Posted in Courier, Technology

Shipping Laptops With Lithium-Ion Batteries

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Once when I had to make a decision between choosing DHL and FedEx for shipping laptops with lithium-ion batteries from the Philippines to a neighbouring country, my first choice was DHL. It proved to be a cumbersome selection. Not only was the Macbook Air laptop returned, the customer service part of the follow-up was hell. I ended up going to FedEx which had surprisingly a more straightforward approach in shipping laptops with lithium-ion batteries internationally.

If you prefer to ship a laptop with lithium-ion battery because your consignee already has a DHL account, make sure you include the Material Safety Data Sheet or MSDS of the built-in battery with the commercial invoice. Your consignee would contact the courier company to schedule the pickup from your address and the shipping charges would be billed to your consignee’s DHL account. From my experience with shipping a Macbook Air with lithium-ion battery, I did not have much luck finding the MSDS even after I called up Apple’s 1-800 number in the Philippines. Apple Support sent me a PDF document titled Macbook Air 13-inch Environmental Report.

According to a DHL staff from Manila, a Material Safety Data Sheet or MSDS is a document signed by a licensed chemist to prove that the laptop is non-hazardous. Unlike other conventional laptops with removable batteries, the Macbook Air (and not just the Macbook but even their iPhones) has a built-in battery. My sister’s friend who is a licensed chemist informed us that the MSDS is not just any document signed by a licensed chemist, rather it is actually an official document signed by an authorized body that even she who was licensed could not produce a document like it.

Because DHL Manila did not accept the Macbook Air 13-inch Environmental Report, the laptop was shipped back to my address after being held up in customs for 3 days.

We even tried to contact Apple again and requested an MSDS specifically for the built-in battery only. The customer service agent at Apple Singapore took over the matter. They explained that Apple doesn’t have a specific MSDS for the lithium-ion polymer battery of the Macbook Air. However, they requested that we transfer them to the person in-charge of the final clearance for shipping the item overseas. DHL Manila said that suggestion is not going to work because all they need was the MSDS.

When we dealt with FedEx, they told us that DHL in the Philippines do not use their own plane – they tie up with the local airlines to ship items. I was doubtful about this until I noticed that the storage box which was returned to us by DHL had a Cebu Pacific sticker on the side. I then understood what he meant about why the MSDS was required. Since they use Cebu Pacific in this case, DHL had no control over airline rules and regulations for shipping laptops with built-in lithium-ion batteries.

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Posted in Finance, Mobile App, Telco, Tutorials

GCash MasterCard Refund

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I have read some posts in the Globe Community forum about user complaints not getting their Lazada refunds or any other chargeback promptly and by promptly these dissatisfied GCash users mean months. Trying to contact 2882 or constantly badgering their customer support via their Facebook Messenger account sometimes can be a waste of time.

I, too, had purchased an item on Lazada Thailand’s website which the merchant eventually cancelled and I waited for 3 months because I had placed so much trust in the system to automate the refund itself.

What you need to know is on Lazada’s end, it would only take less time for them to process the refund. The tricky part is on GCash’s part. This GCash refund problem seems to happen more to GCash MasterCard accounts. This is just my observation as  I also own a GCash AmEx and with the latter it’s never taken months for refunds to arrive to my GCash AmEx balance.

How did I get my Lazada refund to my GCash MasterCard resolved? I filled up the Dispute Form and e-mailed it to gcashinquiries@globe.com.ph. It’s very important to remember that sending them an e-mail with a description of your problem won’t do it – always always always fill up the dispute form, tick the correct concern and send them additional proof like receipts or a screenshot or communication exchange with Lazada or some other company you are awaiting refund from.

My Lazada Thailand purchase was made in April this year but I did not file the dispute until early August. However, once I filed the dispute with GCash, I was able to get my Lazada refund in less than a week. You will know when the refund because you will receive a text notification which usually looks like this:

Upon review of a previous transaction, we have now credited PXXX.XX to your account. Your new balance is PXXXX.XX. Ref. No. XXXXXXXXXX. 

