Preliminary results from a "customer satisfaction" initiative at the U.S. Customs Service suggest that the majority of international travelers believe Customs inspectors act as professionals, even when asked to open their luggage or submit to a personal search.
The Customs Service has been under fire in recent months for its treatment of airline passengers, including allegations that inspectors looking for drug smugglers unfairly target minorities for intrusive searches of their clothes and bodies. A special outside commission, formed by Customs Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly, is conducting a review of Customs policies.
To gauge reactions by travelers, Customs officers handed out 15,000 prepaid business reply postcards during peak travel times at the nation's 15 busiest airports for one month this spring. Of the 1,828 returned, 86 percent of the responses were deemed positive, 9 percent negative and 5 percent were related to other federal agencies or the airlines.
A second round of comment cards, handed out to passengers delayed for questioning or searches by Customs officers from June 10 to July 19, showed similar response rates. Overall, during the last seven months, 5,984 cards have been returned, with a positive response rate of 84 percent.
"I go in and out of the U.S. every couple of months," a resident of Taiwan wrote Customs. "The staff at every station today were very polite, cordial and efficient. This has not always been the case--looks like your program is working. Thanks."