26 September 2011

A Cautionary Tale Of Wasted Time – Bureaucracy Gone Crazy

My son Chris and his family were posted for 2 years to one of the largest military bases in Australia. Writing from there my daughter-in-law, Hayley, shares the following story of bureaucratic time wasting.

On getting a licence
The other day I went into Seymour (their nearest town) to get my Victorian drivers’ licence. I was armed with an account confirming my address, my passport and NZ licence. I stepped into an office empty apart from the three VIC Roads reps waiting for customers.

I went up to the nearest customer services person. Barely before I’d uttered ‘hello’ he looked up and said, ‘Take a number’.

‘Excuse me?‘ I said, a little confused.

‘Take a number’, he repeated, pointing to the machine standing towards the rear of the room. A little baffled, I approached the machine, skimmed over the instructions (which read ‘push for next ticket’ or some such instruction) and took my number – 27. The red digital numbers on the screen above showed 26 – 2. (I worked out that the previous person must have been #26 and served at counter 2. The man I’d just spoken to was at counter 3).

I stood there with my ticket, wondering what to do next.

Not half a breath later there was a loud ‘ding’ and up came 27-3. Back I went to counter 3.

The man looked up at me as if he’d not seen me only a second before. Cheerily he said, ‘Good afternoon, ma’am. How can I help you?‘ I quickly scanned the room – was I on candid camera?!

It took about 10 minutes to complete the forms. Then it was time to compare the passport… and me. A harder look at me … then the passport…then another look at the passport. (I didn’t think the photo was that bad…) and another glance at me. Finally, ‘I need to get my glasses’.

He jumped off his stool – scuttled across the room – clambered back up on his perch. While I waited I nearly went back for another number just to throw the whole process out! (I figured they could do with lightening up!)
The security company
The next day I went to get my dependants’ ID from Chubb Security on base.

The man on duty was drinking coffee and reading something when I approached about 11am with my application form – only to be told, ‘Please come back at 3.30pm – the appointed ID processing time – just in case someone comes in to be served’. !!!!
The bank
Different day. I’d been into the local National Australia Bank branch earlier to get information about their services. Keen to get paid for my new job I decided to make a return trip back to Seymour with the relevant ID (about 10 minutes drive from base).

Again I was the only customer. Two tellers were dealing with cash; a third was reading something. The third lady welcomed me to the counter. I explained briefly how I’d been in the bank earlier that day and had come back to open an account.

‘That’s lovely,’ she said. ‘We’ll just need to make an appointment for you for next week.’

Not wanting to go back to the twilight zone but finding no other choice I said, ‘Excuse me??‘ I couldn’t hide my expression of bewilderment which was quickly followed by ‘I’ve just driven all the way back from Pucka specially. Why can’t I do it now?

She could have been a cooking show demonstrator in a previous life with her ‘pre-prepared’ answer.

‘Oh, it’s not possible for me to open an account now. We only have two other staff members on and I can’t possibly step away from the counter to open an account, because of the customers I have to serve.’

I couldn’t believe it… one other customer came in and was served by one of the others while I was having this conversation, but apparently the bank might become too busy serving customers to serve a customer …!

Wasn’t I a ‘customer’? I shook my head. Perhaps ‘new customers’ have to actually ‘be’ customers before they are served‘as customers’? Who knows… Whatever the logic, I was handed another series of numbers – 30/01 10:00.

So…a few days later I headed BACK to Seymour to the bank. I was awfully tempted to go to their opposition, but the thought of wasting time taking MORE numbers and standing in another queue (by myself) for someone to give me another number to come back because they’re too busy serving no customers and have absolutely no time to serve ‘non customers’ is just terrifying.

It seems all these organisations are so heavily entrenched in their own bureaucratic systems that they can’t see what an astounding amount of everyone’s productive time (including theirs’) they waste by making customers stand in ‘queues’ (what do you call a queue with only one person in it?) in order to come back later to do the thing they came to do the first time!

They’ve wasted my time, they’re frustrating their customers, and I’m sure they can manage their working hours more efficiently if they do the things that need to be done today…rather than putting it off til 30/01 10:00!

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