In order to completely fill up the dispute form with the correct details, you might want to have your transaction history e-mailed to you. You can do this right within the GCash mobile app. You can even select the specific month when you made the online purchase. The transaction history will contain the 10-digit Transaction Reference number. If you know the date but don’t remember the exact time you made the purchase, you can look for the e-mail confirmation of the online purchase sent to you by Lazada or some other merchant. The time on the e-mail and the time on the GCash transaction history should match. The 10-digit Transaction Reference number is the one that GCash support will refer to in their records for their review.

As of this writing, I still have 3 more pending refunds in this order: from Booking.com’s promotion, from Google AdWords, and from iHerb. The last two were July purchases so they should come in within this month.

What if you are expecting a reward for an online promotion and you entered your GCash MasterCard for it? That’s what happened with my Booking.com’s 30% reward from a  hotel stay promotion Booking.com had back in June. The e-mail confirmation stated that $12.70 was on its way to the card listed on my account. July came and went but there was no ingress of $12.70 on my GCash MasterCard. Of course, this was a hotel stay paid for in cash so there was no 10-digit GCash transaction reference number to look in the transaction history for. In this kind of scenario, you would need to contact the merchant to follow up with them regarding the reference number on their end and forward it to GCash.

I will post an update for the 3 remaining refunds I am expecting.

 

Update September 3, 2018:

The iHERB refund has been processed.

Processed with MOLDIV

 

Update September 25, 2018:

The Booking.com reward has been processed.

Processed with MOLDIV

Posted in Mobile App, Music, Social Media, Tutorials

How To Add Music To Instagram Stories

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There are several ways to add music to Instagram stories. You may even have seen one of them involves playing a song of your choice on the Apple Music or Spotify app, pausing it to go to Instagram story and resume playing it via the Control Center. There are also mobile apps out there that will allow you to add music to your Instagram stories by picking from a song list within the app itself.

Once when I had too much time on my hands, I used to populate my 15-second Instagram stories with snippets of songs to emphasize the specific lyrics that came to me subconsciously. Of course the feature to add music to Instagram stories is already available but only for select countries for the meantime.

I would usually add music to Instagram stories in the following manner:

1 – Play the song on my Apple Music app and screen record the part of the song where the specific lyrics are. iOS 11.4, however, has blocked screen recording of songs being played on Apple Music and if you attempt to screen record it, you’ll get a screen recording with the sound turned off.

The reason why I do not play it on the Apple Music or Spotify app, pause it to go to Instagram story and resume playing it via the Control Center is the quality of the audio/sound. If you’ve tried this you can hear the big difference. So I go for the other option, which is playing the video of the song on YouTube and screen recording it from there.

2 – I go to the screen recorded video on my Camera Roll and, click on Edit and at the bottom of the screen would tap on the circle with 3 dots inside, which would lead me to CropVS and iMovie options for editing. I would select iMovie for trimming the recorded part to 15 seconds only.

3 – I would then open CropVS and import the trimmed screen recording. CropVS would compress it and the compressed version always makes for a quick Instagram story upload.

4 – Upon opening my Instagram story, I would select the screen recorded video. I would then tap on the pencil icon and colour selection that comes up. If my mood tells me to pick blue, I would tap on blue and press on the screen for a while until the colour blue fills the screen to cover the video. Sometimes I would add emojis or GIFs or edit it with  another mobile app called Vimo for more animated emojis.

Here are a few samples:

In A Big Country by Big Country, © Mercury 

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Intro to I Don’t Want To Live Without You by Foreigner, ©Atlantic (I edited this with Vimo mobile app)

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Intro to Lucky Star by Madonna, ©Sire Warner Bros. (Edited with Vimo)

Posted in Mobile App, Travel

Can I Use Grab Overseas?

 

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So you’re planning a trip outside of the Philippines but just within Southeast Asia and you’re asking yourself, can I use Grab overseas? The answer is yes. But can I use Grab overseas and still have my Grab rewards points intact? The answer is also yes.

