If you’re reading this, you’ve probably already been to a ton of websites trying to figure out how to get a rush passport. Whether you lost your passport or were just procrastinating, you need a new passport right away.
Let me save you some time and money. Do not go to one of those express passport agencies. They take advantage of folks who don’t know any better—kind of like funeral directors that charge you $10,00 for a coffin that costs $1,500. Yes, there’s something called the Funeral Rule, where by law they cannot markup the price of the coffin more than 700%. Too bad this law doesn’t exist for rush passport services.
I’m going to tell you what I did to get my passport made while I waited, and then explain how any other method to get an emergency passport is just a scam.
I lost my passport back in February. I’ve been going through airport security the last 4 months with no ID of any kind—boarding pass only. Been doing that 3-4 times a week and have gotten through every time. The downside is that I sometimes get the deluxe massage, but usually it’s just fine. But now that I had to fly internationally, I had to have a passport to clear customs. So why do things in advance when you can wait to the absolute last minute to test your skills?
Step 1:Call the National Passport Information Center
This toll free number is provided by the government. 877-487-2778. Listen carefully, as you have to find the right option to schedule an appointment at a regional office. “1” is for the East Coast, “2” is for the West Coast, and so forth. Then you have to select the city from within that region. Unless you live in the sticks, you should be able to find your city in that list. I chose Minneapolis, since that’s where I happened to be.
The automated system makes you wade through a list of 30 minute slots for your appointment, from 8 am all the way to late afternoon. I had a 5 pm flight and I don’t like to get up early, so I chose a 2 pm appointment. In fact, I called the system again and booked a 2:30 pm slot, too, just to be safe. The system doesn’t check for duplicate entries. And you can keep pressing “2” to fast forward to the next slot if you don’t want to wait for them to take a whole minute to re-read the time slot and address of the passport office.
Time spent: 10 minutes.
Step 2: Go to Walgreens to get your photo taken.
I hopped in a cab from my hotel and went to the nearest Walgreens. In the cab, I called ahead to ensure there was no line at the photo department. The photo machine was broken, so I went to one 2 miles away, which was still on my way to downtown. Thank you, Google Maps!
They snapped my picture with a digital camera and 10 minutes later I walked out with 2 small photos, of which the passport office needed only one of them.
Time spent: 20 minutes.
Step 3: Go downtown to the passport office.
The cabbie drove me 8 miles into downtown. And on the way, I filled out the 3 page form needed to get a replacement passport—one page on how it was lost and 2 pages for the new passport application. Trying to fill out forms in a moving car is tricky, but the passport folks didn’t seem to care.
Time spent: 15 minutes.
Step 4: My passport office visit.
There was nobody in the place except a couple clerks, so I was able to walk right up and handle things immediately. The first thing they said was “Are you traveling today?” And they said it in such a casual way that it sounded like they do this sort of thing all the time. I was fully expecting to tell them “yes” and then be pounced upon—lectured about how I should have planned in advance and “too bad” for me. But instead, the clerk said that when there’s a legitimate need for a passport, they can print them right there—and he motioned to the back office where they had some machines.
All I needed to justify the emergency was my flight confirmation, which I didn’t have printed. But lucky for me, they had some modern computers and printers right there. So I logged into my gmail to print out the flight confirmation. It cost me nothing. Daresay, the internet was fast. So I spent an extra 5 minutes checking my email, since I couldn’t help but see what else was going on in our company. This is your tax dollars at work, folks.
When I handed my paperwork to the clerk, I had no driver’s license, social security card, or ID of any sort. But I did have a copy of my birth certificate, which I had paid some random guy $20 on Craigslist to wait in line in the city where I was born to get this document. In case you’re wondering, anyone can get a copy of YOUR birth certificate—they need only know where you were born. No ID required to get it—just a cashier’s check.
My application was incomplete—I didn’t know offhand the dates of birth of my mother and father. So the clerk told me to just estimate, which I did. The rest of the forms were simple—name, address, social security number, and a few simple bits of info. That part took only a few minutes.
What was cool about this part of my journey was that the guy who processed my passport answered my questions on the spot. Had I filled out the forms and submitted them FedEx to some bureaucracy in the sky, who knows if I would have gotten rejected or had an opportunity to correct whatever information might be wrong. If I had used one of these 3rd party services, instead of dealing with Uncle Sam himself, I’d be at the mercy of some person working from their kitchen running their internet-based passport services business.
