DMV Disaster…and Lots of Promotional Products

The PPAI Expo is a show where product samples are a given. Many of the attendees come prepared — with carts.
Photo by Diane Taylor

The past week, the convention I attended at Mandalay Bay’s Convention Center was the PPAI Expo — North America’s largest international promotional products trade show. Very few of us don’t like “free stuff” even if it does have an ad or two emblazoned on the product, so I looked forward to seeing some 1,300 exhibiting companies showcasing more than a quarter million products.

As part of the PPAI Expo, I also sat in on one of the best keynote talks I’ve ever heard. The speaker was actor and recent Golden Globe winner Jeffrey Tambor.

Yet today, as I write this article, I have something else to say…about the Henderson, NV DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) office. I am steaming. We’ll get back to PPAI later.

Sometime in December, I received a reminder notice that my driver’s license would expire on my January birthday. I was told I could renew my license on-line if, because of my age, I submitted a physical evaluation form signed (within the past 90 days) by my doctor. OR, I could come to the DMV office, take an eye test, and renew my license in person. (I suppose DMV personnel have such good training that they can tell just by looking whether a person is or is not healthy enough to drive.)

Yesterday (Thursday), I went to the DMV office in Henderson. I’d been there before and sat through the number-calling process. In those past visits (usually on a weekday), I’d get a number and I could watch and listen while all the lower numbers were called until my number made it to the top of the list. I usually waited from a half hour to an hour.

Actor Jeffrey Tambor spoke to PPAI Expo attendees on Tuesday morning. He was part comedian, part acting teacher, part confessor, part inspiration and, according to the audience, thoroughly enjoyable. Though he had use of a podium, Tambor also spoke to his audience from an overstuffed easy chair set up on stage.
Photo by Diane Taylor

Thursday, however, at the “information” desk, I was told immediately that the wait would be three hours. I was asked for my cell phone number so that I could be notified, via text, when my number was “close” to being called. (Modern electronics, don’t ya know.) I was told I could actually leave the DMV office and come back in two-and-a-half hours — that would be about 12:30 p.m. Fine. I left.

The first text at 10:07 a.m. said my wait would be 182 minutes. The second text, a half-hour later, at 10:37 a.m., said 127 people were ahead of me and the wait would be even longer: 206 minutes. Wait a minute; that doesn’t make sense! At 11:08, I was told 112 people were ahead of me and the wait would be 188 minutes, back to three hours. At 12:38 104 people were ahead of me and the wait was still more than three hours — 197 minutes. According to the information desk, I should have been close to finishing up. Somebody’s butting in my electronic line! I met a friend for lunch and waited.

At 8 a.m. before the Henderson DMV opened for business, a line of early birds snaked around the building.
Photo by Diane Taylor

At 3:08 p.m., 59 people were ahead of me and the wait was 189 minutes…another three hours. (Yes, under this system, you are by your phone constantly and God help you if your battery is low.) At 4:39 p.m. the wait was now down to 19 minutes, and I was told “You must be in the office by posted closing.” (5 p.m.) I drove to the DMV office and could find absolutely no place to park — none. I was with lots of other folks also cruising the lots, barely getting by each other and all of us, getting angrier by the minute. So damn it, I left and drove home. At 5:25 p.m. I received a message: “You have reached the front of the line! Please proceed to Window 16. Thanks for waiting!” A three-hour wait had finally ended seven and a half hours later. The last email at 5:27 said “Sorry, we still haven’t heard back from you so we had to give your spot to someone else.”

I’m only seven days away from my birthday, so I needed to try again today (Friday). My husband said I should arrive when the office opens (8 a.m.). I did. The line before 8 a.m. was a long one. All of us finally made it inside and again, I was asked for my cell phone number and told to wait. At least at 8 a.m. I got a parking space and inside, I got a chair. I started receiving messages again. My first estimated wait was 87 minutes, then 105 minutes, then 56 minutes, then 47 minutes, then 41 and finally 19 minutes. At 10:54 a.m., three hours after my arrival, I reached the front of the line. The gentleman who assisted me, said that the long waits are typical, and only if you do get to the DMV at 8 a.m. can you expect to be “out of here” by Noon.

After I passed the eye test, he also asked me if I wanted a standard renewal or a “real” ID card. Huh? He said I would need extra documentation for the Real ID card: (birth certificate, U.S. Passport, etc.) and proof of Social Security Number. The real ID card “can be used as identification for boarding aircraft or entering federal facilities when identification is required”. What? That information wasn’t in the letter I received. “Don’t worry,” he said, “the standard card can be used for I.D. in Nevada (but not on airplanes?!) and you can upgrade your card at any time”. You mean, I can come back here with all the right documents and wait another three to seven hours? “Yep.” (The “real” ID thing, I now know, is rather new — from last November — but don’t expect your “reminder” letter to mention it.)

I made some comments about the long waits, and the gentleman agreed. “We all liked the old system better. Tell someone in Carson City; that’s where all this comes from,” he said.

And the worst part? Thinking that a license renewal probably meant a new photo, I washed and curled my hair yesterday and today. Yet the gentleman who processed my renewal asked, “Do you want to use the old picture or a new one?” “The old one will be fine,” I said, smiling weakly.

My video from the PPAI Expo is attached. Perhaps the people at the DMV can watch and get some ideas for give-aways. If you can’t do your business online and come to the office, for example, a wait of one hour means you get a month’s supply of pens and lip balm. A two-hour wait means you get your own duffle bag. And three hours? A beefy t-shirt with the DMV logo in color. More than three hours? Gift cards for everybody!

OR: Open more offices and hire more people — including folks to step in during lunch break. AND, for folks who show up in person to do their DMV business, go back to the old system!


8 responses on “DMV Disaster…and Lots of Promotional Products

  1. Diane, I so sorry you had to go to the DMV trial. Now I know what I’m going to expect when I move to Vegas. I guess I’ll just have to take my medicine like everyone else.

  2. The way to do it, is to drive to Laughlin or any one of the smaller towns within a nice day’s drive from town. I’ve never waited more than about 10 minutes at Laughlin to complete any registration issue….


  3. Interesting show . I will be driving over and releasing several purchase orders for some of the promotional items .

    As soon as my drivers’ license is approved .

  4. My original letter did not mention getting an appointment time from home, but I gather an online appointment works the same way as an in-person appointment, You get a time and just sit by your phone until 20 minutes before zero…and then show up. I have four more years to figure out something else…or until I want to upgrade.

  5. I have to agree with the DMV guy, the old system worked better. When I gave my Hyundai to our grand nephew, he went to the DMV to get a change of title and transit license, but he couldn’t turn in my plates. I had to make a trip and my place in line was given away before I could get there – 20 minutes to arrive? Pfft!

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