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Utterly staggering incompetence

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  • Utterly staggering incompetence

    Planning on going to India? Well, forget about it.


    I have spent the last week fighting with the mind-bogglingly incompetent company to whom the Indian government outsources their visa processing, BLS International. Never in my life have I had so much difficulty in getting a visa, or indeed dealing with a particular company at all.


    Here's the score: back in about 2006, the Indian government started outsourcing their visa processing. This is a departure, because the usual procedure with most countries is that one completes whatever visa paperwork is needed, then submits it to either the local consulate of that country or the embassy in Washington, and they process the visa and send you back your passport. A visa is, after all, a government document, so it rather makes sense to have government officials handling it. Well, not so in the case of India now. Instead they have hired a private company to do this. Now, when this first started, that company was Travisa, who have been in business for ages and though they've had problems here and there, they were generally efficient and handled routine matters relatively quickly. Effective July 1 of this year, though, the Indian government awarded the contract for processing visas worldwide to BLS International, an Indian company based out of Delhi. And it's an unmitigated disaster.

    As usual, I called ahead to make sure that there was plenty of time to process the visa before submitting it. I was told no more than 5-7 days processing time, so off the paperwork went. For those who don't know, when one applies for a visa, in almost every circumstance, you have to send in your actual passport, along with application forms, a processing fee, and depending upon which country it is, sometimes some proof of things like yellow fever vaccination and/or a travel itinerary showing when and how you will enter and leave the country. The point, from the issuing country's perspective, is that they want to make sure that you're not going to turn up there and then later become a ward of the state, sucking up social services (crazy thought, right?). Well, such is the case with India and BLS: there is detailed paperwork, a passport-style picture, and a travel itinerary required. I always enclose a cover letter with detailed information ("Mr. Smith plans to leave the country on November 16, so I will need the passports back no later than November 13 in order to get them to him on time," etc.).


    So I have a client who has been planning a five-month tour around Asia since this summer. Now, most countries around Asia require a visa for U.S. citizens, and each country has different requirements and validity periods. So, for example, if Vietnam has a visa validity period of 90 days from the date of issue, you need to make sure that you submit that application timed in such a way that the visa won't expire before planning to leave Vietnam. In total, I had to get about nine visas for these folks, timed carefully so that there would be adequate validity for each portion of the trip. To that end, I have been repeatedly FedExing out their passports to different embassies and consulates, getting them back, and then sending them out to the next embassy/consulate in line. India was the last one I had to get. So, off the paperwork went in FedEx, as normal, received by the Atlanta office of BLS International, delivered there and signed for more than two weeks ago. After a few days, I called to check on the visas, and I was told that they were processed and on their way back to me. Great! Everything will come together nicely and I'll have all of this ready to go a week or so before they leave on the 15th, as in today.

    The next day, my FedEx airbill did not show processed into the system with FedEx, so I called again. Where are my passports? No one knows. For two days, they denied ever even receiving the passports in the first place, even after I showed them their own signature receiving them from FedEx. Three more days of back-and-forth trying to reach someone yielded no results. The only number that was answered is a call center whose sole purpose in life is to tell people to go look it up on the website. The website had utterly no information about the passports. I had someone "escalate" the request, and they e-mailed me back a day and a half later to say that ... the website will be updated when they have finished processing the visas. More and more urgent requests and demands back and forth got nowhere. I got in contact with several different people at the Atlanta consulate, and each of them has asked for someone at BLS to actually respond to me, which has only resulted in more e-mails telling me that the website will be updated when they have processed the visa.

    By this past Friday, we had given up hope of actually getting an Indian visa, and we just wanted the passports back. So, I started demanding that they just return the passports, and to Hell with the visa. The response? The website will be updated when we have processed your visa. At least ten different e-mails later, each one explaining that I don't want the damned visa now, these people are still telling me that they'll update the website when the visa is processed.

