Most of the readers here have a good idea of what Balikbayan Boxs are. (Also written as Balik Bayan Box, either way is correct really, I just like to write it as Balikbayan Box)
For our purposes here we’ll say it’s any box shipped from the USA to the Philippines through one of quite a number of firms out there who offer this service.
The name is simply the Tagalog phrase for “Return to the County”.
Balikbayan Boxes — Issues
If you are not familiar with the process, a person wanting to ship items from the US to the Philippines gets a box (you can also use your own boxes, see for more info on non-standard or “outsize” balikbayan boxes), fills it up with almost any amount of personal items and “treasures” that the recipients want to receive, and either drops it off at the shipper’s office or has the box picked up from their doorstep.
For an average cost of $80 to $100, the box will magically appear at almost any door in the Philippines in about 1 month’s time.
A pretty neat service … and if you look at alternatives, like express carriers or the US Postal Service,a very cheap any timely way of shipping as well.
But there are issues from time to time. A major one always seems to be theft and pilfering. The overwhelming percentage of boxes come thrush to the distant end with no problems, but one always hears stories about boxes being opened en-route and occasionally items clearly gone missing.
Disclaimer: Many of you know I have a personal connection with Manny Paez, the founder and CEO of Manila Forwarder, one of the giants in the Balikbayan Box trade. I have no commercial connection, however, and I am not remunerated or paid in any way for mentions of Manila Forwarder from time to time in this blog. I am a very satisfied customer, but I’ve also used several other box services during the nearly 5 years we have been in the Philippines … and they all performed well too.)
Because Manila Forwarder shipped our household goods from the USA to the Philippines they are mentioned here a number of times, and I guess because I show up in the search listing for Manila Forwarder, I sometimes get comments here regarding problems and dissatisfaction with Manila Forwarder’s service. I publish them.
But I also don’t just let negative comments languish here, because just as it’s a good practice to let people post their criticisms and complaints, it equally a good practice to get to the bottom of issue where possible and let both sides of the story come to light.
Good day Mr.Paez. I would like to know if your who is to blame to what happened to my sister’s boxes?
She send it through manila forwarders to Philippines. When the boxes arrived yesterday, May 14 2011, all boxes been cut on top , lotions spread inside the box, making damages to all of the things inside. the seal broken.and masking tapes been cut, replacing everything by means of wrapping the boxes by plastics.
We took some pictures and thinking of sending it to the owner of Manila Forwarder. Lot of things are missing.
Balikbayan Boxes — Know Who Your Shipper Is
I’m not trying to embarass this reader, but I have to bring this up, because it’s a very frequent occurrence. Any time I mention something on the blog, some percentage of readers seem to think that what I mention belongs to me. In many cases, I wish it was so.
It’s fine to rant and tell the world when you’re unhappy, but if you direct your complain to an insignificant little foreigner retiree in the Philippines, instead of the company you have an issue with, how much good is it really going to do? Complain when you feel justified, but take the time to figure out to whom you are complaining.
I had the notion at first to just delete this comment and move on, but instead I forwarded the information to Manila Forwarder, and it seems the situation is resolved.
At least partially, because the real villan in this whole situation isn’t Manila Forwarder or any other commercial entity… it’s our own Homeland Security folks and there isn’t a whole lot that is going to get done to change things any time soon, in my view.
Here’s what the CEO of Manila Forwarder had to say to me about the issue:
Thanks Dave,I had an exchange of email with her via facebook. I explained to her that her packages were inspected by US Homeland Security as manifested by the the green tape on her package that states” Inspected by US Homeland Security”.It is something that I cannot, or anybody can avoid. It’s part of living after 9/11.
I provided also provided her of the actions that I did including inviting the US Homeland Security Officers in charge of the inspection and the course of action she can take.
I think she is ok now. She understood the predicament of both the shippers, consignee and the company that ships. I also sent her some pictures of how the packages looks like when they arrive at our Manila Office after the US Homeland inspection.
I organized all the Balikbayan box companies here in the US now to coordinate with the US Homeland Security agents to prevent illegal activities and so far the inspection lessened compared to the last quarter of last year when it was almost 95% inspection.See some of the pictures I sent her from the container that arrived this week that includes her package.(ed: This means that the packages were put in this condition in between Los Angeles and Manila, by agents or employees of US Homeland Security long before they reached the Philippines, for those among you who think damage and pilferage only happens here in the Philippines)
I have those inspected boxes wrapped in plastic to keep them intact, together with the US Homeland Security Inspection tape.Here is also the meeting I arranged among US Homeland Security and all Balikbayan box company owners:
http://manilaforwarder.com/homelandmeet.htmlI also do a lot of information campaigns to the public:
Balikbayan Boxes — What Can You Do?
Well, as Manny points out above, there is not a lot that can be done. The law allows, in fact requires US Homeland Security to protect the US, and this certainly includes inspecting outbound shipments.
They need to be inspected to assure the safety of the transportation infrastructure (ports, trucks, ships, navigation facilities, etc.), and they need to be inspected/monitored to make sure that the Ballikbayan boxes aren’t being used for smuggling prohibited goods or even worse, supplying terrorist groups overseas with weapons ir explosives from the good old USA.
So the inspections are not going to be going away … they are not only legal, but rational as well … not always a common occurrence 😉
Make sure you ship only authorized items. Make sure you don’t ship liquids and other products that will damage the rest of your goods. Make sure you clearly inventory what is in the box, again, as the law requires. Aside from those simple precautions, you can not do a lot except document damages and file claims where appropriate.
And last but not least, when you have a problem, deal with the people in charge to come up with the best resolution possible … it’s OK to contact me, too, but remember, I am not the guy who shipped, or inspected your Balibakyan boxes. Best of luck and use Balikbayan boxes wisely.