Kicked out of Global Entry program because I shopped too hard?

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No one likes to lose their Global Entry credentials, and that’s particularly true if you believe you’ve done nothing wrong. So when David Toney contacted me to ask for help, I felt for him.

Getting Global Entry, which allows you to skip the long customs lines when you’re returning to the States, isn’t cheap or easy. Losing it can add hours to your processing time, and if you’re a frequent traveler, that can add up to real money.

Toney, his wife and son were on an anniversary cruise when the incident that led to their unceremonious dismissal happened.

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“My wife and I had bought each other 17-year anniversary gifts of jewelry on the Royal Caribbean ship we were on,” he explains. “There were signs all over the ship saying it was ‘duty-free’.”

Toney believed that meant he wouldn’t have to declare the items when he transited through customs. But he was mistaken.

“When departing the ship, we were searched, since [the jewelry] wasn’t declared,” he remembers. “They got the bill from the ship and then assessed me $1,095 in duties and penalties for not declaring items valued at roughly $6,000.”

The Toneys paid the penalty. But the government hadn’t stopped punishing them.

“I was very surprised today to get notice the Global Entry for my wife and I had been revoked,” he says. “Is there anything we can do to get it reinstated? It is not like we are threats to national security.”

Of course not. The Customs and Border Protection (CBP) guidelines are clear: Global Entry holders are not exempt from its declaration requirements. There’s even a detailed list of what to declare, if you have any doubts.

Why didn’t Toney know? Well, have you ever tried to get an Internet connection on a cruise ship? It would have cost him more than the jewelry. (OK, I’m exaggerating — but not by much.)

What’s more, the government is clear about how to lose your Global Entry status. Failure to comply with any customs, immigration, or agriculture regulations or laws in any country can mean buh-bye card. And it’s not the only reason they can strip you of your credentials. For example, did you know you can lose your status if you’re being investigated by law enforcement? You don’t even have to be guilty of anything.

Toney’s next step, already under way, is to appeal this to the CBP ombudsman. If that doesn’t work, he’ll circle back with me to see if I can intervene on his behalf.

My views on the government’s “trusted” traveler program are no secret.

As a progressively-minded consumer advocate with an egalitarian streak, I think people being screened at customs deserve equal treatment. If passengers represent a high risk, the government should pro-actively identify them and give them a more thorough screening. Assuming everyone who didn’t buy a Global Entry cards is a potential violator isn’t fair.

The elites with Global Entry cards might disagree with me, but they are wrong.

I have a mixed success rate in advocating for these privileged travelers. My contacts at Customs can offer more detailed explanations for a revocation. In my last case, I was even able to find out when a traveler’s privileges would be restored, but it’s unclear if my intervention accelerated the process.

I can advocate for Toney, and I certainly sympathize with him and his wife. They are definitely not threats to national security. Their only “crime” was having an anniversary and failing to read some fine print. But I’m not sure if I’ll be able to make a strong enough case for CBP to return their cards.

Should I mediate David Toney's case with CBP?

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151 thoughts on “Kicked out of Global Entry program because I shopped too hard?

  1. “Duty Free” means that the products are exempt from certain local or national taxes at the point of sale (in this case, international waters), but taxes may be assessed upon entering one’s home country. Customs declaration documents are very clear. I have trouble believing that someone who travels internationally often enough to have Global Entry doesn’t know this.

  2. When you sign up for something like “global entry” it is with the proviso that you understand completely the rules. One of the most important aspects of these rules from the financial side of it is the concept of exemptions, duty and tax. Maybe it is a good sob story to say that you thought “duty free” meant you could bring it into the USA duty free, but that is not what would have been explained to you and it is clear that there is not an acceptable level of understanding with respect to the requirements for Global Entry. I expect they make it quite clear that one cannot “play dumb”. It is for people who take the trouble to know the rules, not make excuses. Furthermore, if one really was unclear about what “duty free” means, then ask the agent when you enter the country, they will tell you. Don’t wait to get caught and then plead ignorance.

    Make no mistake, they did do something wrong…and that’s why they lost the status.

    Nice try but the global entry should not be restored.

