The Problem with Global Entry

I have identified what I believe is the central problem with the U.S. Customs and Border Protecton (“CBP”) Global Entry program:  you have a law enforcement agency that has entered into the retail sales arena.

What do I mean by retail sales?  CBP is allowing trusted travelers to pass through their lines much quicker and charging them for that benefit.  The $100 charge is a very reasonable fee, granted, and is a charge for which many frequent travelers would willingly pay.   Global Entry also has a nice hidden benefit for the government.  This program lightens CBP’s work load by reducing the number of travelers waiting in line.  When you charge people for a privilege, you are in retail sales.  It is like having elite status for one of the airlines.  You pay for that status and you receive traveling privileges.

Has CBP, a law enforcement agency, directed any resources towards its retail division?  The travelers who have had their cases denied should have an opinion about this.  A traveler with a denied Global Entry application can certainly APPEAL it.  However, as seen in a recent New York Times article, the Global Entry program is issuing some strange denials.    Now, if you are in Macy’s and have a problem, you go to a special department called customer service, speak to a customer service representative and usually resolve the issue.  After all, in retail sales, the customer is always right! 

Things are a bit different with Global Entry.  Your main avenue to appeal will be through the CBP Ombudsman.  If you look at a definition of Ombudsman, you will find something like this:  a government official who hears and investigates complaints by private citizens against other officials or government agencies.   This at least implies that the CBP Ombudsman is or should be a separate agency from CBP.  If that is the case, then why is the CBP Ombudsman handling global entry appeals?  The answer as I see it is that despite the benefits CBP receives from this program, it is not willing to dedicate significant resources to administrating it.  It has its rooms where it conducts screening interviews and orients recently accepted applicants on how to use  the scanners.  But, where is the customer service department?  CBP has outsourced the customer service department to the Ombudsman.  The Ombudsman’s office appears to be understaffed and ill equipped to deal with the number of appeals it faces.  Most of their replies seem to be one liners, which may or may not be responsive to your concerns.  You can also submit a complaint to CBP, if you are not getting anywhere with the Ombudsman.  The problem in all of this is that the burden of the complaints process is on the consumer, rather than on the retail provider of the privileges.

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