I love the Internet, and especially the blogosphere. Here’s why: yesterday a gentleman named Mr. Deslauriers submitted a comment to my post about U.S. Customs that was less than complimentary. It’s a little long, but I suggest reading it if you haven’t already.
My first instinct was to go on the defensive, despite the relative politeness with which the criticism was delivered. I briefly considered several routes: deleting the comment, editing the post, and dissecting/justifying every accusation with a well-considered retort. But I soon realized that that’s just e-fascism. Why write a blog if you’re not going to accept certain comments? Plus, on almost every count, the man is right.
Firstly, I didn’t make the distinction between a customs broker and freight forwarder. Mostly this is because for me (and everyone else I know who is a small importer), this is the same person, but it still should have been included. I then publicly insulted the entire profession (also because I and everyone I know who is a small importer has found their broker/forwarder to be somewhat shady). Making sweeping generalizations about any group of people is a mistake, however, and I regret it and apologize for it.
As for the simplistic and somewhat incorrect presentation of my information, such as “A customs broker: this guy gets your stuff off the dock and onto a truck,” I will concede that there are perhaps more accurate phrasings I could have used, but I was using a deliberate teaching tool. The above statement is true if your customs broker is also your freight forwarder, and is mostly true even if they’re not (a customs broker allows your container to leave the port, even if they don’t actually move it onto the truck). In the same way that your high school science teacher started by teaching you Newtonian physics, even though Relativity makes the facts simplistic and somewhat incorrect, I write simplified accounts of my experiences so that complete novices can walk away with a basic understanding of the subject at hand. In other words, I post the information I wish I had received when I was trying to figure out my first steps. I assume (perhaps incorrectly) that if my readers decide to be importers themselves, that they will do their own further research before moving forward.
On the whole, Mr. Deslauriers gave me some much needed perspective on a number of fronts. He reminded me that a blog is more helpful when presented as a personal account than it is as a set of prescriptive instructions (especially coming from a beginner like me), that prejudicial generalizations are more counter-productive than clarifying, and that comments that criticize are a much better use of the “social surplus” than those that praise.
I have asked Mr. Deslauriers if he would agree to be interviewed via e-mail so that I can put together some importing information that comes straight from an expert, rather than from the link-trawling of a beginner. Whether he agrees or not, he has made this a better blog by challenging me. I hope more of you will do the same. Thank you, Mr. Deslauriers.