Brewer's Droop #222

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I noticed recently that a few tourists have not been allowed into South Africa because they didn’t have “two blank empty pages facing each other” in their passports.

One was a couple from the USA. They’d been travelling for God knows how long, probably had pockets bulging with dollars they were itching to spend, and they were turned away by some bureaucrat who probably didn’t know where America is.

Is this some kind of death wish our Department of Home Affairs has about tourism? Do they train these people to be as rude as possible and refuse entry to as many as they can? Maybe they’re even on some kind of incentive scheme to see who can annoy the most tourists?

I mean, where on earth is the danger in having a passport that’s almost full with visas and stamps? Is this some kind of diabolical weapon we’re not yet privy to?

I did some checking and, as far as I can see, this is happening to dozens, if not hundreds, of tourists!

I’ve been through a number of customs checks in different countries and, apart from one really nasty bastard in Miami, our lot seem actually eager to be as offensive as possible.

A couple of years ago I came through customs at Cape Town International and was stopped (as was everybody – the backlog was horrific) by a keen looking young man who politely asked if I would open my briefcase.

I smiled and said it would be no problem at all (and praying like hell he didn’t look in my suit bag because I was smuggling in a serious number of cigars).

He pounced (I use the word literally) on my laptop and demanded to know where my “exit document” was.

I explained that when I’d left, that counter wasn’t open (I always get to airports early you see) and, once through security, I couldn’t get back later. I apologised profusely.

“How do I know you didn’t buy this in London and are smuggling it in to avoid duty?” which was a fair question I guess, so I answered “well, you can clearly see it’s quite an old computer for a start, and if I switch it on I can show you files and emails that were created way before I left.”

I could tell he didn’t like this answer and wasn’t quite sure what to do next while he glowered at me.

Finally he announced “this isn’t a race thing you know!”


“I told you, it’s not because you’re a white man.”

“The idea never occurred to me (seriously, it really hadn’t) and I have no doubt whatsoever that you’re just doing your job.” But it shook me up quite a bit.

Finally he pointed at me, wagging his finger, and said “don’t do this again” and turned his attention on the group behind me.

As I was puffing thoughtfully on my smuggled Cuban later and enjoying a snifter of Cognac (also contraband) I thought back to the first time I landed in Sydney and the lady there saying “welcome to Australia – have a lovely stay.”

World’s apart.


Another interesting thing that happened to me at Cape Town airport recently (actually it was more embarrassing than interesting I’d say) was when I went through security.

I put all the metal things in the tray and wasn’t carrying anything illegal.

When I walked through the scanner it “pinged” and I explained that it was the metal bits on my braces that had set it off and I fully expected to be searched.

“Zip” said the security guard.

“I beg your pardon?”


“No, no, it’s my braces. I can take them off and walk through again but my trousers will fall down.”

He shook his head and repeated “zip”.

His colleague, a robust lady, took a step backwards and I thought maybe he’d said “zap” and I was going to get tazered for wearing braces.

So I said “I’m very sorry but I don’t understand what you mean.”

He then said “your fly zip is undone” and pointed.

I don’t embarrass easily but I think I came close to blushing.

The other thing that crossed my mind was how long had it been lowered? All morning? Anyway, he could see I had nothing worthwhile to declare so he waved me through.

So here’s another tip – if you want to smuggle something metallic through a scanner, just make sure your zip’s undone then they’ll ignore everything else.


MediaShop tweeted that the “Oscar Channel” is peaking at 190,000 viewers (that puts it up there with Grey’s Anatomy) so you’d think DSTV would be thrilled – but there’s apparently not a lot of advertising and brands are “steering well clear”.

Beware the Ides of March (on Saturday – so keep away from anyone called Julius – or Caesar).

Don’t forget our Twitter news feed which updates what’s happening in the Advertising, marketing and Media worlds – as it happens:


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  1. Hi Chris

    I must differ with you, most of our immigration officers are eficient and polite. Maybe not over friendly but doing a good job. A bit like the Germans, though their obvious racial profiling is embarrasing when travelling with black colleagues.
    When visiting America you are treated like a criminal, the lines at Heathrow and the sullen immigation officials are no pleasure either.
    Try Moscow for fun, or China!
    The only welcoming ones I have seen are in Bali.

