Posted by: monsonmadness | July 13, 2011

Good news, bad news

So yesterday I emailed the lady who is our contact for shipping our mini van to American Samoa. For those of you who were aware of the whole shipping deal, you know that we saved thousands of dollars by going with this “fly by the seat of your pants” company who don’t seem to do anything logically, for example, I didn’t know that we could actually ship our car until 48 hours before it needed to be loaded. I emailed her yesterday because I heard a rumor that a big ship had arrived in Pago Pago harbor, so I asked if our container was on it, and if it wasn’t, if she had an estimated arrival date. She emailed me back today to say, yes, your container has arrived and is at the port and that I could get it today. I emailed back asking where I went, what I needed etc, she gave me a contact number for someone in an office downtown. We called them, found out that we needed to have our car insured on island before it could be unloaded, and we made arrangements for a babysitter so that we could do all of the necessary paperwork and go through customs before the port closed at 4.30pm. Michael drove downtown (40 minutes)  to get the car insurance (he got the wrong kind…another story), came and picked me up, then we dropped off the kids and headed back downtown. All of this is happening without communication between us because we still don’t have our home phone connected.

It was really hard to find the shipping office because office buildings here don’t have signs on them. Anyway, we pick up our container lease and head to the port. We get through security and try to find customs. We walked through a door saying “customs” into a room where 4 men were sitting around talking and who stopped their conversations immediately when we walked in and said “what are you doing in here?”. I said, “we’re looking for customs”, but apparently those were the back offices, and we should have gone through the unmarked door in the hallway to the custom office. Obviously. Duh.

In the customs office we were told that we didn’t have the right paperwork and that we needed to drive all the way back home (40 minutes) to get a temporary license from the Office of Motor Vehicles because we weren’t allowed to drive our car out of the container otherwise. They told us that we would have to pay 10% import tax on the car instead of 5% that we had previously been told. We were also told that we wouldn’t be able to do any of this today because customs was going to close at 3.30pm today for no apparent reason!

So, we headed off to the OMV to get our temporary license so that we would be ready to try again first thing in the morning. We arrived there at 3.35pm. The door said that they were open until 4pm. We walked in and the man stared at us and said, “We’re closed”. I said, “the door says you’re open until 4pm” He said, “We’re closed” I said, “our car is stuck on the dock and we have to pick it up first thing in the morning, we just need a temporary license”. He pasued and then said, “ok, she’ll help you” and nodded to a lady at the back of the office. After 5 minutes she came forward and said to us, “we’re closed” and we went through the whole thing again. Finally she took our papers and went to work on our licenses, but after 5 more minutes, she came back up to the front and said, “sorry, the flash drive is gone that has the temporary licenses on it. Please come back in the morning”.

So, the good news is that our container is here, and we are excited to see if our car is actually inside and if it is in one piece. Bad news is that we have to go through so many loopholes to actually get it, and we have to pay more for it than we were supposed to. Fingers crossed it all works out tomorrow, and this time we don’t have a babysitter so we’ll be towing the 6 rugrats along with us through customs…


  1. How frustrating!! Fingers crossed that everything will be intact when they open the container!

    • Sounds a lot like the hassles we had while living in Puerto Rico. We called it the island of a thousand paper cuts. Good luck! Once you are back in the States with customer service you will really appreciate it.

  2. What a story! I am very glad your things actually did get there after all the shipping hullabaloo. So much for trying to get a good deal, with that lousy 5% tacked on.

  3. ugh

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