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Trevor Stone's Journal
Those who can, do. The rest hyperlink.
Oh Belgium! 
2nd-Jan-2008 11:36 pm
asia face of the earth relief
I think I'm going to China.

I bought a plane ticket two weeks ago. Round trip to Hong Kong for just under $1000 including taxes and fees. Departs January 26th, returns February 25th. I got approval from work for a month-long leave of absence. I coordinated schedules with mollybzz who, like everyone in China, has time off for the lunar new year. I got vaccines for hepatitis A, tetanus, and typhoid this afternoon. I've got money in the bank, a travel guide, and tapes to learn Mandarin.

All set, right?

I'm missing three things: travel insurance, a passport, and a visa.

U.S. citizens need a visa to enter China. I waited to apply until I knew I had approval for time off work so that I knew I'd be able to go in the 90 day window granted by a typical tourist visa. So after I bought the tickets I sent my passport and visa application via DHL to a visa agent in Washington, D.C. The visa agent, for a fairly reasonable fee, delivers an applicants documents to the Chinese embassy and retrieves them upon completion, saving the traveler a trip to a city with a consulate for the purpose of standing in line.

On December 28th, I wondered why my application status wasn't showing up on the agent's website, so I contacted customer service. They had not received my package. I checked DHL's website with my tracking number:
Estimated delivery date: 12/26/2007
2/24/2007 7:32 am Arrived at DHL facility. Rockville, MD
1:38 am Processed at DHL Location. Allentown Hub, PA
12:26 am Transit through DHL facility Allentown Hub, PA
12/23/2007 5:49 pm Depart Facility Wilmington - Clinton Field, OH
1:26 pm Processed at DHL Location. Wilmington - Clinton Field, OH
12/22/2007 7:16 pm Depart Facility Arvada, CO
12:44 pm Shipment picked up Arvada, CO
I had other stuff to take care of that weekend and figured the package might have been held up by inclement weather or something. On Monday, December 31st, I called DHL customer service who confirmed what the website said. They had someone from the Rockville facility contact me to let me know the manager would look for the package and call me on Wednesday when it was delivered. This evening I called customer service again and they informed me that the package had not been found and that I could file a loss/damage claim form.

Belgium, man, Belgium!

I rarely get mad for more than about ten minutes, but I'm still pissed over six hours later. The only thing I can think of whose shipping loss would anger me more is my hard drive.

Thanks to technology, dealing with this crap is easier than it must have been twenty years ago. I used an automated phone system to make a reservation at the Colorado Passport Agency in Aurora for Tuesday the 8th. That gives me less than three weeks to get processed by agencies for two federal governments. The passport agency is for people who are departing "in less than 14 days" or who need to get a visa in that time. Even it takes 14 days to process and send my passport, I could overnight it on the 21st, have it processed on the 22nd and 23rd, picked up on the 24th, then overnighted back to me on the 25th so I can grab my bag and head out the door on the morning of the 26th.

Dear DHL,

Your incompetence will force me to spend lots of money for your competitors' services. You suck.

A Furry Ball of Fury

I wonder if it would be cheaper to pay $150 to change my flight to start in San Francisco or LAX and get a last minute flight out there, get a visa in person, and work from a friend's living room while I wait for the bureaucrats.
3rd-Jan-2008 06:16 pm (UTC)
Send DHL an itemized bill for your expenses.
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