US Customs "boogie man" myth dispelled.
On my return from SA I had the unspeakable happen.
When checking in I clearly told the SAA agent that I required my bags to be checked to my final destination. In fact I clearly stated it twice. My 1st bag was tagged and shuffled onto the conveyor and my rifle case handed back to me for check in with SAPS. I immediately noticed that my Rifle case was only checked through to Washington Dulles, as a Canadian this is bad news.
My duffle containing my locked ammo case had already passed through the little flaps into the bowels of the airport. I spent the next half hour argueing with SAA to fix their mistake but they refused, apparently once the bag goes through the little flaps no act of man or god can get it back. Finally they agreed to recheck my rifle case through to my final destination and basically told me to quit bothering them about the other bag. I made a plan to simply come clean with Customs about the mistake and was prepared to surrender the entire bag and contents rather than risk a retreival, in violation of US law.
Upon arrival at Dulles the customs agent I spoke with was completely unconcerned and simply responded "talk to someone by the baggage carousel". I relayed the info to a very helpful woman there who phoned the arrivals terminal and they sent my bag over ASAP.
The bag was retagged through to final destination and I was on my way (read running as fast as I could to catch my plane). Good thing I had just spent 12 days climbing mountains as I just caught my flight.
In the end no harm came of this, had I gone myself to retrieve the bag it would have been bad but no one was concerned over an airlines mistake that was fessed up upon arrival. No harm no foul. Congrats to the US customs for being completely reasonable and level headed. I find their bad rep to be completely unfounded.
On a side note the whloe fiasco did cause my bag to miss the flight to Denver. I just got a call it is in Edmonton now.