PSA: The DMV Does Not Take Visa, At Least In Person

Visa

I had to trudge into the Lakeland Hills DMV to renew my driver’s license yesterday. I had made an appointment online and actually moved through the place with reasonable dispatch. (It pays to be minimally online savvy in this bureaucratic world. I would guess that 90 percent of the flood of grim humanity streaming in did not have appointments. They waited a long time. I didn’t. I guess that makes me a Randian supergenius.)

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.”

“Really?”

“Yes, but there’s an ATM across the street.”

“Really?”

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.

Thoughts?


Creative Commons License image credit: Declan Jewell

14 thoughts on “PSA: The DMV Does Not Take Visa, At Least In Person

  1. Actually the online site does take Visa but going into the office they did not.  That is the main reason I use the online site whenever possible. I wondered why they wouldn’t just raise the costs by $2-3 or whatever the cost is so that we could use Visa.  At the very least put an ATM in the offices. I would think that there would be some company willing to do that to collect the $2.00 ATM fees.

    I am glad that your experience at the Lakeland Hills DMV was so pleasant other than the checkout.  My wife and son went up there twice in the last week to get my son his drivers license.  The first experience was horrible.  They were all very rude and miserable to talk to or deal with. They gave my wife an express pass to get back in line quickly when the returned with some paperwork.  Upon returning the employees all proceeded to question why she had the pass since they didn’t have an appointment. It was more of a hassle than waiting the hour and a half they had to wait the first time through.
    The guy taking the pictures yelled at my son because he smiled for his picture for his license! He told him if he did that again that he would be kicked out. He wasn’t smiling strangely or goofing around. He was just happy to get his license. Not great customer service.  They should be happy to be employed since many are not in this economy right now.  At least try and be professional.

    My son did not pass the first time so he went back yesterday and the experience was completely different.  Everyone was much nicer and the staff was helpful. I guess they rotate jobs and obviously there are some assignments that they do not want to do. I think that they should really look at this method of management and see that it doesn’t work. My son did pass the second time and they are done with that office for a while. It was so bad the first time that we debated driving the 50 minutes to the Haines City location instead.  

    The tag office on the other hand, has always been a better experience. They are not nearly as busy and they all seem happy to be there doing there job. I jokingly tell people that having metal detectors and officers with side arms at the door puts everyone in a nicer mind set! But the people at the tag office in Lakeland should be commended for the great job they do.

  2. I hear you. I wouldn’t describe the people who worked there as overly friendly to me. But neither were they rude. Again, I think the key is the appointment mechanism. But you’ve got to have access to a computer and the internet and a modicum of sense to find the appt. calendar.

    And you’re right about the online aspect. I tried to get at that in my headline, but didn’t go into a  full explanation. For some reason, I wasn’t allowed to renew online or I would have.

    On the customer service issue, the demeanor of the people working there reminded me of staff at a jail, or police on the street, or even Walmart staffers. The common element is the warehousing of people, where the warehouse staff have to endure the density and unpleasantness of humans in unpleasant situations endlessly. I think surliness is pretty inevitable even if they should be thankful. 

    On the tag office, I think that’s run by Tax Collector Joe Tedder, not the state. Joe is a locally elected official who has every professional incentive to minimize his employees’ surliness. Maybe there’s a lesson there about local v. state in services and political accountability.

  3. My own experience trying to replace a lost DL last Spring was no fun. But I put my own “Randian Supergenius” (?) to work and did get it all done in a single trip, without an appointment. I was most annoyed by the amount of documentation needed due to the Real ID act. I can assure you that the country is no safer because I had to show my birth certificate or passport to replace a DL. All the paperwork is security theater. Fortunately for me, all the people I encountered were pleasant, except the AAA person hawking their club out front. He was a tad surly.

  4. Ah, another excellent point about systems and end-user experiences. I had not even thought about Real ID. Good input.

  5. Offhand I’d say kill the DMV, but I don’t know if there would be a safety issue involved. Like how some European towns/cities are reducing signage and traffic lights but are seeing reductions in traffic accidents, I don’t know if the proficiency testing for a driver’s license helps or hurts. Continued re-ups for the DL is just a revenue stream.

    You might have fun with this site, seeing as you’re now a self-certified Randian Supergenius: http://freestudents.blogspot.com/2011/11/funny-mistakes-and-malignant-intentions.html

    • I’d say kill the DMV, but I don’t know if there would be a safety issue involved. 
      Isn’ t this the essence of the government/freedom discussion we so often have so unproductively? Always a balance. Between safety, fairness, justice, opportunity, etc. and “freedom” in the sense of not adhering to an authority. 

      • Sure, but I think you’ll admit that the increased safety when reducing traffic signage is counter-intuitive, but still proven. Like when allowing concealed carry of firearms, predictions of wild west shootouts were the alarmists mainstay, but it didn’t come to pass. That’s why I brought up the less-traffic-regulation scenario. The service the DMV offers is safety, but what if the safety they offer is illusion?

