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.:. Complaint against the Custom at Malpensa Airport who bullied tourist 3/16/2010

Dear Sirs,

I understand that you are not an official authority in handling complaint from tourists. But I trust you have sympathy on my nightmarish experience. I understand that you love your city and for that reason, I am sure you will not allow those who represent the government and Milanese people to harass tourists.

Let me give you an account of my terrible experience, and your government’s ‘initiatives’ in following up my case.

I am a Hong Kong citizen working for an Italian company. My work requires me to travel from time to time to Italy , in particular Milan. In fact, I have just returned from this City yesterday. My trip all along has been very pleasant until I reached the last stop, the Custom (Dogana) at the Airport when I applied for tax refund. Let me put the development of this incident in chronological order:-

1) I applied for tax refund at around 4:00 p.m. of 23rd February, 2010 (Tuesday), local time;

2) A gentleman, probably at the age of 50+, around 165cm in body height, with spectacles and scanty hair, received me. Note that there were a total of two officers working at the custom for tax refund at that point of time. The other one apparently was younger by age. There was no name tag shown for identification. Neither gentleman wore uniform.

3) It was not the first time that I dealt with the custom of Milan Airport for tax refund. With due respect, I have to say, the past experience had not been smooth. But as foreigner, we could do nothing. I therefore warned myself that I’d better be there early enough to prepare sufficient time for any unprecedented matter. However, I could not anticipate that thing could only be going so worse, just because most tourists like me, decided to go for tolerance and accommodation for nasty behavior of the Custom officers and now such nasty behavior has been aggravated to the point that it became a behavior of a sheer disrespect of legitimate rights of the tourists by the government officers, a bullying culture, I have to say.

4) Herebelow is the conversation I could recall between me and that gentleman:-

Custom Gentleman: How many vouchers?

I : 3;

Custom Gentleman : [with a glimpse over the document on counter], ah, 2;

I: no, it is 3;

Custom Gentleman : [without replying, left the counter to check my luggage bag] Where are your merchandizes?

I: They are all in the bag [I was acting to prepare opening the luggage for his inspection]. They are 6 pieces of apparels and 1 bracelet.

Custom Gentleman : you sure they are all inside, including the bracelet?

I : Yes, I am 100% sure. Let me open this for your inspection.

Custom Gentleman : No need. Just put the bag up there [pointing to the carousel. Then he moved back to his counter]…..[frowned at my documents and pulled a long face. Note that his facial expression all along had been very solemn, without slight smile at all. I could feel no friendliness and it only turned worse at this point] Ah, this is a wrong behavior. We are a government and we are serious people. This is cheating me.

I : [totally baffled]. What are you talking about?

Custom Gentleman : You presented this voucher after I left the Counter Desk to inspect your luggage. You cheat.

I : No, I presented the vouchers altogether. If you think I cheat, let’s call back the luggage bag to see if all the items are present inside the bag. There is no point to argue. Let fact speaks for itself.

Custom Gentleman: No, you cannot do that. Look at your behavior. It is unacceptable. I am not chopping this voucher. [He chopped two vouchers and returned to me the 3 documents]. Go now [looked at me with highly unfriendly and intimidating look].

I immediately called my friend in Italy . Unfortunately, he did not know how to handle this kind of situation. I told him that it is a sheer abuse of power of the custom by discriminately rejecting a legitimate claim. I could not believe a highly civilized country like Italy , with warm and happy people opening the arms to tourists, would have unreasonable government officer representing it to interface with tourists in this kind of barbaric manner. I then looked for the information center with the objective to call the Chinese Consulate in Milan for help. However, there was no officer on duty in the information counter! I checked in the flight, asked the airline lounge lady to search for me the telephone number of Chinese Consulate in Milan but she said she did not know.

When I returned to HK, I wrote to the Consulate of Italy to lodge a complaint on 25th February, 2010. I told her that the amount involved is not substantial, talking about Euro25. But the implication of this custom officer’s deprivation of my legitimate right was not acceptable. A lady from the Consulate told me that she forwarded my complaint to the ‘relevant authority’ in Italy . However, there has been no feedback from that ‘relevant authority’ upto this moment. I also wrote to Tourist Association of Italy at '' in early March. The result is the same: MUTE. Apparently, there has been no intention from the relevant authority to address the issue that a government officer bullied a tourist.

I trust that you agree that this Custom Officer brought shame to the Milanese tourist industry. I also believe you agree that the apathetic behavior of the official authorities bring further shame to your city. Perhaps you may advise me how I may do to get to the attention of the ‘relevant authority’ to assert my legitimate right.

I also put the Consulate of China at Milan on c.c. and would be pleased to hear from it any advice it gives to its fellow citizen when the legitimate rights of that citizen have been illegitimately denied by a government officer of Italy when the follow citizen is in Italy.

