A free snack on Delta ended up making a trip to Paris far more expensive.
Crystal Tadlock says a Delta flight attendant gave her an apple toward the end of her flight from Paris.
She took the piece of fruit and put it in her carry-on bag. When she went through customs, an agent pulled out the apple in a plastic pouch from Delta.
“He had asked me if my trip to France was expensive and I said, well yeah, I didn’t understand why he was asking that question, and he said ‘it’s about to get a whole lot more expensive after I charge you $500,” said Tadlock.
Passenger Blames Delta
Tadlock is angry and will contest the fine on the grounds that Delta gave him the apple. That may be a novel legal defense, but it won’t fly. She argues that Delta should offer passengers a clear warning when handing out food onboard. Hint: it’s on the blue form or Global Entry kiosk.
Delta has responded, stating only that “we encourage customers to follow U.S. Customs and Border Protection protocols.”
Simple Rule: Follow the Rules
It’s not that I don’t have sympathy for Tadlock.
My wife got caught with two apples at Honolulu Airport a couple days ago. She had forgotten them. We too could have been fined $500. Thankfully, it was Hawaii and the cousin who was scanning bags was very laid back and let it go.
Had we been fined, it would have totally been on us. And this situation is also totally on Tadlock. She had Global Entry and should have known better. While Global Entry participants do not fill out the blue arrivals form, she was asked via the Global Entry kiosk if she was carrying any fruit. She responded NO, even though she admits to knowingly taking it with her for a snack on her connecting flight.
The rule is simple: declare it, dump it, or be fined. Don’t get caught with an unexpected fine.
I put a free snack from my hotel in my bag when I visited Toronto a few years ago. I was randomly searched by customs and the agent found the snack … chocolate bar I think. I forgot it was in there. He threatened to take away my Nexus/Global Entry privileges since I didn’t declare it. I apologized profusely and he let me go with a ‘warning’. You would think customs has more important things to do than threaten people over a chocolate bar or fruit. But I guess they get bored sometimes.
When coming back from Germany last year, I declared a bag of chocolate I brought home for my kids. The agent in Dallas thought I was crazy for declaring the one bag which cost about 5 dollars US.
I don’t have sympathy for her. The Global Entry kiosk asks if she is bringing food or fruit, so she lied or made a mistake on her declaration. I am a bit paranoid about losing my Global Entry so always declare food — jam from Serbia, chocolate from Germany, and any cheese. CBP agents normally roll their eyes and wave me through.
The passenger has global entry. That means she went thru a background check, was interviewed, and received a list of the laws of what she was allowed to bring back in the country. She was not an inexperienced international traveler. She knew she was breaking the law and did it anyway.
She’s not experienced necessarily. My two nephews got Global Entry as a gift for their summer semesters when they were 19 and 20 before a trip to China, to speed up the hassles when they returned to the US. Neither of them had ever been out if the country before, not even Mexico. So I wouldn’t assume she’s a seasoned traveler just for that reason alone. She was also traveling in economy (due to the goodbye fruit snack…. I can’t imagine Delta hands that out in First) so maybe she’d never re-entered the US before. Who knows?
I’d say additionally the customs agent was being a dick. Obviously the fruit came from the Delta flight, not some remote orchard covered with strange bugs and manure. He/she could have easily just chucked it and warned her to be more careful. That wrapped apple is not endangering the United States ecosystem. Seems like she assumed because the fruit came from a US carrier it was OK to bring into the country.
Matthew, sometimes you are such a cad. Obviously, this was a customs agent being capricious, not someone enforcing an important rule that was being broken. The relevant rules are meant to prevent you from smuggling in large amounts of illicit produce from countries with poor public health systems, not the apple that Delta is clearly flying into the US from France. If she’d put it down on the form, they wouldn’t have done anything about it and would have waived her through. This is just bureaucratic nonsense, and the agent should have employed a little common sense, as the agents in Hawaii did for your wife.
Interesting post Matthew, but isn’t this supposed to be your Sunday off? Don’t you want to try and spend less time on your blog while home with your family? I might have missed the memo, but giving up your day off doesn’t fit my definition of cutting back 🙂 Say hi to your wife and son for me, please.
This post was a deal with Kyle for writing the Starwood post on Wednesday instead of me. I told him I’d take one on Sunday in exchange. As it turned out, Kyle still cranked out three excellent posts today so this post wasn’t exactly necessary.
But indeed, Sundays are my day off.
It was still a great post, what you wrote today. 🙂
One more reason to avoid Paris airport.Been there twice and always some problems from French side. Not to me tion you never know when they have a strike. And no im not interested in Paris anymore after it feels more like Africa then Europe.
No! This was a US agent acting like a third world despot. She was flying FROM Paris.
Just a agent getting their rocks off hassling a traveler. As the banners say: Welcome to the United States!” 🙂
@Fonzi – READ the post properly before commenting.
