Living in California is great. The climate is fantastic, the people are friendly and they nearly speak the same language as us.  But not quite. There are so many words which you think you know which are really something else. There are other words which I don’t even recognise recognize – “mache” is “Lambs lettuce”.

And then there is getting things done. Things that you take for granted because you have grown up around them are are a mystery.  Some things you expect to be dificult, like getting a driving license. After the aborted attempt which you can read about in my blog Had a FAB Day I am pleased to say I passed my written test but I have to take a physical test within 2 months – but Adrian was told he had 6 months!  Remember he passed his test without needed a social security number, I wasn’t even allowed to take the test. Am I being discriminated against – or just paranoid?

Whilst I was queuing waiting in line in  DMV to take a number I overheard an American guy ask about his motorcyle. I couldn’t hear his question but I did hear this comment “I have read all the documents you sent but the process is still a mystery. I am your mercy here”. Enough said.

DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles)  I have been told is probably the worst US Goverment Department to have to deal with. My experiences to date would confirm that they are a nightmare. But the staff I dealt with there were helpful and hardworking. But the processes were working against them, which is an example of the principle I spelt out in my blog Poor customer processes are like Goretex.

There are other telltale signs. Got to the loo restroom and this is what you are confronted with.








But the simple things are still a surprise to me  – Can you post me a check? Sounds simple.  Let’s explore that sentence.

Can you post where do you buy envelopes? where do you buy stamps? how much is a stamp? what does a post box look like?  me a check how to you write a check? is it safe to post? what about a cheque guarantee number (remember those?)?  how long does it take to clear?  is there a charge?

So the problems here are

  • different terminology
  • opaque or broken process
  • inconsistent application of process

As a customer it is starkly visible. For those imposing / administering / applying the process they’ve just got used to it.

So what is it like for your new employees or your customers? Employees just have to just suck it up and get on with it. Customers can walk – and they will.  Unless there is nowhere else to go in the case of dealing with Government departments.

So to end on a more positive note, the very helpful staff in Blockbuster Video explained how to write a check, provided an envelope and explained where to get a stamp.

Even here there is  lesson. Who do you customers or staff go to for help?  Why is it not you?


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