Woman Charged $500 for Bringing a Free Delta Apple Through Customs

published Apr 25, 2018
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I once grabbed an ordinary-looking red bell pepper from the produce section of a New York Whole Foods without checking the prices, and when the cashier rang it up I was horrified to see it cost $8. I was too embarrassed to do anything but pretend I did it on purpose, and to this day I have no idea why that single pepper cost so much. It’s easily the most I’ve ever paid for a piece of fruit or vegetable.

On a pound-for-pound basis, it cost even more than Oprah’s $50 box of frozen blueberries. But neither of those splurges holds a candle to the woman who just got charged $500 over a single apple that was supposed to be free.

It’s a pretty wild story. According to the BBC, Crystal Tadlock took a Delta flight from Paris to the U.S., and at one point during the flight, a flight attendant gave her a complimentary apple in a plastic bag that said “Enjoy!” Tadlock put the apple in her backpack and figured she’d save it for the second leg of her flight, from Minneapolis to Denver.

When she got off the plane and went through customs in Minneapolis, however, U.S. border agents found the apple in her bag and fined her $500 for attempting to bring an undeclared agricultural item into the U.S.

“He had asked me if my trip to France was expensive and I said, ‘yeah.’ I didn’t really get why he was asking that question, and then he said ‘It’s about to get a lot more expensive after I charge you $500,'” Tadlock told KDVR.

Tadlock says she offered to throw the apple away or eat it, but the customs agent gave her a $500 fine instead. Also, Tadlock’s Global Entry status, which allows a person to get through security checks more quickly, was revoked.

U.S. Customs has not commented on the specifics of the case, but the agency did say “all agricultural items must be declared,” and said fines could be as high as $1,000.

Delta said the apple was distributed as an in-flight snack and “intended to be consumed on the plane,” and according to People, Delta says its in-flight entertainment system videos explain what passengers need to know about going through customs.

“Delta recommends all passengers comply with U.S. Customs and Border Protection rules and regulations when entering the country,” a company spokesperson said. “U.S. Customs has clear warnings at the entry point and on the declaration form that you must declare fruit that is brought into the country. It appears that this passenger did not declare the apple and it was discovered upon inspection.”

Tadlock maintains Delta should either not pass out apples on international flights, or that the airline should have reminded passengers not to take the fruit off the plane with them. She says she intends to fight the fine in front of a judge.

Whether or not she wins, Tadlock will serve as a cautionary tale for the rest of us: Don’t take fruit through customs, not even if you got it on the plane on the way over. It’s not worth the risk.

What do you think of the $500 fine for an apple?