DMV: Driving Me Crazy

I went to the DMV to convert my driver’s license to a DC one over the weekend. I arrived early, thinking I would be the only one who would be crazy enough to be somewhere inside at 9AM on a beautiful Saturday morning. In hindsight, that was incredibly stupid – of course there were a million other people there by the time I arrived.

Resigned to the frustration of having to wait in line, I pulled C349 from the person behind the counter. Looking up, the number C313 was flashing. I sat, thinking it would be fairly soon before I was called.

Needless to say, the next number picked was D047. And what followed was A243. Then A244. Then I181.

Not only was I stuck there, I was unable to leave for fear that I might miss it because I had no idea what the numbering system was. There was no semblance or order or continuity. Frankly, it was pure chaos – and I was unamused.

When you communicate things to your employees, your management team, your candidates or whomever, are you throwing random letters and numbers together and expecting the message to be clear? Or are you following a clear and logical sequence that everyone can understand?

Don’t be like the DMV. I want to know when my number is going to get called, not play a crazy game of bingo.

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7 responses to “DMV: Driving Me Crazy

  1. The DMV number system actually makes sense after you’ve gone there a dozen or so times. The different letters refer to different areas of the center–getting a new license, registering a car, fighting parking tickets, what have you. I don’t really understand why every employee can’t handle every issue (or at least most issues), but it is what it is. So, they’ll always be sequential in terms of letters (A243 comes before A244), but the letter/number combo that gets called depends on which area is free. Super-frustrating when you’re sitting there and other letters are moving faster than yours.

    Hope you at least got your license figured out by the end of it!

    • You make a super point! Of course there’s an explanation – it’s logical to a certain extent and you can understand why things are the way they are. But it underlines exactly my issue with it: why isn’t that being communicated to everyone?

      The fact that the system is so complicated is a little ridiculous (and you’re right – why can’t everyone handle everything?), but I’m willing to let that slide. What bugs me is just that no one (OK, no one besides you apparently :p) has any understanding of why it’s that complicated and what it all means. The communication is nonexistant.

  2. Excellent analogy.

    On a side note, you did say two things that make perfect sense about crazy game of bingo… DC government and DMV. Gotta love the chaos of both!

  3. You should’ve just yelled “BINGO!” and rushed to the counter.

    • @Ahmed – Haha, so true. It’s just a chaotic frenzy over there!

      @Mike – If only – that would’ve made the experience oh so much better! I’ll be sure to bring my bingo card with me next time.

  4. THE reason for it being so complicated is this:

    more complication requires: more staff

    more staff requires: more funding

    more funding equals: more money.

    real businesses employ systems that make customers happy. if a simple system keeps the bills paid, a simple system it is. if situations require complexity, ahoy bring in the engineers.

    a government organization will not employ a system that increases efficiency if it means that it will require less staff, less resources to achieve the same outcome that once took more resources. who wants to engineer themselves out of a job or less funding?

    in the real world, a job is a cost of doing business.
    in government, a job is the end, not the means.

    government NEVER gets smaller.

    • Hi, I just renewed my license and thought the DMV Bingo was a great idea. My whole experience was so weirdly positive, I did a search out of curiosity to see what other people thought and came across your post. So here’s a comment nearly six years later.

      The system is genius if you think about it. Instead on one long sequential line and numbers this system allows the que to more orderly be assigned to the correct area. Made an appointment, so first line was less than 3 minutes even though there were dozens of people in the main line. Then the bingo aspect keeps your attention so you don’t go wandering off and you are on it when your number is called. Allie, who deciphered the system, mentioned “I don’t really understand why every employee can’t handle every issue” but really, there’s a lot of stuff the DMV has to handle and it’s easier to train staff on certain areas than have them train them to be able to abswer EVERY question. The renewal person is an expert there, the test person knows all the stuff there (and the paperless touch screen test worked flawlessly). Wow, I sound like such a shill, but the DMV is such a stereotype for dysfunction, it’s nice to see it works.

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