We've all heard stories of airport security being alarmed by the looks of puzzles on an X-ray scan, and being very amused when they pulled a Teraminx out of your bag. None of that has happened to me (when travelling to G4GX my bag was full of puzzles and the scan looked really cool but nobody seemed to care) though when I was interviewed for my flight in to the US the guy did ask me if I was another one of those "cubics" (since Oskar had passed through security a little while before me and our tickets were purchased by the same person).
However, (somewhat) recently Calvin FedExed a package of 4x4x6's to me and it was scheduled for delivery on April 26th. I spent the entire day sitting on the doormat but by the end of the day nothing arrived, and the package status changed back to "In Transit (Paris FR) - Apr 25" as it remained so for a week I called them and I was told the package was "seized by French customs" and that I would get a call today about why. Well, I was on the phone with FedEx two more times and each time I was promised a reason but never got one. I also emailed them all the safety certification documents and what not.
But then a few days ago, the package's status changed to "In Transit (Paris FR) - May 21". Of course, I called them up to ask what that means but they told me "it was random" and I was put through to a guy from the import department who basically explained to me there is nothing I can do but wait for customs to do something.
May 23 the status changed again to "In Transit (Paris FR)" and immediately thereafter "Arrived at FedEx location (Paris FR)". So it looks like they are doing some moving of my package.
Finally, May 24 at 3:04PM the status changed to "International Shipment Release - Import (Paris FR)". Subsequently the package departed Paris and it arrived in Amersfoort NL May 25th at 7:02AM. Then, May 25th at 7:02AM the status changed to "International Shipment Release - Import (Amersfoort NL)". Looks like the Dutch customs didn't need so much time to work out what was going on. Finally it was delivered to me later that day.
So this is the somewhat tatty box that I got. It shows writing from customs on the box:
File comment: "BLOQUE PAR LA DOUANE" - "Blocked by customs"
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Indeed, the box was opened and later resealed using special tape:
File comment: "OUVERT A LA DEMANDE DES DOUANES FRANÇOISES" - "Opened at the demand of French customs"
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Once inside, I was very happy to find my puzzles but somewhat disgruntled my Chinese newspaper was a little out of date. By about 1.5 months.
File comment: Puzzles!
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Of course, customs needed to verify what was inside were indeed puzzles, so they opened one up and scrambled it:
File comment: Scrambled puzzle
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They also did a thorough inspection of one of the puzzles. This one was disassembled and the piece put into a bag. They unscrewed one of the centerpieces, took it entirely apart and also split open some of the pieces that were molded in two halves.
File comment: Bag of pieces
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File comment: Disassembled pieces
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Two of the black puzzles were terribly squashed. I am not sure if this happened in transit or was done by customs (which seems unlikely) and then it is the question whether customs was not careful enough repacking the box and if they got squashed because of that.
File comment: Squashed puzzles
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An overview of everything that was inside the box (except the plastic bag with the disassembled white puzzle):
File comment: Overview
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Finally I found this weird plastic thingy inside the box (it is really tiny, about 1cm across). I wonder if this was part of some drugs testing kit... Maybe it held some testing liquid? Or perhaps it was just a cap that they had to break off the testing solution vail? Or perhaps I'm just fantasizing?
File comment: Plastic thingy. Used for testing for drugs...?
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So, here we have it. A puzzle shipment scrutinized for (what I think was) a suspicion of drug smuggling.
I managed to reassemble one of the black 4x4x6's. The rest I will not be able to reassemble. Some parts are broken (which is not likely to be customs' fault but just damage from transit) but also some parts are missing (which obviously must be customs' fault). One black 4x4x6 is missing the entire core (centers, screws and all), the other is missing just a center and its screw. The white 4x4x6 is also missing the center along with the screw, customs must have forgotten to put it back in with the rest of the pieces. Darn.
Of course, I am still extremely happy to have gotten these puzzles and the few breakages don't matter, but I thought it would be interesting to see what happened.