Friday, August 19, 2016

And So It GOES

The long, national nightmare is over!  I finally had my application accepted by US. Customs and Border Patrol ("USCBP"),

Just to bring you up to speed on this issue with the Global Online Enrollment System, or GOES:  We left our story back in June after I had submitted my initial application in April of this year and anticipated getting approved within the 4-6 week timeframe the USCBP promises on their website.  Six weeks came and nothing, so I called Rep #1 who said he would send my application again.  Then it was 8 weeks and Rep #2 told me I shouldn't have called in at all, but he would send my application through again.

So here is where we pick back up.

Essentially, nothing happened after the conversation with Rep #2, so at the 11 week mark, I called USCBP again.  Remember, calling this agency is no easy feat; it takes LOTS of patience and an excellent cell phone plan.  The number will not connect right away, if it does at all, and it's typical to be the 16th caller in the queue.  The queue moves slowly.  V-E-R-Y S-L-O-W-L-Y.  This time, it actually took me 2 days of trying to finally reach Rep #3.

I must say, I was amazingly calm during this discussion.  You see, I have a tendency to be a hot head when things don't go the way they are supposed to.  But I remained uncharacteristically cooperative and even-tempered while I brought Rep #3 up to speed on the situation.

His response was simple: "Your application is lost in fiber optics."  Um... what does THAT mean, exactly, or even figuratively?  He then proceeded to tell me that too many people were applying for and taking part in this service.  And then he started giving me a history lesson about the program.

This is where the old me started to return.  I said, "Ok, thanks, but let me stop you right there because I don't care.  I don't care about this history of this program.  Really, I don't care.  What I DO care about is the fact that you - meaning USCBP - offered a product for a fee.  I paid the fee.  You promise on your website that I would have this product for which I paid within 4-6 weeks.  Next week, it will be 12 weeks and I still don't have it.  Plus, you're telling me that you don't know where my application is or if it will even ever get processed.  And on top of that, you tell me I can't reapply.  Sir, if this was ANY other business in the world, I could sue you.  But lucky for you and me, I guess, I can't.  So you're telling me I'm just out of luck?"  His response: "That's about it."

I asked if he could look up my application using the membership number on my application.  He said he couldn't.  I asked if he could look up my application using my assigned PASS ID number.  He said he couldn't.  I asked him what those numbers were for if not to help keep track of the application.  He said he didn't know.

This is your government dollars at work.

To end the conversation, I said, "well, I guess I can try asking my congressman to help me" and he encouraged it.  "Yeah, go ahead, I talk to congressmen offices all the time.  But it won't do any good."  And that was all I needed to hear.

I reached out to Senator Dick Durbin's office seeking help.  Then I reached out to Rep. Mike Quigley, my state congressman.  Then I reached out to NBC5 Responds, the local consumer investigation team.  I explained my situation in great detail to all of them and begged for help.  I heard back from all of them within a day, letting me know that they received my request and were looking into it.  As well, they also gave me the name and contact information of the person at their respective organizations who would be working on it.

TWO DAYS LATER, I received notification that my application for Global Entry had been accepted.  It was a Christmas miracle in July.  And the thing is, I don't know how it happened.  It could have been the rep from Senator Durbin's office, or the rep in Rep. Quigley's office, or someone from the NBC5 news team.  Or it could even have been Rep #3 who realized the injustice and really looked for my application (on second thought...).  Or perhaps my application was simply next in line.  I have no idea.  But the good news was that it had been processed albeit in twice the amount of time they said it would.  So that was Step 1.

Step 2 was getting a in-person interview in order to complete the process.  So I went back online to find an appointment.  First, I had to find a location.  Kevin had his interview at O'Hare Airport, but when I looked for available appointments there, the earliest available was in October.  So I looked at other location where I could possibly be over the next month and only one place had availability:  Port Clinton, OH had an appointment for August 19th at 8:30 AM.  So I took it.

The night before, I drove 5.5 hours to Port Clinton and spent the night in a hotel.  I was up early the next morning and was in the USCBP office at 8:15 AM.  The interview took 5 minutes.  Not kidding.  The office fingerprinted me and told me that I was essentially wasting my time going through all this because there were now "too many people in the program.  Just get in the shortest line" was his advice.  Lovely.  But as it is most of the time with me, it's the principle of the thing.

Step 3, I learned during Step 2, is now to wait for an email that tells me the ID number I've been assigned is valid and ready to be used for travel.  Who knows exactly when that email will come, if ever at all.?  This has been one big continuous guessing game.  But for the most part, I am finally a member of the US Trusted Travel Program and my domestic security checks and international customs checks will hopefully be easier and faster...someday.  We'll see.  We put it all to the test on August 25th when we fly to Copenhagen, Denmark for a 10-day cruise on Norwegian Cruise Line, stopping at all the European capitals on the Baltic Sea.