The Zoll is where packages from America are held for ransom, if they don’t get lost.
I finally had to go there a while back, due to the error of an Amazon seller. I had scrupulously avoided it for three years!
Of course I made a drawing. Everyone there was perfectly nice, contrary to the yelp reviews.
If you are planning a move to Berlin, do not mail yourself anything or have anyone mail you anything bigger than a postcard.
The Zoll will open it and charge you duties on it probably even if it is a gift or even if it is your old clothes from college. It’s just not worth it to wait a million years for your package to arrive, then get a letter from the Zoll, schlep over to the Zoll, take a number, wait in line, go through the scary mystery door, and experience your package being probed before you pay at least 18% duties on it and probably also 18% on the cost of shipping.
Items under 20-25 euros including shipping are exempt, *but the exact amount seems to be variable and they still take FOREVER to arrive. Update Feb 21 2022: NOTHING IS EXEMPT NOTHING ALL GOODS FROM OUTSIDE EU ARE CHARGED DUTIES YOU CAN BUY NOTHING
INCLUDING FROM THE UK AND THE POST-BREXIT SHITSHOW IS SO BAD THAT PACKAGES FROM THE UK HAVE ONLY A 25% CHANCE OF EVEN ENTERING THE TREACHEROUS GERMAN DELIVERY SYSTEM.
If you must go, follow this excellent protocol from yelp user Karim S.:
Both eBay.com and Amazon.com have a “Duties/Import charges” function that sellers can use. If your checkout includes those, and you pay them, your item will arrive fine.
This is the only exception to shipping stuff from the US. eBay’s International Shipping Program is fantastic and now even ensures items from the UK make it here, as previously they never made it. They would just disappear or be returned. (See my post on my hatred of the German postal system here).
Etsy’s function for this doesn’t seem to work properly, etsy sellers aren’t aware or made aware of Germany’s duties, and etsy stuff will be lost in the void or Zoll’d.
Amazon.co.uk also works fine, much better than an ebay.co.uk transaction without the International Shipping process.
If an Amazon.com seller doesn’t list duties/import charges for an item over 20 bucks, they didn’t set up the item sale properly and your stuff will wind up at the Zoll. Don’t risk it.
Just ask your friends to bring you your stuff when they visit. *cough* or your mom who might heroically bring an extra suitcase just of your stuff.
Or buy it from the UK, til Brexit. The equivalent of Target here for cheap good value basic clothes and household furnishings (but only online) is bonprix.de. You can get a LOT of amazing stuff on the eBay.de free classifieds, ebay kleinanzeigen. There are Facebook groups for free stuff and “sell your stuff”. Avoid craigslist, it barely works here. Also, IKEA delivers. Other Nature, the lovely queer sex shop, sells US brands of toys, harnesses, packers etc. which *they* pick up at the Zoll and pay the duties on, specifically so you don’t have to have a creepy violating experience ordering the intimate products you like best.
Just don’t ship stuff from the US.
Well, if you must, you can use MYUS.com, which is a shipping service. You get a shipping address in the States from them, you ship your items there, and they ship your items to Germany. (Or anywhere, I think?) The items arrive at the one FedEx office in Berlin, which is out somewhere near the Zoll, and then FedEx ships them to you. And THEN, a week or a month later, you get a big bill from FedEx for your duties! Which if you don’t pay, will promptly be referred to collections, which you can’t really dodge in Germany, and you’ll pay another 50-75 euros in fees! Not that I know anything about that. Cough.