Tuesday, July 19, 2011

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.

Uh oh.

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?
What, was DMV expecting every pre-2002 car bought in S.C. to be retitled in S.C. (where, of course, it wouldn't be a problem)?

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?

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At 7/27/11, 1:38 PM, Blogger Aisha Taylor said...

Hi Doug! My husband is at the Blythewood DMV now. This is his third day in a row and his second time today. Definitely "Clueless in Blythewood."

My husband had SCDL and cars registered here. He played professional football for 10 years and had various licenses and registrations during that time. In the interim, I made SC our permanent home and registered all vehicles to my name. Now that he has retired, I want to transfer his car to him only. To make things worse, he now has to get a new SCDL - which requires giving up your first born.

He had all of the documents listed on the website, but the lady there keeps asking for more. At one point she told him he had to go the the Tax Assessor's office, get a refund for the property taxes we paid in April (in my name) and repay them in his name. That is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard!!!

Secondly, we pay our bills online, but DMV can only accept original bills - which don't exist if you receive e-bills. So to make up for that they WILL receive faxed copies directly from the utility company, etc. Here's the catch: THE FAX MACHINE DOES NOT WORK!!!


-Baffled in Blythewood

At 7/27/11, 5:37 PM, Blogger Doug said...

Sheesh is right.

The e-bills trap is a new wrinkle.

I've found that most sites allow you to print out a copy of your bill before you pay it. Even if they don't have a separate print function, I usually print the page to a PDF and save it on the computer just to be safe.

As I said in my post, the SC DMV has been relatively progressive in recent years, but it still needs to make adjustments to what is now an electronic era.



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