Sloppy business at UPS

Rejected passport photos
Rejected passport photos

Four days away from an international trip and Bob and I have no passports. Scary. They were perfectly good and valid still for five years, until they were punctured and made invalid by Federal agents in Los Angeles. The only thing wrong with them was that they had too little space for new immigration stamps. We’d both received additional page inserts multiple times, and now we were required to get new passports.

Fine. All we needed was enough time to send them in, or better yet, bring them in and get them while we wait. That’s the tricky part, given that there is no passport office in Las Vegas. And our itinerary is packed with international trips, so there’s no time to send them in for replacement.

Time for a trip to Los Angeles, then. We gave two presentations at the California Tourism Safety and Security Conference in Anaheim May 7. Perfect timing for a visit to the passport office.

In Las Vegas, we prepared by getting official passport photos. Official, to be certain they’d be the right size, with the right background, etc. No time for mistakes. We used the “official passport photo service” at the local UPS store. When the lackadaisical employee handed over the two pairs of photos, Bob and I gawked. Our heads were small, surrounded by lots of white space, the images were contrasty, and almost black & white.

“These look terrible,” we said.

“They’re fine,” the employee assured us. “We do this all the time. Our photos are never rejected.”

We reluctantly paid $10 each and left.

Los Angeles: palms, smog, and traffic.
Los Angeles: palms, smog, and traffic.

The U.S. Passport Office rejected the photos. It didn’t take much time to get new ones at the handy passport photo service just outside the Federal Building. The new ones were bright, clear, and large. We had our new passports several hours later.

Back at the UPS store, I complained and asked for a refund. The same slovenly employee shuffled off to the back room, unsure how to react. His mono-tasking mind forced him to set aside the job he was about to do: namely, sort customers’ mail into their rented mailboxes. So he set the thick stack of envelopes on the counter beside me and left me alone with it. I stood staring at the gas bill on top of the stack, wondering what could be gleaned from that heap were I an ID thief. I had plenty of time to consider the lack of security with which that mail was handled.

The manager (or franchise owner) appeared and, when I pointed out the stack of mail, said “puh-lease!” As if she had no idea that Las Vegas is at the forefront of fraud and identity theft. Or that her mailbox-rental customers had some expectation of the private and secure handling of their mail.

© Copyright 2008-2009 Bambi Vincent. All rights reserved.

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  • “…..They were perfectly good and valid still for five years, until they were punctured and made invalid by Federal agents in Los Angeles…..”


    I was redirected to this page from forums.

    Can you tell me why your valid passport was punctured by Federal agent?



  • 1. A small compass that clips on a watch band. Sunto is a good brand. They are a necessity to for use of maps in guidebooks and free maps from hotels.

    2. An unlocked cell phone so that you can buy cheap local sim cards. My wife and I both carry them so that we can keep in touch with each other.

    3. A flattened roll of duct tape. Great for repairing bags and bandaging feet.

    4. Photocopy of first page of passport and shot record in case the originals are lost or stolen.

    5. Camera spare battery s and memory.

  • Most of these hits you see are probably coming from the internal FedEx website, under the section “Industry News” which posts links to various news articles concerning FedEx, it’s major competitors and the transportion, shipping, and copy/printing industries.

  • Costco is also a good place to get photos. They use a digital camera so you can check if it looks good before they print it. They even gave multiple copies to us, “just in case”.

    BTW, Bambi, I’ve been reading this site via RSS for some time. I can’t remember how I found it exactly, but it was from another site about security, linking to one of your posts about pickpockets.

  • FedEx Office will politely tell you that there is some concern about the pictures and will re-take them at no charge. Their employees are professional and make every effort to make your passport photos right the first time. For example, if you have on a white shirt, it will look like a “floating head”. I observed a FedEx Office team member provide a customer with a FedEx Office shirt to cover his white shirt just so the customer didn’t have to go home and come back. No, no FedEX Office logos were apparent in the picture.

  • Greetings, readers. This page is getting a surprising number of hits, with no indication of where you’re coming from. I’d love for a few of you to let me know what brought you to this page. Please comment below. Thanks!

  • One time after waiting several minutes for a cash register clerk to hang up from a personal call, I said “if you were my employee, I would fire you.” You could see all over his face his thought- what a crabby old bitch. He couldn’t care less. People in dead end jobs are frequently slovenly.

  • FedEx Kinko’s, now FedEx Office will get it done right.
    Go there next time.

    Hope you got your money back for their mistake.

  • I can’t remember the last time my passport expired! This last one only had five years on it (five more to expiration. But it was full. We can get U.S. passports with 58 pages in them. Then we get extra pages appended, A-X. I had two sets of A-X appended; then had to pay for a new book. We beg immigration officers to stamp neatly in a corner. Some do.

    Yep, the human link is the weak one in security matters. But also the clever one, in terms of breaking security measures; i.e. social engineering.

  • Incredible! But your story does encapsulate the epitome of the impossibility of certain security: it has always to rely on the expertise, care, and intelligence of ordinary individuals like that UPS staffer.

  • Well. I now have 2 passports, so when one expires (as my Australian one did last week), I just shrug. White euro trash, I know.

    Australia offers the option of a frequent traveler’s passport. It has twice the number of pages (64, up from 32). I’ve had a couple of those and never filled one, though my last one was close. 4.5 years of going BCN->JFK every 3 weeks helped, along with a couple of years of BCN->STN every 2 weeks.

    So there, nothing like constructive comments, eh? (Yes, I’m in Canada)


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