    1. When I got my GE card, I had an interview, which was followed by a test. I believe the specific’s you mentioned were actually test questions. The 30 minute interview was actually about 5-10 minutes, then a 10 minute video, then a 10 minute test.

        1. You have to pass a test to et Global Entry. There is a background check, an interview, and a test. They specifically asking about duty free items and how things are declared.

  3. Part of the global entry program that is explained to you in both the literature and during the vetting and interview process is that you are required to abide by all customs rules and regulations, you must acknowledge this as part of the global entry program. He had ample opportunity to inquire both of the cruise line and customs agent upon entry. The LW in this story has no one to blame but himself, and since he appears incapable of exercising due diligence his global entry authorization should be revoked. I can’t imagine anyone with his travel experience would be so uninformed, I believe they tried to get away with the duty and slip passed costumes and are crying ignorance after the fact of getting caught. I would never reinstate their global entry privileges again, since what the LW’s did is called SMUGGLING. If I was in the CBP I’d send a note to my friends over in the IRS and put a finger on them, I can imagine there are other issues that are “undeclared”.

    1. Pretty surprising to get caught if they were really trying to evade. Just hide your receipts and wear the jewelry, no?

      1. I have seen eagle eyed customs agents that catch things like that now and then; like the one Japanese gentleman wearing a nice new gold Rolex watch he bought in Hone Kong and was trying to convince the Japanese customs official it was one he had purchased it some time back in Japan. Needless to say, Japan got the duty on the watch.

      2. Ah, but he got it on the ship. It seems that they got the receipts for what was sold on the ship. So there was no way to hide it even if they’d really wanted to.

          1. The story says that CBP got the bill from the ship, I wonder if they got it first, and then searched them because it wasn’t declared. It sort of reads that way.

          2. I understood that they were searched, and CBP found the ship’s bills during this search.

            I really don’t believe the ship would turn all receipts to CBP.

          3. All receipts? Maybe not. But maybe of purchases that are large enough to require declaration categorically.

          1. That’s why I wrote “put a finger on them to the IRS”, we have their name, and the IRS pays rewards for turning in tax evaders.

  4. So I say don’t take it… If they signed for Global Entry, they should have been more cognizant of the rules. Plain and simple, I have GE and love it, but realize with the privilege comes a much higher standard for my own behavior.

  5. Give me a break. They travel enough to join Global Entry but don’t understand that “duty free” does not mean you still have to declare what you have purchased when returning to the US?

  6. My husband wants me to vote “Yes”, just because he wants to see exactly how far you would get with CBP. If you can make any headway against *them*, that’s a superpower and you’ve got an obligation to help all mankind. With great power comes great responsibility. 🙂

    1. Any influence I have is because of you, the good people who read my stories and support my site.

      I’ve seen advocates come to power and then lose everything because they thought it was all about them.

      It is not. It’s all about you.

      Sorry for the sermon this morning. I feel as if I’m the sole survivor of a nuclear war, with all the advocates who are gone or neutralized. It is truly sobering.

      1. Yeah, you’re not kidding. I googled for other advocates one morning when I was all caught up on your posts because I was jonesing for more. I didn’t find *anything*.

  7. Global Entry is for savvy frequent travelers. People like the Toneys will cause the government to doubt the efficacy of the program. Ideally everyone double checked at the border should pass – for the sake of other Global Entry holders.

  8. OK … Lets break this case down and remove all the literary flourishes.
    1. During your application process and again during your interview, you are repeatedly told that if you attempt to violate any CBP reg or get caught violating any CBP reg, including smuggling, you will lose your membership.
    2. Attempting to cross the border with undeclared goods is smuggling.
    3. LW was caught attempting to cross the border with undeclared goods and had to pay fines plus penalties because of it.

    I’m not sure he has any grounds whatsoever to appeal. He got caught smuggling. At this point, CBP is left wondering how many other times he did the same thing and did not get caught. Why would they allow him to continue to in a low threat / low inspection program?

    Sorry I’m a member of Global Entry. Every time I come over the border I estimate everything I purchased on the high side. I realize that if I have to pay duty, we’ll go line by line and anything that shouldn’t have been included will get tossed anyway.