If you have actually tried searching on Google for “rush passport services” or a related search, you’ll find a bunch of folks who claim to have special access to the passport folks. They hint they can somehow jump the line for you and that some reputable organizations use them for passports. But when you actually call up their phone number (and most don’t even have a phone number or don’t answer it), you will often hear kids in the background or other sounds that are questionable. Then when you look for reviews of these businesses, you get horror story after horror story about how they charged someone $550 for an express passport, rejected it because some field on the form wasn’t filled out perfectly, pocketed the money, and were never heard from again. Don’t let this be you.
The passport folks told me that citizens get ripped off all the time when using these services, often because they don’t realize that if they just went downtown, they could get their passport right there on the spot, plus not pay someone a $300 fee to merely FedEx your forms both ways for you. You could FedEx it yourself, if you’re really too lazy to go downtown—so why pay a middleman? The passport folks said that they don’t promote their services, so that’s why these scammers exist. And it was that statement that prompted me to write this article.
This step included me surfing the internet and chit-chatting with the passport folks in disbelief about how simple this process was.
Time spent: 25 minutes.
Step 5: Payment and success.
I gave the clerk my debit card and it was done in minutes. I opted to get the passbook (what most people know as the passport with many pages in it), as well as the passcard (something that looks like a driver’s license), which was $30 more. There is a $60 expedite fee (well worth it to have it done right away) and a $25 execution fee. I don’t know what the $40 security surcharge is, but I was more than happy to pay it. The passport itself was $70, but when you added everything up, it was $237.72.
Note that if you had used some other agency, you’d still have to pay these same fees, except a few hundred dollars for that agency to make a profit on your ignorance, plus FedEx both ways.
Time spent, including gloating over my minor victory: 5 minutes.
Total elapsed time: 75 minutes.
And from there, I had plenty of time to leisurely take the light rail to the airport and have a sit down lunch before having to board.
My hope is that this article saved you a ton of grief and perhaps some money. The government isn’t very good about sharing the good things it has available to us. So I feel it’s our duty to make sure that anyone else who needs a passport right away is able to do so without needing to get stressed about it or get ripped off.
If this article has helped you or if you’d like to share your experience with others, please do so in the comments below.
In this episode of the Coach Yu Show, Marcelo Bermann shares his story of how serial scammer Aaron Gobidas backed out of a contract after he’d received the payment.
Marcello has been painting for 51 years. He started out in Boston in 1971, and has been serving the San Diego community since 1992. You can find him at bestsandiegohousepainting.com
Like so many expert tradesmen, Marcelo needed help with his website and SEO. He used a business bartering side, BizX, and stumbled upon Aaron Gobidas and GoBeRewarded. Unfortunately, he was left with an empty wallet and no website.
Aaron Gobidas is a great salesman.
“He reminds me of some of these people that are on speed and they can read your mind and they tell you everything that you want to hear. The one thing is he insisted that I drive up to Oceanside, which I did not understand.”
“But in any event, I drove up to Oceanside. It’s a long drive. There’s a lot of traffic. He wanted to show off his place. I’m familiar with the area I used to live in Oceanside.”
“And he did a presentation meeting where there are a couple of women there. One of them was constantly on her smartphone. The other one was somewhat present. They really didn’t know much about the subject. He also had another guy there. I guess he wanted to impress me with the staff, you know, that was on their hand and the plans where he had the thing.”
“And one of his selling points was that his dad had been, I think, a curtain installer, like on windows and, and that, you know, he knew how being a specialized business with a particular gift that he would know how to present me to the world so that I would get the right kind of clientele and, you know, blah, blah, blah, blah.”
“He was very convincing and everything. He did like an hour long presentation with maybe even videos and a whiteboard and so on. Basically, he wanted $2,500 to redo my website and he was going to do a super-duper thing. He was going to have some staff that was going to do some video. So he was going to do a shoot as well as, and they were going to come out on site and, you know, and, uh, shoot while I was working.”
“So it was going to be a very comprehensive, well mounted, professional website.”
Spoiler Alert: It wasn’t.
There was some confusion over hosting and eventually GoBeRewarded backed out of their contract with Marcelo, keeping the money. Truth is, Marcelo fell for a nicely packaged scam.
Unfortunately, this happens more frequently than you’d expect.
There are a ton of agencies out there who will promise you the moon, but in reality they lack expertise.
