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Tuesday, 3 June 2014

The strange case of me “becoming a US citizen”, without even applying for a citizenship, thanks to the US Mint:



The strange case of me “becoming a US citizen”, without even applying for a citizenship, thanks to the US Mint:

Ever since I developed my interest of collecting coins/currency notes into a serious hobby, I have been a customer of several Mints across the World, including the US Mint since 2010. I was looking forward to a “life-long relationship” with the US Mint, buying their products, writing about them and generally learning about the American experience, particularly as both USA and India fought for their Independence from British and other colonialists for over two centuries and have much in common regarding their historical past.

 Among the US Mint products which I have been collecting is the Uncirculated Annual set from 2010 onwards, as well as America the Beautiful Quarters Proof sets, also from 2010 onwards, which I have always booked shortly after their release by the Mint and the coin sets have been delivered to me through UPS Couriers every year upto 2013. Naturally, these coins have been written about by me on this blog and are a good reference for the visitors to this blog.

Imagine my surprise, when the Annual Uncirculated coin sets (2014 edition), from Philadelphia and Denver mints were released for taking orders/online booking by the US Mint on 13.05.14, I tried to book these coin sets on 14th May 2014 itself, just after I checked out from the “shopping cart section” of the US Mint for making the final payment, my “billing address” correctly gave my name and my address in Pune, Maharashtra, but instead of the name of country “India”, it mentioned “Indiana” (one of the States in the USA). Pune’s Pin code had been withdrawn because now I was being treated as a US citizen. Again to my surprise, when I tried to edit my billing address to India, I was only given a drop down option to choose my place of residence from a list of US States, thus confirming my US citizenship.

Aghast at being declared a US citizen by the US Mint, I checked out the “My Account” page. Lo!! I could’nt believe it, my entire address ended with the letters “US”. In other words, “Pune”, my place of residence in India, had been declared as a territory of the USA. I wonder if the Government of India is aware of this development!! In fact, my earlier coin deliveries to my residence in Pune in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013 were also marked as having been “shipped to” and delivered to me in “Pune, US”. Not only had Pune become a part of “Indiana” with retrospective effect from 2010 onwards, my country of residence had also changed to the “US” without consulting me, or my even catching a flight to the USA or applying for a citizenship there!! 

As I hold a valid Indian passport, naturally I was flummoxed!! I even wondered whether the US Mint instead of sending me coin deliveries would next send me a Passport declaring me to be a US citizen!!

Nevertheless, before my imagination ran riot, I thought that as I have another e-mail address, I should open another account at the US Mint website through the International customers section, as I thought, that, some error at the US Mint seemed to have crept in, in my earlier account.

Once again a similar result happened, and the address assertively read “Pune, Maharastra, Indiana”. As I had applied through the International forms/customers section for my new account, I received an automated email stating that “sold to country required”. I now understood the problem. The US Mint website denotes “India” as “IN” in the address section, which also appears to be the code for “Indiana”, in the United States. Once again, when I tried to book these coin deliveries, the US Mint website wanted me to verify my address as “Pune, Maharashtra, Indiana”, before moving onto the final payment page and did not permit me any corrections.

Now a word about the customer service email form of the US Mint:

After launching a desperate search on the US Mint website for some way out of this Catch-22 situation, I found an insert titled “e-mail form” in the Customer service section, which seems to be a new addition (as earlier, the mint website insisted that a customer in distress whether US or International should only make long distance calls and there was no mechanism for reaching the US Mint through e-mail).


I sent the following message to the US Mint:


“I am a customer of US Mint since 2010, based in India with email id: rajeevprasad2003@yahoo.co.in.

I have been receiving booked orders without any difficulty during the past four years. However, your updated website is now confusing the country "India" represented by the letters (IN) with "Indiana" and is repeatedly asking for the US State/ZIP/PIN code to be mentioned in my address. In fact, in my mailing/shipping address, the address is mentioned correctly (including my International PIN Code), except the country which is now being shown as “United States” in place of “India” and no correction of country to India is being permitted by the system. I tried to generate another account with another email ID: rajeevprasad1208@gmail.com through the “International Forms” section which ended up with the same result/problem. In fact, although I selected the country as “India” through the drop-down button, I received a separate no-reply message on my gmail account from the “US Mint Team” stating that “sold to country” is required to be fed into my address.