  9. I always declare everything anyway, down to a $10 t-shirt (even if I only spent way below my allowance) Declaring doesn’t mean you have to pay taxes (duty-free) but you still have to say you got it! And I’m not even global entry, but now looking into it. PS If they make exceptions for “mistakes” then how secure is Global Entry to begin with?

    1. Ops! Duty-free isn’t the same of tax exception!

      Duty-free means you don’t need to pay taxes or duties at the point (or place) of purchase.

      This is what happened at the LW ship.

      Tax exception (in this case) means you don’t have to pay taxes or duties at your destination, or place where you are going to use the goods.

      If LW had purchased only $800 in goods (or $1600 combined he and his wife), and had declared it, his/their purchases will be excepted of duty payment.

  10. It’s clearly specify that you need to declare all to the custom agent, Global Entry or not. The act of truthful declaring all proved you are a trusted person. I always do it and most of the times even I exceeded the exemption allowance, the custom agents let me go with no duty collection. All they want is not your money but your clean behavior. Usually I am allowed only 2 bottles of wine but they always let me pass even I had 4 bottles of fine wine from France, Of course they cannot close their eyes with 6 bottles. All come down to the Relative Significance (as in Auditing).
    They don’t make a fuss with 600$ discrepancy but not 6000$. I guess they have some clear procedure and criteria to withdraw the Global Entry membership, but not at the custom mood.

    1. My Dad once had a full bottle of booze, and an open one with about 2-3 shots left in it. The Wrecked ‘Em was gonna measure the residual 2-3 shots for tax purposes. Dad said he’d go to the head and pour it out. Yup. Out into his yap. Alimentary, my dear Watson!

      1. Reminds me of the time we were told to eat or throw away a dozen oranges when crossing into Montana from Alberta. Funny thing is they were California oranges purchased in Canada. Even funnier was looking for a rest area in the 3-hour drive that followed the unexpected fresh fruit meal.

    1. I’m chuckling that if you’re smuggling then the long line is probably the best place to be. 🙂 It seems like the agents with a lot of energy are the ones handling the short lines.

  11. Question: Aside from the custom’s aspect of coming back to the US with goods which have been purchased, does Global Entry decrease the laborious task of going through TSA checks? Anyone have experience with this?

          1. Interesting, must be SouthWest then. The same airport where I get pre-check on other airlines, I still don’t on SouthWest.

          2. I flew yesterday on southwest from mci to bna and was shocked when I went through the line and the TSA agent sent me to the pre-check line. I hadn’t even bothered to look at my boarding pass because I didn’t expect it. It had to be random because I’m not signed up for any government program since I try to avoid flying as much as possible.

          3. I randomly received pre-check last month on Southwest. Made no difference anyway because there was no line. It was nice not to take off shoes, though.

          4. I THINK the difference is if you have Global Entry, you have pre-check on an airline that opts in.

            If you fly a non-precheck airline, you do not receive the pre-check benefit from your GE affiliation.

            TSA still can choose to give someone pre-check status based on a variety of factors, but does not link GE to that.

          5. Random pre-check is being phased out. No KTN and you will soon find you won’t be getting the precheck lane. Whether opt-in via FF program invite is to stay is still up in the air.

          6. In your account preferences with WN if you are a Rabid Rewards member there is a place to add your Known Traveller number. Once I did that I always get TSA pre.

          7. I saw what auto correct did, thought it was funny, so I left it.

            Some people I know who belong to that program fit the name “Rabid” very well when it comes to their total overboard approach to all things Southwest. 🙂

          8. I just checked and its in there. The funny thing is, on my last flight with Mrs. Emanon and 2Yo Emanon, the TSA sent us into the Pre Check line anyway, none of our boarding passes had it listed. A lot of people were upset that we were ahead of them, as I had a car seat which doesn’t fit through the X-Ray and has to be manually checked. But who am I to argue with the TSA.

          9. Does Mrs have Global Entry? If not, WN probably doesn’t want to split the family when you travel together.

            If you are not getting Pre check when traveling alone, must be WN just picking on you. 🙂

          10. That could be it, Mrs. does not have GE. And I havn’t flown alone on WN. Other airlines give me PreCheck and don’t give it to her when on the same itinerary, which means I don’t use PreCheck.

