Friday, June 4, 2010

Some paper-pushers give bureaucracy a bad name.

The military moves its people around a lot. [Oops. Almost typed "alot" there! Read Allie's blog to find out more about the Alot and to have a good laugh. You're welcome.] It's just part of the culture. Because of this, they have a complex and comprehensive infrastructure for dealing with moves. They have whole books of regulations, complete with numbered and lettered paragraphs and subsections. (You may be interested to know that the regulations are actually called the Queen's Regulations and Orders, the Queen being our monarch and the head of our military.) There is a whole directorate in the Canadian Forces dedicated to ensuring that servicemembers move efficiently and cost-effectively.

Anyway, the first few times we moved, starting way back in 1984, Steve simply went down to the orderly room where a knowledgeable and efficient corporal politely laid down the law about what was or was not allowed in terms of moving expenses, then made arrangements for the movers to come pack up and move our stuff. (The official acronym for "stuff," by the way, is HG&E = Household Goods & Effects; it used to be DF&E = Dependents, Furniture & Effects. I think some dependents took umbrage with being included with the chattels.)

Eventually someone thought there was potential to save a bunch of money by outsourcing the friendly corporal's functions. Enter the Relocation Services (I won't give the company's name). They are a contracted service that aims to provide a high level of responsive and cost-effective relocation expertise - at least, that's how I expect they sold themselves to the Department of National Defence. The reality is proving to be quite different in our case.

Whenever we find ourselves depending on the services of an administrator or action officer, we always hope we'll get The Good One - the one who knows how to get the job done. The one who reads your e-mails and responds to your phone calls. Is that too much to ask?

For this move, we seem to have hit the Black Hole instead: the one whose inbox never gets emptied, whose e-mails never get read, and whose voicemails are "accidentally" deleted. Ordinarily, I'm pretty patient with service providers. I will give them the information they need, then sit back and let them do their thang. I don't pester, I don't micro-manage. But I tell you, I have resorted to the "Request Read Receipt" for every e-mail I send to the Black Hole now!

Fortunately for us, she gave us the name and coordinates of one of her colleagues (because she herself was going to be out of the office a few days). In desperation, I have taken to cc'ing this colleague on e-mails and even calling her with questions, even though we are not part of her portfolio of clients! Today I called the colleague and asked if the Black Hole was out of the office this week since I'd not heard from her regarding an e-mail I sent on Monday or two voice messages I'd left. "No, no, she's in the office. She's been busy with clients, but she's here," I was told, "I'll let her know you called."

About an hour after that phone call, the Black Hole called. We had a good half-hour conversation answering lots of questions and assuring me that our file was indeed moving along.

So I'm feeling reassured for now, but I'm still keeping a record of every e-mail or phone call because I'm afraid something will fall through the cracks and we will be left holding the bag - or the bill. And I'm thinking of sending flowers to the Black Hole's colleague.
Oh, and I'm nostalgic for the good, old orderly-room corporal. You don't know what you've got till it's gone.

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