US Customs Problem/ New Product Delay

Posted by Jason Ecos on

Short Version: US Customs refused our last two shipments, and now Fedex refuses to ship our knives because they are under the impression knives are illegal to import into the US since Customs denied them entry. We will not be having any new items for sale until this problem is resolved. We owe a few dozen people items they have already paid for and their orders will be filled first. It is looking like I will actually have to buy airplane tickets(which are quite pricey from here) and fly them to the US myself. Unfortunately I have been building a life here, I can't just pack up and leave, I have to get things sorted out first which will probably take a month.


Long Version:

In early December we shipped two boxes of knives to the US. Normally we ship them to my father in Michigan who then ships them to individual customers but he was spending December in Arizona so we shipped them to the Arizona address. The knives typically enter the US through a port in Alaska, this time they entered through California. In 6yrs of shipping knives from here we have never had any problems until they entered through California.

(one of the returned boxes)

(would have been nice if he said *why* he considered them prohibited)

The California Customs agent denied entry to our shipments and did not provide us any paperwork as to *why* they were denied. They just said "prohibited items". According to US law any and all knives are perfectly fine to import except switchblades, ballistic knives, gravity knives, and balisong. Our knives are none of the above so are legal to import.

The laws can be seen here: "

12.96   Imports unrestricted under the Act.

(a) Common and special purpose knives. Imported knives with a blade style designed for a primary utilitarian use, as defined in §12.95(c), shall be admitted to unrestricted entry provided that in condition as entered the imported knife is not a switchblade knife as defined in §12.95(a)(1). Among admissible common and special purpose knives are jackknives and similar standard pocketknives, special purpose knives, scout knives, and other knives equipped with one or more blades of such single edge nonweapon styles as clip, skinner, pruner, sheep foot, spey, coping, razor, pen, and cuticle.

(b) Weapons with fixed blades. Importations of certain articles having a fixed unexposed or exposed blade are not within the prohibition of 15 U.S.C. 1241 through 1245."

(link to the Customs website with the law )

I've been reading my way through all the import laws and there is one other reason why the knives could have been denied entry.  All knives entering the US need to have the country of origin marked on the blade. This is a 100yr old law that they typically only enforce with large quantities/mass production and knives made by hand they typically slip through the system fine. Its possible the Customs agent decided to enforce this law.

So once we received the returned items we went to Fedex to try and ship them again, this time through our usual port of entry in Alaska that we have used for years with no problems. Our local Fedex depot was told by corporate headquarters to not allow us to ship knives anymore because they are "prohibited items". They are under the impression knives are illegal to import since the Customs agent never gave a reason *why* they were denied entry. I send them the laws and links from the Customs website. They say "we will forward this to our US clearance team". I then expect them to see sense and reply within a couple of days. Days go by without any response. I email them. They ask for pictures.  I send pics. They ask what materials the knives are made from. We send them a materials list. Each exchange takes a couple days to get a response.

We wait a week. Nothing resolved.  I email the US Customs agent who refused our packages asking him to please provide a reason *why* they were denied entry.  He refuses to reply to our emails.

We message Fedex saying this is ridiculous and if you can't provide us with a reason why our knives are not being allowed to ship then why not let us ship? I offered to sign a waiver saying I'm responsible for any fees if the package is refused entry. They say they are emailing the local Fedex Operations Manager and letting him decide. I think "OK, cool. Everything should be fine then since the local depot knows we have been shipping for years and this was our first problem"

I was wrong. The local Manager has not responded to the email. We have tried to call. They refuse to put us through to him.

In the meantime we have been trying to find another shipping agency. Unfortunately nobody here knows their job and just makes up rules on the spot.

UPS: The local depot says "only non-sharpened display knives and kitchen knives packaged in glass cases can be shipped, anything else can't be". We email them. They respond with "knives intended for bodily harm can not be imported to the US". We explain our knives are NOT intended for bodily harm and are for everyday use. I also provide them with the link where Customs specifically says "weapons" are allowed to ship. They flat our refuse. I ask for a link where it says this since I have looked at UPS's rules and regulations book and it says knives are fine to ship, only switchblades are illegal. They either then argue "all knives are switchblades" or just flat out refuse to ship

DHL: Says we need to get a local police certification to ship. Of course local police have nothing to do with exporting/importing so we ask for a copy of the certification or a certification number, etc so we know what to ask the police for. They refuse and say "just ask the police" . So we ask the police, of course they don;t have a clue what we are talking about because they aren't involved. So DHL refuses to ship until we get a certificate that doesn't exist.

The post office says they can't ship them airfreight but may be able to sea freight...which takes 4months.

We have tried a good dozen other shippers with the same types of response. Nobody will ship knives. We even had one place tell us you can't ship anything sharp. When I asked about scissors, pens, pencils, and even toothpicks the lady looked me in the eye and said "nope, cant ship them. they are sharp"


So whats the current status? If Fedex and DHL continue to refuse to ship the only solution I can think of is to buy a plane ticket and fly the knives to the US in person. Which of course is a royal pain in the ass. The cost of tickets will deeply cut into our profits so I can't afford to fly to the US each time I need to ship some packages. On the other hand I can't live here without an income so it looks like what I will have to do fly the knives to the US in person, stay there for 3-4months making knives to get up for sale in our store, then fly back here where I can get back to training our apprentice and make more knives to import when I fly back to the US in 3-4 months.

A prime example of government restrictions and employee ineptitude making life much harder than it needs to be.

Unfortunately I can't just pack up and leave right away, I've been here 6yrs and have a life here. It will take me about a month to get things sorted out. Which means we will not have any new knives to list until I arrive in the US.

I'm very sorry to all of you that are waiting for pieces you have bought and to those people that keep waiting for us to list new pieces to buy. It's simply out of our hands at this point. Believe me, we are trying to get this resolved ASAP since we haven't had income since early December from this ordeal.

(a batch of 75 completed knives just waiting for us to be able to ship them)