I was fortunate enough to serve two separate tours on
as an American Serviceman. As such, I had the ability to actually live well during my two, two-year tours and then sell many items at a good profit when I left the island. Taiwan
I seem to remember that as an American serving in
we were allowed to bring into country, or purchase via the PX, items that Taiwanese could not normally obtain, such as American cars, washers & dryers, stoves, refrigerators, air conditioners, dehumidifiers, etc. Taiwan
It is often expensive for service personnel to move because they often have to buy or replace many of the items listed above. However, I was able to buy new appliances, use them for my two year tour and then sell them for a nice profit. One example is a Whirlpool in-window air conditioner that cost $220. Upon leaving the country in 1975, I was able to sell it for $450. This is quite a deal when you consider it was then two years old and well used because of the sub-tropical climate.
The reason I could do that was because
had a very large luxury tax on such items. While I don’t know the exact percentage, I was led to believe it was over 100% and there was a quota on the number of units that could be imported into the country. That, combined with Taiwan becoming an Asia Tiger as their economy was really booming, meant that there was a big demand but very little supply. Taiwan
The way the process worked (again, to the best of my recollection) was that shortly after an American serviceman moved into a
house or apartment, he would be approached by people who wanted to “chop” these items. This means that they would make a deal to buy your goods upon your departure, give you a deposit (10%), get you to sign a contract and then when you were ready to leave, they magically appeared, paid the balance owed and took possession of the goods. Taiwan
While this was a great thing for the Americans, sometimes it got to be annoying as there were many of these chop people. Where I lived in the Tien Mu area in Bank of Taiwan housing, they used to go from house to house in this almost American type neighborhood. Some were very devious and even if you told them you already had a deal they would try to pay you a premium to get you to sell to them anyway. You had to be careful and luckily for me I was introduced to a very ethical and fair businessman the week I arrived on the island by my military sponsor. I was lucky and tried to help other new people as they arrived, but still many people had issues when they left the country due to disputes, sometimes real and sometimes imagined.
It was required to fill out an official CHOP form from your personnel office which included the terms, item description, and serial number of each item. When you processed out of
, all of those documents had to be submitted to the Provost Marshal’s Office (PMO) for review. Taiwan
The hardest thing to dispose of was a vehicle. You had to return your license plates, registration, and have it inspected by the PMO prior to turning the vehicle over to the Taiwanese. I remember very clearly that during my second tour in 1977 the vehicle which got the best return would be a black or silver Ford Granada sedan. I was able to get $12,000 for my car in 1979 and it cost about $3,800 new in 1977. Another key piece of the process was getting approval to deposit large amounts of money in your Bank of America account. Since there was a black market and all transactions were paid in New Taiwan Dollars (NT) it was necessary to get approval to deposit these monies from your personnel office and the PMO. Once again you needed to take your completed contracts with the approvals to the bank for review before they accepted and converted your NT dollars to US dollars.
I think the opportunity I had to serve in Taiwan, doing a job I enjoyed, learning and soaking up a different culture, completing my college education, and making life-long friends, made my tours in Taiwan some of the most important and memorable periods of my life.
Photo of USTDC courtesy of Les Duffin
Thursday, November 29, 2007
Selling In Taiwan
Bill Kling was assigned to an Army unit in
Taipei for two separate two-year tours, and he has graciously offered to share some of his memories of what it was like to be a service member in during those years. Today he writes about the common (and legal) practice of selling certain items to the local citizens: Taipei