The Kenyan Post International Parcels Dance

Disclaimer: 

This report only applies to the collection of international parcels from the Kenyan Post Office.  I cannot comment on how inefficient,  backwards and a complete waste of time  the rest of the operation is or is not.

The absolute one thing I dread doing in Kenya is getting a box in the mail.  Sure, it is so much fun to receive gifts and things from loved ones far away, but the hassle involved in getting said box can completely degrade that joy.

Before I have even reached the inside of the Post Office, I am getting annoyed.  Since Kenya engaged in fighting Al shabab in Somalia, many of the government offices have closed off their parking lots for “security” purposes.  The Post Office included.  So if I am collecting boxes with my car I have to look for parking somewhere in town hopefully in a close proximity to the Post Office.  The Post Office has only two access points by foot and one access point by vehicle which can mean you will spend a large portion of time going to and from.

Once you finally arrive at the Post Office, you make your way up to the floor in between the 2nd and 3rd floors.  They call it a mezzanine or something to that effect.  Not sure why they couldn’t just call it a floor.

1.

Here the fun begins.  If you look at the very blurry photo above (taken as I was exiting the place and in a hurry because I wasn’t sure if I would draw unwanted attention and didn’t feel like dealing with people with authority complexes) at the area marked number 1.  This is where you go, present your yellow slips to collect your parcels.  They check your I.D. to make sure it is actually your name scribbled on the yellow slips and then go digging through the boxes in the back searching for your items.   Once they are found, the items are brought back to you at the counter.

Here you have to open the box (ruining any surprise) and show the contents to the “custom” agent.  If he so deems that your items are valued in any way, he marks it down, writes some numbers on the back of your yellow slip and sends you to the “cashier”.  If the sender declared any price on the box contents, that is exactly what gets written down and a tax is charged.  Otherwise you are at their mercy for how expensive they think things should be.

The Post office charges you import tax and VAT.  The combination of these two can easily equal more than 50% of the value declared.  I paid Ksh2500 for three boxes valued at around $40 usd.  Ksh2500 is equivalent to around $29.  So that is almost 75% of the declared value.

2.

Now, the cashier is marked as number 2 on the photo.  Cashier is completely misleading.  They no longer collect cash here.  A few years ago after a series of several robberies around Nairobi, all vehicles transporting cash were ordered to travel with two escort cars.  This automatically doubled the cost of sending money to banks by courier.  So the post office decided not to collect tax revenue on incoming parcels at their offices but rather send you to the bank to make a direct deposit.  At least this was the excuse given to me the first time I encountered this issued and raised a complaint.  Funny thing is they still collect money for other purposes and I would imagine they have to take that to the bank at some point.

So the Cashier takes your slips, goes through a pile of other slips that are surprisingly organized and pulls out a few identical pieces of paper to the ones you gave out.  The numbers written on the back of the slip are put into a computer and a nifty sheet is printed out indicating the total amount that you may or may not have to pay to KRA(kenya revenue authority).  If you are lucky and don’t have to pay any taxes you get to take the duplicate sheets back to the counter and finish the process of collecting your parcels.

3.

Paying KRA.  This is probably the part that causes me most grief.  I have to leave the post office and walk at least 10 to 15 minutes to get to one of two banks that allow me to pay the taxes from the post office.  If I am lucky, I don’t find a line and have very little time to wait.  If I am unlucky, then I can wait at least an hour before handing any money over to anyone.  After paying one is given a nice receipt to take back to the Post Office.

4.

Get back to the post office.  If you are lucky and have made it back before they break for lunch, then you may have a chance to get out of there at a reasonable time.  Otherwise you have to wait until 2 p.m. to go back to the merry-go-round.

Inside you go back to the cashier and present your receipt.  She gives you a pile of yellow slips.

5.

You go back to the first counter and hand over all your slips.   They put a bunch of stamps on the yellow slips and then send you off to number 6 to pay some more money.

6.

The post office charges Ksh150 shillings to hold each parcel in their building for 7 days.  You have to pay this regardless.  If you are late, they charge something like Ksh70 or Ksh75 per every day that you are late, including weekends.  For each parcel you get an individual hand written receipt for whatever storage charges they have asked you to pay.  This is where you also part with your yellow slips for good.  So if you have three parcels you are collecting it can take about 10 to 15 minutes to write out the receipts and exchange money.

7.

You return again to the original counter and show them the now white slips indicating that you have paid all the money for storage.  They go and start looking for your boxes and hopefully find them.  Once found, you are finally free to leave that counter with the boxes and begin to head for the exit.

8.

After collecting your boxes you are directed to a person that wants to see your receipt from the bank along with the receipt from the person you just paid storage fees too and to briefly inspect your parcels once again.  At least this one doesn’t require you to open the parcels but only explain what is inside.  Then this person brings out a book and writes down all the information along with your ID number.

9.

Freedom.  Almost.  After you finish with point #8, you are directed to #9.  In my opinion numbers 8&9 are almost the same exact thing.  Although #9 is much quicker.  This person just looks at your ID and writes down how many parcels you are carrying out and then smiles and tells you to have a good day.  What they don’t realize is that by this point, my day has been completely wasted running back and forth trying to get these parcels out of the post office.

Conclusion

The collection of international parcels in Kenya is one of the most annoying and inefficient systems I have run into in this country. It is the only activity that I know will cause me to blow my cool and start acting like a fool in front of loads of people.

It is way past time that they look into revampinghow things are done.  You can’t really see it in the photo, but the signs that are hanging around are probably the same ones that were put there when the Post Office was built so many years ago.  I have the feeling the systems are about the same as well.