What Are You Willing to Accept?

3 Mar

Customer service and government services usually do not go together. When I was discussing this with a friend, I gave Arizona’s Motor Vehicle Division as the exception. He said “That’s because Arizonans don’t put up with as much bull.”

This is not an argument for everyone to move to Arizona (God, please don’t!), but for me, an interesting experiment in American democracy. Most of the time, the only daily interactions you have with the government is the police, which is why they take most of the flack. However, take the next level of regular interaction; the Department of Motor Vehicles. No one likes going to get your license because it’s such a pain in the butt to do.

You stand in line–a lot–to reach a very cranky woman who usually tells you that you forgot one form. They’re cranky because they have to tell everyone this same instruction fifteen times a day. They’re ALLOWED to be cranky to the public because they can not be fired for being cranky. When I’ve lived in Ohio, I would always choose the most distant and remote office, because they had less staff, less traffic, and since they don’t see as many people, better service. In Arizona, this is not the case. Even in busiest centers, the staff are friendly, understanding, and get you through the lines faster. Why? Because along the way, they linked the staff’s bonuses to their survey results. They have incentive to be nicer.

So if you have no incentive, you have always use negative reinforcement. My friend was telling me going to a DMV in Maryland, and had to go three times because he kept missing one item. On the third time, the clerk informed him, “Oh, you’re late on getting this in, so you’ll be charged a penalty.” And his face went red with anger and he said calmly to the clerk, “This is where you shut up and get your supervisor. Now.” Even a “civil servant” wants to avoid an angry customer; magically, the supervisor fixed everything, waved the penalty, and he got his form complete. But his point was that that in Maryland, people are willing to wait until the third time; in Arizona, it’s the first time.

This also transitions to the rest of government. Arizona is a purple state (neither party has an overwhelming majority); people have no problem voting the other party in to punish a uncaring, unlistening legislature. Politics is retail. I actually wrote my state legislators on a Friday and got a response the next day (not a form letter)! It may be effective, it may not, but at least there’s a response.

The more unresponsive government is to its people, the angrier people get. Thankfully, I live in a country where (with exceptions) you can yell at your officials without getting beaten up. That’s not the case in many places; I’m always fascinated by the Central African Republic, where since the fall of Emperor Bokassa I (1979) has always had a government and a rebel faction, and they flip-flop positions every five years. In their case, the only choice is to pick up a gun. Unless you reconcile with the defeated and include them in the government (such as Liberia), you’re bound to repeat the same cycle.

That’s the real fear–there’s a lot of push in America on both sides to exclude the other. At a certain point, Americans won’t put up with it. I think that level is higher than most people believe. But how much are willing to accept? What do you think? Have you yelled at a DMV worker? Let me know in the comments below!

2 Responses to “What Are You Willing to Accept?”

  1. rebecca s revels March 3, 2021 at 9:04 am #

    My son purchased a medium size RV trailer to pull behind his car. When he went to DMV he didn’t have everything, he came home, called the place he bought the trailer, they apologized and Fed Exed him the item he needed. He goes back, still short something, he finds that and goes back, still missing something else. On the fourth trip, he finally had everything he needed. He said that every time the people there were polite and kind but couldn’t finish what he needed without him having everything. And he still hasn’t taken that thing anywhere.

  2. Silk Cords March 4, 2021 at 4:03 am #

    I’ve had the same worries about how close to the would-be brink we are. The storming of the capital and the events that led up to it are proof of how dangerous the echo chamber is getting on BOTH sides.

    I think the large majority of people are fed up with both sides and the diivide and conquer mentality. Unfortunately the rabble rousers are the only ones that get heard and too many normal folks are hiding instead of saying ENOUGH.

    DMV and government in general… Yeah, been there many a time. My experiences in California are why I hate big government. It doesn’t feel it has to answer to anyone at all. After a 4th trip to California DMV, waiting hours in each case and getting ganked around each time, I did finally start yelling at the clerk. Scared the security guard too, LOL. Left without causing any further drama though. I’m not that type. 🙂

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