- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 20, 2003

VIRGINIA BEACH Long lines. Rude service. Limited office hours.
These well-documented complaints about the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles are the reasons Christie "Cat" Black, one of the estimated 500 DMV employees laid off in the fall because of budget cuts, is warmly greeted by all her customers.
"Oh, it's the best day of my life, whenever I see her, now that I know I don't have to go to the DMV," said James Davie, an employee with Snyder's RV, a family-owned and operated RV dealership in Virginia Beach.
Less than a week after receiving her pink slip from the DMV, Mrs. Black, 34, and a laid-off co-worker started their own business, 2DMV4U. Her co-worker has since left the business and went back to the DMV after lawmakers restored some funding in the winter. But Mrs. Black continues to be a one-woman stop-and-shop business that gives Virginians the option not to deal with the hassles of going to the DMV.
For a nominal fee, Mrs. Black will pick up title forms or other documents needed for vehicle registrations. She charges per transaction, and her rate is based on the number of forms she delivers. She also proofreads documents to make sure they're filled out properly.
Then she waits in line, sometimes long lines.
Customers, fed up with waiting, are more than happy to pay for Mrs. Black's patience.
"It keeps me or someone else from having to wait in long lines, an hour for this, and an hour and a half for that," said Mike Johnson, general manager of Steve's Auto Sales in Norfolk. "In other words our employees, and there are not many, can be doing what they need to be doing, instead of sitting around doing nothing at the DMV."
Keith Johnson, safety director of RAM Transport Inc., a trucking company in Virginia Beach, agrees.
"Quite frankly she's a godsend. It is well worth it for me to pay $50 for her to go stand in line. I probably should be paying her more," he said.
Since she started her business, Mrs. Black drives on average 700 to 1,000 miles a week in her black Nissan Pathfinder, which for now doubles as her office. She works 12-to-14-hour days, six days a week.
2DMV4U is based in Virginia Beach, but its services are available statewide. She even has a client in North Carolina a car dealership that does a fair amount of business with Virginians but does not want to cross the state line to do the title work. In such cases, the owner mails Mrs. Black the forms. She mails the documentation back after going to the DMV.
Mrs. Black estimates that a third of her business comes from people who don't want to wait in long lines. Her other customers are small businesses such as car dealerships and other professionals who need help with their forms.
The majority of her business comes from the Tidewater area. She has received calls from interested customers in Northern Virginia and other regions of the state, but so far none of them has panned out.
Next month, Mrs. Black will meet with DMV Commissioner Abe Quillian in hopes of expanding her services and becoming a private DMV branch. Under legislation passed during the General Assembly, a pilot program allowing a private company such as Mrs. Black's to conduct DMV transactions for commercial operators is expected to begin July 1.
If her business is accepted into the program, Mrs. Black would open an office and hire more staff to handle the paperwork. She, however, would continue to go door-to-door and work with her customers.
The key, Mrs. Black says, is giving customers what they want. She worked for 3 years as a teller at the local DMV. She said her boss was a stickler" for the number of customers served, as opposed to the quality of service. Since starting out on her own, she has learned that her old boss was not an isolated case.
"You always heard rumors about consistency in service and how one branch was better or worse than the other. But I never really believed them," she said. "Now I have learned. There are some branches I just won't go to."
That's why Kristine Renfroe, general manager of Tidewater Auto Sales in Virginia Beach, calls on Mrs. Black several times a week. "It's a nightmare there," Miss Renfroe said. "All of them were really rude, and oftentimes I would wait for hours."
Her experience as a DMV teller has helped her spot errors in her clients' applications or refute wrong instructions given by tellers.
"I can't tell you how many times an employee would come back here with the wrong year or wrong make and model on a title because the teller could not distinguish between different parts of the motor home," said Regina Snyder, owner of Snyder's RV. "We have not had a single problem since she came on board."
When the General Assembly reallocated funds to reopen 12 DMV branches that were shut down in the winter, many customers thought service would improve. But many of Mrs. Black's customers say the service is just as bad, if not worse.
"They are still so understaffed," Mr. Johnson said. "You go in and maybe half of the 16 or so stations have tellers. I went back once and waited for more than three hours. I won't ever go back now, unless Cat quits."

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