A Lost Passport à la Australia Post

Australia Post.

The name implies power, singularity and confidence. We can trust this name, and this brand, because it is the ONE AND ONLY OFFICIAL AUSTRALIAN MAIL SERVICE. It has its roots in colonialism and high tea and government.

There is only one Lord of the Post. Only one who can bend it to his will. And he does not share power. – Thanks Gandalf.

Yeah, well, sadly for us, here in #Straya that’s quite true. We have one national post provider. It has a productreview.com.au score of 1.6/5 stars. It is now slower than ever before. In fact, there is a pretty strong consensus amongst the online community at least that Australia Post sucks. Hell, there’s even a website devoted to the topic.

A would-be traveller needed a visa

And that traveller was me. I won’t lie, I’ve had a really shit year, which is now starting to look up. I’ve had my last day at the desk, and have embarked on an attempted career as a freelance writer and blogger. In the spirit of digital nomadism, I decided to run away for a while to one of my favourite places, South East Asia. I have fond memories of training martial arts there, so I wanted to go back and explore more. I wanted to get inspired.

Like a relatively organised little bee, I proceeded with the uncomfortable task of sending my passport off to the Vietnamese Embassy in Canberra for a visa. Sadly, as Vietnam is all socialist and tightly controlled, this is still the only totally safe way to get a Vietnamese visa. You can go through these online agencies, but they’re a lot more expensive and frankly, I do not trust them.

I sent it off, registered post, six weeks before I was due to depart. Plenty of time, considering they say 7 working days until it is back. WRONG.

Australia Post – the proverbial thorn in my side

The Vietnamese Embassy did their job admirably. They received my passport, gave me a visa, took my money and posted my passport back to me in the self-addressed, tracked and registered envelope I had sent them. It’s good to know some functions can still be performed without critical error.

This is when shit got real.

The tracking barcode didn’t work

When my passport left Canberra, it was (presumably) scanned. When it arrived in Melbourne, it was (presumably) scanned again. Finally, when it arrived at my local distribution centre, once more it would have been scanned.

Yet, for reasons nobody is able to explain to me, none of those three scans worked. Not a one. Faulty tracking number, they say. Strike One for Australia Post.

My passport went walkabout and all I got was this lousy red card

The passport somehow did make it to my front door. I know this because I had the little red card left in my mailbox for me. Instead of “you’ve got mail,” it should read, “you’ve got problems.”

After the postie came to my door and left me the Red Card of Doom, the story becomes a little unclear. Since all this has now been resolved, I’ve tried to get the story straight and have not been able to. My passport was meant to go to the LPO to await my attendance to collect it, but it either didn’t make it there, or it did make it there but it was lost while there. Or somebody held onto it for a few days then got cold feet and returned it. Whatever happened, Strike Two for Australia Post.

Australia Post

The Red Card of Doom. My hatred for this little red card is real.

The Australia Post customer service call centre was supremely unhelpful

As you can imagine, by this point I was getting quite concerned. I was leaving the country in 10 working days. And I was now without passport and without two visas I’d already paid for. As I was advised by my LPO to call and start an investigation, I did so. Sadly for me, I was told the “investigation” would take 10 working days to be concluded, and longer if I was owed any compensation. This is extremely unhelpful to me for obvious reasons. Strike Three for Australia Post.

Even though it is their error, I have had to drive everything.

In the four days I spent trying to find my passport, I had to do the following:

  • six phone calls to AP
  • three tweets to @AusPost
  • one FB post to their FB page
  • three personal visits to my LPO
  • two personal visits to my local distribution centre
  • three phone calls to the passport people about timelines for a new passport
  • one phone call to the Vietnamese Embassy to confirm they did indeed post my passport back

I’m sorry, but this is absolutely ridiculous. For the most part, I had to drive the entire thing, even though I was not at fault and had been seriously screwed over by AP.

Good news: I did get tweeted back, with some generic crap like “your investigation is ongoing.”

Admittedly, the manager and staff from the local distribution centre were absolutely amazing. One piece of silver lining in an otherwise horrible experience. They bent over backwards looking for my passport. The manager himself spent an entire working day personally driving around to the six LPOs in my area, to see if my passport was there. He called me every day for an update, and was genuinely really great. 🙂 The silver lining in an otherwise crappy experience.

However, aside from these guys who helped me, it was pretty bad. The AP customer service call centre were particularly bad. It was like AP thought that the fact they lost my single most important legal document was somehow on me to fix. Strike Four for Australia Post.

Still, it’s not good enough, seriously

Even if every single staff member bent over backward to help me find it, this situation would still be totally unacceptable.

How the hell can we function as a society without a national postage service that actually works? If we cannot even send sensitive documents, legal documents, or identity documents via registered mail without worrying, then what the hell is the point of a mail service? Had I known there was a chance of this happening, I would have flown to Canberra personally to get the Viet visa. Or, I would have paid $80 for a secure courier.

And, as it turns out, I am not the only person whose passport has mysteriously disappeared into the black hole of incompetence that is Australia Post. Apparently, it’s common!

And get this – this wrestler I know called Jess Lavers-McBain missed out on the Rio Olympic qualifiers earlier this year because her passport didn’t come back from the Mongolian Embassy in time, despite the fact she was guaranteed “next day delivery.” She missed her flight to the qualifier and consequently lost thousands of dollars and the chance to qualify for the Rio Olympics. True story, I actually know her. She was devastated.

And to add insult to injury, she was apparently told by AP the best they could offer her by way of compensation was a new pre-paid satchel. Now that’s a slap in the face if ever I’ve heard one.

After 5 days AWOL, my passport showed up at the LPO

This is where it gets weird. My passport eventually showed up today at the exact place it was meant to be all along. My local LPO, legit 2 doors from my house. I had looked there, the LPO owners had looked there, and the really lovely distribution centre manager had personally looked there also.

The LPO owners say that it came in with all the other undelivered parcels this morning. They implied the postie was at fault. Who the hell knows what happened. Perhaps they had it all along, for some mystical reason.

Perhaps someone in AP had it, ready to doctor and sell on the black market, but since I created so much noise about it, it became too hot to move. This is the general consensus over what happened on my Reddit post.

Alas, I have it back now, my trip isn’t cancelled. An extremely stressful experience is over.

With the exception of the nice staff who helped me, this is all I’ve got to say to the rest of Australia Post:

 

Australia Post

Have you had a bad experience with the post in Straya or elsewhere? Has incompetence got in the way of your travel plans? Comment and share.