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.