I am well-spoken on the phone, especially when I'm in 'business' mode trying to solve a problem. It's not a skill; it's a gift, really. A gift that I've appreciated for most of my life. The keys are voice modulation, presentation, connecting with the person on the other end, and strategizing a solution. Faxes and email are sometimes involved. I am proud of what I've been able to get done. I am now grateful for those I've run across over the years who were motivated, competent, and effective in helping me solve these problems.
Today's project was to order a birth certificate online from the State of Texas.
I post this, not only to point out the deficiencies, unnecessary complication, and absence of professionalism (in some areas), of the Texas system, but to bring into focus how difficult it is, or will be, for many who don't have the office skills or access that I do when it comes to obtaining birth certificates, for say, like, VOTING. And just in case it gets "lost", it's here, for all to see.
This is not 'poor little me'.
This is 'WTF'.
This is to alert people who may be thinking about waiting another month or two, who need to get birth certificates anywhere, to start now so they aren't caught short. I thought I had a year.
We never know how long we have - for anything.
Here's what I wrote, off the top of my head, in my utter frustration, to the Governor's office of the State of Texas:
I am shocked at how complicated and how long the process is for obtaining a Texas birth certificate. I tried using your online method today, but your identity recognition provider failed. I talked to Vital Statistics Customer Service. They are understaffed, and apparently, quite a few personnel took vacation this week. The supervisor was interviewing someone for a position in that department. (I suggest they interview for several positions...) I called the Governor's office. In mid-sentence, the operator switched me to an automated comment line. This was not only extremely rude, but utterly unprofessional. I called back. That operator told me "This is the Governor's office. We don't handle that." I said, "All agencies answer to the Governor's office. Who there is able to hear my situation and get the problem fixed?" She referred me to this comment section. Then I called Kay Hutchinson's Austin office. Senator's offices can often move mountains. I know this from previous experience in OTHER states. The girl who answered told me I had to call my Iowa Senator's office. I said, "This regards a TEXAS birth certificate. Why would I call my senator?" Well, according to her, that's just how it's done. Well, from previous experience, I'm here to tell you that's not necessarily true. But I called my Iowa Senator's office, told the story, left my contact information, and they got back to me within an hour. They are researching other avenues. In the meantime, I was Googling 'texas birth certificates' again and came across the City of Houston's site - I was born in Houston. So I called and talked to a very pleasant man who took me through the City's website where we found a PDF application. After I complete that, Fed-Ex it, the City processes it and sends it out, the cost will be nearly $100. I'm on disability for cancer. After all my decades of work, I only receive $1,075/month. So that nearly $100 is a dear sacrifice to me. I need that birth certificate for something I'm applying for, which is time sensitive. When I originally applied for that, the form stated that, with my preference level, the wait was about a year. The wait turned out to be three weeks to the initial meeting. I now have a deadline to meet, and a 10-15 day "expedited" time frame falls outside that deadline. I expected to pay $22 for the certificate, $5 for the expedite fee, (from the Texas.gov site) and estimated $20 for Fed-Ex. However, the cost for the City of Houston is $23 for the certificate, $4 for the expedite fee, and $30 for the Fed-Ex. If I fill out a paper copy and Fed-Ex that to the Houston facility, I have spent nearly $100 for a birth certificate.
When my purse was stolen, containing birth certificates for my three sons and myself, I replaced the boys' certificates right away. I was a military wife. Each boy was born in a different state. It cost me less than $100 for ALL THREE certificates and they were all expedited. I received them all within FIVE days.
So I'm writing to let you know that the Texas process needs some revision. It needs an ID recognition entity that can actually recognize applicants. It needs more people to do the job the state is responsible for and in a timely manner, in line with other states' ability to do this job. And the fees for expedition/Fed-Exing need to be revisited. Fed-Ex is making more than double the amount that the State of Texas is, in its fees alone, in a situation like mine.
My grandfather and his seven siblings were born in Texas. He was in the Coast Guard, Navy, Merchant Marines, and he did irrigation in CA and TX in the Depression years. My mother was raised in Texas after they moved from CA. She graduated what was then known as TSCW (now TWU) with a degree in fashion design. My grandfather's first cousin was the Bell County Sheriff for 20 or 25 years. All those relatives are dead. And there's many Texas relatives. I have no one who can walk into your offices and get that certificate for me. My siblings are scattered throughout the U.S. We left Texas in 1958, so I didn't have much contact with other relatives other than my grandparents throughout my life.
I can't believe how difficult this process is in relation to how other states' processes operate. I just wanted you to know this. I think it's important that Texas at least measure up to the average standard, but am very surprised it does not exceed that average.
I've been an admin, exec admin, HR assistant, legal secretary (including in TX), and medical secretary (passed the Scott & White 4-week training course with a score of 98%). With the exception of one project given me by Kerr-McGee in 1984, a project in which I was meant to fail, NO assignment EVER has taken me 10-15 days to complete. And the project in 1984 was to compare 31 internal wellhead audits to external partners' audits, balancing each wellhead to the base figures. I was handed a calculator, several stacks of audits, and a 29-column accounting pad. The project took me less than six weeks and I had to go through all the audits and figure out how each partner had allocated expenses on each wellhead. No one did it the same and I had to match all those differently attributed amounts to the K-M figures. >Six weeks. By hand. So let me just say, I've earned the right to expect some semblance of expertise and competence when I request something as simple as a birth certificate from the state in which I was born.
UPDATE BELOW IN COMMENTS 7/10/2012