Don’t get sucked in by souvenirs

It is difficult to feel sympathy for the US tourist whose two gaudy coconut palm hats were seized by customs officers on her return from the Caribbean, as featured recently on the Seven Network’s Border Security: International.

Apart from her questionable taste in millinery, there is the fact that her souvenirs could have compromised the viability of the US’s coconut plantations, thanks to some tiny stowaways hiding among the woven palm leaves.

After confiscating the hats, the officer shook them over a bench and before long it was sprinkled with dozens of the invasive red palm mites. Catastrophe averted!

Among the crazy souvenirs Australians try to sneak past our customs are cat and dog pelts, products containing bark, wood or animal bones, and counterfeit accessories, especially fake Givenchy, Rolex, Apple and Bvlgari items. Not declaring these souvenirs will likely see you cop a fine.

Don’t be duped by merchants who try to tell you that their products are not banned in Australia, even if they are in one of the above categories. They may produce fake certificates that state the item is exempt from customs black lists … don’t get sucked in.

Global organisations estimate that a quarter of slave labourers in Third World countries are children. Many of these children are forced to work in factories churning out products for Western consumers. It is no stretch to imagine that tiny fingers have contributed to the manufacture of many intricate keepsakes requiring fine motor skills.

The unsavoury, and let’s face it, unsafe, conditions in which these children labour so tourists can gorge on bargain-priced trinkets, should be enough to put you off ever buying a souvenir again.

And if you are still unconvinced and want to bring back a little memento for your dear ones, you are likely wasting money, as many people shove unwanted souvenirs out of sight as soon as they are received.

Talking about waste, wouldn’t it be nicer to spend your precious holiday time doing something you enjoy rather than shopping for souvenirs for those back home?

Do you bring back souvenirs for loved ones and friends? Did you know that any products containing wood or bone are illegal to bring through Customs? Do you like receiving souvenirs because it means that someone has been thinking about you while they were on vacation?

Written by Olga Galacho

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