    With ever-increasing desperation, I contacted a company located in Atlanta who is a visa facilitator (we use a company in Washington most of the time, but India requires that people submit their application in the jurisdiction where someone lives, and they have to prove residency to that end; for Tennessee residents, Atlanta is that jurisdiction). He had frequent dealings with BLS, and he was physically at their office on a daily basis. His description was just appalling. This is a three-room office in an office park in Sandy Springs. He said that on any given day, one could walk into that office and there are stacks and stacks of unopened FedEx and UPS packages that have been sitting there for WEEKS. The place is staffed by a bunch of teenagers who have absolutely no idea what they are doing, and they don't care. His particular description: "I've seen homes on TV shows about hoarders that are vastly more organized than this place." His trips there invariably take hours (whereas with other consulates he's in and out in minutes), and he never knows when he'll get something back from them. Some days, he brings in an application and it is ready the following afternoon. Other times, he'll bring in an application and it will be 10-12 days of him asking about it every day before they finally return the passports.


    When I started delving into this even more, I've discovered that my situation is neither unique nor unusual, nor is this restricted to the Atlanta office. This has apparently grown into a global problem, as BLS is now contracted to handle visa applications in the Middle East, Canada, and God knows where else. If anyone is interested in seeing a whole lot of horror stories, feel free to go here, here, here, and here. Numerous stories of people waiting MONTHS to get their passports back from these utterly incompetent fools.




    So, long story short: if you're planning to go to India, whether for business or pleasure, don't. It's not worth the headache or the risk to try to get an Indian visa. If you absolutely must go to India, make sure that you can use a reputable visa facilitating service in your jurisdiction, but as noted by the fellow in Atlanta, even that is not really safe, because once these characters get your passport in their hands, there's no telling when or even if you'll ever get it back.
    Bask in the warmth of the Deep South
    No one will be denied:
    Big law suits and bathroom toots;
    We're all getting Dixie-fried.
    But somewhere Hank and Lefty
    Are rollin' in their graves
    While kudzu vines grow over signs that read "Jesus Saves."

  • #2
    Interesting. I have a friend that travels to India regularly for business. I'll have to ask him about it.
    Not where I breathe, but where I love, I live...
    Robert Southwell, S.J.

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by phillygirl View Post
      Interesting. I have a friend that travels to India regularly for business. I'll have to ask him about it.
      If he's lucky, he's gotten himself a ten-year business visa.

      This has just gotten more and more unbelievable as the day has gone on.

      I finally got someone to pick up the phone and call me after I threatened to sic the U.S. Attorney on them to force them to give up the passport (which is, at least technically, U.S. government property). It took this girl (and I do mean girl) about two hours of searching around this office before she finally found the un-opened FedEx containing the passports, etc. She agreed to send them out immediately to get the passports back to me. Then she called me back about three minutes later and said that her manager was willing to process the visa immediately, but it would be 48 hours before I got the passports back. I called the client and asked her if she wanted to do that, and the answer was "Hell no" (you have to envision an angry, close-to-elderly Vietnamese woman shouting even more than usual hollering that through the phone). So I told this sorry little dimwit that no, my clients don't ever want to go to India now, thanks to this debacle; just send me the damned passports and be done with it, to which she agrees and agrees that yes, she does have my prepaid FedEx airbill there to use (I didn't dare trust this fool to take down my address correctly).

      An hour and a half later, I get an e-mail from this cat in Atlanta:






      Seriously? Are you fucking shitting me?

      She wants me to spend $25 to FedEx her ... a FedEx envelope.

      You cannot make this shit up.



      So I look up on FedEx's website, to see if I can get a driver to bring her a damned envelope to send the passports back. While I'm at it, I decide to check to see if there's a FedEx store somewhere close by where she could go and get an envelope, if need be.


      Here is the Atlanta address for BLS
      BLS Visa Application Center
      5775, Glenridge Drive,
      Building B,
      Suite 380, Atlanta,
      GA 30328
      USA

      5775 Glenridge Drive. Building B.

      Building B

      Building fucking B





      Where is the closest FedEx location?












      Are you fucking kidding me? Seriously?


      So I call Dingbat back and ask her if she doesn't have any FedEx envelopes laying about the place, seeing as how they TELL EVERYONE TO SHIP VIA FEDEX. Nope, she doesn't have any. Well, could she maybe ask the FedEx guy to bring some when he comes? Don't they have a regular FedEx pick-up? Well, she wasn't sure if he would have any or not.


      Well, how about, instead of me spending $25 and wasting yet another day of my clients' time FedExing you an envelope, you maybe GO DOWNSTAIRS AND GET ONE OUT OF THE BOX IN FRONT OF YOUR BUILDING!!!


      Her response, I shit you not: "Well, I guess I could try to do that."