Sometime last year I went out of the country and used my Grab mobile app overseas. This entailed a change to the local sim card and when I landed in NAIA 3 after my trip, I saw my Grab rewards points restarted to zero even though I had the same email address with which I registered my Grab account with. No one in Grab Support could satisfactorily address my concern.

Since they overhauled their system, the option to link one’s Grab account to a Google account or a Facebook account has become available. This feature helped keep the rewards points intact even if you are changing your Philippine sim card to a local one. I’ve done this in Thailand and Vietnam. I would insert my Thai or Vietnam sim card once I arrive at the airport or at the land border. As I had emphasized in this article, I do recommend using a local sim if you plan to get around as much as you can in Southeast Asia where Grab transport service is available. I cannot stress enough how it is the safest option for tourists.

The catalog for rewards points redeemable vary from one country to another. I had wanted that iFlix subscription for 1 year for Platinum Members worth 2,100 points but the Grab Vietnam market does not offer it as it was only available in the Philippines.

Posted in Business, Lifestyle, Marketing

Coffee Shop Marketing Strategy

 

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Do you ever wonder how most coffee shops have dim lighting? Last week I was hanging out at a dimly-lit Starbucks sweet-binging my week frustrations away when a light bulb went off in my head (pun intended). The fact that I was questioning that is a testament to a coffee shop marketing strategy that works.

I’ve read articles about how the pineal gland produces more melatonin, a hormone which controls our body’s circadian rhythm, most especially in dim lighting. Controlling the brightness of the light signals the pineal gland to produce more melatonin and induces drowsiness. The brain is tricked to think it needs to stay awake and we eventually hanker for another coffee cup or refill. Together with additional espresso shots, the efficiency of dim lighting in coffee shops is magnified and your mind cannot stop spewing ideas.

Sometime last year I used to hang out in another coffee shop to work on long pages of translation documents and I remember spending 5 hours in 4 or 5 consecutive days to get the job done. It was ideal to stay there starting lunch time up to pre-sunset. When the sun sets the staff pulls down the window blinds and it gets dimly-lit from then on and I found it hard to concentrate – along with less brightness was my waning interest in work and I get tempted to pack up and go. But what happens after I switch to another brightly-lit area is my brain starts to function again and I would want to pick up where I left off.

I made a mental note of that and told myself if I ever work on long pages of translations again I would move to a brighter place to hang out. I counted local coffee shops I’ve been in and controlled brightness of the light in the room is never absent.

Posted in Finance, Internet, Mobile App, Technology

Google AdWords Suspension: Suspicious Payments

Last week I signed up for Google AdWords and created a campaign to test the waters. The minimum I paid for was $10 and Google collected my payment via a Philippine-issued debit card.

When I signed up, I saw the location or Country drop drown menu detected Vietnam by default. Thinking I was supposed to use my temporary address here in Hanoi, I entered my Hanoi address. My ad campaign was running well and my $10 balance was deducted $0.40 for a few days. I made another campaign after that, this time I promoted a YouTube video I had uploaded a month ago. The day after I received an email saying that my Google AdWords account was suspended for Suspicious Payments.

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Google AdWords Suspension for Suspicious Payments, as I understood it after I appealed Google AdWords’ decision, meant they suspected I used a stolen credit card because the default country I registered Google AdWords for and the billing address of my Philippine-issued debit card were different. It’s funny because as soon as they emailed me regarding my account suspension, they sent me another email (on the same day!) that my ad campaign was up and running.

If you do a Google search about Google AdWords suspension for Suspicious Payments, you will come to the conclusion few only get their Google AdWords suspension lifted. You guessed it, I got the same canned response about their decision was final and that I would not be able to create another account. However, when I go to my AdWords dashboard, it doesn’t absolutely reflect that. To get my refund, I had to cancel my Google AdWords account and yet after deactivating it, the button turned into REACTIVATE YOUR ACCOUNT. Another eye-rolling moment.

For now, I won’t think about reactivating my account yet even though it was clearly just a click away. The lesson for this is to make sure your billing address of your debit or credit card matches that of your registered country when you signed up.

