Friday, January 04, 2008

It's a wonder...

...that Louisiana as a state is even marginally functional.

I've spent all day trying to tie up loose ends related to my car. First stop was the OMV. I had to replace my title, clear up a flag on my registration (I'll explain that in a minute), and replace my registration.

The title part was easy, though it turns out I didn't have to pay the notary $10 to notarize the form because I had to sign a whole new one there.

The next thing I had to do was clear the flag on my registration so I could get a copy of my registration card. I let my insurance lapse when I wasn't working, and in Louisiana, you have to pay a pretty stiff fee to the state when you do that ($50 if it is less than 30 days, $100 if it is 30-90 days, and $225 if it was over 90 days. That's where I was). So I waited in that line to pay that fee, and it turns out they don't take checks for that. But they would take a credit or debit card over the phone. They actually have phones set up for that at the OMV. How inefficient is that? Wouldn't it be easier and cheaper for the state to have a credit card reader at the cashiers' office at the OMV? Plus, they charge you a five dollar fee for a credit card transaction. Almost pure profit for the state. Those transactions cost about $0.02.

So I went and paid the fee over the phone, but then the guy couldn't clear the flag on my registration. So then I had to go back to the person who sent me to the phone to clear the flag. Only, she couldn't do that either. Because it turns out Louisiana can't process a transaction to pay a fee and a transaction to clear a flag on the same day. That's ridiculous, especially if you aren't paying by check. The lady had to go to her supervisor, who had to go to her supervisor to get the flag to clear.

When that finally happened, I had to go wait in yet another line to get a copy of my registration. Of course, they wouldn't just give me a copy of my current registration (which costs $8) because policy is that when your current registration is within a month of expiring (mine expired at the end of February), they have to process a renewal, which cost $20.

But my day didn't end there. I wanted to pay the ticket I got for an expired inspection sticker. I just want to have all my ducks in a row in case I end up getting a new car. I tried to pay it on line and over the phone, but it didn't work. So I had to go to the city courthouse. Well, it took me forever to find it because there is no actual sign indicating "Courthouse is here" because that would make sense. I finally found it and discovered that there is no parking lot anywhere near the building. There are meters, but they were all full. So I drove around the block several times waiting for a place to open up. That was an adventure in and of itself because downtown Baton Rouge is a mess. I finally gave up, left for a while and went to get gas.

When I came back, I only had to go around the block once when a space opened. So I parked, fed the meter, and went into the courthouse. I waited in yet another line. When I got up to that counter, the woman said that the reason I couldn't pay my ticket on line was that it wasn't in the system yet. I got the ticket on November 17. The city didn't receive it until December 14th. And they still hadn't put it in the system for payment. It had to be paid by February 18th.

What kind of stupid system is that? In Pittsburgh, if you got a ticket, you had 45 days to pay it, and I promise you, it was in the computer system within 5 days. It's inefficient, makes people angry, and probably costs the city parish money. This is the freaking 21st century for crying out loud. Cops should be carrying handheld computers and issuing tickets electronically.

Anyway, I had to wait about 15 minutes for them to put the ticket into the payment system. Then I went to pay with a credit card. They charge a 5% fee on credit card transactions. Again, pure profit for the city.

I want to say right now that any merchant, government, or anyone else who charges a "convenience fee" for electronic transactions of any kind is absolutely full of shit. Yes, I cursed. That's how angry it makes me. Electronic transactions are not only less expensive than check transactions, they are more secure than either checks or cash. It costs them less, and is better for the consumer. But most consumers don't realize that is costs less to process that kind of transaction, so they go along with the fee. Those fees are absolute pure profit for the companies involved.

So that was my day. I will never understand why government is so reluctant to embrace technology that may be expensive in the intial outlay, but will save so much money in the long run.

Stupid bureaucracy.

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