Package inspection for tarif or other reasons has been a feature of international shipments for many years. Of late, thought, I have had experiences that suggest the folks who perform these inspections have crossed the line into outright vandalism. On a personal level this has been very expensive. On a larger level, one has to be concerned with the chilling effect on any personal cross-border merchandise or service traffic.
Some years ago I purchased a wonderful Rodenstock Grandagon 75mm lens for picture taking. It produced wonderful images with good colors and crisp edge definition. But it was of an awkward focal length for my main camera — a Linhof 4×5 Technika V. So I decided to buy a Fotoman wide angle camera to mount it in. But the standard lens cone was a bit too long to focus to infinity, so after some discussion, the manufacturer agreed to cut the mount back to match it to the lens — but I would have to ship the mount and lens to their factory in Hong Kong. When it was recieved in Hong Kong three weeks later (so much for premium air service), the packaging appeared intact but the operating mechanism of the lens had been damaged and was no longer operable. The carrier, DHL, of course, denies any responsibility as the box was undamaged. And DHL had the nerve to charge me full value duty when the damaged lens was returned to me. And they have ignored my pleas for a refund or in fact any recompense.
I have tried for months to get the shutter repaired, but the damage done to the internals was too much. According to the folks now remounting it in another shutter, the gearing had been twisted so that all the little posts were distorted. It would appear that somewhere between Kingston, Ontario Canada and Hong Kong (by way of New Jersey) someone decided to ‘inspect’ the interior of the lens with a hammer and wrench.
But it doesn’t end there. I needed to have my Jobo film processor serviced at StatlerOmega in the US. The unit was shipped down via Canada Post Express just fine. They serviced it, recallibrated it and shipped it back Fedex Ground, who handed the package off to Canada Post for the final return. But when I received it, the unit had been damaged again. Some party had unpacked it, pried the head apart with a screwdriver (there were marks on the edge of the plastic case) and snapped some of the internals off their mouting posts. The screws and bit of plastic were left rattling around inside the head. It was closed up, repacked and sent on with no indications of why. The rattling was obvious when it was unpacked. When I tested it the temperature calibration was way off. Not being able to easily assess what other things have been damaged, I am forced to send it back to the US for service. But the vendor and I are trying to work out how else it can be returned to me without further exposure to destructive ‘inspections’. And of course, neither Canada Post nor Fedex have any idea as to how this could have happened. Does anybody know? Is this the start of war against the population?