Working: Larry Lieberman explains what a customs broker does on a daily basis.

The Guy Who Helps Shrimp Clear Customs

The Guy Who Helps Shrimp Clear Customs

What do you do all day?
April 5 2015 2:05 AM

The “How Does a Customs Broker Work?” Edition

Larry Lieberman explains how he navigates the bureaucracy, government regulations, and computer systems that stand in the way of getting seafood to your table.

Larry Lieberman.
Larry Lieberman.

Photo illustration by Slate. Photo courtesy Larry Lieberman

Listen to this episode of Working with guest Larry Lieberman:

On this episode of Slate’s podcast about work, host Adam Davidson talks with Larry Lieberman, president of New York Customs Brokers.


Lieberman explains how customs brokers work with importers to clear shipments through JFK International Airport and Port Newark Container Terminal.* His middle-man role (which he chalks up to sales and “putting out fires”) helps everything from toys to crab meat make its way into the country.

He also describes how the industry has changed since his grandfather got into the business during the Prohibition era—and since computers transformed global trade.

*Correction, April 7, 2015: This article originally misstated that Larry Lieberman is a customs agent. Lieberman is a customs broker.

Adam Davidson is co-founder and co-host of Planet Money. He also writes the weekly "It's the Economy" column for the New York Times Magazine.