However, if one selects Hungary or another country not having the letters/initials of a US State, then there is no problem. I have taken up this “technical” problem through your website about a week ago, but the problem has still not been rectified”.

This e-mail page on the US Mint Customer Service webpage actually warned/dissuaded customers from using it with the undernoted warning :

**Please Note**

Quote: “Because of the large volume of inquiries we receive, it may take 2-3 weeks for you to hear back from us. If your question concerns subscriptions, order status or any other account-related issue, we suggest that you first call Customer Service at 1-800-USA-MINT (872-6468). You may also select “My Order” in the subject line of the form below (be sure to include a phone number where we can reach you), submit the form and someone from our Customer Service Center will contact you.

Please be aware that information we receive via the Internet is not protected or secure. Therefore, to protect your security, any e-mail we receive at this or any other e-mail address on our site with sensitive personally identifiable information such as Social Security numbers, credit card numbers, order numbers, etc., will not be processed and will be deleted”. Unquote 

In other words, one or several of the undernoted results can be expected:

i)             Your email could be deleted by the US Mint in case they find anything that they don’t like (particularly, if they are required to take some action on it – without assigning any reason whatsoever).

ii)           Although you are worried about the non-delivery of say a particular order which has not reached you, if you send the order number, then your email is likely to be deleted without taking any action thereon.

iii)          You should first call the Customer service at the given telephone call helpline, failing which, your communication is likely to be not acted upon. Even if your email is accepted in regard to your queries/inquiries on  an order, you will receive a call from a US Mint Customer Service Centre executive, but as no time is specified, the call can take place anytime between now,  to say about a 100 years. In other words, the customer will be on tenter-hooks, till such a call is received from the US Mint regarding the fate of his/her order/inquiry.

iv)         Even if your email is accepted for processing at the US Mint, you may or may not receive a final solution to the problem, as has happened in my case. In any case, I have no way of knowing whether my communications were accepted for processing or have been deleted by the Mint executives, as I have placed my email addresses in my communication.

v)           I have not heard from the US Mint, apart from the automated auto-response (which was not assigned any request number), even though well over three weeks have passed since my first communication was sent.

(Talk about the customer-friendly attitude of the Mint personnel).

Meanwhile, I found out the US Mint Facebook page and repeated the following message under their entry on 14th May 2014 mentioning the release of the “Uncirculated Coins sets 2014”:

“I am a customer of US Mint since 2010, based in India with email id: rajeevprasad2003@yahoo.co.in. I have been receiving booked orders without any difficulty during the past four years. However, your updated website is now confusing the country "India" represented by the letters (IN) with "Indiana" and is repeatedly asking for the US State/ZIP/PIN code to be mentioned in my address. In fact, in my mailing/shipping address, the address is mentioned correctly (including my International PIN Code), except the country which is now shown as “United States” in place of “India” and no correction of country to India is being permitted by the system. I tried to generate another account with another email ID: rajeevprasad1208@gmail.com through the International forms section which ended up with the same result/problem. In fact, although I selected the country as “India” through the drop-down button, I received a separate message on my gmail account from the “US Mint team” stating that “sold to country” is required to be fed into my address.
However, if one selects Hungary or another country not having the letters/initials of a US State, then there is no problem. I have taken up this “technical” problem through your website about a week ago, but the problem has still not been rectified. 
I am interested in buying the ATB 2014 Proof set and the Annual uncirculated 2014 coin set, as I have collected the entire series issued so far, but am unable to proceed further due to this problem. Please help me out so that I may book the required orders for delivery to my residence in India”.

The US Mint FB Page Administrator responded promptly with the undernoted message:
 “We will send this to our customer service department and hope to have an answer soon”.

(In other words, what this means is that:  we really don’t know whether anyone at the US Mint Customer Service Department actually has an answer to your problem, but we wish you all the best in hoping that a solution will eventually emerge (:-).

Nevertheless, I responded with a “Thanks. Much obliged”.

