|I actually found this online...don't even ask how...|
Have you ever had an experience with customs outside of the airport? I hadn't until living in Berlin...and now I've been twice in four months. (I have dear friends in the US who have sent me packages! Thanks Jessica and Jennie!) My friends used the US post office customs sticker (that green thing), but apparently that is not clear enough for the Germans. The writing is admittedly pretty light, but it's so obviously a private package, not worth hundreds of dollars!! But I got a slip in my mailbox that I had a package at the customs, and had to bike 8 km to the Zollamt (customs office) in Schöneberg to pick it up.
It's on bar with other German bureaucracy, like city hall where you register, or the foreign office where you get your visa. First I waited in line to get a number (maybe 20 mins), and then waited in a second waiting area for my number to be called on one of those boards with light-up red numbers(about 45 mins). I went to the desk, had to open the package in front of someone, and they see it's obviously a private gift, and that's it (20 seconds). Seriously! So frustrating! And you often have to wait 2-3 hrs. When I think about the cost to have 3 employees help me (not to mention the people in the warehouse), and to store people's packages for 2 weeks...It's crazy!! And from what I understand, almost everything that's from the US (or not the EU) has to go through there. I guess it's mostly eBay packages, and other mail-order or internet-order stuff from out of the country. Does the US control this?! Has anyone had to pick up a package at customs?
Technically, unlike when you travel, you can only order things free-of-cost in the mail up to 22 EUR, or 45 EUR if it is a gift. So I suppose they do make some money on some people, through eBay purchases or something. I guess the US should stop using those green customs stickers that are un-readable!
By the way, if you read German and have gone through this experience, you may laugh at some of these posts "reviewing" the Zollamt. Someone said it reminds them of the worst experiences of DDR (East German) bureaucracy.