SB-100 Success: Plates are on the Car

Ah, my good friends at the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), especially my extra extra good friends on Fell St in San Francisco, how I’ve missed you! It’s been way too long. I really should have come earlier. Maybe we should hang out more often!?

Yes, maybe we should – so I can explain your own processes, regulations and laws to you since you don’t seem to get them. Perhaps I can give you a lesson in customer service too, expert that I am at that (as in been subjected to shitty customer service many times there.) Admittedly, the SB-100 registration is not a common one to be processed, probably even more so in the middle of San Francisco. I guess there are just not as many crazy guys like me building cars in the city.

And so here’s how I got to spend almost four hours there, missing a few work meetings as a consequence.

I showed up a 8 am. Line around the block. Awesome. Start reading the news, responding to email, doing work and generally being productive while the too cool brobra with the flat cap hat over his ears was playing Counterstrike or something at full volume in front of me in line. Bose headphones to the rescue.

8:45 am or so I near the door and a lady walks out handing out paperwork for the most common services. I tell her I’m here for an SB-100 registration, “it’s kinda like a salvage registration” I tell her. She knows what it is, but proceeds to lecture me on a couple of really incorrect points:

  1. I need a sequence number and they’re issued by the BAR. Incorrect, I have one and it was issued by this very facility.
  2. I have to have a current year number to register. Incorrect, there is no requirement to register in the year of your sequence number. (some details around use tax here, but this is factually incorrect)
  3. Numbers reset with the fiscal year, which starts on July 1 and I need to come back then. Incorrect, numbers are issued by the DMV starting on the first day of the calendar year unless that changed very recently.

After being told to go home and come back in July, guess what I do? I stay in line, obviously. She’s not happy, proceeds to do a “talk to the hand move” (nice) and tells me, “well, once you’re inside, you’ll have to talk to me anyway, so don’t bother standing in line”. What a wonderful lady and welcome to the DMV.

I think she realized her error after a little bit and then comes back out with one form for me to fill out for the basic registration. Once I’m inside to stand in line for the desk where you get your meat-counter ticket number, I get handed a “Statement of Construction” form that I had already filled out years ago for my SB-100. As always, I remain calm, thankful and respectful. Finally I get a number, wait, wait some more, then wait on pins and needles for over 30 minutes while the number before mine continues to be on the screen. Finally I’m seen around 10:40 am.

Here’s where it starts to turn from annoying into a positive. The lady which now started processing my paperwork was actually really nice. She really wanted to get this done for me. She wasn’t very senior there it seemed since she had to confer with others a number of times, but clearly her intent was to get me out of there with plates and do it right, including paying only the money that I truly owed.

In short, since I have a 2013 sequence number but am registering in 2017, I need to only pay the current use taxes, not anything before when it became a car in California. It’s a car once you have the CHP VIN and that’s the date to use as the date of completion of the car on paperwork. To enable the system to do that, you have to write a quick statement for why the car was not in operation between these two dates. It basically says, “I was building the car.” Simple.

The unfriendly lady from the line did try to sabotage the process a few times. I think she had it out for me for some reason. I’m not sure why. I was dressed for the office – maybe I come off as some rich schmuck and she hates that. I dunno. It’s pretty annoying when someone clearly judges you for something and has it out for you in their position of (limited) power. She swung by a few times and said BS-y stuff like, “you have to call Sacramento to get them to waive that the sequence number isn’t from this year.”

In the end I paid $297 in current-year taxes and walked out with my plates. Thanks so much to the great lady who persevered to actually complete this paperwork. As I was leaving I said, “I’ll see you later” and she shot back, “No, I hope I don’t see you later” with a smile. 🙂 Thank you and please train your co-workers to be more solutions-oriented like you are.

Two days later I was at my first car show, put on by my part-time help mechanic Rick and his Clutchkick podcast: Radwood 2017. Didn’t quite fit the theme of the show, but Rick asked me to bring it out anyway.


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