Defending kiosks at the Logan County Department of Job and Family Services, really?
It’s like defending the automated voice line you get every time you contact some impersonal telephone service.
Don’t get me wrong, I can understand the cost savings of having a kiosk or automated telephone answering system. The kiosk is useful in sorting out those who are voluntarily participating in the system, keeping track of their information and prioritizing their visits.
But, it doesn’t always apply to everyone — especially not in a walk-in environment.
Dianne Goslee brought this issue to light in her guest editorial that appeared on Thursday’s Opinion and Editorial page and it has solicited a response from current DJFS employee Robin Butler printed in Tuesday’s Forum.
While Ms. Butler accuses Ms. Goslee of trying to act more important than others, it just isn’t the case.
Ms. Goslee was not receiving services but was being paid an attorney’s rate from taxpayer funds to deliver a requested document during a visit in which she was required to use her time registering at the kiosk. If it takes five to 10 minutes, that’s several dollars we the taxpayers have to pay for — an expense created solely by a bureaucracy that already seems to care little about attempting to save us any coin.
If I were to stop in the local job and family services office to ask for benefits, I would certainly have no problem registering my personal information at the kiosk.
But no — despite the fact I am not being paid with taxpayer dollars — when I have a prearranged visit with the director to conduct an interview for my work, I will absolutely refuse to register any such data.
It’s not because I feel I am more important than the person who walks in off the street to deal with their monthly business at the office, but I have taken the time to set an appointment or respond to some request made of me.
Further, if I visit a public office as part of my work, that public office has no right to demand of me my Social Security number or any other data. If they want it so badly, they can go do what I do on a daily basis and find the information in one of the numerous public documents they have access to.
Actually, a receptionist tried to pawn me and fellow reporter Nate Smith off on the kiosk a few months ago when we showed up for a scheduled interview. No dice.
The agency doesn’t want the general public wasting the valuable time of its receptionist. By the same token, I don’t want some bureaucracy wasting my time when I am acting in an official capacity. And I most certainly don’t want to become part of the public assistance database.
So let’s compromise.
No matter how busy the receptionist is making copies, answering phones and processing mail, he or she has to at least take the time to briefly speak to an individual who comes to the window and then apply a bit of common sense to determine if that person is receiving benefits from the agency.
If the answer is yes, register at the kiosk and a number will be assigned to you.
If the answer is no, however, maybe the receptionist can find a way to get that person in and out of the office right quick or get the official he or she has a scheduled appointment with up front at the earliest possible convenience.
Also, the kiosk is no comparison to the way things work at the Department of Motor Vehicles or the doctor’s office.
At the DMV, a person there on official business — not just renewing a driver’s license or registration — will likely see director Phil Tracy either helping out at the counter or in his office, which is just a room with big glass windows.
And at the doctor’s office, while you’re not likely going to get an immediate audience with the doctor, the receptionist will actually talk to you without making you fill out a patient form if it’s not your initial visit there. And if you are just dropping off a document for the doctor to review, the receptionist will take it and give it to the doctor or file it in a mailbox so the doctor can review it later.
Just face it, a receptionist has a job to do and no kiosk can ever replace the value of sound judgments from a live human being.
Reuben Mees is an Examiner Staff Writer who deals with the bureaucracy in both his personal and professional life. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.