We have recently come back from a holiday I may have missed because my passport was expiring. It needed to be valid for six months and it only had about six weeks to run. So I needed to make an appointment at the Liverpool Passport Office to get a new one issued under a quick turnaround procedure.

All went well and I made an appointment for 8.00 am, the opening time for the office. The letter confirming the appointment said I should arrive no more than 10 minutes before the appointment, but I read it to say that one should arrive 10 minutes early

I duly arrived at the office at just after 7.50 to find about 15 other applicants waiting outside in the freezing rain. The temperature was zero degrees C. Inside the office everyone was at their stations ready for an efficient opening dead on 8.00. The security staff, at their airport style checkpoint, were ready, all the counter staff were ready. However, the doors stayed firmly shut leaving the customers out in the cold.

It would have taken no effort, just a bit of human understanding to have opened the doors and let the customers in. Nobody needed to start working early; there was enough room between the door and the checkpoint to accommodate everyone waiting in the rain. Apparently nobody had the authority to do that.

I went in at 8.00 and immediately asked for a complaint form. The rest of the service was impeccable. The application was collected and checked efficiently and the passport was ready, as promised, for collection later in the day. All for a very reasonable fee given that the Passport Service is entirely self funding.

You can imagine how incensed I was when I got the response to my complaint. It was polite but unapologetic. Apparently the fault was entirely mine for turning up early and it was not the Passport Service’s policy to open the doors early whatever the weather conditions.

I could have let it rest, but I felt I had to have another say. I replied to the letter accusing the Passport service of putting “efficiency before humanity” and saying that I didn’t want them to waste any more money on providing another reply. I ensured this letter and the original reply were copied to the Chief Executive of the Passport service.

I am delighted to say that I have had another reply from the Head of Customer Service at the Passport Service. She has apologised and investigated the circumstances. She found that while mine was the first formal complaint a number of other customers in Passport offices around the country had made the same complaint verbally and those complaints had not been passed on.

The Passport service will now amend the letter they send out and will let customers in if they arrive in the 10 minutes before opening time. Result!

Shopping around – round 3

Having already complained about my utility company and my insurers, my mobile phone company has now irritated me.

My mobile phone contract came up for renewal on the 12th January and I was offered either a £12 per month discount on my bills, or a free, or discounted, replacement phone, if I signed up for another 18 – 24 months. The £12 was only available on-line, the discount available if I rang the company and extended the contract would only be £10 per month.

So far so good, T-mobile were willing to pay to retain my loyalty – which makes them better than my bank, my insurers or my energy company until pressed.

I was inundated with calls form their call centre asking me to make a decision. That’s good too, as I may not have checked my account on the web.

What upset me was that when I logged on to my web account to claim the £12 a month discount it had been reduced to £10. O.K. no big deal, but my loyalty had somehow become worth £36 – £48 pounds less over the duration of the renewed contract. There had been no warning and there was no explanation.

While it is arguable that privatisation, and the competition it brought in, is good for consumers, I resent being treated like a pawn by companies which are largely unaccountable and appear only to be interested in maximising their income and exploiting consumers until they threaten to leave and only then giving grudging concessions.

What happened to the old fashioned values of fairness, loyalty and courtesy?