Be careful what you bring back

So, you love to travel and bring back a little something from your adventures.  Whether it is rum or a shot glass like me, or your preference is to collect country flags, globes or postcards, make sure that you know what can and cannot be brought back into your country of origin.  Most people know that they cannot bring animal products, fruits and vegetables (ask me the story about the orange that almost triggered an international incident), certain plants (or plant products), seeds, raw foods, or meats, but what about different merchandise?

There are people who visit europe and purchase luxury items and goods because they often can get really good deals on high-end merchandise.  These individuals can also save their receipts and file a claim to get a portion of the value added tax (VAT) on the goods and merchandise they purchased refunded to them.  Pretty good deal if you are planning to do quite a bit of shopping.  But, some people visit countries where “knock-offs” (i.e. counterfeit replicas) of luxury handbags, shoes, accessories, popular electronics, and artwork are sold at a fraction of the cost of the legitimate item.  In an effort to “appear” trendy, while saving a few bucks, some people choose to purchase the knock-off thinking that no one else will be the wiser.  So, what’s the harm, it’s your money?

The problem with purchasing a knock-off luxury item is that the import of that item is illegal (in the united states at least).  Why is it illegal?  It is illegal because it the copyright or trademark of the designer or manufacturer has been infringed upon.  If, when entering the states, customs and border protection (CBP) searches your bag and finds counterfeit materials they can (and most likely will) be confiscated and destroyed.  If you are found to be trafficking counterfeit materials, you could be subject to fines and legal actions.

In addition to infringing upon the rights of the designer or manufacturer of luxury goods, certain knock-offs could be hazardous to your health.  These goods are made with cheaper materials what can be toxic or even flammable.  In the case of electronics, the items could often overheat due to faulty construction and cause bodily injury.  Although it will not jeopardize your health, these knock-off products could result in bruised egos when friends and family notice the bad stitching, incorrect spelling (Channel instead of Chanel), and inferior design.

Counterfeiting merchandise is a multi-million dollar business; however, you definitely need to be aware of the consequences of buying knock-offs abroad and bringing them back into the country.  If you would like more information regarding this matter, feel free to visit the resources provided below.  Till next time, safe traveling and happy shopping!

Customs and Border Protection duty and import information

VAT information



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