Monday, June 28, 2010

30 Day Challenge Day - 16: Sunday FAIL and bad logistics at the IRS.

So yes, this really should be day 17, however some genious was out hotdoggin' around and forgot. FAIL. So I am going to do what FIFA has done lately and keep going as if nothing has happened right after I royally f*** something up. So let's all turn a blind eye to the fact that I accidentally missed a day.

Speaking of royally screwing up, I was at the IRS today to have questions on my Federal return answered. I ended up waiting 3 hours to be seen for what was a 12 minute interaction to solve my issue. I wasn't the only one either, the whole waiting room was full and people were stacked up like planes over Heathrow. I was utterly dumbfounded at the way in which they handle customer service logistics. Nothing is ordered in any way. Most places you take a number and it's in logical fashion so you know how far you are from being seen. Here they assign six or seven number sets, each set being assigned to separate problem types. They don't call them in order of numbers, nor in who had been waiting the longest. It's scattered, random and in no way efficient. The customer (or in this case tax-paying American citizen) has no way to tell where they are in the line. Luckily all twenty-something of us in the waiting room were taking it in stride and having fun. When someone's number got called we had fun with it and cheered them on. When someone left, we cheered. You would have thought it was beer garden with all the hubbub going on.

Sadly though this calm and collected, understanding atmosphere is a rarity. Ever been in O'hare during a weather delay? People are ready to commit felonies on the spot just to get on planes. The bottom line is that I had three hours to give the field office the benefit of the doubt. Three hours of analyzing how it just was the way it was and sadly that's it. I found nothing that could excuse the cluster of people waiting patiently in the face of virtual contempt for their time. The main culprit was that for the first two hours the office was severely understaffed. This is the IRS, and matters can get complicated. Out of 6 agent windows only two were being staffed mid-day on a Monday. I know people need lunch breaks but you need to find a way to stagger the breaks or simply hire more people. Next, there needs to be more agent windows period. I think the old office downtown had 10-12, this one basically half that number. Finally, the "take a number" system needs to be logically revamped. Somebody probably got paid a lot of money to make it far too complicated. My guess is that this is the system they have nation-wide at all the field offices.

Why am I whining you might ask? My questions were answered, weren't they?? The bottom line is that they can only get away with these shenanigans because they are the Federal government. They ARE the monopoly and we have no choice in this case. If a private business handles it's customer orders or service in this matter that business won't be around very long. That is one of the positives of the private sector. Sure those government IRS employees have great benefits and job security, but the person who has to take an afternoon off from work (maybe without pay) to deal with an issue suffers.

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