Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Incompetence: A Case Study

Hello, dear friends. Today, we will take a look at several levels of incompetence that arise from one single task: renewing a U.S. passport.

Having booked some honeymoon travel plans through Orbitz, I received a promotional e-mail from them which contained a link to a partner of theirs, A Briggs. This partner's claim to fame is the ability to expedite the processing of passport and visa applications, for a nominal fee. The instructions on the site were very clear and intuitive, so I went to work. I got some beautiful passport photos at CVS, filled out and signed a bunch of forms, and sent everything, including my current passport, via Fedex to A Briggs for processing. Note at this point, that I paid for round-trip Fedex service just to be on the safe side. During the first week in April, I checked their status page, and they had an estimated shipping date of April 11th. Fan-bloody-tastic.

Timeline: April 17th
I bring up the status page again and notice that the estimated ship date is still April 11th, with no further information available. Strange. OK, I'll check the status on the State Department's website.
We have finished processing your passport, and it has been mailed to you.

You requested delivery by regular mail. Passport Agencies use Priority Mail. This means you should receive your passport on or about 04/16/2007.

Say what? Well, um, no I did not request delivery by regular mail. I paid for Fedex service both ways. Wev. Let's see what the USPS tracking website has to say.
Status: Return to Sender

Your item was returned to the sender on April 16, 2007 because it could not be delivered as addressed.

Now you're just fucking with me. There is no way that while sitting in my office the entire day, the mail carrier decided to return my fucking passport to sender. No way. I call the local post office to find out what's going on, and they confirm that the package has left the building and is already on its way back. The supervisor informs me that he has no idea how this happened and is planning to take a couple of his employees to task for this. Oh yea, he also hopes I'm able to get my passport in time. Well, I would have gotten it on time if it was sent via Fedex in the first place like it was supposed to! ARGH!!

Next up - phone call with A Briggs. Where's my passport and where's the money I paid you for an expediting service that clearly failed? The answer: "Well, sometimes these things happen where the passport agency will send passports back directly to the customer instead of back to us." Funny, I don't remember seeing that disclaimer on the website that states return service via Fedex may, or may not, happen. So now I have to wait for the package to get back to the passport agency for A Briggs' courier to try and intercept. Keep in mind here that the intercept is not a certainty; it's a possibility. That means my passport could end up lost in the shuffle, or even better, mailed via the great USPS again, probably using the same incorrect address that the passport agency used which doesn't match what I entered in the website. ARGH!!

So there you have it. I'll update further when more details about my traveling passport surface.

Timeline: April 18th
Checked in with A Briggs at around 9 AM and 5:30 PM today. No news to report, as the passport agency has still not received the returned package. Supposedly, the agency has been instructed to immediately turn over the package to A Briggs' courier for shipment to me. The fact that I now have to act as A Briggs' manager to supervise this entire process makes me want to hurl in seven different colors.


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