by: Stephen Florino
(KHNL) - It was supposed to be a profitable trip to paradise.
Hundreds of vendors from the Philippines selling their goods at an international expo. But instead of making thousands of dollars, this trip may now be costing some of those vendors thousands.
They tell us because of a paperwork mix-up, their products got stuck in customs.
That left them frustrated, talking with hundreds of potential customers, with nothing to sell.
The Philippine International Trade Expo was supposed to give vendors an opportunity to promote their country, and make a few bucks.
"We are expecting a good business here because it's Christmas time," said Roy Celis, a vendor specializing in south sea pearls.
More than 400 booths are filled with wooden figurines, jewelry, and other exotic items. But about 50 booths are empty. Their products are stuck in customs.
"That's a big loss," said Celis. "One thing is also a big loss in money and investment, and also a big loss in showing the product, the philippine products."
US customs agents say it's likely the vendors didn't have a customs broker. That person makes sure the importers have all the proper paperwork filed, and duties and regulations covered.
Others had no problems.
"We were very honest and told them that our products didn't contain food," said vendor Janeve Bareng Siazon. "My mom even asked them to open the boxes, each and every box to check if our goods are okay to bring in to Hawaii."
Many of the vendors brought one container load full of goods. clothes, handbags, and other items, enough to fill one booth. Some vendors brought 12 containers, mostly full of furniture.
The unlucky vendors display the few items they carried here by hand, to try and put on a decent showing. They talk with expo organizers, and demand they be compensated for their loss, but they say it still can't make up for this missed opportunity.
Expo organizers are working on a deal to compensate the vendors.