About a week later, I wrote the following message on the US Mint FB page:

“The problem mentioned by me on this post on 21.05.2014 still continues, even though you had very kindly taken up with the Customer Service Department at the US Mint. The US Mint website still continues to confuse “India” (IN) with “Indiana” and treats me as a US citizen (:-). I have’nt heard from the Customer Service Department at the US Mint on any of my emails either. I have been collecting the Annual sets/ATB sets since 2010 and this technical difficulty has come as a spanner of sorts. I may mention that I have a popular blog on International/Indian coins &currency which takes about 1000 pageviews every day (Total views around 320000).

 I have several extremely popular posts on US coins – Bicentennial quarters/ half dollars/ dollars, State Commemorative quarters, Native American dollars, Susan Anthony quarter, ATB quarters – 2010 to 2014), currency – new $100 Bill, and Forever stamps – US Civil War 1961-65 etc. In fact, links to three of my posts on ATB quarters (2010, 2011, and 2012) were picked up by you and placed on your blog during 2012!!

What bothers me is that even if I take my chances with the website in its present condition, my account shopping cart checkout section shows me a delivery charge for local US postage, instead of the International courier delivery rates which would be an anomaly. Not only this, my account even shows the earlier deliveries from 2010 to 2013 have been made to “US”, instead of “India”. Even if someone at the US Mint informs me at either one of my email addresses as to when this problem is likely to be resolved, I would be extremely obliged. Please help me out of this deadlock!!”

No response has been logged by the US Mint FB Page Administrator. (Obviously, it is the responsibility of the US Mint Customer Service Department who has not given any inputs to the FB page administrator in the matter so far, so there is nothing further to add!!). 

Of course, because the Executives at the Customer Service Department at the US Mint are extremely busy under the cascade of emails/communications that they receive every minute, it would also not be proper on my part to ask them as to when they propose to send me my Passport as a US citizen, as it seems beyond them to correct the anomaly on their website to “correct my address to India”, under an appropriate communication to me.

Epilogue:

I continue to be a treated as a US citizen on US Mint website being a resident of “Pune, Indiana US” despite my several communications.  It seems that whereas I was looking forward to a life-long relationship with the US Mint, my “relationship” with the Mint has been rudely terminated after only four years of booking and receiving coins from them.
The least that the US Mint could do now is to send me the 2014 Uncirculated Annual coin sets from Philadelphia & Denver Mints and the Proof set of America the Beautiful quarters 2014 as a complimentary gift, considering the unnecessary harassment which I have been put to for no fault of mine, while taking the necessary steps to correct the particulars in my original account, under advice to me!!!  
 Posted on 04.06.14:

 Within hours of my posting this piece on my blog, I have received a communication from the Customer Service Department at the US Mint that they are no longer shipping to India (such promptness in responding to customer enquiries !!). 

Now the question is, why India has not been taken off the drop down section of the countries where US Mint products are shipped, so as to avoid confusion in the minds of Numismatists here and how has the address in my previously shipped orders changed to "US" from "India"? Perhaps the decision not to ship to India has been taken very recently (i.e. after reading my post?) (:-).

  As of now, my US citizenship stays confirmed, although, I am going to miss the US Mint products !!





5 comments:

  1. Ramchandra Lalingkar has commented:
    "MY God !! What a terrible experience you are having. Unless and until the US Mint does not 'add' India in their 'drop-down' list of countries, the problem may continue. It appears to be mistake of software engineer who has devised their website".

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They do have India (IN) in their list, but it immediately reads IN as "Indiana" and asks me for a US Zip code!! The Mint officials have remained silent all along on the steps being taken by them to remedy the situation !!

      Delete
    2. Ramchandra Lalingkar has commented:
      "Then, it is very strange".

      Delete
  2. Rattan Nath has commented: "An easy solution is at hand. Use 'Hindustan' or 'Bharat'. The mail will still reach you since only the pin is needed to guide it through".
    "They are probably not shipping to India because Indians are confusing a shipping snafu with citizenship. US citizenship does not depend on where you live but on your willingness to die for the nation in strange places".

    ReplyDelete
  3. Rihan Ahmad has commented:
    "wow!!"

    ReplyDelete