Sometimes I just don’t know why things are the way they are


(Weekend rant, off topic:)

Sometimes I just don’t know why things are the way they are.

About a month ago I needed to hire a car while doing business in the UK.

As part of filling out the paper work I
was asked to provide my driving license.  I provided my UK
photocard drivers license (I’m from the UK now living and
working in the US) and handed over the nasty pink-plastic-thing
etched with a with a ugly UK/Euro flag  As an
aside, there’s nasty and nasty. The
UK/EU photocard is particularly nasty looking thing. To think that this was actually ‘designed’ is quite beyond me – but that is ‘design by committee’ for you…

Full Driving Licence

(not me)

I was then asked to provide the paper version of the license too.

D740 - Counterpart Driving Licence


‘I have the photocard driver’s license.” I said.

“Sorry sir, you need to provide both.” came the response.

“Why?”

“Because that is what we need it to process your order sir.”

“But I don’t have it. I have my photocard driver’s license.”

“Yes, I know sir, but we need both.”

“But I don’t have both.
Legally the photocard is what the DVLA and police require I carry.
The paper one is being phased out.”

“Well, then you can’t hire the car, sir.” The ‘sir’ seemed rather pointed.

“But I’m meeting the UK legal requirement.  Why do you need more than this?”. I was starting to panic.

“Because, sir.”

“I don’t get it. Why do you need both?”

“That’s the company policy, sorry sir.”.  Bizarrely, I could have sworn I saw her taking pleasure in this.

I was trying to think of what not hiring
a car would mean: trains, taxis and major hassle.  The plan was
for me to drive my US colleagues to meetings and make life simple for
us all..  I was getting that unpleasant sinking feeling in my
stomach. Thinking of possible solutions, it occurred to me that one of
my colleagues would have to do the driving, but they had never driven
on the other side of the road before and driving in London is not for
the faint hearted at the best of times.

So I asked: “If a colleague has their US license, would that suffice?”

“That would do it.” She seemed cheery now, as it appeared I’d surrendered.

I then had a bright idea.

“How about this then”. I rummaged through my wallet I handed over my Washington driver’s license.

“Er, what’s this sir?”

“That’s my Washington driver’s license. I live in Washington, US.

(not me, again)

“I see.”

As I handed the more aesthetically pleasing card over, I actually saw her squirm. “Will that do?” I asked.

She forced out an affirmative. “Er yes,
but you really should have your UK paper driver’s license.” I noticed
the ‘sir’ had dropped from her reponses now.

“So we’re ok, yes? Just with my WA license, right?” I confirmed. She now was visibly disappointed and quite vexed.

“Because we need it to do the paper work.” she muttered as though she hadn’t heard for my confirmation.

“No you don’t, you just need a driver’s
license, which I’ve just given you. Twice in fact.”  I was amazed
that she actually seemed annoyed that a customer could hire a car by
‘getting around the system’, which she clearly thought I was doing. So
I rubbed it in: “Don’t you think it is broken that as a UK citizen I
have to use a Washington driver’s license to hire a car in the UK?”

“No sir, it’s broken that you don’t have your paper license.”

Holy testacular Tuesday. Well there you
go. At this stage I really wanted to tell her where to go.
Unfortunately because of company policy I had to use Avis and couldn’t
just take my business elsewhere.  I wish I could have just
cancelled the order left as soon as I made her finish the mountains of
paper work. Bah!


Comments (6)

  1. That’s nuts. But, on the plus side you do have the option of pretending to be a tourist driver everywhere. I heard that Douglas Adams had a US and UK drivers license too. If he was stopped by the police in the UK he’d show his US licence and vice versa. He reconed it was quicker because they didn’t want the extra paper work and so just let him off.

  2. Kevin says:

    It’s all explained here (summary: blame Europe).

    http://www.direct.gov.uk/assetRoot/04/01/13/16/04011316.pdf

    They should have phoned DVLA if you didn’t have the paper bit.

  3. MSDNArchive says:

    Kevin, thanks, I checked it out. The wording sounds like it is up to company policy:

    "We advise drivers that vehicle hire companies may expect to see the counterpart to check for endorsements.

    Drivers are also advised to keep the photocard and counterpart licences together."

    So, it is not a legal requirement to have the hire companies ask for the counterpart.

    Also another extract in reference to the UK:

    "Other European Community countries do not show

    endorsement details on the licence. They are usually held only on a centralised record."

    This probably means that the hire companies don’t even try to get this info in those countries, or at least don’t expect the customer to provide the info. Again, this says to me that it is down to company policy.

  4. I like the way you have to point out that the people in the photos *aren’t* you. Hehe.

  5. Raymond says:

    Now will someone notify <a href="http://www.avis.com">AVIS</a&gt; and let them know about this post, or will <a href="http://www.budget.com">Budget</a&gt; not only go <a href="http://www.upyourbudget.com/">all viral</a>, but actually slowly gain ground in the marketplace because of stories like this?