How I Unintentionally Became an International Drug Runner

I expected armed DEA agents to kick down my door any minute.

Before my trip to Peru, I got lots of advice and warnings about altitude sickness. Much of it said that drinking coca tea would help.

Search though I might, I could not find any coca tea before our departure. Not in regular grocery stores, not in hispanic or Indian mercados, not in uppity tea boutiques, not even online. It was as if the stuff didn’t really exist.

Once we arrived in Peru, it was everywhere. Coca tea in Peru is a bit like Coca Cola in the United States. You can’t wander two blocks without finding five places that serve it.

Before we returned from our vacation, my daughter and I visited a Peruvian market. There, I bought two large boxes of individually wrapped coca tea bags. I stuck them in my bag and thought nothing more of it.

We made it through airport security, Peruvian customs and US customs without a hitch.

My purpose in buying the tea was actually two-fold. First, it actually tastes good. Both my daughter and I enjoyed it so we thought it would be nice to have some on cold winter mornings.

Coca Tea (Spanish: Te de Coca)

Coca Tea (Spanish: Te de Coca)

Second, my entrepreneurial side realized that if it were so hard to find in the US, I could sell individual tea bags online and turn a quick profit.

And that’s when my troubles began…

Not more than an hour after I’d created my listing on the world’s largest auction website, I got a terse email from them informing me that my listing had been canceled because I was attempting to sell a controlled substance.

Without knowing it, I had inadvertently become an online drug trafficker!

Sure I knew that the coca leaves used to make the tea come from the same plant that is used to produce cocaine. But making cocaine requires quite a bit more processing and extra steps. This was simply leaves ground up and stuffed into teabags. Would the narco cops buy that logic?

For the next several days I watched over my shoulder, wondering when the axe would fall. What eventually happened was… nothing.

No guys dressed in black and carrying automatic weapons came knocking on my door. No Miami Vice cops in white sport coats over well-pressed t-shirts. Not even the local sheriff, wiping donut crumbs off his uniform.

Having now had my wrist slapped by some customer service rep on an auction website, of course I learned my lesson. And the lesson I learned was: don’t call it what it is!

Like any good entrepreneur, just because I suffered one minor setback didn’t mean I was ready to give up. I simply rebranded my product.

Instead of calling it what it was — coca tea — I described it as “tea to fight altitude sickness”.

I eventually sold almost all of those two large boxes of tea, which I bought in a grocery store in Peru for about $4 each. How much did I make? Almost $80.

Maybe I really am an online drug dealer after all.

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1 Response

  1. Janice Kontur says:

    That is such a cool story.

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