Just went through Gatwick just a couple of weeks ago. Never had to present my suitcase at all. Went though the Passport line (a very slow process), asked me the basic questions, and stamped my passport (right in the middle of the page, wasting the entire page). Got my suitcase, went through the nothing to declare line, right out onto my train to London.
Coming back to the US (Orlando McCoy) was also painless (though I was pulled aside to have my suitcase searched in this case). Since I was traveling Virgin, I was one of a half dozen Americans on board, breezed through the Passport line, the man was also from Texas (I was born, and lived there for a few years). The man was courteous and stamped my passport on the first available departure square, since the Gatwick stamp took the entire page.
When I was pulled aside for a suitcase check (second time of the trip, I was also asked at Gatwick, and if they ask
there it's a Catch 22, if you say no, and want to do the normal procedures, your bag is flagged as suspicious and searched behind the counter, if you say yes, a man, not wearing gloves puts his hand in your bag, but in your view). Back to my stateside suitcase check, the Customs officers checks my passport, asking about previous trips, nothing major, and the usual question. He then starts the bag search, nothing major just glances at my bag (wearing gloves thank fully). He finished my bag, and says alright, until he sees my camera bag (my first customs search so I didn't put it on the table).
So he asks to see my camera bag, I hand it over, he checks the outside pockets, and finally opens the top. On top was my current read, Bush at War by Bob Woodward (pretty good book IMO), he then as he finished the search (not even looking inside my lens cases) of that bag and my partners proceeds to tell us how Bush was AWOL, has raised a family of alcoholics, blah blah, all while he was searching our other bags. Two bags he doesn't even open up, one he just opens it up and barely glances at it. Other than hearing this guys opinion of Bush it was rather painless.
Though I find it strange you have to go back through TSA
into the terminal again at Orlando, then off to the baggage claim to get your bag again.
Total Customs* time Gatwick: 45 minutes
Mostly in passport line
Total Customs* time McCoy: 45 minutes
Mostly waiting for my bags to arrive at the belt twice.
*Total Customs time meaning from Passport line, until you have your bag and free to leave the airport
[Edited 2004-07-22 21:58:25]
At worst, you screw up and die.