        1. If you have a known traveler number and are not getting pre-check its a data mismatch issue. They will try to tell you its random denial but its not.

  12. Everyone should know that there is an exemption of $X based on length of stay away, but that the amount of goods, even if under the exemption, must be declared. I have a Nexus card (basically same as GE). Agent will say anything to declare, I say $X, he waves me on. If I said $Y, he would send me for a secondary and to pay the duty. Straight forward. Maybe once or twice in a 5-year validity, expect a spot check on a random basis, looking for everything from your car registration to potential side pockets to hide goods in a suitcase.

    1. For several years, I used to fly into Victoria, BC for business. During the summer months, I received a spot check of my luggage when going through Canadian customs every time. During the winter months, I can’t recall one incident of a spot check over 5+ years.

      It was my guess that they thought I was a drug dealer or smuggler or etc. I was the only passenger on the plane that was traveling by himself; whereas, the other passengers were traveling in groups of 2 or more. Since Victoria and Vancouver Island is a summer vacation haven for travelers, why would there be a single business traveler on the plane.

      1. My husband and I drove up to Winnipeg over Labor Day so I could start “collecting” walks in Canada’s provincial capitals. The folks at the border to the US couldn’t believe that we went to Winnipeg for 2 nights and weren’t on a buying spree. Absolutely nothing to declare. Verrrrrrrry suspicious. We weren’t popular with the folks behind us trying to clear Customs.

          1. Hey, try explaining why anyone would want to fly all the way into DCA just so that person can walk in Richmond, which I did last month. (Beautiful capitol building, by the way.) People just don’t get going places just for the sake of going places.

          2. That’s one of the best reasons to go places! I once found a $190 R/T ticket to Munich, I went there for the weekend and walked around a lot. CBP never questioned me on that trip. However whenever I visit friends in Seattle I take a day trip to Canada I always get searched. And when I visited a friend in Niagara falls, I walked the border and spent the night, and was held and interviewed for 30 minutes on my return.

          3. I went to Scotland this year for 2 nights to go to a party with friends. CBP did not even bat an eye at me over that one.

        1. I have always been given a hard time by US CBP when coming back from a short trip to Canada. I’ve never understood why. I seam to always have my car searched, and my bags searched. I fly in from anywhere else in the world and it’s smooth sailing.

          1. It depends upon the Canada–United States softwood lumber dispute which is one of the most significant and enduring trade disputes in modern history. It is mostly BC issue…it is about the export of Canadian lumber (most of this lumber is from British Columbia) into the US. Sometimes, the Canadian Customs can be a pain in the butt and sometimes they are not.

            However, the US Customs at Peace Arch are hard. I was at a trade show in Seattle. After that trade show, I drove up to a trade show in Vancouver, BC. My wife and son flew up to SEA to meet me and come to Canada. It was a huge SUV to carry all of the equipment and etc.

            On the way up to Vancouver, the Canadian Customs just waived us through even they could see all of the demo equipment boxes and luggage in the back.

            On the way back to Seattle, I had all of the boxes taped, sealed, etc. ready to ship to another trade show. When we went through the US Customs, they pulled over my SUV. I had to go into the office. They opened every single box regardless of the NAFTA invoice showing that the equipment was made in the USA; was sent to a trade show in Canada, etc.

            I had enough time to re-tape the boxes; dropped them off at FedEx; drove to the airport and make our flight back to PHX.

          2. Watching Border Patrol (Canada) on Nat Geo TV makes me think that anybody crossing the Wash/BC border is involved with MJ smuggling.

      2. I went to Victoria BC by myself in September. I took the ferry though, and I don’t remember any special scrutiny at Canadian customs. They wouldn’t think anyone could be traveling alone? Crazycakes.

  13. Regardless of your views on Global Entry the terms of keeping it are made quite clear when you have your interview and watch the video on it. Duty free does not mean you are exempt from all duties. You still are subject to duty free limitations and $6k is way over. Ignorance is no excuse and you rightfully lost your Global Entry.

  14. I have just few questions…

    Did LW receive a Customs Form at the boat?

    If not, how did he re-enter USA?!?

    If yes, did he miss the item 15 at front page, and the disclaimer before the signature line?

    If yes, did he assume the reverse is blank?

