Sometimes It's OK to Say 'I Don't Know'







You’re in a meeting, just wrapping up your status update, and things are going well. The group seems reassured that you’re on top of things. Then, just as you’re about to close your part, your boss asks, “Have you ever noticed a new competitor XYZ and they have been doing better than us in a lot of areas?” Your boss nods in your direction and suddenly, all eyes in the room are back on you.


Blurting out a panicked “I don’t know!” may seem like the path of least resistance in an uncomfortable moment, however, if you want to be a serious and responsible person here, I believe that it is totally fine to say that. No one can know everything in the world. Remember the famous movie quote in Pursuit of Happiness from Chris Gardner - " I am the type of person that if you asked me a question and I don't know the answer. I am gonna tell you that I don't know. But I bet you what, I know how to find the answer and I will find the answer. ”


Once we have received a price inquiry from a new client who intends to import solar panels and its relevant parts to the US. We provide the shipping rate and the duty rate referenced from the tariff book. Then the forwarder raised a question suddenly, " the client heard for the HS-CODE 85414020 from Vietnam, duty is 0%, but there is a section 201 with 25% tax. Can you plz help to check." So I checked the ABI system and there is no quota or special program under this tariff. And I truly have no expert knowledge in this area. I don even heard of section 201. Shall I just trust our ABI system application and tell them there is no regulation under this tariff or I shall let the boss know I don't have enough information to draw a conclusion but I will work on it. If we let the client hold for a day or two, they probably think you are not " professional" because it seems that you don't know what you are doing every day. Some clients have no patience to wait a few days. They might turn around to ask another brokerage firm. But what if you get them the wrong answer. Isn't it a worse situation?


I think for a while and I feel at work, honesty is always the best policy.


After consulting with 4 experienced brokers and one officer from U.S Custom office quota and agriculture branch as well as extensive document research through the official website, I can finally verify the section 201 is applicable for solar panels/ modules/ cells and Vietnam is not excluded. The importer has to face this fact. If he decided to continue with this shipping, he will have to pay 25% additional duties ( until 2/6/20, when it decreases to 20%). because Trump Administration tried to protect a few U.S solar manufacture.


Many people think it is fairly easy to move the freight from point A to point B. They also think it is very easy for the customs brokers to determine tariff classification advice since they have passed the exam and they would know whatever book covers. In reality, every custom broker house has its expertise area depends on the clients they served. Importing books are easy but importing sugar is not because it involves FDA. So it is ok sometimes to say " I don't have an answer for this area but I will find it out and let you know" and you use the tool and/or reach out to other professionals to look for the answer. In the meantime, I hope more people, whether it is client, or colleagues or managers, would have more understanding of this.



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