So when you see a scammer like Aaron Gobidas try to take your money and try to make all these promises and tell you all these stories. But then you start asking questions and then things kind of start changing, that’s when you know that you have an issue.
So to Marcelo’s point never pay the whole thing up front. Always check out the reviews. You should go Google, Aaron and see what shows up on the first page for his name. And if he’s good at SEO, then those horrible things about him are not going to show up on his name, right?
My expertise is in SEO. My advice for everyone out there is that SEO is completely measurable.
It can be hard to find someone you trust. But if you start getting a bad feeling about someone or an agency, if they can’t answer your questions clearly, or they seem to be using a lot of jargon, take it as a red flag. Trust your gut.
Today we’re talking about the hidden power of a weak connection and why it’s so key to powerful networking.
A weak link is a second degree connection. It’s a friend of a friend. And you might think that a strong link, a direct link, a first party link is going to be powerful, but let’s examine how this really works.
The average person has 200 friends. It might Facebook friends, LinkedIn friends, friends that you hang out with, etc. And if they want to get a job, then they might tell these 200 friends, “Hey, I’m looking for a job” “Or do you know somebody who can fix my car?” or, “Do you know someone who can give me advice on a particular kind of thing?”
Those are strong links, but it’s a smaller pool and your close, close friends, maybe it’s 10 people that’s even smaller. Those people are less likely to know of the particular person that you need to meet, of the particular company, of the particular opportunity.
A weak link is a friend of a friend. So each of those 200 people may know 200 people. So that gives you a wider pool of 40,000 people. Those 40,000 people will come from a more diverse set of social economic circumstances, because people tend to hang around with other people in their same kind of circumstances.
So that friend of a friend might be able to make that real estate connection that you need or introduce you to somebody that you didn’t even know was in your network. And the funny thing is that when you look at things like John Guerra’s.Six Degrees of Separation, saying that everybody on the planet is connected. Any two random people is no more than six degrees connected from someone else, it shows you how far away you really are from other people.
Facebook published a study eight years ago, showing the number of degrees of separation between you and the average person on Facebook. And I think Mark Zuckerberg was a 2.9. I was like a 2.8, meaning I was only 2.8 connections away from anybody on the social network. I think Sheryl Sandberg was like a 3.1. (She’s the COO.)
We live in a world where you’re never more than two or three connections away from someone you really want to meet.
That’s not to say that you should try to get as many followers or friends or LinkedIn connections as possible. But what it does mean is that when you nurture your friends and they know what you are looking for. When you have a clear headline in your LinkedIn bio, when you have a clear purpose in your blog or your personal brand website saying I help X achieve Y through Z, when everyone knows what you’re looking for and what you’re trying to do, it’s a lot easier for them to be able to make connections on your behalf, to be able to make introductions.
My friend, Caleb Guilliams wrote the book, The And Asset. And I know that he’s one of the world’s best financial advisors. And because he’s done that and he’s put a stake in the ground, he has a YouTube channel, when I know somebody who’s selling their company, or they need some really smart tax strategies, or they want to be able to invest and save at the same time. I know to put them in touch with Caleb Guilliams.
Think about how you can leverage the power of weak connections. You do that by making sure that your personal brand is visible on all channels, and that your friends know about what you’re doing in a non douchey spammy kind of way. You’ll be surprised at the number of connections that you make.
It’s those weak connections, which are referrals. They are people that you meet at a conference, or at a dinner party. They provide more value, more business opportunities is going to be the source of your employees.
When you think about it, everything that is a referral is a weak connection. It could be a Yelp customer that leaves a review for you. It could be somebody that’s a existing customer of yours and they say something nice about you on Twitter.
And if you think about an even weaker connection, a third degree connection, a friend of a friend of a friend, that’s when you do something so awesome, maybe you speak at a conference, you publish a book, you do something that makes TV or media news. Then the ripple effect of the stone being dropped in the pond. Those ripples go outward and more people know about who you are.
So this is not saying you should try to go viral, but it does say that the connections we need to make, to meet someone, it could be anybody, it could President Obama or Elon Musk, you’re never more than actually two or three connections away.
And that’s the hidden power of having a strong personal brand. That’s the hidden power that professional networkers know, they people who are really good, that seem to know everybody, that seemed to be able to figure things out.
It’s the power that weak connection. I hope you’ll take advantage of that.
And then let me know in the comments, what do you think about this weak connection and how has that influenced how you think about networking?
Because you never know if you’re just one connection away.