Posted in Android, Food Delivery, Lifestyle, Mobile App, Telco, Travel

Best Mobile Apps in Vietnam For Expats and Tourists

My first travel experience in Vietnam was not a very pleasant one and looking back, I knew I had to write about this guide to the best mobile apps to use in Vietnam for tourists and travelers. These are the best mobile apps to use in Vietnam whichever city you may be in:

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GRAB – I will primarily start with the transport service mobile app Grab because of that not so pleasant incident when I first arrived in Ho Chi Minh via the land border. When you don’t know the language of the place you’re going into in Southeast Asia, Grab can be trusted to give you the correct fares and take you safely to your booked accommodation. It’s not uncommon for unsuspecting Ho Chi Minh tourists to report being charged ridiculous exorbitant fares by unregistered taxi drivers. If you came from a neighbouring country like Thailand, Laos or Cambodia and you already have a Grab account, you can still use your Grab mobile app to book a ride to get to your hotel. If you’re coming to Vietnam via the land border, you’ll be glad to know some buses offer free WiFi and this will allow you to book a Grab ride long before the bus leaves the drop-off spot. If you’re coming in via an international flight, the airports offer free WiFi too.

I personally have taken more Grab Bike rides than the Grab Car/Taxi ones because I prefer to look around and explore.

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GOOGLE TRANSLATE – There aren’t a lot of Vietnamese on the street you can ask clear directions or recommendations about so you need Google Translate mobile app for communicating with them.

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Google Translate mobile app does not always get it right but it can get across the general idea of what you’re trying to inquire.

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MY VIETTEL/MY MOBIFONE – If you intend to stay longer than a week, you might want to get serious about buying a local SIM card. You can see Viettel and Mobifone SIM cards being sold in airports and some currency exchangers even sell them. Once you have bought a SIM card, you can download the corresponding mobile app. I had a brief experience with using Mobifone last year so I cannot write about it. I’ve used Viettel the longest. You can top up at Circle K or Vinamart convenience stores or any stores with the sign boards Viettel or Mobifone.

A local SIM card is very useful for answering your Grab driver’s calls. Even if I don’t understand the driver, I would ask for help from a guard or valet nearby to assist me by letting them talk to the driver on my behalf. No need to be shy. It’s also useful for food delivery.

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NOW.VN/FOODY – NOW.VN or Foody is a food delivery service with many merchants to use from ranging from lunch, drinks, desserts, or fast food. There are a lot of healthy choices and some stores offer discounts. My only problem with NOW.VN is the debit card limitation – it won’t accept my home country-issued Visa and MasterCard debit cards. I’ve tried only to be greeted with a card declined confirmation.

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I could only pay in cash for my orders. However, you will be granted 1,000 VND credits to your Foody account after a completed delivery.

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VIETNAMMM – Vietnammm is also a food delivery service although it’s not as varied as Foody, its best feature is the availability of PayPal as a payment option. I did compare the menu of one restaurant which is also listed on Foody and the latter has one item more. You can filter your searches via payment options as well.

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CGV CINEMAS – There are more CGV Cinemas here in Hanoi and I’ve used it to check schedules. Pre-booking cinema tickets is not ideal for those holding a non-local debit card. Again, this has something to do with the same debit card limitation I mentioned with the Foody mobile app. I could only really browse for schedules on the day I’m watching the movie as their schedules often vary. By downloading the app and signing up for an account, you are eligible to earn rewards points for money spent as long as you present the CGV Cinemas mobile app to the ticket counter for QR scanning.

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LOTTE CINEMA VIETNAM – There are more Lotte Cinema branches in Ho Chi Minh than there are in Hanoi. It’s a shame there is no IMAX theatre here, though.

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SPEED LOTTE – I only knew about Speed Lotte mobile app because one store clerk approached me about it and had me sign up while I was browsing tissue boxes at Lotte Mart. Speed Lotte allows you to pick items on their grocery menu and Lotte Mart will have it delivered to your doorstep.

Posted in Finance, Mobile App, Telco, Tutorials

How To Use PayMaya Abroad

PayMaya offers a virtual card by simply registering via their PayMaya mobile app. If you want a GCash debit card alternative, you can definitely use PayMaya abroad and withdraw your funds using a physical PayMaya card.

