Flying in from Cairo the other day I had a bit of a run in with the Jordanian Customs on my way out. After a friend asked me to purchase cigarettes from the newly-expanded Duty Free Shop, I was pulled over by customs but in the most abrasive of manners. To begin with, I have actually never purchased cigarettes in my entire life, and my Duty Free shopping has been historically limited to colognes and chocolates in singular quantities. On instructions, I bought four boxes of cigarettes and walked about three meters past the Duty Free shop towards the final x-ray machine.
A rather brusque Customs officer was busy rifling through people’s bags as they exited the machine and those ahead of me were already dividing their purchases amongst their friends and family in order to avoid getting taxed, as is customary. The officer was in fact slowing down the line, which was a strange sight, or at least one I wasn’t used to seeing at the Queen Alia Airport, so I commented out loud that “this must be some sort of new system.”
To which he sharply responded “!…Ø´ÙƒÙ„Ùˆ Ù…Ø´ Ø¹Ø¬Ø¨Ùƒ”, “it seems you don’t like it…!”
Prompting me to assure him that I didn’t mean to be sarcastic.
He of course quickly grabbed on to my bags amongst the flurry of other yellow Duty Free bags and asked if the cigarettes were mine, to which I answered yes. And of course, he asked me to follow him to the counter where he would then proceed to tax me.
Now, I have no problem being taxed if it is within a consistent law that applies to everyone, but I did feel at the time that I was being picked out of a crowd for daring to issue a comment, be it actually sarcastic or not. Especially when the act of taxing me specifically meant that this Customs officer would have to leave his post at the x-ray machine unattended as travelers continued to leave with their own “duty-free” items, unchecked and untaxed.
Since I was guilty of alleged-sarcasm anyway, I noted, out loud of course, the irony of buying something tax free at the airport only to be taxed on it several-meters-away later. This of course did not impress him as he started to take my purchases out of the bag and then open up my suitcase to discover nothing more than dirty laundry from a four day trip.
He then told me that I was only allowed to bring in one box of cigarettes, as he waved one of them scoldingly in my face and saying how I should know this was the law. Alright. Fine. If that’s the law then I’ll take the other three back. At this point I was reciprocating his stubbornness, and if he was prepared to tax me according to a law then I was well within my right to return my purchases and avoid taxation, keeping in mind that eventually, it would be my friend who would be paying for them anyway.
At the Duty Free shop the person “in charge” refused to take back any of my purchases. At first I thought there was a no-return policy but apparently the manager wasn’t available and he’s the only one who approves returned goods. The employee also asked if the cashier had told me that I would be taxed to which I responded no. He also took the time to point out that I was only allowed to cartons. I told him that customs said I was only allowed one, and of course he disagreed.
So I headed back to the Customs table where a supervisor was standing next to the officer who was filling him in on my shenanigans. At this point the supervisor said, once again, that I was only allowed a single cartons. I told him that the Duty Free shop just told me that I was allowed two, to which he said “…Ù…Ø§ ØªØ±Ø¯ Ø¹Ù„ÙŠÙ‡Ù…”, “don’t listen to them…”
At this point I’m thinking how cigarettes can really kill you, even if you don’t smoke them.
He then asked the officer, in a condescendingly “pleading” tone, to tax only two cartons instead of three, as if he was doing me a favor, while the officer, with a giant frown on his face, insisted on taxing the three. It was like a terrible good cop-bad cop routine that was designed to either provoke me or to waste my time, both of which they managed to do, at least enough for me to tell them not to do me any favors and to tax me for the whole damn thing.
The Aldeassa Duty Free shops operate within the Customs law (chapter 4, article 132), however, there are no signs or indicators detailing the tax-free quantity one is allowed to actually purchase at a Duty Free shop. As was pointed out to me by this particular Customs officer, you are simply expected to know. Especially if you’re a smoker, which I am not.
The Customs department is notorious for its excessive bureaucracy that have made the lives of many people miserable, and fortunately enough, my run-ins with them have been few over the years. Nevertheless, it would be appreciated if someone put up a clear sign somewhere that informed customers and travelers at these Duty Free shops of the Customs law. But more importantly, it would be more appreciated if Customs officers were trained to a bit friendlier and not abandon their posts simply to fulfill a person grudge against someone.
I actually gave Aldeassa a call and it turns out that they do have signs placed by the door of their shops, but not where they should be, by the cash register where you’re actually going to go to make your purchases. Moreover, apparently the shop that I had visited didn’t have a sign anywhere due to its recent expansion.
Putting it back up would be a good start.