Sunday, July 17, 2011

An Expensive Lesson ... and Camera

Wife Shirley always starts to pack for trips to France or anywhere else for that matter one or two nights before we leave. She makes detailed lists so she won't forget anything that she wants to take. Not me, I pack for a trip to France like I do for all trips - 30 minutes before I am supposed to walk out of the house and head for the airport.

On the day we were leaving for France, I got up at 4:00 AM (we had a 7:48 AM flight), showered and dressed and started packing, pulling out clothes, passports, electronic ticket confirmation, car rental reservatrion, maps, books, French cell phone, and miscellaneous items we were taking for our house in Sablet.

Daughter Tricia had sweetly offered to drive us to San Francisco airport despite having worked the evening before till 11:30 PM - she is a registered nurse. As we were approaching the Golden Gate Bridge, I suddenly remembered I had forgotten my camera.

As those of you who are regular readers of this blog know, I love shooting pictures and usually include quite a few with every post. I was really upset at my self for not bringing my camera. As you probably guessed, wife Shirley was sympathetic but she couldn't resist telling me that is the risk of packing at the last minute.

It was clearly too late to turn around and go back home to get the camera. Shirley said she had her little Nikon Cool Pix camera and that I would have to settle for using it. I kept stewing and we decided that Tricia would send the camera overnight to my cousin Jean Marc's house in Clapier France.

Our route to Sablet this time took us through Washington Dulles airport then on to Geneva where we rented a car and drove to Sablet. Geneva was much less expensive when I went to buy tickets this time than Marseille or Lyon. It normally takes us 3 1/4 hours from Geneva to Sablet when I follow directions from Via Michelin.

This time it took us close to 5 hours which is another whole story but suffice it to say that the rental car had a GPS which I set up for the drive to Sablet. Well the "voice" insisted on taking me on every back road to avoid paying tolls it seems. A free plug for Via Michelin - in the future I stick with your recommendations.

I am really digressing from my expensive camera story. When we got to Washington DC, I had a text message from Tricia saying she dropped the camera off at UPS and it would be delivered either Tuesday evening or Wednesday morning. The bad news was that it cost $260.00 USD to ship it. I knew it would be expensive but didn't think it would be that much.

I was very happy when I got a call from Jean Marc on Monday evening saying the camera had been delivered that afternoon. We made plans to go to Clapier and meet them for dinner (more about dinner later) and pick up the camera. If you are interested in knowing, UPS packed the camera great so there was no chance it would be damaged.

On Thursday, Bastille Day, July 14, we drove to the Metairie Neuve, the small family farm in the Tarn. After doing la bise - exchanging kisses on alternating cheeks with all of the family members, Jean Marc handed me a bill and told me that UPS had returned the day before to collect import taxes for my camera in the amount of 230,15 Euros or approximately $325.00.

Vive la France! The next day I called UPS and argued with them. They said that since we had put a value for insurance on the camera, that entitled France to collect an import tax based upon the value. I asked what if I can prove it was bought several years ago and will leaving the Country. He said that UPS charges import taxes even for déménagement - moving to France if there is a value on the items.

My now expensive camera safely with me in Sablet.

So lessons learned - don't forget your camera or other electronic items as it will be expensive to ship them to France and France will collect a big import tax. I should add that I don't expect to change the way I pack. It has always worked well for me before and no reason to change now.

I will need to make sure I take a lot of fabulous pictures to make this expense worthwhile. You be the judge.

Bonne journée et à bientôt.


  1. I'll be looking forward to some of your "chères" photos

  2. Sweet georgia brown that was an expensive mistake!!!
    Looking forward to the photos :-)

  3. Oops, yes I also always write a list!! My camera did not cast as much to buy as yours did just to transport it :-))) Diane

  4. Yikes, sorry to hear that, and I know I can't live without my camera too - darn UPS folks! Just glad you got in safely in one piece :)

  5. wowzers. I think I would have bought one at Carrefour for a couple hundred euros and left it in Sablet. Ah well, Live and learn.

  6. Oh, dear. I tend to pack at the last minute, too, but hopefully I will learn from your lesson and not make the same mistake!

  7. Meredith - I took more than 1000 pictures so it will be a little while for me to sort through them; but you will definitely see some of them.

    Sarah - I agree; glad to have the camera but I won't make the same mistake again for sure...or at least I hope not.

    Diane - Thanks for checking in. I am a fly by the seat of my pants in too many cases so it is hard for me to be constrained by a list.

    Tuula - Glad we made it ok too. Congratulations by the way. I look forward to your new blog.

    Megan - I probably should have done that or been willing to shoot pictures with wife Shirley's camera. Oh well, as you say, live and learn.

    Camille - I hope others can learn from my very expensive mistake. I wish France would change the rules too.