“Good news!” my mom messaged me. “I was able to get express on your second package without an extra fee. They told me it will be there in two weeks.”
Read. Nov. 26, 2017.
Much to the chagrin of anyone who follows me on social media, I have made it very clear that my Priority Express package, and plain ol’ Priority International package, has not yet made it to my doorstep in well over two weeks. Gustavo is about two mornings away from shipping me back to the US and keeping the goods all to himself, particularly if I wake him up one more time saying, “Why is the Correios website still not updated?”
Since we’re doing the Double IG Crossfit competition in January and I’m homesick, I decided to buy a pair of American flag FLEO shorts to rep my country while I’m sweating it out. I had them sent to my mother’s house, along with a few other items, so she could kindly batch ship them to me. She’s done this once before, but we’re still both very new to the infamous Brazilian postal service. The shenanigans this time around have been the most enlightening for us yet.
Where did we go wrong?
Well, first, we shipped the packages around Black Friday, which is just as crazy in Brazil as it is in the United States. We also didn’t check to see if there were any strikes going on, something that happens with relative frequency in Brazil. In this case, Correios was no longer on strike — that happened back in October — but the third-party cargo delivery company they use was.
Our second mistake was thinking that upgrading was a good idea. I mean, we come from the land of “Would you like to supersize that?” Sure, why not?! It turns out, for items sent express, they have their own queue and processing scheme. In other words, they’re examined more closely by Customs.
What happened in my case is that the express package got held at one of the Customs facilities in São Paulo — the other major one being Curitiba — and was further held for taxes. The government determined the taxes I owned on my own products, I paid the fees online and, after that was finally approved, the package ended up being released from customs, quite literally, one hour earlier than the other item that was sent via (the cheaper) Priority International option. So, there you have it.
Pro-tip: once the package arrives in Brazil, keep a close eye on its tracking via the Correios website. If it’s held, and taxed, at Customs, you will eventually see an option to pay the taxes via the Correios website which is much, much faster than waiting for it to arrive in your city and receive the notification of taxation via mail.
Finally, both packages have been approved at the Customs level — one taxed, one not. Ironically, the one that was taxed at about BRL$120 or $30 was — wait for it — food. Some cookies, a few protein bars, almond butter, and gluten-free oatmeal. Apparently these are very special goods. The other package, which had a few pieces of clothing and two technical items we needed for our GoPro, was not. In short: it’s going to take a long time to get from the US to your doorstep in Brazil, so you may as well go the cheaper route that’s less likely to get taxed: Priority International.
At this stage, both of my packages are at Benfica. Up until now, I had never heard of Benfica and when Gustavo explained this part to me, my first reaction was “Bemfica, like Bem, fique por sempre!” or “Well, stay forever!” Fortunately, that is not what it stands for and, instead, it’s the final stop where mail is sorted in Rio de Janeiro. Though, sometimes it does seem like items are there forever — Gustavo said it would get here “eventually” and when I explained that’s not an actual timeframe, he reminded me, “It is in Brazil.”
In theory, when something is at Benfica, it should take a maximum of four days to arrive at the final destination. Currently, I’m staring out of the window every ten minutes to see if the Correios truck has arrived and leisurely checking the website for any updates because, at this point, it’s been a full month, all of the food is certainly stale, and I’m wondering if I’ll get my shorts before the competition next month.
I kid. Kind of.
Nevertheless, learn from my mistakes. Always stick with Priority International. Expect it to take at least two to four weeks. Check the Correios website religiously so you can pay any taxes online if you have to pay taxes. Never ship a box too big or with too many electronics, since the Customs process delays things considerably.
Lastly, never lose hope. Or, at least, have friends send you funny videos like this one explaining what happened to your things…