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IDstation and London Drugs passport photos

IDstation logo.

IDstation logo

I have had passport photos taken at London Drugs for years, but no more.

Turns out they are an agent of IDstation, to whom I was referred by the passport agency of one of the countries of which I am a citizen, who are advanced enough (unlike Canada) to take passport applications online. Great! So off I go to the nearest London Drugs to get my picture taken.

After waiting in line for a while I was finally served. I stated my reason for being there and confirmed that they used the IDstation service/system. They did, and then there was a lot of faffing around while they — three of them! — consulted the passport-photo requirements for my country … because, you know, they’re all so different! (According to the blurb at digitalphotosystems.nl, “Photomatic software is being used on many systems all over the world for passport photos …. Photomatic software automatically processes any image into a perfect passport photo. … The passport photo is checked on all official requirements for passport photos, as specified by the ICAO …. The ICAO check is a very important part of the Photomatic software because it will make sure the passport photo will not be rejected when used in offical [sic] applications for a passport, driving license of Visa. [sic]”) They eventually determined that the passport authorities for a number of countries (including mine) had recently been rejecting their passport photos, so they only agreed to taking my picture if I agreed to waive their guarantee, about which you can read on their website. (No surprise there, considering how bad the photo was!) Being the idiot I am, and with no other reasonable choice given my time constraints that day, I agreed. I mean, how hard can it be to fuck up a passport photo?! The people who had their photos rejected probably did something wrong that I won’t do.

London Drugs passport photo receipt.

London Drugs passport photo receipt

But since they were refusing to give me their guarantee (see scan of London Drugs receipt, across the top of which is handwritten, “Xxxx passport online Not gaurenteed [sic]”), and since they were presumably more adept at taking photos for Canadian passports, I decided to get photos for my Canadian passport taken as well, since it also expires in the near future. Looking back at the two pictures now, they’re like night and day! The Canadian passport photos would almost certainly have been accepted by the other country, but said country doesn’t accept scanned pictures, only the original JPEGs.

Anyway, when I submitted the JPEG to the other country’s passport office they rejected it because the “camera was too close”. With the benefit of hindsight I can now see that, as the requirement on their website is, “The photo must capture your image from head to mid torso.” (The Canadian one does.) The photo that London Drugs took barely took in my neck! If someone who takes passport photos all day can’t detect that error immediately they should be fired!

On the IDstation website they have a “File a complaint” option. I suppose they must get a lot of complaints! The problem is that the free-text field where you are supposed to describe your complaint severely limits how much text you can type (I can assure you that this blog post is far longer than my complaint!), but it doesn’t tell you how many characters you are allowed to submit. So this was what I ended up submitting:

My passport picture was rejected by the Xxxx government because they claimed the camera was too close.

I have more information, but your system says my “description is too long”, so you’ll have to reply by email to get the full description.

How do I have the $25.46 I wasted returned? Hmm, I paid using my credit card, so I suppose charging it back is one option.

They replied thusly:

From: IDstation Online <idstationmail@digitalphotosystems.nl>
Subject: You have a new response to the Complaint number 12906
Date: Wed, 06 Mar 2024 21:28:27 +0000 (UTC)

Request number 12906

Dear customer,

You have a new response to your request from IDstation.Online. The response is as below:

I Suggest going back in store with the rejection letter. London Drugs will retake the photo and work with you on the issue.
Please do not reply to this email, it may not be tracked efficiently. To add any comments/response to your query, please click on the link below:

The above link will be valid for 72 hrs.

Navigate to FAQs (Sendgrid tracking link removed)

(I love the “Please do not reply to this email, it may not be tracked efficiently.” A complete load of bullshit. Either it will be received [and likely ignored] or it won’t be! Don’t give me this “may” crap.)

So I copied and pasted the link (because it was not a clickable link, as opposed to the tracked “Navigate to FAQs” link in their signature) but their system informed me, “An error occurred while processing your request.” I tried twice, both within about 24 hours. So I filed a new complaint as follows:

I received a response yesterday, but the response link provided failed. So I’m back here with your ridiculously short length limit. This is not going well for you in the public-relations department.

In that vein, I have decided not to bother returning to London Drugs to fight for my money. I will just focus my efforts on publicly discrediting both IDstation and London Drugs.

That’s all the space I have to explain my position! So long! See you in the court of public opinion!

That was 476 characters. My original attempt at this message was rejected as too long again because I had included the text of the error message (48 characters) their website gave me, so it seems their limit must be about 500 characters. Not sure how much useful information you can communicate in fewer than 500 characters, unless you’re just calling for “Help!” (4 characters, not including the exclamation point).

Ironically, in the Third World country where I’ll be travelling to, every bureaucrat wants a passport-style picture of you to attach to paperwork (the locals carry them around with their wads of cash), so I’ll use the four hard copies of my “digital” photo when I’m asked for one.

London Drugs logo.

London Drugs logo

Lesson learned: Take a list of the photo requirements and carefully inspect the photo against those requirements before you accept the photo. Don’t trust a gaggle of poorly trained amateurs/idiots to have a clue about what they are doing.