Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Going AWOL

(You know, I'd always thought that the term meant that the person went crazy. Not completely off the mark with my life right now).

Sorry, I haven't been posting for a while. It's not like I don't have things to say, I always do. However, I'm up to my neck with:
- Schoolwork - Due April 30th, so it's really the home stretch for me, I need to buckle down, focus and bang out a 100+ page report (plus peripherals) by my deadline. Cross your fingers for me!
- Work-work- I'm about 2-3 weeks behind on some of my email, bad me, and it takes me about an hour just to compose my daily to-do list. Sigh. One day I'll be caught up, just not today.
- The rest of my life.

As much as I would like to blog about my musings, honestly, it sometimes take me a hour or more to properly post something up. I can barely keep up with laundry, dishes and cleaning my toilet as it is (no joke). Never mind the fact that we still have trip planning to do.

You will hear more from me at the beginning of May, promise!

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Dear Passport Canada

I will be going on a big European adventure in six weeks time. My passport will be expiring within 6 months by the time I start my grand tour, and thus, being the good citizen that I am, and knowing that it would be easier on me to cross international borders if I had a newly-issued passport rather than an almost expired passport, I am going to renew my passport.

Since January of this year, I have been trying to figure out your extremely complicated, non-explicative, new "simplified" process for renewing my passport. Your rules, I must tell you, are not simple.

First, I am puzzled and dismayed by your new rules for the passport photo. I understand that you need to scan the photo and you need to set it up so that it is easier to scan. However, those rules also ended up making me look like a washed-up bag lady. I also understand that you prefer that people have a neutral expression, in other words, no smiling. In my picture, I look like a pissed-off, washed-up bag lady. I also don't understand how my own dear mother managed to smirk in her photo, and you allowed it through.

Second, your instructions for the Simplified Renewal Form are not explanatory enough. Do I need to have my photo endorsed by a sponsor? Can I use the online form to do the simplified renewal process, or do I still need to bring in my form or mail it to the Passport Office? Do my references need to be passport holders as well?

Third, nowhere on your website did it explain that I could use the online form as part of the simplified renewal process. First of all, your ePass user account creation was horrible. Why would you get people to create a username that they won't remember is beyond me. I think I've already created three different accounts. Next, after somehow going through the entire process of filling in the form online, I had deduced on my own that this wasn't the simplified renewal process. I had just wasted 2 hours of my time. You need to inform people that the online form is the full form. But as it stands, I don't know what time I will save by filling in the online form, I still need to send in the application. I refused to do so as mail has been known to be stolen before, and I am not mailing sensitive information about my identity. My only other option is to stand in a queue, so I might as well just fill the regular form in the first place and saved myself the hassle and frustrations.

Fourth, I went to the closest Passport office, spent $2 on parking, on my day off (which I will waste in a passport lineup, and note, that I needed take this day off because I'm working on a very time-sensitive project), only to be told that they don't process passport applications for people who are travelling within 6 weeks. That would be me. I was also told at that office that I had to go to one of three offices that did process passports immediately for traveling citizens, none which are close, none which are opened on weekends or holidays. However, there is one opened until later in the evening, and that's the one I'll be going to, even if I have to fight traffic and cross a bridge to get there. Because I need to pick it up for fastest receipt, and I really don't have the luxury to take more time off during work hours to fart around in a queue.

So here is my advice on how you can better spend my tax money:
  • Hire a content writer for your website. I always say if someone has to ask a question about it, your communication was not clear enough. Plus, this person should also be able to lay the content out in a more searchable format.
  • Hire a usability or process expert to go through your very poor processes, which includes the really hard to use online form. Sure it may cost a lot at the beginning to set up proper processes, but in the long run, it will save you time, and save my tax money for more important spending.
  • If you are going to turn away passport photos because they do not conform to your guidelines, you should have an on-site service to have the photo retaken, if a sponsor doesn't need to sign the photo (I am assuming this as per my first point above). Trust me, I am willing to pay for less of a hassle.
If you have already implemented the first two points, you are still wasting my money. Fix your problems now.

Weed, a disgruntled citizen who pays way to much taxes into an inefficient system.