      Bask in the warmth of the Deep South
      No one will be denied:
      Big law suits and bathroom toots;
      We're all getting Dixie-fried.
      But somewhere Hank and Lefty
      Are rollin' in their graves
      While kudzu vines grow over signs that read "Jesus Saves."

      Comment


      • #4
        The funniest part of this, is when I started reading I was going to make a joke something to the tune of 'where does an Indian company outsource to?... answer:... unincorporated North Africa?'

        Then I get into the Atlanta part and almost pissed my pants.

        Now I'm imagining Indians bitching about the outsourced services in Atlanta.

        "I called to get a visa and those dumb fucks in Atlanta, who I can't understand a word they say, just screwed me over and over and over"
        Robert Francis O'Rourke, Democrat, White guy, spent ~78 million to defeat, Ted Cruz, Republican immigrant Dark guy …
        and lost …
        But the Republicans are racist.

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by Gramps View Post
          The funniest part of this, is when I started reading I was going to make a joke something to the tune of 'where does an Indian company outsource to?... answer:... unincorporated North Africa?'

          Then I get into the Atlanta part and almost pissed my pants.

          Now I'm imagining Indians bitching about the outsourced services in Atlanta.

          "I called to get a visa and those dumb fucks in Atlanta, who I can't understand a word they say, just screwed me over and over and over"
          Quite ironic, isn't it?
          "Faith is nothing but a firm assent of the mind : which, if it be regulated, as is our duty, cannot be afforded to anything but upon good reason, and so cannot be opposite to it."

          -John Locke

          Comment


          • #6
            And, somehow unsurprisingly, the fucktard managed to fuck up and not get my FedEx sent after all. And today is an Indian holiday, so there's no one to call.



            This is actually historic. I literally have never found a more stupid, inept bunch of people in my entire life.
            Bask in the warmth of the Deep South
            No one will be denied:
            Big law suits and bathroom toots;
            We're all getting Dixie-fried.
            But somewhere Hank and Lefty
            Are rollin' in their graves
            While kudzu vines grow over signs that read "Jesus Saves."

            Comment


            • #7
              After a tremendous amount of threatening via e-mail on my part, the half-wits finally called me and got someone into their office. Allegedly, they will have the passports here by 8:00 tomorrow. They would not answer me as to whether or not they actually had any FedEx envelopes.
              Bask in the warmth of the Deep South
              No one will be denied:
              Big law suits and bathroom toots;
              We're all getting Dixie-fried.
              But somewhere Hank and Lefty
              Are rollin' in their graves
              While kudzu vines grow over signs that read "Jesus Saves."

              Comment


              • #8
                And the never-ending spectacular fuck-up continues, as the idiots have apparently failed, yet again, to manage to put two passports into an envelope and put a FedEx label on it. The keep reading my e-mails asking for the tracking number that they promised me four hours ago, and they keep not responding.


                Absolutely, positively unfuckingbelievable.
                Bask in the warmth of the Deep South
                No one will be denied:
                Big law suits and bathroom toots;
                We're all getting Dixie-fried.
                But somewhere Hank and Lefty
                Are rollin' in their graves
                While kudzu vines grow over signs that read "Jesus Saves."

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Adam View Post
                  And the never-ending spectacular fuck-up continues, as the idiots have apparently failed, yet again, to manage to put two passports into an envelope and put a FedEx label on it. The keep reading my e-mails asking for the tracking number that they promised me four hours ago, and they keep not responding.


                  Absolutely, positively unfuckingbelievable.
                  Can't you get a courier to physically go to their office, pick it up and deliver them back?
                  Not where I breathe, but where I love, I live...
                  Robert Southwell, S.J.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by phillygirl View Post
                    Can't you get a courier to physically go to their office, pick it up and deliver them back?
                    From Atlanta to Nashville?

                    Good luck.
                    "Faith is nothing but a firm assent of the mind : which, if it be regulated, as is our duty, cannot be afforded to anything but upon good reason, and so cannot be opposite to it."

                    -John Locke

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by scott View Post
                      From Atlanta to Nashville?

                      Good luck.
                      5 hours each way. Sure, it's a long way, but it may be worth it at this point.
                      Not where I breathe, but where I love, I live...
                      Robert Southwell, S.J.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by phillygirl View Post
                        Can't you get a courier to physically go to their office, pick it up and deliver them back?
                        Originally posted by scott View Post
                        From Atlanta to Nashville?

