Credit Cards and getting Amazon and other shipments here

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One of the newbies in the Facebook group, Expats in Nicaragua, gave more bad advice on Amazon and shipping to Nicaragua.

Most of the books they carry can be sent here if your credit card has a Nicaraguan address. Declining to send to a Nicaraguan address when the CC address is in the US is a safety measure on the part of either your bank (most likely) or Amazon or the shipper. It's an extremely sensible restriction. If people who want to use a reshipper and keep the address in the US, then that also works, but if the reshipper requires me to go to Managua (five hours on the bus, plus cabs in Managua) for the pickup, then that's enough of a hassle that I'd rather go with Correos. Where people are may make the reshippers more or less desireable.

I've heard that some credit card companies don't allow use by international residents. Neither my bank or my credit card company have any problems with my being here and my bank has people who have experience with international banking who handled a problem for me here. I changed the address for the bank in person when I was back in the US and by phone for the credit card company. I get statements and bills by email.

My bank finally told me about minimum balance interest checking that refunds $10 a month of international ATM fees. I have to have a minimum balance of $3K for that.

Amazon can't sell some books and a fair number of products internationally -- that's not Amazon, but licensing restrictions. I contacted one company directly about their electronic coffee grinders and was told they didn't want them distributed to regions where they didn't have service centers to deal with warranty issues. Some Amazon affiliates don't ship internationally (more paperwork for them). I've had a few things I just couldn't get but often could find an affiliate that would mail internationally for a price (mail for the Eheim heater was more than the cost of the Eheim heater).

People are living here will have fewer problems buying things and having them mailed here if their credit card address is their Nicaraguan mailing address.

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  1. el duende grande's Avatar
    Amazon and banks will accept secondary addresses which makes it possible to send stuff abroad. I have not yet tried it with Paypal. As an anti-fraud thing they will only ship to address of record, but if you have 2 addresses of record it should work.

    Also, there is some law, I forget its name , which came with the Patriot Act that makes State Dept. licensing necessary to ship certain things that are considered ``military``, even if it is just a crappy hunting knife, as well as other restrictions on the freedom of Americans. One major publisher of police/militarty/ self defense books now declines international shipment. So much for the first amendment.

    One advantage of buying books from Amazon is that if it is a book only order it does not go to customs so they do not have an opportunity to steal things. The couple times I bought books they arrived un-opened at the post office. I have found it cheaper to buy used books in the States and haul them down on the plane and occasionally getting a Kindle download on my PC. a kindle machine is on the wish list.

    Somebody moving down here should call their bank and see what they advise. Nicaragua is very close to Nigeria, so banks would be quite justified in questioning foreign transactions that just pop up. Speaking of Nigeria, I just had an interesting conversation with somebody in a call center.with a very strange accent who wanted to know what state Nicaragua was in. You gots to roll with the punches.
  2. MizBrown's Avatar
    I haven't had any experiences with Customs stealing, even buying things for a camera system that's sold in Nicaragua. If you've had personal experience with this in the last four years (my time in Nicaragua), then I've been lucky, and I believe that one of the folks here had iris rhizomes go missing (screw-up or theft -- I'd bet screw-up and over-officiousness was as likely as theft -- could have looked like food, and could have been insect-infested despite promises of the seller). One guy has had bank cards go missing (I haven't so this may be a Managua thing vs. a Jinotega thing, just as my lost packages in NYC were an NYC thing). I've had so much stuff not go missing, including checks, that I simply get annoyed with people who want me to imagine this vast thieving Customs Warehouse.

    Some North American and some European expats seem to be really unhappy if they have to submit to any form of Nicaraguan authority in person and make up excuses to avoid it (my experiences with Nicaraguan bureaucrats have been neutral to quite helpful). I know from personal experience that some Nicaraguans are bad boys, but my sample of expats in Jinotega who flout Nicaraguan law (up to murder) is larger than the number of Nicaraguans who've stolen from me (one).

    I now don't trust anyone who claims Aduanas habitually steals stuff. Do individuals working for Aduanas steal occasionally? Possibly, hasn't happened to me. I don't order thousands of dollars worth of stuff at a time, and I pay for tracking most of the time if the value of the stuff is more than $200, so that may be a factor. I find North American guys who try to explain Nicaragua to me to be far more annoying than the guy on the bicycle who declares "mi amour" every time he passes (I haven't seen him lately).

    My first mail here was a box of books and one other item that I mailed myself from DC, sent book rate if I'm remembering correctly. Aduana opened it and noted the item that wasn't a book on its inspection list, though there was no charge (item was a notebook cover with a WW II photo in it).