    • I don’t really care about the rudeness Matt – nor even the queues. But WHY turn tourists away because they’ve got too many stamps in their passports????

  2. I love your ‘how to beat the scanner’. A close acquaintance recently forgot his Leatherman Micra (small pocket knife) in his laptop case and only realised that when picked up by the scanner. He knew he was in trouble as he only had hand luggage for the trip, and certainly had no intention of parting with the knife forever. He took the knife, telling the security guard that he was going to ‘sign it in’. Thinking quickly, he went around the corner and put it in his shoe, and came back for a second scan. This time, it wasn’t picked up. What a relief! But it also raises questions about the quality of the scanning process…

  3. Hi Chris,
    Being one of those who travel on a Brit passport, and having had to renew it in October, I thought that I’d do the right thing and get my permanent residents stamp in it.
    That was the easy part (no really…took me all of 15 mins at Harrison Street believe it or not)
    When I presented my new, duly documented passport at ORT I was asked for ID.
    I pointed out that I had my permanent residence permit stamped in it.
    He found it, looked at me and said “I need other ID as this might be forged”. Hence I gave him my driving licence with the comment that the licence was more likely to be a forgery.
    Fortunately he let me through!

  4. I’m not surprised that companies are avoiding the Pistorius debarcle. It is a morally bankrupt idea, murder trials are not ‘entertainment’, Fankly I’m surprised at the Carte Blanche team. ‘You have the right to see it all’ might be their pay off line but this kind of bullshit is beneath them. They did it for the money – and it is not working. Serves them right.

  5. Lol !! I almost fell off my chair laughing at this! Thanks Chris, as always you rock.

  6. just the tonic plus the gin for a Friday start for a weekend.

    I remember once coming from Jersey to the UK (albeit with a UK passport) late one evening and customs gents weren’t even interested in looking at our passports. Quite a bit of humour transpired … we found it hilarious.

    Another time more recent – we arrived 19 hours late in JFK NY thanks to SAA aircraft malfunction at JHB. Then had to catch a charter flight to run like fun to get to the World Cup cricket in the Windies. Another aircraft malfunction and so a return to JFK. So we endured four US customs encounters in one morning. That time round we were decidedly an unhappy, tired bunch (I had been travelling for 67 hours plus) but with a Caribbean cruise on the horizon, the party of 120 were a stoic, committed lot. We wanted that holiday !! Oh the joys of international travel ….

    bon voyage …

  7. Hi we attended the aaa graduation last night as proud parents and I really enjoyed your speech. It reminded me of the good old days of advertising which,although I wasn’t directly involved ,I lived vicariously through my dad,Des Kennedy.He was a copt writer for many years at Bernstein,Kennedy and associates.Our son has followed in his footstep and won a Loerie last biggest sadness was that my dad was not around to witness this moment.
    I looked for you after the ceremony to thank you for restoring my faith in a market that I feel has lost touch with reality.if people like you keep on pressuring the media to stop and think we may get back to what the real consumer wants to see
    Regards and a faithful fan now of your blogs
    Tracey bannatyne

    • What a lovely message! I remember Des Kennedy very well – in fact I can see him laughing even as I write this (he laughed a lot if my memory’s okay).

      Thrilled that your son won a Loerie – huge achievement for someone so young and you have every right to be proud. (I have two sons of my own who are doing very well in the ad world in London so I know how you feel).

      For me it was a memorable night because the room was absolutely filled with positive energy – so much enthusiasm and energy. I could have stayed there all night.

      Thanks again for the comment!


  8. I heard this story about a couple of engineers who played a trick on a colleague who was a real a-hole. He arrived at customs and the scanner picked up a shape of a firearm (pistol) in his suitcase. They searched high and low for it, roughing up his whole bag, strip searched from top to a-hole only later to discover a lazer cut tin shape of a pistol inside the pages of a book his colleagues insisted on reading at his arrival at his destination. Nasty..


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