                        Good luck.
                        Originally posted by phillygirl View Post
                        5 hours each way. Sure, it's a long way, but it may be worth it at this point.
                        It's Sandy Springs, so I could probably pull it off in four hours, depending upon traffic on 75 and 285, but no, that won't work anyway. That's why I called the visa service in Atlanta to begin with: to see if that guy (or anyone else from his office; I didn't care who at that point) could just go beat on their door until they gave up the passports. Turns out that no, the BLS people abjectly refuse to release the passports to anyone other than the actual person named on the passport unless it was originally delivered by a visa service. When they get a postal (as they call it, but I don't use USPS for that) application, they will only send them out the same way.

                        The dumbshits called me back about 4:30 after I e-mailed them a lot more nasty-grams. The idiot bint who had put the passports into their new-found FedEx envelope, the one who promised me on the phone that FedEx was already on the way to pick up the package at 11:30 this morning, somehow fucking FORGOT the ONE THING that she was in the office to do on a holiday, and she got the package ready but then closed up the office and left before FedEx got there.







                        When she called at 4:30, she was at a FedEx place actually sending the package. So I finally have a tracking number, and it is indeed in the hands of FedEx.


                        I am fully prepared for the possibility that when this gets delivered tomorrow morning, it either will have the wrong passports or possibly no passports whatsoever.
                        Bask in the warmth of the Deep South
                        No one will be denied:
                        Big law suits and bathroom toots;
                        We're all getting Dixie-fried.
                        But somewhere Hank and Lefty
                        Are rollin' in their graves
                        While kudzu vines grow over signs that read "Jesus Saves."

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Adam View Post
                          It's Sandy Springs, so I could probably pull it off in four hours, depending upon traffic on 75 and 285, but no, that won't work anyway. That's why I called the visa service in Atlanta to begin with: to see if that guy (or anyone else from his office; I didn't care who at that point) could just go beat on their door until they gave up the passports. Turns out that no, the BLS people abjectly refuse to release the passports to anyone other than the actual person named on the passport unless it was originally delivered by a visa service. When they get a postal (as they call it, but I don't use USPS for that) application, they will only send them out the same way.

                          The dumbshits called me back about 4:30 after I e-mailed them a lot more nasty-grams. The idiot bint who had put the passports into their new-found FedEx envelope, the one who promised me on the phone that FedEx was already on the way to pick up the package at 11:30 this morning, somehow fucking FORGOT the ONE THING that she was in the office to do on a holiday, and she got the package ready but then closed up the office and left before FedEx got there.


                          It will probably have another fed ex envelope in it and nothing else. I know that is what I would do to the pain in the ass sending me all those emails.




                          When she called at 4:30, she was at a FedEx place actually sending the package. So I finally have a tracking number, and it is indeed in the hands of FedEx.


                          I am fully prepared for the possibility that when this gets delivered tomorrow morning, it either will have the wrong passports or possibly no passports whatsoever.

                          It will probably have another fed ex envelope in it and nothing else. I know that is what I would do to the pain in the ass sending me all those emails.
                          If it pays, it stays

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            FedEx finally delivered, an hour late, which was mostly my fault. I figured "delivery before 8:00" probably means maybe 7:30, perhaps 7:15, so I got to the office at 7:03. After turning everything on and whatnot, I decided to check on the package, and the FedEx page said the guy had been here at 6:58. No sticker on the door, nothing like that. Just what I need, after all of this.

                            So I called FedEx, and they eventually got the guy turned around and sent back to me, and he got here right at 9:00, while my clients were sitting at my desk waiting to get their tickets and passports and leave for an 11:29 departure from the airport, 15 minutes' drive from downtown.


                            Passports were there, and about half of the paperwork that was submitted. BLS kept the $136 money order, though.



                            Oh well. They're on their way now, and they will NOT be going to India, now or in the future.




                            So my professional travel advice still stands: if you're thinking about going to India, don't.
                            Bask in the warmth of the Deep South
                            No one will be denied:
                            Big law suits and bathroom toots;
                            We're all getting Dixie-fried.
                            But somewhere Hank and Lefty
                            Are rollin' in their graves
                            While kudzu vines grow over signs that read "Jesus Saves."

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              That story otta be made into a book.

                              Comment

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