Social Question

ETpro's avatar

How did your last transaction with government go?

Asked by ETpro (34247 points ) September 14th, 2010

Be honest now, Don’t let preconceived opinions about efficiency or attitude of government workers color your answer. Gubment [sic] incompetence has become such an American meme I would just like to explore how closely the instinctive expectation matches real experiences of the Fluther. Of course, non US Governments count too.

Whether it was with a foreign embassy or your own Federal, State or Local government (or even Interpol if you were really unlucky), how did it go? Were you treated fairly? Were the people you interacted with courteous, pleasant, unduly rude or just businesslike? What sort of government transaction was it? Did it take more or less time than you expected? Given what was actually done, did the process move as quickly as it should?

Be fair now. Don’t grade the workers on how many forms were required or what information they had to ask for. That’s mostly decided by lawmakers. They have no control over that. Just grade them on how they performed the job assigned to them.

Oh, and the US Post Office doesn’t count. That is a private corporation, not supported by taxpayer funds for over 30 years now. Love it or hate it, the USPO is not government.

I’ll start this off by describing my last brush with the State of Massachusetts.

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17 Answers

ETpro's avatar

I really had 3 brushes with my state today. First I went to vote in the Primary. That went very well. Of course, most of the workers are volunteers or temporaries, but they were courteous, it took no more than a couple of minutes, and a precinct worker even helpe4d me file a change of address, as I recently moved and had to vote this time in my old precinct.

Then I noticed that my Drivers License still had the old address. I checked online and discovered they had a Jr. tacked onto the end of my last name and the system didn’t recognize me without LASTNAME-JR being entered. Entering LASTNAME and checking the Jr checkbox as should be done did not work. I called and found that to change a name, I’d have to go into one of the offices.

I grabbed a recent letter from the Social Security Administration addressed to me correctly, without the -JR just in case that became an issue, and headed to the nearest Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) office in downtown Boston. It’s a busy office in the heart of Chinatown, so I was braced for a long wait and tired, perhaps rude workers by 3 PM. I could not have been more wrong. Since the race of government workers comes up in so many discussions of this sort, I’m going to identify the ones I could guess from here out, although I see no reason that’s relevant.

I had to wait briefly while a Swarthy gentleman of unknown nationality in front of me tried to communicate by gestures with the Hispanic lady who assigns you the floor and window number for what you need done. She tried Spanish, French and English with him to no avail, so then directed him by arm waving to a language specialty area where hopefully someone could figure out what he did speak. The few words he had mumbled sounded like no language I’ve ever heard before. When I stepped up next, she seemed particularly relieved to serve someone who actually spoke English and could just tell her what they needed to do.

I got my G-781 window number, a form to complete, and directions to proceed to the 2nd floor. I sat down, filled in the form which seemed to be reasonable, two sides but just basic information needed to prove I am me and make the needed changes to my license. I waited maybe 3 minutes after completing the form, and they called my number.

The Hispanic guy who served me was jocular and got a good laugh out of my explaining the issue with the -JR hooked to my last name. I let him know my dad had died since that was originally appended, and therefore I’d now grown up and no longer needed the Junior anyway. Given that, he set about his work.

Meanwhile, at the adjacent window, a Hispanic customer was getting a change made to her license, and she seemed a bit camera shy. The black lady behind the counter was genuinely charming and got a big smile out of her after getting her to pull her hair from in front of her face. She snapped two pictures and brought them up on a monitor so the customer could chose the one she liked best. She actually had made quite a nice photo. The customer was an attractive lady once she quit hiding behind her hair.

I was out of the building within 10 minutes and greatly impressed with how smoothly the whole affair had gone and how pleasant the people I had dealt with had been.

I then descended into the Chinatown T Station without even thinking to check if it was the Inbound or Outbound entrance. Many of the stations have a single entrance for both, and branch underground. But the Chinatown station has separate entrances and if you use your Charlie card to get into the wrong one, you either waste that fare or take a train one stop in the wrong direction to reverse course. So I asked a white MBTA officer if this was the Inbound (toward City Center) line. He could have just said Yes or No, but instead, he took the time to ask where I wanted to go. When I told him Haymarket, he said yes, this is the correct entrance.

