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You Hate My Job: I work at the DMV


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    The Department of Motor Vehicles building in Pasadena, Calif.

    - Bridget Bodnar / Marketplace

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    A familiar sight at many DMV offices: a long line.

    - Bridget Bodnar / Marketplace

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    Lizzie O'Leary looking at DMV applications inside the building.

    - Bridget Bodnar / Marketplace

“They come in and they’re already mad,” says Cynthia Lara, a manager at California’s Department of Motor Vehicles office in Pasadena. She’s says working the window at the DMV is “a good job” but they put up with a lot of abuse.

For people like Lara, doing their job well doesn’t exactly make them friends. And that’s especially true when there’s a long line, like at the DMV, involved. Lara is the latest worker we're profiling in our series, “You Hate My Job.” 

Even though the Department of Motor Vehicles could be seen as a net-positive for states in budget trouble, because it collects a lot of money on behalf of other government agencies, “the DMV is the lowest paid state agency that is out there," according to Lara.

She's worked at the DMV for 15 years and says that when it comes to dealing with difficult customers, her strategy is to listen to their complaints and to try to explain calmly how to fix the problem.

Mostly, they want someone to listen. She and her co-workers try to keep the line moving quickly to keep tensions down.  

About the author

Lizzie O'Leary is the new host of Marketplace Weekend.
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If you want a job where people hate you, work at Animal Control or the Humane Society. I worked at the Humane Society here in Tucson and couldn't believe the abuse that the public heaped on us. People would be mad at us if they found their lost dog at our shelter and had to pay a fee to get it back. You can imagine how angry if the animal had been there for weeks because in that case, they had to qualify for adoptions, and we neutered the animal before they could claim it. I had been called all kinds of names when I refused an adoption to someone that didn't qualify. One man was so angry that he wrote an article in the Tucson Weekly (we was a regular columnist) all about how I wouldn't let him save the poor dog. He was disqualified because he lived on a ranch and depended on cattle guards to keep coyotes from his place. He wanted a small dog, and he was just going to let it run outside without putting up a fence, or at least accompanying it. He had the nerve to say that if it got eaten by a coyote, he would just come and "save" another dog. Another man, a preacher, brought in an old, sick dog that he "didn't need anymore" because his kids were grown and gone. We explained that the dog would have to be put down, and he went ballistic, yelling over and over that "You call yourself the Humane Society, but you"re going to kill my dog?". He, of course felt no responsibility for the poor dog, and wouldn't keep it like we suggested. I think one of the worst cases was when 2 men brought in two pitifully matted but still young purebred Persians. The reason for release was that they were adults and they only wanted kittens. As they filled out the release forms, they asked directions to adoptions. As soon as they left the lobby, we called adoptions, and explained what was going on. When the men asked about kittens, the councilor asked what would happen when the kittens grew up. They replied that they would bring them back and adopt another set of kittens. Of course they were refused. They came back to the lobby and demanded their cats back, but because they had signed the paperwork, and had been warned that once the papers were signed, they would not be able to get the cats back, they were told no. Furiously shouting threats, they left, only to return a few minutes later to shoot at our cars and some personnel in the parking lot. Fortunately no one was hurt, and the cars weren't terribly damaged, but it was frightening to say the least. Some of the dogs in the kennels facing the area could have been hit by stray bullets.
And that is just a humane society that isn't law enforcement and where people have to bring in animals. You can imagine what it must be like for animal control officers that may have to confiscate an animal, or fine a person for letting their dog roam.

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