Even Heroin Smugglers Need Freight Optimization

According to this article on Yahoo! News, Tajik police have arrested a woman for trying to smuggle heroin in a refrigerator through express delivery firm DHL. Apparently, the DHL office in the Tajik capital Dushanbe grew suspicious after noticing that its transportation cost to Moscow exceeded the actual cost of the fridge by several times. Upon a search, they found 17.4kg of heroin hidden in the innver cover plate.

What was she thinking? Or more importantly, what was she not thinking? “Let’s see … $200 fridge … $500 shipping … makes sense to me!” What isn’t wrong with this picture. First of all, as a consumer, you should never pay more to ship a commodity than you pay to buy it. Secondly, you should never import something you can buy locally. (Who wants to deal with customs and import duties when someone else can do it for you?) Furthermore, if you have approximately 2.2M* worth of heroin, certainly you could afford to buy and ship a small car, which would cost roughly 1% to 2% of the total value and have a shipping fee only one tenth of its value – which would surely not be as suspicious since shipping would be much less than the value and people import cars significantly more often than they import fridges.

So, I guess there are two lessons here:

  • If you’re going to smuggle drugs, make sure you smuggle them in an item where the shipping cost doesn’t (significantly) exceed the item value.
  • If you’re going to buy and ship internationally, make sure you’re not paying too much for freight, or risk getting your shipments stopped and search by ambitious agents looking for the next bust.

* Based on an estimated street value of roughly $125/gram, which appears to be the median value returned from various sources in a Google search.