THE TOUGH CUSTOMER- Focus pocus: Information fuzzes at the DMV

I rarely write about my own consumer experiences, which usually are not particularly interesting. But a couple of incidents over the last several weeks amused and frustrated me. First was my driver's license renewal.

I wear glasses, but my eyesight is not that bad. My glasses let me to see a bit farther with greater clarity, but I'm able to get along fine without them. Indeed, I frequently forget to wear them.

So when I took the vision test to renew my license, I did it without my glasses so my license would not contain an eyeglasses restriction. I passed the test.

As I slipped my glasses back on at the DMV window, however, the clerk asked if I wanted the eyeglasses restriction on my license anyway. I was confused. Why would I want this? I specifically took the test without them to avoid this restriction.

"If you get stopped wearing them," the clerk explained, "and it's not on your license, you'll get a ticket."

"You mean I could get a ticket for wearing glasses while driving?" I asked.


"That's ridiculous," I said. I left the restriction off.

Even though it made no sense, it wouldn't be the first time a state passed an illogical law. So, I figured I'd check with the police.

There was a long pause on the other end of the phone when I asked Sgt. Tito Durrette of the Charlottesville Police Department about it. I got the impression he thought it was a trick question-– could there actually be a law so dumb? Or maybe he just couldn't believe what he was hearing. 

But he recovered.

"I can tell you that a police officer would not ticket you for wearing glasses," he finally said.

For the record, I could find nothing in the Virginia's driver license laws to prohibit wearing eyeglasses if your license does not require it.

The other incident involved trying to change my home phone service from Embarq to Comcast while keeping my same phone number. 

That seems like it should be a snap, with or without my glasses, but it proved unexpectedly difficult.

Comcast was happy to sign me up for their new digital phone service and said my new service would be installed sometime the morning of June 12. Keeping my existing number, they said, would not be a problem.

But Comcast didn't show up on June 12. When I called, they said they didn't show because Embarq would not release my number to them, so there was nothing to install. 

That didn't explain their blowing me off, but I forged ahead. Embarq told me that Comcast had never requested that the number be switched. I didn't know what to think.

But the Comcast deal was a good one, so warily I set everything up anew. Two weeks later, when a Comcast truck pulled into my driveway right on time, I was glad I did.

Unfortunately, Comcast was there to upgrade my television service. The guy knew nothing about my telephone.

Another round of calls revealed Comcast did not create a service order for telephone installation because Embarq again refused to release my number.

Embarq told me, again, that Comcast had never requested the switch.

So I went to the Comcast office personally. After several hours, it came to light that while both accounts were in my wife's name, the Comcast account used her actual name, Nancy, while the Embarq account used only her initial, N. This discrepancy was causing all kinds of disconnects.

Comcast sent someone to my house to with an authorization form they said would solve the problem. I signed it. They called the next day, however, to say both my wife and I would have to come to Comcast's offices with identification to get our number switched.

At that point, I just threw my hands up.

Vernon Fraley, a regional media relations manager for Embarq, was sympathetic. He said switching a phone number to a new provider is typically a simple matter, but because of fears about privacy invasion and identity theft, situations like mine, when account information does not match exactly, can get complicated.

Despite everything, he said, Embarq really wants to keep me as a customer.

He needn't worry. 

They won't let me go. 

Got a consumer situation? Call the Hook newsroom at 434-295-8700x405 or e-mail the Tough Customer directly.