maintain their price prestige, or vice versa (the fakes being a hot item in terms of the prestige of the real items.)
posted by The Jesse Helms at 10:28 PM on August 27, 2006 [1 favorite]


Might make a difference: what date, time & flight number did you say you'd be coming in on?


;)
posted by CodeBaloo at 11:54 PM on August 27, 2006


fake shoes?
posted by glenwood at 6:55 AM on August 28, 2006


they wave a lot of people through -- it helps if you don't look completely scuzzy. I usually get searched, but I when I travel internationally, I usually take a real beat-up backpack that's got some frayed camo bullshit sewn over holes in it. Additionally, I usually have mad stubble and look like shit due to being either a) hungover or b) without sleep (the only way I can stand flying is to get hammered at the airport, and even then I'm too anxious to sleep).

If you don't want to avoid the search altogether, I'd recommend wearing like office casual or something. Also: shave.
posted by fishfucker at 11:53 AM on August 28, 2006


And, sometimes, such as in the case of Louis Vuitton, the major "legit" label distributes the "fakes" through back channels, thereby ensuring the items sold in the boutiques maintain their price prestige, or vice versa (the fakes being a hot item in terms of the prestige of the real items.)

Wait, so is the fake louis vuitton bag my sister bought me that looks and feels EXACTLY like a real one actually a real louis vuitton bag or just a super excellent fake?

And so as not to make this a hijack -- my sister brought back about 10 fake louis vuitton and chanel purses had no problem.
posted by echo0720 at 6:02 PM on August 28, 2006


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