Tales from the S.C. DMV - clueless in Blythewood
The South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles, once thoroughly reviled as many such departments remain around the country, has made great strides in recent years. I've bought and sold a couple of cars over the past five years, and I can honestly say the DMV's telephone response service has been quick and thorough in answering any questions I had.
But invariably, one finds that the Rent-a-Clue truck routes reach only so far, and apparently they do not pass near at least one office in Blythewood, the exurb where DMV moved its headquarters several years ago, one assumes to escape the advancing mob with pitchforks and torches.
I gave one of our old vehicles - a 2000 model - to my son in another state after one of his two family cars died. On Monday, he went to yon DMV in that state to transfer the title.
And he was stopped dead in his tracks.
There is a duplicate title, he was told, as the clerk read what the computer had spit out.
This was a one-owner car, never transferred out of our hands, lien settled, title duly stamped, squeaky clean paperwork. All he should have had to do was hand over the papers and walk out of the other state's DMV either with a new registration or knowing one would shortly be in the mail.
Instead, of course, he's panicked and pissed and on the phone to me.
OK. Let me call the SC DMV. "Agent 323" was earnest and somewhat helpful. Nope, no duplicate title, she said, once we got the VIN straightened out (the "D" and the "O" look very similar on those old titles, and I was afraid the other state had gotten it wrong). So call back to son - no problems here. Make sure they got this VIN right.
A few minutes later, son's back on the phone. Still showing a duplicate. Same title number, but issued in July 2002.
OK, back to the SC DMV, this time "Agent 318." She seems to know exactly the problem. "When our old computer system switched in July 2002," she begins explaining.
It seems the electronic switchover created these phantom duplicate titles, at least in some cases. Well, yes, DMV can help. She'll email the appropriate people and within 24 to 48 hours they will send a letter to me and my son (they'll also fax it to me) that should make things all nicey-nice with the other state.
Of course, until then, he has a car with a screwed-up title that technically isn't valid in that state except to get a new one, plus we're waiting for him to mail back the plates that we need by the end of the week when the temp tags on our new wheels run out.
All this, of course, raises some questions:
- Surely we're not the first folks to try to transfer the title in another state on an S.C. title issued before July 2002.
- If this is a known problem, why does the customer have to wait to find out at the other end, then come back requesting a letter?
- It's nine flaming years after the switch. You mean to tell me this couldn't be fixed by now?
One wonders how many people have been inconvenienced by this (and why some enterprising reporter hasn't followed up).
Hello? Anyone home out there in Blythewood?