        “Freedom” in the sense of not adhering to authority is anarchy. I side more with Libertarianism because of fairness, opportunity and freedom (from overlegislating government). Safety and justice are often deemed such by each individual.

  6. Ah, DR, that person’s stream of adjectives in defense of Ms. Rand is kind of touching–if not very specific or detailed about smears. I think the only thing I’ve ever asserted about the lovely Ms. Rand was that Anthem is a terrible book — in my humble opinion — and that she seems to have enjoyed the benefits of my parents’ labor in receiving Medicare when she needed it. You’ll agree that most of her life was lived in a world in which she paid no Medicare tax, right?

    Anyway, it is her followers I most chuckle at. I just want them to stop threatening to withhold their productivity and do it already. ;)

    • Ah, I think this goes to the heart of the matter, then: 
      http://freestudents.blogspot.com/2011/10/lying-about-ayn-rand-and-social.html

      I’ve never read any of Rand’s stuff (that I recall, I used to read a lot more novels in the past), so I have no horse in this race, but it seemed to me that the problems people had with her were sort of cartoonish. This guy seems to address at least some of the issues people have with Rand, so I’d like to know if they actually speak to you as someone who doesn’t care for Rand-think.

  7. Again, my problems are less with her. I had essentially forgotten her after reading Anthem. I’m really aiming at the modern-day worship of her that pervades such influential people as Alan Greenspan and Paul Ryan. That said, I didn’t find the arguments that she did not take SS and Medicare very convincing. I don’t think the writer even really believes it. Morally, SS, I agree, makes perfect sense to collect after paying into all your life–assuming she did. But Medicare came much later, late 60s I think, part of the Great Society. She didn’t pay squat into that compared to my parents, say, and I will bet money she opposed with all the virulence of Ronald Reagan. Do you agree? Anyway, I think she’s a tiny person elevated by borderline sociopaths who like to have their sociopathy endorsed. 

    • Sorry for the delay, disqus wasn’t working on 12/1 for me, and I forgot about the post until I bothered Chuck about not responding to my email. I noodge, it’s what I do.

      Anyway, it seems disingenuous to say “I didn’t find the arguments that she did not take SS and Medicare very convincing” when the article clearly states she did take Social Security and Medicare.

      I don’t see why being against a policy — but after the policy is passed and being forced to pay into the policy — then actually using the policy is wrong. How much she paid into it would be irrelevant. Could only those who supported the policy and paid into it a certain amount, or for a certain amount of time, use it?

      I suppose my point of bring up the Rand stuff was that I don’t see her as you do, but I’ve only read a few things about her. When you speak of her being a little person and how she’s elevated by borderline sociopaths, etc, it doesn’t really jibe with what I’ve read, so the slurs seems cartoonish. Your words show a real hate for her and her acolytes, which seems odd because my understanding isn’t in sync with yours.

    • Sorry for the delay, disqus wasn’t working on 12/1 for me, and I forgot about the post until I bothered Chuck about not responding to my email. I noodge, it’s what I do.

      Anyway, it seems disingenuous to say “I didn’t find the arguments that she did not take SS and Medicare very convincing” when the article clearly states she did take Social Security and Medicare.

      I don’t see why being against a policy — but after the policy is passed and being forced to pay into the policy — then actually using the policy is wrong. How much she paid into it would be irrelevant. Could only those who supported the policy and paid into it a certain amount, or for a certain amount of time, use it?

      I suppose my point of bring up the Rand stuff was that I don’t see her as you do, but I’ve only read a few things about her. When you speak of her being a little person and how she’s elevated by borderline sociopaths, etc, it doesn’t really jibe with what I’ve read, so the slurs seems cartoonish. Your words show a real hate for her and her acolytes, which seems odd because my understanding isn’t in sync with yours.

      • You’re right, DR. Forgive me. I skimmed a bit and took this paragraph as an argument against her actually taking:

        “Pryor argued with Rand because Ayn did not want Social Security, nor did Rand go out and seek it, or Medicare, even though doing so was entirely consistent with her own ethics. What Pryor said was that she tried to convince Rand to sign up and they argued. Pryor says Rand “was never involved other than to sign the power of attorney. I did the rest.” Beyond that Pryor said nothing else. There is no indication whether Pryor used the power of attorney to apply for benefits, or whether Rand knew about it. There is no indication that such benefits were ever used. There is simply no evidence to show Rand “Grabbed Social Security and Medicare When She Needed Them.”
        You are correct that the larger portion doesn’t dispute the facts, it seems, although the acknowledgement gets lost a bit in the ideological defense.

        Saying that sociopaths love her isn’t a slur against her, it’s a slur against the sociopaths, based on observation. She’s a terrible writer, in my opinion. That’s all I really know about her. That’s not a sin. Or a cartoon, I don’t think.

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