Back in Tullamarine airport-worst experience with custom

Tullamarine Travel Blog

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I have arrived at Melbourne at around 7:30pm. This’s the second time to try to use the “SmartGate” and it never worked for me. I feel the SmartGate should called stupidgate. It swallowed my ticket with the gate closed. As a result, I had to go through the staff assisted counter. I have bought some chocolate, lollies and a small container of dry peach slices. So I ticket yes to the food to declare as usual. I only worried that they might confiscate my dry peach slices. After checking though my card, the custom staff circled food column, and marked Q. Then I was being questioned by the staff who stood just behind the counter. To my surprise, he had a brief look at my card and queried everything except the food he suppose to ask. Normally when I ticked food, they’ll ask what kind of food I brought with me. If they’re satisfy with my answer, they’ll let me go. If they have doubt, I’ll have to put my bag through the X-ray machine or open my bag of food for them to check. Usually I have no problem to pass through. But this is weirdest time I have gone through custom. He asked me why do you travel in such short period of time?. Do you have family or friends there? Do you travel by yourself? What do you do? Which company are you work for? (by the way, these question he repeated asked me several times later on). I told him I only have 4 days leave for holiday. I don’t have family or friends there. I travelled alone. I told him the company name and location. He smiled and saying it is an insurance company. I said no, it’s a facility management company. Later he let me go, I thought it’s easy, he didn’t ask much questions, but strange enough none of the question related to the food I claimed. Then I waited and grabbed my bag from the luggage claim area. I was a bit rush cos I have to catch the sky bus to the city then catch train to the suburb where I live. Train comes every 30-40mins at night. I don’t want to wait at train station at cold night for that long. It takes about 1.5hrs from airport to my house, if I don’t have to wait much time at train station. I have to unpack my luggage and prepare for my work next day. But another custom staff stopped me and asked me to go through lane 1, which is a long way to the end with no staff but the belt at the end. I thought I was going to the wrong way, so I ducked under the belt and went to wait at the X-ray machine queue. Then another lady came to me and asked if I went to the wrong way. She asked me the same question why don’t you stay there any longer. I told her I only have 4 days leave. I followed her to a big white table and she told me someone will come shortly. Then she went to chat with other staffs. I felt something is not right. This is new to me and I was a bit scared. I didn’t know how long I have to wait there, it doesn’t look good to me. About 10min later, the same dude who checked my card before came to me. This time he pointed at my card saying did you fill this card? Is this your signature? Did you packed the bag yourself? Is that any sharp goods inside the bag? I felt weird. Aren’t they suppose to ask these kind of questions before you board the airplane in the check-in counter or security check area. Why do they ask me these question on my arrival. Then he told me they need check my bag. I was going to open my bag for him to check, then he stopped me and said not now. He then rang someone to come and spelt my full name over the phone. I thought what’s wrong with my bag, it’s just a 6.5kgs check-in baggage. If someone really put drugs during the shipping procedure, it’s out of my hand. Soon a security guard came with a long black stick. He opened my bag and used the stick to explore inside. They even asked me to remove my little bag from me where I put my passport and money inside for inspectipn. Again he put the stick inside my little bag. They didn’t found anything what they suspected. They repeated same questions again and again. I thought my great grandma won’t do that. This dude looks young, shouldn’t be doing that. He obviously didn’t trust me and wanted to crack something. But my answer always consistent. He checked my passport and queried me where I was originally from? Are my parents and sisters and brothers live there? I told him yes my parents are, and I don’t have any brother or sister. He asked what do you do beside sight seeing and shopping? Why do you go to Malaysia not home in China? Gee, what’s the problem with him? Travel back home cost double time and need a visa. He already think 3,4days to Malaysia is too short, let alone China. I have many relatives and friends to visit, only 3,4 days return trip from Melbourne to China is definitely crazy. What does he think I am doing in Malaysia in such a hot weather besides shopping and sight-seeing? Smuggling drugs or plan terrorist attack? My surname is not Bin-laden or Williams, what the hell are they thinking. I asked him is there anything wrong. He said no no, what’s wrong are you thinking about. I thought that’s the question for me to ask. Why only me have to go through all these crap, while anybody else who have some big suitcases just go through the X-ray machine or gone through without check. I only have one country road bag with me. The guard want to check my wallet. I told him I just bought one if he want to check that. That same dude checked pictures in my camera, queried me who took that picture of me. It was the picture that I was in my pajama. I told him I took the picture myself. Doesn’t he know the camera has the timer, and the picture was not taken in this trip. It was my last trip in Japan and it has the date clearly there. He asked me why do I live in hostel not hotel. I told him I cannot afford it. It’s a budget trip, besides you can meet people in hostel. Stay in hotel alone, just feel bored yourself. He asked me how much money I took away from Australia and how much it worth in Australian dollars. After I told him the figure, he said that’s not enough, and asked me if I have credit card. I told him no and I thought the it’s enough for 3,4 days, I even have some left. He went through every plastic bags that I well packed inside my country road bag, and made a big mess of my staff. He kept query me questions like why do you go there in such short time? Is there any one travel with you? Do you always do this kind of trip? I told him I only have 4 days leave and airfare is on sale. This is only my 2nd trip of the year. I’ve read an article before saying statistic shows average Australian travels 4 times in a year. I don’t know what’s the big deal about my trip. Later he asked if I have my airplane ticket with me. Lucky I didn’t throw away. He checked every layer of my little bag. He found my printout of hostel booking and receipt proved I didn’t lie. He seems lighten up a bit when he found my metcard and skybus return ticket inside my bag. He then found nothing suspicious, called a lady who wearing gloves to check the food. He even asked me if I have problem with police. I said no and asked him why. He said nothing just ask. I thought this is a lousy question. Just like you went to fruit seller and asked him/her if the fruits are fresh. He/she won’t say no. If I was a criminal I wouldn’t say yes to his question. Finally he staffed everything back in my bag, where it's hard to zip up. Unlike before I was well packed, I can zip up and open easily. I asked him if I was free to go, he nodded his head. He said very casually how’s your trip there with a fake smile. That’s the end of the procedure. I looked at him said scilently: Thanks to you officer, you gave me such special treatment which ruined all my good mood. You cleared out whatever you suspected, left me lots of questions.

They refused to tell me why they do this to me, and it bothers me all the way back and a couple of following days. That scene kept replay in my head, and I didn’t sleep well on the day I got back. I have no place to complain except writing my blog. The most bizzare question he asked me is have you lived in Flemington? That was ages ago, and I never told him that and don’t believe I have ever fill that address in the card before. I’ve only lived there for 3-4months when I was in Uni, and I lost my wallet on the second day I moved in. I had a police report to get a free student card replacement. I doubt if anyone stole my purse and use my identity doing something illegal. Or that’s just a random question and accidentally it’s yes to the question. I told my friends and family about the whole hell experience with the custom. They all believe it’s because they thought I was short-time traveller or maybe somehow a frequent traveller, therefore make them thinking I was doing something illegal outside. Now I suddenly think maybe because I was rushing with my luggage towards exit, hopefully to pass through quickly so not to miss the bus, make them thinking I was carrying drugs and wanted to get away quickly. I don’t know if any other short period traveller have experienced same thing or worse situation with them. Please, can anyone who read my blog leave some comments or suggestion. Thanks in advance.

Vikram says:
Why did you even "declare" that you had lollies and peaches with you? In the past, I've travelled with 2kg of fresh mangoes from India through immigration and never declared a thing. Reading your blog (and apologies to you), sounds like you brought everything on yourself.
Posted on: May 01, 2010
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