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Long lines and waits defeat good customer service

Date: 3/12/2012

March 12, 2012

By G. Michael Dobbs

How often do lines make an impact in your life? Lately, I seem to be stuck in quite a few of them.

A couple of weeks ago I took time off to go the Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) office in Springfield to obtain a title. I had filled out the form and had the other necessary paperwork and was assured by the wait time stamped on the piece of paper with my number that I could talk to a human being in about a half hour.

That was swell, as in an hour I had to pick up Lucky the Wonder Bichon from the groomers. Normally Lucky is so rattled by the experience both of us share a bowl of Wild Turkey.

An hour later I wasn't even close to seeing someone. I gave my ticket to another couple who had time constraints. They were very appreciative, but I have to go back to finish my business.

My eldest granddaughter asked me to take her to the RMV to take the test for her learner's permit. That was a two-hour adventure for her, despite the estimate printed on her ticket.

She passed, by the way, but she received a letter from them saying she had to return to have her photo taken again because the photo they took was "unacceptable."

Another line, another hour.

Although this is nothing new about the RMV, a place most people dread, the on-going lines and lengthy wait-times speak to a basic issue: the state can make residents go through such inconvenience in the name of economy.

The U.S. Post Office is looking at this kind of customer inconvenience in the name of budget cuts. Saddled with the ridiculous requirement of having to fund their pension plan for the next 75 years, the Post Office is being forced to close facilities and lay off people.

Everyone agrees that with the competition from private carriers such as FedEx and email, the Post Office needed to make adjustments to its business model.

Go to the central post office on Liberty Street in Springfield some time to see how budget cuts work. The lines are enormous and going to the Post Office is quickly becoming as odious a chore as going to the RMV.

And I'd much rather use the Post Office than any other mail or parcel service.

As I was waiting in line I thought of the scenes depicting the former Soviet Union in the movie "Moscow on the Hudson," in which people waited to buy toilet paper. Although we're not there yet, I worry about how essential services are managed and why my time isn't very important.


As I sat through some of the hearings in Springfield for businesses that wish to have an entertainment license to 2 a.m., I wondered if it would have been better to simply look at the businesses that have had a history of problems rather than having nearly every bar in the city go through this exercise.

Just what is the responsibility of a license holder these days, and what can they do to stem the violence downtown?

If a fight breaks out on the sidewalk in front of a club is it the club's responsibility? I'm not sure a club should be made responsible unless it can be proven something happened inside the club to start the altercation.

And is it the club's responsibility to try to assess whether or not a patron has been "pre-gaming" — drinking at their home or in their car before going to a club?

But are these two issues, among many others, the ones that really should be discussed as ways to keep the area safer?

I offer two modest proposals as possible solutions for greater security, as I'm concerned that making entertainment end at 1 a.m. just isn't going to quell the violence.

The first option is to cordon off the area and make people go through metal detectors before entering the Entertainment District.

That's unlikely.

The second is to build a new police sub-station in the former Asylum building that is being renovated. A substantial police presence would benefit all of the downtown.

A greater number of police is a far better deterrent, in my opinion, that telling people they can drink for another hour but can't have any entertainment.

Hey, agree with me? Disagree? Drop me a line at or at 280 N. Main St., East Longmeadow, MA 01028. As always, this column represents the opinion of its author and not the publishers or advertisers of this newspaper.

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