Footwear is a perennial problem for the average expat and given that my feet are beyond average even in my home country, I've decided to mail-order some running shoes.
I feel a bit silly ordering running shoes from the US, given that the majority of them are manufactured here in China but as the average shop here thinks that size 43 is huge beyond belief, then I've got no chance.
However, getting hold of ones shoes is now even harder than ever. Fedex just rang to say my shoes were in Shanghai (only ordered two days ago from California so kudos to Running Warehouse for their excellent shipping service), however because of the "high value" of my shipment (a whole US$125) there were new customs clearance formalities which basically consist of sending them:
A copy of my passport info page
A copy of my visa
A copy of every stamp in my passport for 2007
Colour me suspicious but why would I have to prove to customs (apparently it's mandatory) that I'm in China to receive my package? What does my whereabouts or my status as a resident or the countries I have visited got to do with collecting duty on an inbound package?
Do they need this information to charge me duty? Clearly not.
Clearly then one is left with two possibilities:
1) Incompetence - they're not sure what they want so they ask for everything they can think of even though they don't have a good use for it. At least that way when someone starts asking questions, they can be sure to have lots of angles covered. And it keeps people gainfully employed processing unnecessary information.
2) Skullduggery - the information is being gathered for a use other than that for which it is purportedly being collected.
My money's on 1).