    When I first got here, lots of expat guys were telling me I had to have an extra-special lawyer to deal with Intur and Migracion, that both organizations were arbitrary and fickle and lost stuff. That also didn't match my experience. I think most of this Aduana steals and Migracion is impossible to deal with directly is just smugglers not willing to admit they are smugglers, or that Nicaraguan laws shouldn't apply to special snowflakey them because they just need whatever it is they're smuggling into the country.

    Stuff that happens to a friend of a friend didn't happen; it's just expat echo chamber vibrations gone gonzo. I'm really tired of it. It's like racists rattling paranoia back and forth to each other.

    So, after four years of not having anything go missing, I hear "Aduana steals" as "I got caught smuggling."

    Newbies tend to foolishly believe all this crap and start smuggling themselves because "OMG, Aduana steals." Then they get caught one trip and Aduana confiscates their stuff, and it's another round of "OMG, Aduana steals. They took my tomato seeds."

    People who move here need a certain amount of caution with employees, with other expats whose pasts seem never to be the same from story to story, and Nicaraguans or expats who declare instant love. With Nicaraguan officials, not so much, at least in my experience and the experience of others I've talked to.

    "Aduana steals" is either "I am a smuggler" or "I know someone who smuggles" or "I'm just paranoid because people don't speak English for me."

    I have not lost anything here, and I can't say that for either New York or Philadelphia, or Southern Pines, NC (the post office there apparently confiscated my copies of the East Village Other newspaper) or Critz, VA (the post mistress gave my mail to my grandfather, not to me, and I didn't get all my copies of Rolling Stone).
  3. billbudsocket's Avatar
    Who says this "aduana steals stuff"? Sounds like a strawman you've invented, again. I think everyone objects to having to go to the customs warehouse at 7:30 in the morning and not getting their boxes until 6pm, which is normal from my experiences clearing boxes in Managua, which means wasting 16+ hours for nothing for someone who doesn't live in the Managua area. I don't ship anything to NI now, it's far easier to bring it down on a plane.
  4. MizBrown's Avatar
    I read it in the statement above my last -- "One advantage of buying books from Amazon is that if it is a book only order it does not go to customs so they do not have an opportunity to steal things." is from the person I'm replying to.

    Even that's not even factual in my experience -- Aduana can and has opened boxes of books. They can open anything coming into Nicaragua. And not a single thing from my mailed packages has gone missing. They even slipped up and let some popcorn in with one mailed package.

    Another example, from Face Book's Expats in Nicaragua group: "
    Personally, I would NEVER have anything mailed here!!! Bad experiences ... customs "steals" stuff ... removes stuff .... claims it got lost but STILL charge you .... what a rip!!!!" That was from someone who hasn't been in Nicaragua a year.

    I have heard other people say the same thing in person.

    One other poster on the other group said he believed that Aduana stole seeds for personal use when Aduana finally cracked down on unauthorized seed imports.

    Not just the poster I was replying to has made that claim. Lot of people pay extra for NicaBox because they think paying extra to have something shipped here and having someone who isn't them deal with Customs will do something special.

    If people go back to the US often enough that they can bring things back in luggage, fine. I did that with my A6000, but I don't go back to the US that often most of the time (three times over the last year and a half on family business, but that's done).

    If you're agreeing with me that the incidence of theft in the US and Nicaraguan mailing chain is not always a Nicaraguan problem, or even a common problem, we're in violent agreement.

    So, this is a meme among at least some expats, including the guy who I was replying to. One of the things people have to sort through is when are expats being bigots and when are they reporting true things about Nicaragua. Most of the most negative stuff seems to be exaggerations and trolling the newbies. I also think that North American men are more likely to assume that they can tell women what's what as much or more than Nicaraguan men.

    My own experience with clearing one box in Managua was a half day, but it was still more time than I wanted to spend waiting around.

    (And yeah, I did sent a private message to the person who had all the exclamation marks and told her that was not my experience in four years of living here).

    So, you don't like me calling a friend of yours on what he said. Tough. That's my duty. I'm tired of seeing people try to scare the newbies.
  5. prpcof's Avatar
    I am starting to believe! I wish I could say this about the toll takers. (traffic police) I have had to pay them on makeup traffic violations. I am going to resolve this by paying it like I am supposed to. Bite the bullet so to speak. Especially when I was not wrong.
  6. MizBrown's Avatar
    Simple. Don't drive. I never have problems with the traffic cops.
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