Friday, September 14, 2007

The secret joys of running a lab II: equipment

The good news is that we're getting a cool new piece of equipment to be installed here next week. The bad news (apart from the fact that it uses liquid helium - see previous post) is that I've been spending my morning shifting through US import tariff codes trying to come up with a number that will make the shipping agent happy. You might think that the tariff code supplied by the vendor would be good enough. Apparently you'd be wrong. You might think that this would be the job of a customs broker. Again, apparently you'd be wrong. As the Incoherent Ponderer pointed out, there are many aspects of our jobs for which we never receive formal training. Customs agent is one. By the way: can anyone explain to me why US tariff codes are maintained by the US Census Bureau? Ok, so they're part of the Department of Commerce, but this is just odd.

4 comments:

CarlBrannen said...

The other thing is that how you code a thing you're moving drastically alters how much the truckers or railroad charge you for it.

Jian said...

Just curious, is it appropriate to ask one of your postdoc or senior students to check these things for you? I am a postdoc and personally I wouldn't mind especially if that equipment is what I will use later.

Doug Natelson said...

Hi Jian - The unfortunate thing in this particular case is (a) the piece of equipment is quite expensive and my name is on the purchase order, so there are certain things that I have to do directly, because shippers/customs can be picky about this; and (b) one part of this (again, customs bureaucracy in the days of Homeland Security) involved getting some legal documents signed by the provost and the general counsel of the university - that's something I can get done with a phone call because I'm a professor, but not something that it's easy for a student or postdoc to do.

Generally I'm happy to offload purchasing/shipping tasks to my students, but for really big ticket items that can be impossible sometimes.

DanM said...

Besides, students should be spending their time taking data....right?