Three separate brushes with Gubment today, and not a single horror story to tell. Did I just get incredibly lucky, or is the gubment = evil meme a bit out of whack?

Austinlad's avatar

I’ve had really good experiences with IRS. Yes, really.

Jeruba's avatar

They issued my tax refund promptly and without a whimper.

So I would say satisfactory.

jaytkay's avatar

I deal with county government on tax issues all the time, it’s pretty easy considering some of the complex issues.

They have good automated systems where I can look up most of what I want to know online for free. Actual copies of deeds & such can be downloaded for $1.50.

When I call on the phone, there is a pool of about six people who answer the phone. When they say hello I know immediately if the call is worthwhile or if I have one of the three who don’t know the job well enough to be useful.

When I go in person, the people at the counters are almost universally friendly and ready to help. They aren’t real quick but they are thorough and don’t often make mistakes.

JLeslie's avatar

Most recently was before the presidential election I was getting election stuff forwarded to me from my old address. I called my old county, which was Palm Beach, FL, and hey confirmed they still had me registered there. I told the woman when I had moved, that I wish I could still legally vote in Palm Beach, we laughed, and she said she would take care of it. I received a letter in the mail to confirm the change a couple of months later (she said it would take a while, because of the incredible amount of new people registering to vote).

Before that, about 5 years ago, getting my drivers license in TN, the line was loooong. In FL they let you make an appointment. Anyway, once I made it to the front of the line, everything went smoothly.

I also want to mention, even though it is about 7 years ago, that I applied for a permit to change my driveway. I turned all of my paperwork into the county, only had to wait on a line of two people. 3 days later they called me to say my permits were ready to be picked up. I was shocked at first that they called me. I have to say Palm Beach County, FL seemed to constantly have good service.

JLeslie's avatar

Oh, and for tax year 2007, or maybe it was 2008, the IRS caught my mistake, and changed my refund for me, it was a mistake of almost $4,000 in my favor.

Kayak8's avatar

Representing state government where I live, I can’t tell you the number of hours and amount of effort my staff and I devote to sincerely caring customer service. As we work with people with HIV/AIDS, we make every effort to be sensitive and to take the time to actually LISTEN to what our clients are saying.

Working in government, I can also tell you exactly where there is waste and people just punching a time clock. My team and I work very hard to make sure we are not your cliche “government workers!”

KhiaKarma's avatar

We filled out a census form at our old address where we rented and then bought a house after we sent the form in. I sent in the form at the new house stating that we had already filled one out at our old address just to cover my bases. We had 3 census workers knock on our door and each time they left a note, I called to let them know the situation. The government lost $ each time they sent someone….it was just inefficient and annoying.

Dr_Dredd's avatar

Let’s see, the most recent transaction was the federal pay office direct depositing my salary into my bank account. It was pretty cool!

Artistree's avatar

They sacked me.

BoBo1946's avatar

I’ve never had any problems with taxes, etc.

Now, if you want to talk about justice court, i can really get going on that one..loll Just how much space does Fluther allow for me to express my poor attitude about justice court? Loll

ETpro's avatar

Thanks to all for your answers. Sound like the meme needs some serious examination. @Artistree very sory to hear that you got caught up in budget cutting. I hope you fhave found something better, or do so soon. @BoBo1946 I’ve seen walls of words here that would make Charles Dickens jealous, so feel free to ventilate.

BoBo1946's avatar

loll..well, it’s getting late my friend…I’ll tell it tomorrow! It is a long story.

ratboy's avatar

The officers acted in a professional manner; they returned my clothing and personal belongings, gave me $10.00, and placed me on a bus bound for the state line.

ETpro's avatar

@ratboy Ha! That bad, hey? At least it wasn’t Interpol. :-)

Artistree's avatar

@ETpro the budget had nothing to do with it.

ETpro's avatar

@Artistree I see. Not going to pry into what did.

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