    If not, when he flipped the form, did he miss the fields to fill with his purchases abroad?

    1. I’m thinking that he might have been so used to skipping filling out the form (Global Entry allows that for air travel) that he didn’t think about it.

      However, anyone who travels enough should know what the heck “duty-free” means.

  15. $6,000 worth? Well, I am not surprised Customs snagged them when they found the jewelry; undeclared. They should have declared it, presented the duty free receipt they had and paid whatever customs accessed. Whether they knew or not, is a mute point; ignorance of the laws is NOT an excuse.
    A quick check on the Internet or a phone call to CBP would have presented them with the proper information on relevant regulations. It is a hard lesson, but perhaps they learned a lesson.

          1. I was politely pointing out that “mute” should have been “Moot” (or at least that seems to be what you meant to say), as I would want others to do for me …

          2. Well, if they ain’t learned to rite Ænglish gud by now, then a little tweaking is in order….

        1. Joey: Rach, you gotta find out if he’s in the same place you are. Otherwise, it’s just a moo point.

          Rachel: A moo point?

          Joey: Yeah. It’s like a cow’s opinion. It just doesn’t matter. It’s moo.

          Rachel: Have I been living with him too long or did that all just make sense?
          — one of my favorite lines from “Friends”.

  16. My last two international trips coming back through O’Hare, I was waived through and they didn’t even bother taking my Customs Declaration form. I have to say I was confused by that. Didn’t hardly buy anything but the few items I did, I put on the form and itemized it on the back. Go figure…

  17. Once again, this is a sign that personal responsibility has left the building. Not knowing the law is not an excuse breaking the law.

  18. I voted no. It doesn’t take an internet connection or reviewing fine print to figure this one out. It says right on the customs declaration form that they have to declare all gifts. Duty free means its exempt from local duties, you still have to pay upon entry to your home country if you go over the limit, and they only way your home country knows is when you declare it, or fail to and they find it.

    Also, I wouldn’t refer to GE as an “Elite” program. Any US citizen can apply, its costs $100, and you go in for a 30 minute interview. Its also good for (I forget how many years), but its quite a few. Much better deal than clear! But it doesn’t allow you to circumvent the rules, just the line and part of the screening since you have been pre-screened, everyone is still subject to additional screening if deemed suspicions.

    Don’t take this Chris. The guy clearly didn’t declare items that the very form he has to fill out says he has to declare right on it in regular print. The ignorance card doesn’t fly here.

    1. Apparently one of the perks of Global Entry is that one isn’t required to fill out the paper form when arriving by air at an airport equipped for Global Entry. Any declaration is supposed to be done at an electronic kiosk. Maybe farfetched, but perhaps the LW didn’t think he had to fill out any paperwork when returning on the cruise.

      1. In the article, it states:“When departing the ship, we were searched, since [the jewelry] wasn’t declared,” he remembers. “They got the bill from the ship and then assessed me $1,095 in duties and penalties for not declaring items valued at roughly $6,000.”

        It seems like the OP went through customs when leaving the ship; therefore, it was a portcruise terminal (i.e. Miami, Seattle, etc.). When we took our Alaska Inside Passage cruise (Seward, AK to Vancouver, BC), we went through Canadian customs when deported the ship at Vancouver, BC. We went through US customs at the YVR airport.

        The article didn’t state what port the ship arrived at…it is my guess it was Miami.

  19. It sounds like Toney didn’t make himself knowledgeable about the customs requirements and whether “duty free” means “not required to declare” (which it doesn’t). I don’t see what you can do for him, Chris. The government will take the position that every traveler has the obligation to make himself or herself knowledgeable about the laws of travel wherever they go, which include customs declaration requirements. And someone on Global Entry who claims not to know about them is not going to impress the government favorably.

  20. I think you are wrong. Global Entry is cheap and easy. One hundred dollars, a form to fill out and an interview to obtain 5 years in the program is very reasonable. They did not have their GE status revoked because they were a threat to the country. It was revoked because they tried to smuggle jewelry into the country without declaring it.

  21. I have a hard time believing anyone who travels enough to get a trusted traveler privilege wouldn’t know that “duty-free” only applies to the assessment of local/national taxes/duties at the point of purchase. It doesn’t mean that one can bring as much of this stuff home as possible without paying import duties.

