Question: I participate in the Global Entry program, which allows you to go through U.S. customs faster. At least it did – until last summer.
I was returning from Europe when I tried to use one of the Global Entry kiosks at the airport. It stopped me halfway through the process and returned me to the start screen.
Since I’m accustomed to buggy software, I restarted the kiosk process. The second attempt was completed successfully and issued the normal receipt authorizing me to proceed to customs.
As I was walking to the baggage claim, a Customs and Border Protection officer intercepted me and asked why I completed the kiosk process twice. I told him the software suffered a glitch and had to be restarted.
The officer stated without any doubt that the kiosk software was error-free. He confiscated the kiosk receipt and escorted me to an immigration booth where my passport was stamped and I exited.
Several weeks later I received a letter from the Global Entry Enrollment Center, stating that my membership in Global Entry had been revoked for “attempting to evade inspection.” Not only was Global Entry privileges revoked and but my CBP file is now annotated with directions that I be sent to secondary inspection. On every reentry to the country, secondary inspection adds 30 minutes to my transit time.
I appealed to the CBP Ombudsman and received a reply that “the denial remains unchanged because you did not provide sufficient evidence that CBP used incorrect or erroneous information to make the original denial determination.” A second letter to the agency has gone unanswered. Can you help me clear this up? — George Percivall, Crofton, Md.
Answer: The government should have thanked you for pointing out the software glitch instead of punishing you.
Global Entry, which allows you to short-cut the long immigration lines, can be helpful to people who cross the border frequently. If you don’t believe me, try flying into a busy airport like JFK or Chicago O’Hare on a random evening, and watch with envy as the Global Entry cardholders zip through the line.
I think you could have avoided this if you’d taken a little more time to explain what went wrong when the kiosk restarted. It looks as if you became entangled in a brief argument with a CBP officer – why else would he have defensively claimed the kiosk was “error-free”?
I’m a big proponent of fixing a service problem in real time, and I think this could have turned out differently if you’d slowed the process down. Explain what happened; don’t make any accusations. Find out what you can do to remedy the situation right then and there.
Instead, the officer noted that you were trying to evade inspection – which you were not.
The CBP ombudsman should have been able to clear this up with a phone call to you and the officer. Instead, the agency punted by asking you for more information. I think it might have been a little more proactive by doing a little independent research. Clearly, you’re not a security threat and don’t deserve a “secondary” inspection every time you return to the States.
I contacted the agency on your behalf. You received a letter from Global Entry’s enrollment center that said after “additional reviews” your membership has been reinstated.