At the Washington D.C. DMV, the customer is wrong


When one changes addresses within the District of Columbia, one is supposed to update one’s driver’s license to reflect one’s new domicile. So, my Wonderful Girlfriend did this.

She changed her license in order to take a medical licensing test — important documents would be sent to her current address, then when she takes the test, her driver’s license address must match up with the address on file with the licenser. Rather than your average person who can afford to be a scofflaw and save $7 on a new license, she is required to constantly update her driver’s license.

The process for filling out a license change-of-address form was easy enough. After 10 minutes and a quick 311 call, the deed was done. A few days later an updated car registration and license arrived in the mail. The car registration was impeccable, the license was shoddy. The hologram was not in place and the license was hardly legible — an incomplete job if there ever was one. Packed with the license was a single piece of paper from the DMV. It reads (my emphasis in bold):

Dear Customer:

You will find enclosed, your District of Columbia Driver’s License or Identification card. Please review all printed information for accuracy. If there are errors, contact the DC Department of Motor Vehicles immediately at 311 or 202-737 4404.

There were errors. She contacted the DMV immediately, thinking she could say there was a mistake and then, poof, the Department would send a new license. Instead a customer service agent informed her that in order to get a new, non-crappy license, she either had to go to the DMV — eliminating the very convenience of online renewal — or fill out the address change form AGAIN and pay another $7 and hope they get it right this time. A request to speak to a manager went nowhere, though the clerk asked if there “was anything else [he] could assist with.” Well, he didn’t really assist with the first problem, now did he?

Hoping for a more charitable rep., a second call went nowhere as well. So she is stuck going to the DMV. Surely there are fraud concerns with sending another license — but what about allowing her to send back the defective one, and in return get another one. That seems like a reasonable solution, there are doubtless others as well. But in this case the customer gets screwed again, slapped with either an inconvenient trip or paying twice for inferior service, despite government error. And since it’s the government, she is not a customer but now a taxpayer; there is no competing DMV to take her business to. So actually, its the taxpayer getting screwed — worse because there is no recourse. She just has go with it, because “you can’t fight city hall.”

It doesn’t have to be this way. People love being able to do arduous tasks online — but when it doesn’t work, there needs to be a solution beyond “come in and wait 75 minutes to see someone on Pennsylvania Ave.” If you are going to call her a customer, at least give the girl some customer service.

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One Response to At the Washington D.C. DMV, the customer is wrong

  1. Carsonata says:

    Arrgh! How ridiculously frustrating. Can I assist you with anything else — HA!

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