    1. It isn’t a “trusted traveler privilege” benevolently bestowed by the govt on grateful citizens. It’s a $100 cost, fill out an online form, get background checked and fingerprinted.

      Any American can do it, whether they ever leave the country or not.

  22. “But the government hadn’t stopped punishing them.”

    Chris, can you provide the specific action(s) not your opinions or emotions where the United States Government punished the OP above and behind what is prescribed by the rules, regulations, laws, etc. of the CBP and/or other governmental agencies?

    The OP needed to pay the duties and fees (for not reporting or disclosing it) on the $ 6,000 worth of jewelry. Also, the OP was aware that failure to comply with any customs, immigration, or agriculture regulations or laws in any country can result in the CBP in revoking their Global Entry cards.

    I don’t see where the govt persecuted the OP above and behind the letters of the law.

  23. Just to make LW a little less sad… at my country, if my wife and I had tried the same as them and we had been caught, for a US$6000 “confusion” about duty-free items, we’ll end paying US$2500 as tax and US$1250 as fine – US$3750 total – almost 4 times more…

    1. I’m thinking to myself: Why buy expensive jewelry on cruise ships?

      I was watching Pawn Stars and a guy came in with a Picasso he bought on a cruise ship. The expert brought it in was familiar with the etching and said it was worth about $3,000. The customer had paid $8000 on the cruise ship.

      Are cruise ships going to be selling such things at bottom market price? Really?

      All that said, the BEST place I ever shopped for jewelry, ready?

      Krakow’s arrival shops.

      Amazing Amber at rock bottom prices even by Polish standards. At least at the time I shopped there. No big worry about customs. I didn’t spend more than a hundred dollars for the silver jewelry. One guy bought Amber at a Moscow airport and went to the Antique Roadshow and his “popcorn” amber he had paid $500 for was worth $10,000.

      Other than that, I avoid the tourist traps for shopping and stick to the bazaars out of town with locals to guide me.

      1. I have read articles of not buying art and jewelry on cruises…it is big business and a source of revenues for the cruise lines since the prices are over-priced.

        1. I feel for cruise lines just as airlines used to be pinched. High fuel prices combined with labor and taxes (lots of taxes!) and food plus it seems like anytime someone gets sick on a cruise, they’ll be in close proximity to 300 other people.

          So they try to “fee” their way out of it with paid excursions, pay for drinks, optional restaurants, upgrades, etc. and of course all the other stuff to buy. Smart cruisers bring as many bags as they can stuffed with soda bottles. My friend used to make his own homemade wine out of Welch’s grapefruit juice in his Saudi Arabian hotel room. Hmmm, there’s an idea to save on the drink charges! 🙂

          I love the line from Frasier: Art in restaurants is about as good as restaurants in Art museums. 🙂

      2. I bought some pearls in Tahiti. Not from the black pearl shops, but from some local people I met who harvested by their home. One that I spend $200 on appraised for $1,200 back here in the states. The few smaller ones that I bought for $50 each appraised for about $150 each. I had them made into an ear ring and necklace set for my wife.

        1. It’s a gamble of course. On Pawn Stars, people often bring in stuff they bought overseas and sometimes they get totally ripped off (such as “ivory” made from glued together bone) or sometimes it works out well.

      3. Don’t use pawn shops as an example. They are not offering the real value. They lowball you so they can sell for a good markup. Pawn shops also rely on people who are desperate and are in a hurry to get quick cash.

  24. In reviewing the comments, and the information supplied by the LW, several concerns emerged for me. Perhaps Chris can clear up some of them.

    But, before any of you reply, let me acknowledge the possibility that the LWs bear the full weight of responsibility for the problem.

