Japanese Customs Crush Brownies' Hopes to Send Cookies to SailorsJOEL WILLIAMS , Associated Press
May. 6, 1988 7:09 PM ET
CORPUS CHRISTI, TEXAS CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas (AP) _ A Brownie troop's hopes of sending Girl Scout cookies to U.S. sailors have been snarled in red tape because of a half-baked $2,000 Japanese import tax slapped on the goodies, a troop leader said Friday.
The 402 boxes of Thin Mints, Golden Yangles, Scot Ts, Savannahs, Jubilees, Classic Cremes and Hoedowns are piled up at the Corpus Christi International Airport while officials try to figure out how to get them to their destination.
''We thought there would be a small import fee, but not this much,'' groused Marchetta White, leader of Brownie Troop 807 in nearby Beeville.
The 18 girls in the troop sold the cookies to crew members of the USS Midway, berthed in Atsugi, Japan, and were eagerly awaiting letters from the servicemen who bought them, Mrs. White said.
American Airlines shipped the cookies April 26 to Japan without charge. However, when Japanese customs officials demanded a $2,000 import tax, the boxes sat in a customs warehouse for four days before being returned to Corpus Christi. They have been in storage in one of the airline's offices this week.
The troop's top cookie seller, 8-year-old Nickelle Clark, said she did not like how the plan crumbled.
''I don't think it's fair,'' she said. ''I'm mad.''
Jean Titus, general manager for the airline in Corpus Christi, said it probably will fly the cookies to Honolulu, where the Navy will pick them up, but it could take several weeks for the shipment to arrive.
''I'm quite sure that they will be leaving in the morning,'' she added.
Iso Mura, with the Department of Customs Inquiries in the Japanese Embassy in Washington, said cookies would have a duty equal to 24 percent of the item's value and its freight costs. He said the $2,000 fee seemed high.
''It may be a mistake,'' Mura said.
The cookie crisis even got Sen. Lloyd Bentsen involved. The Texas Democrat has been working through diplomatic channels since Thursday ''to get those cookies on the way to the sailors on the Midway,'' a spokesman said.
U.S. Food and Drug Administration spokesman Curtis Coker said that if the situation were reversed, ''we would let it go right through to the Japanese in their ship or at their base. You have to apply a bit of common sense in regulating the food supply.''
Mrs. White said that she chose the Midway because her son-in-law is stationed on the ship, and that the Brownies have been corresponding with the crew since they sent Christmas cards to the sailors last year.
Girl Scout leaders have not told all of the first-, second- and third- graders that their cookie scheme met an international barrier.
''They decided at this point, since the cookies are going to get to the sailors, they didn't want to complicate the Brownies' lives,'' said Ann Diaz, executive director of the Paisano Girl Scout Council in southern Texas.
However, some of the girls' parents have told them about the detained cookies.
''Some of the younger ones weren't real comprehending about what happened, and the older ones do understand and are a little disappointed the guys didn't get their cookies,'' Mrs. White said.
Next time, she vowed, they will go through the military or the mail.