Why you should always keep your purchase receipts when crossing the border.
On a recent short trip down to the USA for gas I had an interesting experience with USBP (US Border Protection) on my return to Canada.
I had visited the Cabella’s in my town of Abbotsford BC Canada only a 7min drive from the US border with my 2 children 9 and 13yo and purchased the metal .22 calibre rifle gallery target. I left the store and headed down for gas as I do weekly due to the prices being on average 0.20-.025 cents less per litre. My kids and I all have Nexus cards so the trip is normally less than 15min in total. I noticed as we entered the US that the USBP officers were doing export checks on vehicles prior to entering the CBSA (Canada Border Services Agency) control area. This is not uncommon, as they will often try get a seizure prior to persons exiting the US.
After filling up with gas and purchasing a single bottle of red wine we headed back. The Nexus lane at this crossing is virtually always clear as it was this day. There were officers on either side of the Nexus lane with a detector dog. The officer on my side flagged me to stop. I rolled down my window he asked me where I had been I said for gas and been 15min. He wanted to look in my truck asked for my keys and proceeded to begin looking through my trunk. Came back after a min and said: “You have a target in your car where did you buy it?” I replied: “I bought it just before I crossed the border at Cabela’s” He then asked: “What do you do for work?” I replied: “I’m a Paramedic”. He returned to looking in my trunk and overheard the conversation to the other officer as he told him I was a paramedic and bought the target. He again returned and said: “Who do you work for?” I replied: “BC Ambulance”. He returned again to searching my trunk, that contained my BC Ambulance Paramedic uniform jacket, duty belt, in addition to a trauma bag and other emergency supplies. I did find it rather odd that he asked me who I worked for when my shoulder crest clearly shows who I work for. I then overheard him say: “Well, we should search this car a bit more thoroughly, the other officer said: “Well, we can pull him off to the side over there”. At this point I decided to grab my Cabela’s receipt as I sensed that they thought I purchased the target in the US. When the officer came back to my window I had the receipt opened and ready for viewing and said: “This is the receipt for the target I bought”. The receipt has a Canadian Flag at the top with the words Cabela’s Canada, it also shows the address and time of purchase like any other receipt. The officer exclaimed: “Oh! You bought that target in Canada? “ I replied: “Yes as I said purchased before I came across the border”. He turned back to the other officer and said: “Did you know there was a Cabela’s in Abbotsford?” The other officer said: “No, had no idea”. The officer by my window said almost apologetically: “As you probably know there is a gun show in Ferndale and we are checking vehicles for firearms and ammunition that may not be properly declared. You are aware you cannot import or export ammunition without the proper permits right?” I replied; “Yes I am aware thanks” The officer stepped away from my window and said: “you are free to go ”I continued on, cleared the Canadian Nexus lane with 2 questions, and re-entered Canada.
I know the USBP officers are just doing their job, but they were so focused on trying to get a seizure the officer did not listen to me when I told him I had purchased the target prior to entering the US. Volunteering to show the receipt prevented unnecessary delays in returning to Canada. Had I not produced the receipt we would have been there for some time.
As a former border officer I would have asked to see the receipt for the target prior to searching the vehicle. Every officer does their job differently, but they would have been wasting their time as well as mine, simply because he had not thought of asking me to produce a receipt.
Always keep all your receipts for recent purchases in Canada as well as purchases made in the US so they may be produced, either when requested, or perhaps offered to validate you travels and the origin of the item or items in question.