    1. They purchased the jewelry on the ship. For me, this makes the “declaration” less obvious. Much of the information I’ve read about duty-free declarations refers to goods bought “in country”. So I would be uncertain about the declaration rules if it were it me. And yes, I could ask …
    2. That the LWs are experienced international travelers. Nowhere in the article does it say this. The LWs might have just purchased Global Entry and this may be their first cruise. We simply don’t know and cannot assume that their travel experience alone should have made them more aware of checking the CBP rules. (FYI, I was in my late 40s when I first traveled outside the USA).
    3. That they should have known the duty-free rules. Thanks to the many articles and plethora of comments on this blog, I’ve become aware of Title 14 CFR and EU261. But that does not mean I understand the breadth of my rights. Same for “rules”. By now everyone who has flown once will know about 3-1-1 and luggage restrictions. But there are so many if-then-else scenarios beyond those, and to expect every passenger to know them all is unreasonable. If in doubt ask our resident TAs about fare classes and GDS vs. OTAs. And in a quick review of the duty-free rules, there are many moving parts beyond the simple declaration.

    That said, should they have asked what duty-free means? Yes. And should they have declared the purchase regardless? Again I would say yes. But should it have been obvious to them “beyond a reasonable doubt”? My above-stated concerns leave me unsure. And so it seems possible to me, however improbable, that their assumptions were innocent and naive.

    1. A lot depends upon your agent as well. I’m always in good humor/cheer with the agents and chat them up and this openness helps them to be cooperative. I have read that they are trained to ask “Are you sure you don’t have anything more to declare?” or something like that but when I have fessed up and said “I declared food but there may be meat in this sandwich”, the gal laughed and took out the meat, gave me the sandwich back, and then fed it to the dogs.

      And then she said she got yelled at for feeding the dogs. 🙂

      I guess agents busting people on jewelry purchases are kind of like the rental car agencies busting people on “undercarriage damage” they didn’t crawl down under the car and take their smart photo documentation beforehand…

      1. On the last several occasions, when returning to the US, I’ve been asked to open my luggage. Each time, as I was lifting it up to the table, the CBP Agent scanned my passport and then informed me that the search wasn’t necessary.

        I still wonder what the agent sees on their screen to make them change their minds.

    2. I have been on numerous cruises. On each one they either offered a talk or had a video clip running on a tv channel concerning clearing customs. Each time I’ve watched it, they specifically reminded you to include items you purchased on board as part of your declaration. Can’t speak to his cruise line but I would be shocked if they didn’t all have it.

    3. When one is interviewed for Global Entry one is told the rules about the customs exemptions and the reasons that Global Entry can be revoked. There is no excuse for not filling out the forms correctly. The exemption of $800 per person is for good bought outside the United States, whether it be on a cruise ship, a foreign country or the moon.

      And this is clearly explained in the application process for Global Entry. So whether the person is a first time international traveler or a veteran. there is no excuse for what they did. And if one cannot afford the duty on the jewelry (which I believe is 10% on the amount over the personal exemption) one should not be buying the jewelry.

  25. We cruise often and – although it could be misinformation – we have been told, several times, that the duty free shops on the ships provide (without being asked) lists of any larger “duty-free” purchases made onboard.
    And, when we recently disembarked from our transatlantic cruise returning to Europe, even our taxi driver said that the customs officials know exactly which suitcases have goods that need to be reported. Presumably everything has been “scanned” between leaving the ship and being brought to the terminal.

  26. Slow issue/news day? I’m not even going to waste my time explaining why the person deserved to have GE taken away. What I am going to say is even if he was innocent you wont get anywhere with CBP

  27. OMG, another clueless traveller. How on earth did he get the creds in the first place if he can’t read? He got off easy with only a fine and not an arrest for smuggling. Please don’t waste your resources helping this clown.

  28. I see another issue of concern “They got the bill from the ship” – are we to get from this that they destroyed the invoice, perhaps to conceal the fact that they had purchased something worth $6,000? A person who expected it was “duty free” would feel no compulsion to “hide” a bill.

    This story is suspicious on so many levels, and yet Chris sympathizes with him and his wife. I think they got off light being charged duty.

  29. Not that complicated and there is a briefing when they join–no food, no overages or just don’t use it that day. This sounds like they bought something and didn’t want to declare–not uncommon, but still not right. Plus, generally, it is a two strike system for Global Entry…so imagine that this was either not the first time or was considered particularly egregious. As someone who greatly benefits from Global Entry (Canadian who enters the US a lot from abroad), I am fine with them keeping the system strict to act as a deterrent and speed up the screening process!