Best regards,

Miranda Wong

.:. CiaoMilano answer

Dear Miranda,

Thanks for writing to CiaoMilano, though reading your letter and knowing of your experience astonished us.

Saying we're sorry is definitely not enough.

Ironically, our country officially declares that tourism is strategic, that tourism is Italy's future. If behaviours like the one you experienced is going to be our future, this means our future is hell.

Besides publishing your letter, we are going to ask the Milan Tourist Authorities - their very professional staff, which we completely trust - why they couldn't do anything this time, and let you know.

Keep in touch

roberto peretta

.:. RE: Complaint against the Custom at Malpensa Airport who bullied tourist 3/16/2010

Dear Roberto,

I am very impressed by the prompt response from your side. This is in a sharp contradiction compared to the callous response I have received (if really received) so far from the government channels whom I filed my complaint to. I really feel the sincerity and passion of your organization towards Milan, and the sympathy shown to tourists.

I stood at the custom desk for around 10 minutes before I left. I called my Italian friend for help. I also looked at the environment. I would say the setting of the Custom was facilitating power abuse:-

1) There was no name tag/ name plate worn or shown;

2) There was no guideline to the tourists in completing the tax refund process in the Custom Desk;

3) There was no guideline for tourists to address their grievances when the tourists did not agree to the arrangement of the custom officer.

This resulted in the un-checking power to the custom officer. He wielded complete discretion in handling tourists’ applications. Even though when the tourists’ application was 100% in compliance, the officer could choose to reject it when he was in bad mood, which probably happened to my case. My Italian friends comforted me over phone, telling me that there were good people and bad people like anywhere in the world. It’s unfortunate that I ran into a bad one who did not represent most Italians. I agree with him but not entirely. If there has had been a proper system in place checking the behavior of the officer, he would have behaved in a ‘normal’ way.

If that officer denied what he did, I have all evidences standing by: the merchandizes involved, the related invoice issued by the shops in Milan and the invoice which was rejected by that officer. I am pleased to present everything to the relevant authority via the Italian Consulate in HK to support my case.

Best regards,

Miranda Wong

.:. CiaoMilano answer

Dear Miranda,

Thanks for your message :-)

The Milan Tourist Authorities - which we would like to thank once again - very promptly replied explaining that unfortunately, since Malpensa is not in the Province of Milano, they have no power to do anything.

They immediately contacted the Malpensa Airport, which replied that the private firm which subruns the Malpensa Tax Refund service has nothing to do with the Italian State, and advised to post any remarks or protests to the official Malpensa Custom Office. The relevant email address is

The official Malpensa Custom Office reads this message in cc:

This reply of ours - and, although indirectly, of the Milan Tourist Authorities - is published on the CiaoMilano website.

Let's keep in touch

roberto peretta

.:. RE: Complaint against the Custom at Malpensa Airport who bullied tourist 3/29/2010

Dear Roberto,

It has been almost 2 weeks since I have lodged this complaint to you. To the professional colleagues in Milan Tourist Authorities, it should have received my complaint earlier. So far, I have nothing from any party, not even the consulate whom I initially lodged my complaint. I keep the lady Anna of the Consulate of Italy in HK on c.c. It appears to me that the Custom officers have wielded power so immense that no authority dares to investigate the case and nobody in Italy is able to stand up to say a word for justice sake.

I have an Italian friend who told me his story about the custom in Italy . He told me that he was alleged of not having paid tax before he was about to leave for Switzerland . He finally could manage to go through by queuing on the other line with more humane officer. He also had the impression that the Custom, when talking about maximizing tax collection, is wielded with unlimited power to unreasonably screw people up. He told me that in my case, it is a minimization of tax rebate, which achieved the same effect as tax maximization. That’s why nobody could challenge the Custom.

Maybe it is something a tourist never understands. To me, depriving a tourist who could produce proper documentation tying to relevant merchandize of the right of legitimate tax refund is not an action any graceful people should do, not to mention about a person representing the government. For this is an action of robbery. Any person committed robbery is liable to criminal trial in a court. No power should shield this kind of wrong doing.

While I still look forward to the professional response from Milan Tourist Authorities, I will take further action to assert my rights. As I said, the amount involved is not material. The experience of being bullied by an officer representing the Italian government is still a shock to me, albeit it has been over a month since the incident.

Best regards,

Miranda Wong

.:. CiaoMilano answer

Dear Miranda,

Thanks for your message.

All we can repeat is that the people who bullied you were not representative of the Italian state, that the official Malpensa Custom Office reads this message in cc: and that this reply of ours is published on the CiaoMilano website.

Good luck- to you as well as to our country...

roberto peretta


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