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July 16, 2012
Reinforcing Stereotypes
Quick, think of an adjective that comes to mind when you read the initials DMV. Words that pop into my head are: Excruciating, Inefficient, Ambivalent, Maddening, Pointless, Pathetic, etc. Every few years I have the privilege of visiting the DMV to see if they can overcome that stereotype and prove me wrong. 27 years after my first visit to the DMV, it has done nothing to deter the wrath of all who enter its gates of hell.

My family is planning a vacation to Banff, Canada next month. Thanks to terrorist actions from 11 years ago, a simple driver's licence isn't sufficient to cross back into the U.S., so an "Enhanced Driver's Licence" is one of the ways to make sure we can get back home after our vacation. Saturday morning, my wife and I made the 40-minute drive to north Spokane to get our EDLs, making sure we arrived right at opening to avoid those notorious DMV lines...WRONG!

Upon our arrival at 8:25 am, the line waiting to get in was already down the sidewalk and wrapping into the parking lot. Oh joy. By 8:45, we had actually made it into the building, and by 9:00 we had our notorious "number", and sat down to painfully wait for our turn. In the first half hour, there were 40 people in the sitting area. By 10:00, they numbered over 100.

At no time was there ever more than five DMV reps working their stations. Several others paced back and forth apparently checking on the line reps, but not doing anything remotely productive. And so we sat...and sat...and sat...

Promptly at 10:00, three of the five reps disappeared. Oh joy...break time! For the next 15 minutes, there were two reps "working", although that word is in quotations because only one of the two was even calling people up to help them. The other sat at her monitor doing God-knows-what for the next 15 minutes, until...BREAK TIME! She disappeared and two of the previous three 'breakers' came back.

At 10:30, my wife was finally called up. Even though my number was sequentially right after hers, it took a full HALF HOUR before my number was called. WHY??!! What on earth were all these reps doing that it took a full half hour between numbers, when there were still over 100 people behind us? As a result of our three hours spent at the DMV, I was late for another appointment and in a rank mood because of the experience.

Without getting into everything I witnessed that is wrong with the DMV (and I'm sure almost every governmental agency), the one constant is a blatant disregard of anything that resembles efficiency or customer service. No, the reps aren't unfriendly, but I honestly believe they couldn't care less about our time. They do not care if they help one person in an hour or ten. The entire city of Spokane could be waiting in line and they would do nothing differently about expediting the process. Why? Because they don't have to. We are forced to patronize them, and ONLY them.

All my ranting does have a point: Why is it acceptable for government agencies to take this attitude? A good friend of mine once told me: "I should never have to wait in line to give you my money." What does a grocery store do if the lines are too long? They open more registers and try to get everyone checked out as quickly as possible. Why? Because they know there's another store across the street that would be happy to take business away from their competitor. What if you were at a restaurant and the waitress informed you that even though you were still waiting for your food, it was her break time and you'd just have to wait until break time was over? Would that be even remotely tolerable?

I wholeheartedly support the privatization of most, if not all, of these "revenue generation" agencies. The DMV, the Emissions Testing Facilities, etc. Do you think for one second if the DMV had to EARN our business that they would operate in a similar fashion? NO WAY. Give me (or any taxpayer/consumer) a choice in who we give our business and the one with the best customer service, the best efficiency, the best overall experience wins EVERY TIME.

I heard no less than five other people grumble "There's got to be a better way" while they waited for the DMV robots to crawl their way through the 100+ people waiting. There is a better way...but it involves hiring people who give a s#*! about their jobs. And if we do that, what becomes of all those DMV-related jokes and the stereotype?

Thanks for letting me rant. Make it a great week.


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