    1. Hey, @whatup12:disqus, three of us on this particular thread have talked about US citizens encountering difficulties re-entering the US from Canada. So, since you do that a great deal more than I do, can you speak to that experience? It would be interesting to hear from a Canadian. Thanks!

      I plan to go back to Canada several times in the next few years and “collect” all of the provincial capitals (yes, even Iqaluit!) and want to know what to expect, crossing the border.

      1. hmm–yep, I get an X every time, but the issue with me is that I am on a J-1 as faculty at a university. And while the J-1 was a good visa (was on NAFTA TN visa before this which was problematic), the very tragic events in Boston forever changed this since they were also on J-1s. I am now moving to an H-1. The issue is that the CBP folks are really nice and all, but have a very limited understanding of Visa rules, etc. So I get the CD code (check documents), but even when I don’t get this, I get the BF code (biometric failure) which meant that it didn’t catch my fingerprints even though I have tried every trick including moisturizer, rubbing on forehead, etc. So indeed, I miss the nexus machines when entering the US as they got rid of those last year. All of that said, I still find GE amazing when landing at JFK, ATL, and especially IAD! I do about 350k miles per year, so this program means a lot to me. And even when I do get stopped, I get directed to the crew aisle which always pisses off the crew but is a little entertaining for me given that I have generally been under their command for anywhere between 8-18 hours. :).

  30. Some years ago while in Hong Kong my wife purchased a black mink coat. On our return to the USA we declared the coat on the customs form and the cost was well over the allowance. The customs agent who cleared us said okay move along. I asked what about the duty we owe on the mink. The agent replied do you want to pay duty? If not move along.

  31. Chris, I understand what you are saying about being egalitarian and not creating classes of citizens. But you truly miss the point of “trusted traveler”.

    It’s like the famous episode between Lotus Team engineers and Kimi Raikkonen. After telling him the obvious for the umpteenth time, he famously replied over the clear radio channel for everybody to hear “Yes, yes, yes, you told me that four times already …. Guys live me alone I know what I’m doing!” … and went to win Abu Dhabi race, of course – otherwise it wouldn’t become such a hit and he went straight to legend status.

    What Government is saying is … if you think you are Kimi Raikkonen and you absolutely know what you are doing, I will stop asking you questions that only aggravate you and me. However … the moment you prove that you do NOT know what you are doing, you will be subjected to the questions like everybody else again.

    I completely fail to see where the problem is …

  32. This has nothing to do with getting an internet connection on a ship. If you travel enough to want Global Entry you know that each person is allowed $800 personal allowance in goods and duty is assessed on the amount above that. The Global Entry interview reminds the traveler about this and the customs forms that are available also remind one about this. I have Global Entry and when I have gone over the $800 exemption I have declared it, the same as when I did not have Global Entry. This is why I still have my Global Entry status and the person you are writing about does not. No sympathy from me towards this person losing the Global Entry status. Professed ignorance is no excuse especially since the person learned all this in the Global Entry application process,

  33. They did exactly what you’re not supposed to do with Global Entry. I even declared a bar of chocolate when I came through and it sent me to Customs. While it may not have been deliberate, they went through without declaring when they weren’t supposed to and they are lucky that losing Global Entry was all that happened.

  34. He’s either too stupid to be let out of the country or he convinced himself that he could get away without declaring his purchases.

  35. We have GE because of our frequent travels abroad. Maybe the LW is not a frequent international traveler but I would find it odd that someone who does not travel much internationally would have GE. I believe this man and his wife knew exactly what they were doing and thought they could get away with it. They broke the law, plain and simple. They are not being harshly or overly punished. Like many commentors here I declare everything I buy. And even though those blue forms are a thing of the past for US and Canadian citizens–even without GE– I keep an itemized list of everything I bought and staple the receipts to it. Keeps me honest and is easy to produce for CBP if I am selected for random screening.

  36. Such a load of garbage by CPB on how they deny people who had a minor conviction decades ago, revoking this paid-for “privilege” for minor and accidental infractions. More “WE’RE THE GODS” attitude from a DHS agency.

  37. You have to be a complete moron not to understand the requirements, they re explicit in every piece of info you ever get from the program. Ignorance is no defense.

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