Since the premise of PayMaya is principally for the purposes of a virtual card, no physical card is provided for the virtual card number you enrolled to by default on the PayMaya mobile app. It is important to note that you can have 2 or more PayMaya physical cards which you can order on the PayMaya website online or in PayMaya booths in malls. Once you have the PayMaya physical cards on hand, you can proceed to link them to your PayMaya virtual card. The mobile app is pretty straightforward when it comes to linking the physical cards. Once your physical cards are confirmed linked, the balance is shared among your physical cards and the virtual card number.

But how do you use your PayMaya abroad? First, you need to ask yourself if you used your postpaid or a prepaid number as your PayMaya login credential. Although you can use your TM or Globe mobile number to initially register with PayMaya, the critical distinction to make is the postpaid or prepaid number.

With a prepaid number, all you need to make sure is top it up with PhP100 for international roaming. With a postpaid number, you will be charged a PhP500 or so per day which is not ideal when you are staying overseas for long.

Second, you need to make sure you have logged in to your PayMaya mobile app before traveling out of the country. Some time ago PayMaya added a security feature for its users via a verification code that can only be sent to your registered mobile number.

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If you registered with your postpaid number as your PayMaya login credential, it means you will need to keep your sim inserted to get the verification code.

The good news is you can still view your PayMaya funds but it will have to be on an ATM machine overseas and not on your smartphone’s screen. Using the PayMaya physical card, you can inquire about your balance by doing a balance inquiry.

 

 

Posted in Travel

How To Avoid Getting Offloaded By Immigration

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In all those times I had traveled out of the Philippines via NAIA, I know immigration interview questions can be tedious and long-winding. It would be easy for one to think that the immigration officers are just being thorough, but when you’re anxious you won’t make it to the boarding gate on time, you can’t help but think the odds are against you. I had never experienced getting offloaded by immigration. Almost, yes. In this regard, I would like to share my experience in handling immigration interview questions in NAIA.

Deferred I first got out of the country when I worked for a company in Malaysia in December 2007. I had all the relevant documents for my employment there so it wasn’t as challenging as the immigration interview I faced when I was at NAIA I bound for Darwin, Australia.

February 2012. My return trip is It was a long queue yet the immigration officer took her time with me. She asked me, “What is your purpose for this Australian trip?”, “Do you have a boyfriend there?”, “Do you have a sponsor?”, “How long are you staying there?”

I was there for more than 5 minutes. I answered all her questions truthfully yet she rose from her seat for a split second to consult with her supervisor perhaps but she quickly decided against it and told me, “Alam mo naman siguro anong gagawin mo ‘dun. Bahala ka na sa buhay mo, malaki ka na.” (I trust you know what you’re doing as an adult.) And with that biting humour, she stamped my passport and let me through.

Why did she not decide on getting me offloaded? Although she didn’t address it directly, I knew she had her doubts because of the original travel plan indicated when I applied for my Australian tourist visa back in October 2011. I got myself a booking certificate (not a confirmed ticket) from a travel agency for a tentative travel date, November 11-15, 2011. My final itinerary was February 2012 to March 2012. TIP: Be consistent with the supposed itinerary indicated in your tourist visa application. 

August 2008. It was an annual company trip to Taipei, Taiwan and I was still working for a company in Malaysia then. My palate didn’t really favour the Malaysian cuisine that much and I was emaciated. I also endured bad acne which contradicted the cleaner passport version of my face. It was so embarrassing being held up by Taiwanese immigration solely because I did not look anywhere near the person on my passport. I felt like I stole someone else’s identity even though I had an approved visa to show them. I think the only people in the world who ever knew about this experience were my co-workers as I did not feel comfortable talking about it even in jest to my friends. There recently has been news about a Filipina getting offloaded for the mere change in hair colour. I do not know if this news bit is related. TIP: It’s obvious. Don’t change your appearance too much if you can help it. 

