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Monday afternoon, D.C. band Deleted Scenes was on its way from Harrisburg, Pa., to play a gig in Montreal. But, like generations of indie groups before them, the band ran into major problems at the Canadian border.
Officials seized 47 records, 88 CDs, and about 50 t-shirts, amounting to roughly $1600 in merchandise. The band posted a plea on Facebook: “This is devastating,” the post said, and asked fans to kindly buy Deleted Scenes merch online. “Help us get back to zero.” The band is in the process of appealing, but they don’t expect to get anything back—-border officials said the merchandise would be destroyed.
What happened? Well, frontman Dan Scheuerman, 29, says it was all a big miscommunication. A border official asked, “Do you have any commercial goods that you’re bringing to sell in Canada?” The answer was no—-the band had commercial goods, but its members did not intend to sell any of it in Canada. (Paying taxes on the total amount of merchandise was too expensive; Deleted Scenes had only booked one show in Canada, and selling all the records that night was unlikely.) Had the official simply asked if the group had merchandise at all, Scheuerman says they would have answered “yes.”
But that’s not what happened. Later, officials searched the vehicle and found records in plain sight. One official—-a young guy Scheuerman says seemed a little “power-drunk”—-accused the band of lying about having merchandise. “He saw the opening, and basically went the whole way,” says Scheuerman. He seized all of the merch, and said they’d have to pay $650 (a quarter of its $2600 retail value) to get it all back. The band couldn’t afford that, so members paid what they could—-around $250 to recover 50 12-inch EPs, nine CDs, and about 20 t-shirts. (They opted to take just the small and medium sizes.) Total losses: About $1800, including the $250 they paid to recoup some of the stuff.
“The real sad part was when we were going through the records and choosing which ones were gonna be destroyed,” says Scheuerman, “because they were all handmade and it was a really depressing ritual to go through.” But the show in Montreal was sort of cathartic. “After a pretty rough day… tensions were really high,” he says. But later that night, “We played a really kick-ass set so everyone was feeling really good after that. The show kind of cleansed us of that experience, in a way.”