Bad trip

PUBLISHED : Friday, 03 October, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 03 October, 2003, 12:00am

I have read with deep embarrassment the exchange of letters in the South China Morning Post regarding the conduct of customs and immigration officers in my native city of San Francisco.

My work takes me all over eastern Asia, and I seldom encounter arrogant or poorly trained customs or immigration officers. Those I have dealt with in Hong Kong are efficient, polite and professional.

Those in San Francisco, however, are an unmitigated disgrace. For the past six years, I have had problems with the service each time I have passed through the city. The impression given by these federal officials is totally unacceptable, particularly as San Francisco depends on tourism.

I disagree about complaints ('Airport conduct', October 2). Arguing with the officer on the spot may be a bad idea, but seeking out a supervisor is not. During my last trip, I was treated badly by an immigration officer, worse than my forbears at Ellis Island. I summoned his supervisor and explained. The young officer was removed from his post and given a dressing-down. I received an apology and a letter later. If the supervisor's response is unacceptable, complain to your consulate.

Customs has people known as passenger service representatives, whose job it is to deal with these complaints, and I have found them receptive. They can be identified by their blue blazers. Be firm but polite.

I salute the correspondents who brought this issue to light. As a San Franciscan, I apologise to them. To my fellow Americans, it is time our congressional representatives were asked to deal with this situation.