Greater City Providence

Reader Submission: No joy at the DMV

FAILThough Governor Chafee made a great show of improving the DMV early in his term, we still hear no end of complaints about the agency. Below is an email a reader sent us about her recent experience:

I spent an hour on hold where a single sentence repeats over and over and over just to get to a voicemail box of an employee in the communications department?

I need my vehicle title returned. There seems to be an online database that I could use to accomplish this task, but can’t access without paying a huge amount of money. Why restrict it? So many of your customers could be using online tools instead of perpetually unavailable personnel to solve their problems.

I paid to register my car and my title was sequestered. Now I need to pay to recover it? And waste hours of my time to get no service whatsoever?

Your service is so terrible that dealing with you is the most dreaded errand of any errand. I’d rather spend a day cleaning toilets with a toothbrush than visit your offices. At least I would know that my goal was something that could be accomplished.

You have a new building, and NOTHING has improved except for your lobby. You should have stayed in Pawtucket, hired 10 more people for customer service, and 5 people to put any service possible online for FREE.

How have your experiences at the DMV been of late? Better? Worse? You wish you were dead so you’d never have to go there again?

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  • When I renewed my license recently I was in and out in about 15 minutes. A lot smoother than getting my iMac repaired at the Apple Store.

  • When I last renewed my license, it was quick… but that was at AAA. Last time I went to DMV, their computer network died after I had my picture taken but before my wife had hers done. It meant waiting at least another half hour. I have never had a good experience there. The first time I moved to RI and discovered the separate lines for license and registration, I was like “oh, this is quick”… but that was the license line. The registration line had a 3 hour wait. WTF? Seriously? And that was the West Warwick office.

    I actually managed to get a policy changed by writing to my state rep and senator. The whole stupid temporary 8.5×11 paper license they give you isn’t always accepted in other states. Went to buy liquor in MA and they carded both me and my wife (we’re both over 30). She only had the temp ID and they wouldn’t accept it. They wouldn’t allow us to buy $80 worth of booze so I left it on the counter and walked out. Wrote to my rep and senator. The DMV now no longer takes your old ID when you get it renewed. So you still have a legit ID to back up the temp one, which will be accepted in other states. And what’s with not having the equipment to print out the ID’s while you wait? That’s gotta be the dumbest thing ever. In CT, where I believe the licenses are more complex, you get the actual ID right then and there. No waiting for it to arrive in the mail.

    And if it’s true that the online services cost us money… that’s ridiculous. It SAVES them money because they don’t have to have a person there to talk to people or do the work themselves. It’s just like when the city charges you a fee to pay taxes or parking tickets online. Sure, they have to pay a fee to accept credit cards, but it SAVES them money because they don’t have to use manpower to deal with getting checks in the mail.

  • I’ve had nothing but good experiences at the RI DMV. It’s like anything else, you go when you know there will be fewer people and expect to have to wait a short time.

    NO state DMV office in any state (in New England at least) has any amount of online access/support/submissions that every other industry does, so please don’t act like it’s just RI.

  • Having come from the midwest to Providence about 6 years ago now I was shocked at how bad the DMV service is here. My first experience was getting a license up at the old Apex in Pawtucket. Luckily I showed up early and only had to wait in line about 20 minutes before the place opened and then it only took about 45 minutes to process everyone in the line up to me.

    Still, it took over an hour to get a license.

    The first really horrible experience was having someone recommend going to the Warren branch because it tends to be less busy. After showing up, waiting for two hours, and realizing that my number wasn’t going to be called for at least another couple hours at the rate things were going I drove to the branch in wakefield and only had to wait about 30 minutes to renew my license.

    The absolute worst was the entire day I had to spend in Warwick. I decided to try the big main branch. Registration took, no joke, 6 hours. I brought work to do so I was able to sit down in the cafe area and do work but it was absolutely unbelievable. Luckily, I had a flexible work schedule but I can’t imagine what you would have to do if you worked an hourly job where you had little flexibility.

    As far as online services not being available in New England, that may be true. But I think it is time for RI to get with the times. If my home state of Indiana can basically put all BMV (Bureau there not Department) services online, RI can do it (

  • Part of dealing with DMV here in RI is to know what paperwork you need to have with you. Tax clearances, titles, etc. are useful for registrations. For licenses bring a current bill with your name and address on it. That way if you changed address you can get them to accept the new one without issue.

    That said, I renewed by drivers license back in November. It took a little under an hour start to finish. Which is worse than the last time renewed in Pawtucket. That took a total of 20 minutes.

  • I’m pretty sure you can change your address by mail in MA. In RI, you have to go there in person. The only reason I have for going to DMV now is registration issues. I do all my license renewals at AAA. Because if I had to go to the DMV when they were “less busy”, I’d have to take time off of work. That’s ridiculous to me.

  • Why can AAA get me in and out in under 5 minutes? I cannot understand. I totally resent the fact that the state is so inept that I felt compelled to buy a AAA membership so I could receive competent service. I don’t own a car, I don’t need AAA but it saved me money and hours of frustration.

    In order to renew my license at the DMV I would have had to take a large chunk of the day off of work (if not the entire day (and as an American, my vacation time is not exactly ample)), take a bus to East Bumplefuck Cranston (cross 6 lanes of high speed traffic on foot), wait at the DMV for a completely unknown and unknowable period of time, wait for the bus to take me back from East Bumplefuck, maybe be able to make it back to work for a short period to try to salvage some of my precious vacation time.

    At AAA, I spent a ridiculous amount of money to join an organization I have no need for, but was able to join AAA, renew my license, get a healthy lunch, eat said lunch, and be back to my office all within a half hour and without having to take a bus to East Bumplefuck.

  • And when I lived in Boston, I simply took the green line to the Cambridgeside Galleria, where I went to the Express Registry and renewed my license in under 10 minutes. See, in Massachusetts, they have dictionaries, and know the meaning of the word “Express,” unlike in Rhode Island where they named the horrid shame hole at the old Rhode Island Mall an “Express” branch, in complete contradiction of the definition of said word.

  • I’ve been having an experience very similar to that of the reader. I traded in my car and needed to get a duplicate title because I had lost the original. Filling out the form provided online and spending 5 minutes at the DMV in Cranston to submit was a breeze. But, it has been four weeks since I did this (in-person submission claims 7-10 days) and I have tried four times to reach the title/research department at the DMV, only to hear the same message repeated over and over for at least half an hour each time until I gave up. On two occassions, I thought I was finally connected, but the phone rang and rang and rang. No one answered; no way to leave a message. I called the main information number only to listen to a menu that landed me in the same place as calling direct. I finally sent a fax and have had no reply. This is not the way to “show respect” for customers.

    P.S. I also found the site where I could search for the title for a charge that was more than what I paid when I submitted the form.

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