I was reminded of the hidden cost of bureaucracy the other day. Hidden, because it goes largely unreported, and the personal cost to me.

About 6 weeks previously, I had required to send off my passport as part of an application process. The process stated that if you needed your passport back by a certain date that you should detail this. Which I did, since I needed to fly to the UK for a week, building in 2 days buffer in the process. 2 days? I know, ludicrous in hindsight. In fact not even in 2 days. I was flying on a Monday, but told them the Saturday before and that I needed the passport by the Thursday.

The passport hadn’t arrived by the Tuesday. I needed it to fly with Ryanair, whose flights I had booked ages before. The government office dealing with my application had 4 telephone hours per week, yes 4, during which time the phone line was permanently busy. I couldn’t turn up in person and demand my passport back, so I sent an email into the info@ customer service email abyss.

Friday, the last day for postal deliveries before the weekend, and nothing. I had a sliver of hope, in that I was flying late on Monday so it might come that day. On the Friday I called in a favour and someone knew someone who worked in the department of the minister responsible. Nothing, until 4:30pm when an email responding to my info@ enquiry came back with a ‘When did you send your application? When did we receive it? What was the postal tracking number?’ I replied back with the information at about 5pm, and that was that.

In the meantime I had made enquiries with the chat facility of Ryanair, who said they couldn’t help, since the passport was mandatory for travel with them. Why? Who knows. Fortunately, I discovered that if you fly with Aer Lingus from the UK to Ireland, and vice versa, and you’re a citizen of either, you can use a driver’s license for ID. Happy days. I booked the outbound flight for the Monday with them, at short notice prices, hoping that the passport might still come in time for me either to fly out with Ryanair or at least back with them if my family could post the passport out to me.

My week in the UK came and went. The passport arrived in my home town on the Friday, and I was due to fly back home on the Monday, first thing. I therefore booked a short-notice-price return flight and came home.

As I said to the info@ people to confirm I had got the passport back, it’s no use offering a process if you can’t then follow it. The fallout affects your customer. Not that there’s too much of a concept of the customer at a government level. I speculate that my application was unopened until my info@ email came in, or more likely the prod from a friend of a friend.

The cost of bureaucracy to me? The cost of bureaucratic failings? Why are they so often set up to fail, to frustrate? 2 additional flights with Aer Lingus at a cost of €150. I know, coulda been much worse.