Getting items bought online is a big hassle for expats

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I do not know if this item is worthy of insertion in your newspaper, but hopefully it is if it can save some person/s a real hassle in respect to ordering items online.  Note the fuel costs alone to go retrieve items already paid for is just a start for a lot of hassles and misery.

Apparently there is some new law in effect in regards to online ordering.  What occurs is that when mail is received here, especially from a foreign country, the mail apparently is diverted from the local town post office and sent to customs in Puntarenas.  This notice is given to you by your local post office only after you sign with the expectation of receiving the item you ordered, but instead, you are handed some document explaining that you have to go to Puntarenas to pick up the item.

This surely explains as to why the idiot at the local post office was laughing when he saw me come in inquiring about my mail.  There are instructions listed to include that you must have a copy of your Internet ordering receipt, your cédula and so on, but good luck having these employees even answer the phone.  From there, they impose a 30 percent tax on the item, and in my case they consider the cost of the paid international postage as part of the tax base.  In my case, the items I ordered were not worth the gas required to drive to Puntarenas, and the expected hassle of which noted that could include storage for a padded envelope.  Also, it seems to take a couple of weeks at tortuga speed here to even be notified that you have a parcel.

What also is annoying is that except for duty free in Golfito, it falls on deaf ears at airport customs and now at the Costa Rican postal authority that we expats are allowed $500 duty-free every six months.

In my case, since my mail had international tracking, I sent an email requesting the item be returned to sender, and notified my seller of the items as to what has transpired.

Just the fuel cost alone from the Arenal Area can easily burn up $40 to Puntarenas, and an additional bag on the airlines is $40.  My suggestion to my fellow expats here is have your odd ball impossible-to-buy-here items be sent to a friend in the U.S., and have them simply bring them here and pay their extra bag fee, and take them on some excursions for thanks.  Also, there are import companies that for a fee do consolidated shipping and clear your items through Costa Rica customs.

I have spoken with other people here, and never have I heard anything that resembled a pleasant experience to have to deal with the officials at Puntarenas, so this ordering items on line and being sent here should be erased as an option period, unless, of course, you are more than willing to pay extra and put up with the hassles.

John Kouns
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