Friday, January 6, 2006

Oh, the Bureaucracy!

For any organization to function well, there needs to be a strong administrative foundation. In other words, bureaucracy isn't inherently bad. That said, it can certainly be a royal pain in the butt as my wife found out this week.

Since we're new residents in the State of Washington, we needed to trade in our Oregon drivers licenses for the Washington version. We trotted down to the Department of Licensing (DOL) at Aberdeen's South Shore Mall (which, by the way, is NOT on a shore). In no time at all, we both had new drivers licenses.

However, once we arrived back home, my wife realized they had printed her birthdate wrong on her interim license. According to the card, she was suddenly 1 year younger!

She decided to return to the DOL the next day, thinking this would be an easy thing to correct. How wrong she was.

She pointed out the erroneous date to the DOL rep. She pointed to the correct date on her old Oregon license. The rep pulled up her name on the computer and informed her that the date on her interim card was what showed up on the screen. She, of course, pointed out that it was incorrect.

The rep told her that the screen he was looking at was from the Social Security Administration's (SAA) database. She would need to go to the SSA office in Hoquiam to clear up the matter. Fine, she replied.

So off she went to SSA. Within a short time, an SSA rep was looking up her record. Guess what they found? The SSA had the correct information and couldn't figure out why DOL was blaming this problem on them. My wife, being a savvy women, asked the SSA rep to provide her with a written statement that indicated her information was correct in the SSA database. Ok, this should clear things up now, my wife thought to herself.

Wrong again. Upon returning to the Aberdeen DOL office and presenting her old Oregon license AND the official statement from SSA, incredibly the DOL rep insisted that the record he had accessed was from SSA still showed the same birthdate, the incorrect one. My wife, by now getting highly frustrated, told this guy to look at the SSA document to see that SSA did in fact have the correct date in THEIR database.

He was unmoved. First, he suggested that maybe they had changed it to the correct date when she wasn't looking and then changed it back after she left. Next, he admitted that maybe the problem was that somebody at DOL had entered the wrong date. BUT, regardless of what the precise problem was, he wasn't going to fix it.

No, the only way the problem could be rectified is for my wife to shell out $12 to get Arkansas to send an official copy of her birth certificate.

My wife even tried to get this situation resolved by calling the DOL state office in Olympia. She received the same kind of runaround from them too

For us, the $12 is inconsequential. It's the principle at work that bugs us. Though the problem falls squarely on Washington's DOL, we have to jump through the hoops to fix it.


  1. This episode has all the earmarks of a "Saturday Night Live" Skit. To flesh it out a bit, she should try to get the DOL to issue her a credit for the erroneous license, and save all the correspondence, or submit the story to Readers Digest humor department and get paid for it. Or both.


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