May 2016. I was in NAIA 3 and Hong Kong bound for a short birthday trip. The immigration officer asked me, “What do you do for a living?” “Have you ever traveled outside the Philippines before this?” “Where would you be staying in Hong Kong?” “What was your job then in Malaysia?” “You traveled to Australia before. What did you do there?” “Did you have a sponsor for that Australian trip?” “Did you travel by yourself?” “Did you have a boyfriend there?” “Do you have a credit card?” “Can you show me your birth certificate?” It was longer than the immigration interview in February 2012 and he mostly addressed the Australian trip 4 years ago. TIP: It was at this point that I realised I had to have a clear folder with all my documents in it so all the immigration officer would do is browse through them and ask less questions. My clear folder contains the Booking.com accommodation, my return ticket, my Upwork’s certificate of earnings, a photocopy of my USD savings account’s passbook, and my birth certificate.

October 2017. Mactan International Airport in Cebu. This time I was Kuala Lumpur-bound but my return ticket (a faux one) was departing from Bangkok and arriving in Manila 2 weeks from date of departure in Cebu. I did have a clear folder with me with all my papers in it but the immigration officer wouldn’t have it. He took out a form and told me an immigration officer would interview me after I fill out the form. It was a form for a potential deferred departure and it was to be assessed by an immigration officer. I honestly was more worried about being late for boarding (even though I was an hour early) than for the prospect of being offloaded, which I cared little about because my gut told me not to worry.

The form was so-so. I remember writing down my permanent address in Cagayan de Oro, my purpose for traveling overseas for two weeks, my contact number, my email address, my employer’s address, etc. I sat down with an immigration officer and she asked me, “What are you going to do in Malaysia?” “What are you going to do in Bangkok?” “What is your job?” “You’re staying overseas for a total of 2 weeks. What are you going to do there?” “Why did you not book a return ticket for Cagayan de Oro?” It obviously wasn’t enough for her that I had a return ticket that states I would be landing in Manila. Manila is still Philippines, Ma’am. She then wrote some comments on the last page of the form. She cleared me for travel because what was in my clear book was proof enough that I could take care of myself financially overseas. TIP: Be consistent with your return ticket – if you go to Malaysia, your return ticket should show you would be departing from Malaysia before coming back to your home country.

This was a serious blunder I overlooked as I had always shown my consistent return ticket before. Even if you have financial documents to support your two-country destinations, the immigration officers will flag you for it even before they see your income on paper. In my previous travels, I would book a separate return ticket slated for 2 weeks from Philippine departure date. I would not use this return ticket that is why I call it a faux return ticket because I use up the destination country’s allowable period for a Philippine passport holder. What happens to the faux ticket? I file a reimbursement for the airport tax with the airline. At least with AirAsia this is possible, provided the faux ticket is for an international travel and not a domestic one. I’ve done it a few times and got refunded. My travels last year and the present year has been primarily in Indochina and AirAsia always has promo seats. For the purpose of sticking to the topic of how to avoid getting offloaded by immigration, this is the short of it as the long one is for another article.

April 2018. I departed Hanoi and arrived in Don Mueang International Airport in Bangkok. I pushed my trolley past through the NOTHING TO DECLARE gate and unloaded my luggage from the trolley for machine inspection. The Thai customs officer signaled me to halt and called his supervisor. The supervisor who knew English requested to open my luggage for inspection. The problem was that I wrapped my travel organizers with a plastic food wrap – yes, the kind that you use for food storage. Prior to traveling, I had washed my luggage inside and out and I wasn’t confident it was perfectly dry for my clothes to put in. In an obsessive-compulsive move I wrapped my travel organizers with a plastic food wrap that it was hard for the machine to see through the clothes that were actually in them. Of course, I realised too late that to the customs officers thick plastic food wrap smells like drug paraphernalia. This was a huge mistake. The germophobic part of me cringed at having to open my suitcase and finding out my use of plastic food wrap was justified because the bottom part of the suitcase was a little wet. Sigh. Yes, I was worried about the cleanliness part more than the fact that they could have wrongly detained me. TIP: Do not use plastic food wrap for maximizing the space in your suitcase. I found an alternative: wrap the travel organizer with another travel organizer. (Yes, I have OCD.)