My lovely and thoughtful wife had dug out every conceivable form of ID and utility bill known to a homeowner on the reasoning that I might as well as take them all. The state website is confusing, and it’s better to have too much proof of life than too little. She was right. I think the DMV folks looked at every document I brought. (I guess marrying Julie also makes me a Randian supergenius.) And I heard person after wayward person respond to, “No, you have to have that, too” with a suicidal sigh of defeat. And we wonder why the people who staff the DMV aren’t chipper at all times.
However, my own brisk voyage through the lazy DMV river snagged as I went to pay.
“Oh, honey, we don’t take Visa.”
“Yes, but there’s an ATM across the street.”
And here’s where my experience dovetails a bit with Tammy’s on the slow Amtrak train. My first thought: good gracious, this is so stereotypical; the DMV won’t take Visa–for no apparent reason. And that seems to be everyone else’s reaction.
But upon further review, there is an apparent reason. It has to do with Visa’s fee structure and who eats the processing fees: the consumer or the agency.
Prudent running of gov’t like a business–and sometimes law–requires the gov’t agency to pass the cost onto the purchaser (i.e., you). Visa policy will not allow that. It requires the businesses or agencies that use Visa to eat its processing charge. Apparently, that’s not industry standard. And this is apparently an issue across the country. (Piecing this together as best I can. Please correct me if I have any specifics wrong.)
The lesson here, as with Tammy’s Amtrak experience, is that every end-user experience with every product or service we encounter is the product of a system we generally don’t see. Because government gets stuck doing the things no one else wants to do, it often has sucky end-user experiences, often because of systems over which its people have limited control.
Which leads me to my question for the libertarian types who love to slag off on the DMV. Do you think we need driver’s licenses at all? After all, no DLs would greatly reduce DMV traffic, if not eliminate the DMV altogether. And I’m not at all sure DLs do very much to encourage safety or anything else other than endless arrests of people driving with suspended or no DLs. Where do you come down on that?
If you accept that we do need DLs, then you accept the necessity of a DMV to churn out all this documentation. How might we improve the end-user experience? Or the system that leads to it. My first suggestion is for the young techies running the state’s DMV website to clearly state “We do not take Visa” on the home page. They might also state, on the home page, the specific documents required to receive or renew a DL or ID. Currently, you have to do all sorts of navigation, and it’s very confusing, even for a Randian supergenius like myself.