Job action at Canadian Customs?

April 6, 2012

The Tire Rack is an online vendor which ships its product to selected installers around the United States. Cheney Tire in Watertown is one of these and I have been impressed with their service, so I took the Lexus down for new summer tires. On Wednesday morning I was rolling on new rubber by 10:00 a.m., even though the shop operates on a first-come, first-served basis.

Then I stopped at Canadian Customs. Two booths were open for cars and two for trucks, with a line several hundred yards long. An attendant eventually cut one of the truck lines and sent a few of us to booth seven for processing.

My agent-of-the-day came on duty at 11:00 and spent three minutes futzing around his work space. Then he closed the blinds so he couldn’t see us. He called each car in by putting his hand out the window and twisting it. The line seemed to move very slowly as he worked his way through a half dozen cars before me.

When I arrived he muttered his way through some of the usual questions, but didn’t ask about the Duty Free Store, a line I have come to expect. His voice had a trick of losing volume in the the last half of sentences, so that I had to ask him to repeat himself frequently. Then he asked for my license number. I said, “I don’t know have it memorized. Why do you ask me for it when all you have to do is look at the screen and see it?”

“I wouldn’t ask you if I could see that, now would I?” in a nasty tone. So I read him the license number from the invoice for my tires. He required several corrections to get the whole plate number typed in correctly. Then he sent me on my way to the cashier.

Inside the office there were more uniformed personnel standing around than I normally see, easily enough to staff the full array of booths. I suspected some sort of work-to-rule program, perhaps in reaction to last week’s federal budget. Whatever it was, it had cost me an extra hour out of my Wednesday morning and a lot of wasted fuel.

When government fights with its employees, the public suffers.



Returning Snowbirds and shoppers: feel free to post updates from Customs experiences as comments to this article.


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