Packaged candy and chocolate are permissible. Fruit is not. Actually, packaged meat is not either, so forget the pate.
While I agree it’s her fault, this is basically the equivalent of a cop writing you a speeding ticket for 1 mph over the speed limit. Sure, they’re technically within their rights to do so. But come on. Exercise a little prosecutorial discretion here. The ICE agent was clearing being a DB and showing off his power just because he could.
The fruit is definitely a problem. But chocolate bars are kinda interesting.
The paper US Customs form asks whether you have “food”. I always say yes when I have food and always explain what I have.
But the electronic customs declarations questions asked by Global Entry sometimes ask if you have fruit (or similar questions covering fruits, vegetables, plants, insects, meats or meat products, dairy products, animals or animals/wildlife products, disease agents, cell cultures, snails, or soil) and sometimes do NOT ask whether you have food.
This leaves me I am a little torn when I’m coming back with a chocolate bar. Should I lie to the Global Entry kiosk and say, yes, I do have fruit/vegetables/etc.? If I lie and say “yes” I’ll get the chance to have the same conversation with a border agent about having chocolate that I usually have when I enter using a paper form. But I will be lying. Isn’t that a problem? Aren’t you supposed to not do that? Or is it ok to over-declare?
More recent versions of the kiosk questions have made the issue more clear by explicitly including “food” for for parity, but I feel like I still sometimes am asked about fruit and not food.
Even before getting to the customs people, the immigration officers always ask why I checked the “yes” box for food, and I answer honestly. Once, I asked customs about this while they scanned my bags, and they were VERY clear. Declare *any* food you’re bringing back. Teabag? Declare. Cookies? Declare. Chocolate? Declare.
I don’t want my GE revoked for a stupid reason like this…
A few comments hear saying the customs form asks about “carrying” fruit – which it definitely does not. The blue form clearly asks if you are BRINGING food. If I acquired it from the flight attendant when sitting on the taxiway at a U.S. airport, am I bringing food into the country? One capricious, pedantic turn deserves another.
The CBP response may seem disproportionate in the context of this one traveler, but if each person with “just one apple” or “just one small sealed package of salami” were allowed to pass through customs without any consequences, it would presumably total thousands of items of food each day entering the country. And while CBP unfortunately does not have a great reputation for treating people with courtesy, I’ve seen plenty of other countries (Canada, Australia) take their food import laws equally seriously. I once spent an hour at customs in Sydney over a package of goldfish crackers because to the agent they were a dairy product (the cheese flavoring…). I was let go with a warning but it’s the last time I’ve ever taken food on a plane, precisely because I’m afraid that I’ll forget that I have one candy bar left in my carry-on when I hit customs.
The irony to me with CBP is that when I declare things, they are almost always waved through with indifference (of course, I don’ t carry contraband…). I have GE and on a recent trip overseas bought a very nice Gucci bag. Obviously this was well over my $800 limit so I declared it. The CBP agent seemed amazed that someone with GE had a declaration notation on their printout from the GE terminal and asked me what it was about. I explained, including the full USD value, and he said “have a nice day” and sent me on my way.
What is so difficult about honesty and accountability? Maybe I think a law is stupid or too strictly applied, but that doesn’t free me from the obligation to comply with it, or to complain when I am punished for violating it.
“. . . if each person with “just one apple” or “just one small sealed package of salami” were allowed to pass through customs without any consequences, it would presumably total thousands of items of food each day entering the country.”
This is a rationalization based upon no facts. If everybody brought in a pile of french apples, it would result in no material or meaningful problem to anybody, anywhere. These rules were written nearly 100 years ago, when agricultural science was far different than it is today, before almost all agricultural pestilences have been overcome. Moreover, these regulations were from a time when we were much less connected with the rest of the world, and there weren’t such a multitude of international contacts as a result of international trade and migration that make worrying about what an airline passenger brings in — or all airline passengers — seem ridiculous.
It is no longer reasonable to suspect that the next agricultural or public health catastrophe will be delivered to the United States inside an apple from France (or from anywhere). Its just completely absurd that our freedom to bring in food from abroad is disturbed by these petty and infinitesimal risks, which benefit nobody except the bureaucrats and border agents who get paid to keep them on the books,
From another written account of the incident:
“Tadlock explained to the customs agent that the apple had been handed to her by a Delta employee — the plastic bag containing the apple had a Delta logo on it — and asked if she could throw it out or eat it. But the customs agent refused and issued her the fine.”
Just being a jerk.
One would think the lesson from Snow White is present in people’s mind. Scream stranger danger when being handed a piece of food.
I guess you must not partake in any food or drink service onboard then.
Did the apple originate from the US? It was on the delta plane.
That would have been my argument, but unlikely to fly.
Leftover food gets incinerated when arriving to a different country. No fresh food can be reused. No catering service would risk acquiring liability from use of fresh-non-frozen- food products.