Wednesday, March 07, 2007

California DMV: Red Tape from Hell

The level of uselessness astounds me.

In January of 2006, I renewed my tabs. We moved in March. It pained me to pay a full year when I knew I was moving, but I wanted to stay legal and there's no such thing as a partial payment.

In March of 2006, we moved. Lori received a notice of renewal, forwarded to our new address. We checked the box "Moved out of State" and wrote down "Washington." I'm not sure we provided them with our new address. We also noted that it applied to my car, including license plate number and VIN.

In June of 2006, Lori got the "Notice of Delinquent Renewal" with assessed penalties and the bill for Planned Nonoperation and threats of collection. She called and went around and around on the phone with them, again also mentioning my car. Ultimately she had to mail in a statement to the fact that the cars had been registered in another state and provide proof of that registration.

In August, we started receiving political advertisements at our Washington state address. By the buckets. Several a day. They went on until a week or two after the elections.

In January of 2007, I got a renewal notice for my car. I checked the box "Moved out of State" and wrote down "Washington" and returned the form.

This week, I got the "Notice of Delinquent Renewal" with assessed penalties, threats of collections, etc., etc., etc. I called the 1-800 number. It doesn't take too many keypresses to get to the operator, but if they're not on duty yet, it just asks you to call back during normal business hours without actually informing you as to what those hours are. I finally talked to someone who demanded a faxed copy of my registration without letting me finish my story in the first place.

I sat and fumed for awhile and then called back. As soon as I was connected, I asked to speak to a supervisor. He said "Supervisor... hmm... what did you need?" I sighed and began to explain it to him. After awhile he said "Hang on a second." and set the phone down on this desk noisily. It was quiet for awhile, then I heard a printer, then it was quiet again. Then he picked up and said "I found someone." After more silence, Gloria picked up. I asked her how much the operator had told her. She said that he had handed her the printout and then she asked me to again give my license plate number and details to confirm I was me.

I told my story again and she explained that there was nothing she could do because I was talking to the "Campbell office" and I had sent the form to the "Sacramento office." and that she was willing to help me clear this up. I explained (again) that I understood all that but was trying to communicate that there was a larger problem, that someone who was processing renewal forms wasn't doing their job. She again explained that she was in the "Campbell office" and not the "Sacramento office." I tried to explain that maybe she could tell someone. She offered to give me a 916-area-code phone number so I could call the "Sacramento office" with my concern.

In the end, she offered that I could mail it to her if I didn't want to fax it. I liked that idea much better because I figured she would be more likely to get it and that I trust the US Postal Service more than whoever happens to walk by the fax machine in the Campbell office. ("like the soup!" she said, as a way of avoiding spelling it. I bet she wishes the street name was spelled "Daryl" so she could have said "Like the movie!")

We're government. We don't have to be smart, efficient, or customer-centric. Thankfully, government is one arena I've never been employed by and hopefully never will.

Will we have to go through all this again in 4 years when our California drivers licenses expire?
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