Why is the DMV considered the worst form of bureaucracy?

Whenever anyone wants to describe the most miserable form of government inefficiency and bureaucratic red tape, they always (at least in the USA) think of the Department of Motor Vehicles. Even in the movie Zootopia, the heroes visit a DMV staffed by actual sloths. Out of all the government agencies, why does this one get all the hate?

Previous Thread: Why the hate for the DMV?

Well in my experience it was always the waiting in the line endlessly, though my local DMV has been majorly reorganized and this is no longer much of an issue.

Another thing was the fact that these government employees who hold little if any real power and always seem to be pissed off and condescending and take it out on the people who pay their salaries, that may not be reality everywhere but that’s my take on it, I have that mental image especially before the days before the internet was so ubiquitous and you could check their website first, it was probably common to wait like 30-45 minutes in line only to be told you didn’t have the proper paperwork and they just sent you away with a wave of their hand.

I think it’s the one government bureaucracy that the typical American has to interact with.

I think that this is better suited to IMHO than GQ.

General Questions Moderator

Unaccountable and with no profit motive government employee means bad service. Last time I went the dumb DMV lady couldn’t read the dates on a passport correctly.

You feel that paying additional money to a company with a strong profit ethic — once the DMV is privatised, with the employees so stimulated to greater service — would make customers happier with the experience ?

The DMV (actually, Secretary of State) is one of the only things I can think of that my state government gets right. If you have to visit and take to a person, take a number and have a seat. But you can probably take care of most needs at the electronic kiosk (your proof of insurance has a handy PIN enabling this). And of course online services can take care of a lot of stuff, too.

They have published “late nights” certain days of the week for workin’ folk, and in general the experience is very good.

I’m a Libertarian, but I might be less inclined to be so if government typically worked this well.

Nobody dreams of being a DMV clerk when they’re little…

I think Dewey Finn got it right: most of us will never have serious long-term dealings with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission or the Office of Insular Affairs or the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration, but almost everybody has to deal with the DMV on a recurring basis. It’s also an unglamorous job in an unglamorous agency, one that doesn’t get a lot of love and attention from The Powers That Be unless it’s for a screw-up. Most members of the public will be dealing with a low-paid clerk who has very little power or discretion and who spends their day working with customers who really don’t want to be there, which isn’t exactly a recipe for a good day at work.

I came here to say pretty much the same thing. (Southern California.) The lines used to be hella long, but now you can make an appointment, and when you do, you get to see a clerk after a very short wait time. I think it’s one of the best-improved bureaucracies I’ve ever seen.

First, it’s the part of government we all deal with. Second, it’s where we first notice, aside from the police, that government workers don’t actually believe they work for us, but that they are our bosses. Third, poor performance is not punished and good performance is not rewarded. Fourth, staffing is usually not changed to meet demand. Most DMV offices will treat a high volume day the same as a low volume day, whereas in the private sector high volume days are “all hands on deck” days and low volume days feature skeleton crews. Government as an employers’ first priority is the desires of its workers, whereas in the private sector it’s the customers. And it shows in the level of customer service you get from government.

That being said, humans are humans and you’ll see the best and worst regardless of the situation. My wife once had challenges getting paperwork together to get an ID and they were very helpful and gave her personal attention. But the incentives of the job do not lead to going above and beyond for customers. No one’s getting a promotion or raise for pleasing customers at the DMV and no one’s getting fired for being merely disinterested or rude or imperious.

It’d be interesting to see if customer satisfaction is actually higher in states where the workers on the retail side of the DMV are privately employed.

For some reason I’m reminded of Ryanair, the cheapo discount airline that now has a policy of being “nicer” to customers (this is the airline that charges for virtually everything, and wanted to have standing room sections and have people pay to use the bathroom). The CEO was just quoted as saying if he’d known that being nice to customers had a positive effect on business, he’d have done it years ago.

(I think he was being facetious, but you never know)

I suspect a DMV on the Ryanair model wouldn’t be real popular, even if they didn’t charge as much.

Let’s not forget that DMV folks have to deal with many people who shouldn’t own a vehicle, let alone be licensed to drive one.

And Dewey gets it in one.

The idea that the problem with the DMV is that its the dag-nabbit gummint, end of story, is totally wrong. The problem is poor management.

The DMV here in DC was THE WORST in the U.S. Better management fixed a lot of things. Meanwhile, Comcast had horrible customer service for a long time, but eventually they renamed themselves and didn’t fix the management, so they still have horrible customer service.

At least in DC, there’s barely a need to go to the DMV anymore, since so many services have been put online. That’s automated a lot of routine things (like license renewals), made it easier for customers, cut costs at the DMV, reduced lines at the DMV, and has resulted in wins for everyone.

I don’t doubt that some states may still have poor customer service at their DMVs, but there is a way to fix that which does not involve privatization. DC has done that, and nobody complains about the DMV anymore here.

I’m happy with the folks at my DMV office. Very helpful and polite. Of course I’m in a small town and the folks working there also live in the town. It makes a difference when the person you are rude to might call your Mom.

Nevada DMV is actually pretty damn awesome. I can do pretty much everything online now-a-days. I’ve got about a dozen vehicles registered most of the time.

Once, I mailed them one check for three renewals (all combined) on a Monday. I got the stickers on Thursday.

But they do have at least one bitchy dirt-bag working for them. She wouldn’t do her job. I had someone else help me. Took them 30 seconds.

Several years ago the newly-appointed woman in charge of such things made a major overhaul of the NJ DMV and the difference was incredible. Plus now a lot of things can be done on line, so there are fewer times one has to go to the office in person. It is now far from the “worst form of bureaucracy.”