Shawnee County Treasure’s Office is Jacked

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Yesterday didn’t quite go like I expected it to. I got to bed pretty late because my computer screwed up and iPhoto won’t load at all. So, all my photos from the last 10 years are not assessable right now, maybe lost for ever?

I realized when I woke up that my automobile license tags were going to expire at the end of this month. I had meant to renew them online last week, but spaced it out. And I’d read about the lines down at the Shawnee County Treasurer’s office being long, so I didn’t want to mess with that.

Anyway, I went online and got all the way through the process and it screwed up after I entered my credit card number. When I tried to reenter the information, it wouldn’t allow it because the numbers had already been entered. The screen message said to call a phone number. So, I called the number and was on hold for over 1/2 hour. So, I decided to go down to the Shawnee County offices and experience the masses. Little did I know.

They have a number roll, like the Baskin Robbins ice cream shop had when I was a kid. I pulled out number 891 and looked at the counter and it said 711. I couldn’t believe it. I was nearly 200 people back. So, I left and went to a coffee shop downtown and spent an hour and a half goofing off. I came back to the Courthouse, and after I went through the metal detector again, I went in to look at the counter and it was at 729. That was 18 people in 1 1/2 hours. There was a employee in the hallway telling everyone to sit down and not stand by the exits.

I went over to the worker and asked her if my number was good for the next day. She told me to take a sit and they’d get to me as soon as possible. I thought she was joking. I told her I got my number nearly 2 hours earlier and they had only called 18 people, so there was not much of a chance anyone would be getting to me in a timely manner. She told me again to take a seat. I told her I could do the math and that I had no intention of waiting. She told me I was lucky that they had serviced 20 people and that the line was shorter. I think at least 5 people that were listening to our conversation got up and left.

So, I left too. I went to Starbucks and ran into a friend there and he told me that they had a live counter online that you can go check your number. I went home and my brother Kris found the counter link. In the meantime, I called the phone number and was on hold again. Eventually, after an half hour, this guy came on and I told him my problem. He reset the pin numbers that I’d entered and told me I could try it again online.

I entered the numbers so slowly and checked them over 5 times before clicking submit. I was amazed it worked. That was about 4 in the afternoon. So I clicked on the counter and they were over 900 at the time. So, if I would have waited, I could most likely have had to wait around 5 more hours. That would have been at total of 6 1/2 hours to get the stickers for my license plates. Insane.

I talked to a lady that got there at 8:30am and had been there about 3 1/2 hours and was still 15 numbers back. So she was going to be there about 4 hours to renew her tags. She said she tried to do it online and it screwed up also.

I’ve read about the horror stories trying to renew tags here in Topeka the last few months, but I didn’t really think much about it. It is much worse than anything I could have expected. Someone, everyone there needs to be fired down. It is broken. And so under staffed that they should be so embarrassed, they shouldn’t open their doors in the morning. They should just send out the stickers for free and ask for donations until they can get their shit together and do it in a right and in a timely manner.

No one can be expected to spend a day of their lives renewing their car license tags. The website sucks, mainly because if it crashes or you make a mistake entering any number, you don’t get a chance to do it again without having a person you call on the phone reset your entries.

But, this is going to be the norm more and more here. I’ve witnessed it all over the world. The poorer the country, the longer the lines and time it takes for services. Remember the lines on the TV of people in Russia waiting in bread lines before the Iron Curtain fell? I do. In Peru, trying to change a plane ticket took nearly a week at the airline’s Lima downtown office. There were huge lines at the banks in Santiago Chile and they would only let one customer at a time into the lobby. There is going to be lots more waiting and much slower service in all aspects of our lives, unless something changes economically soon.

Anyway, I just had enough time to barely get my bikes to the car wash. And man, are they destroyed. I mean they need new everything. The bearings in the wheels are even super rough. I need to get some Gore-Tex cables from SRAM. Those cables are completely sealed and should make it to the end of the season. I used to ride them on MTB back in the 90’s and then they disappeared for 15 years and now they are back again. They are a lot of trouble to install, but after they are installed, they work great in the mud. This sport takes a ton of energy even when you’re not racing.

My number.

This was just some of the people waiting in the hallway to renew their tags.

The Shawnee County Treasury cam. The one thing they do right, sort of.

24 thoughts on “Shawnee County Treasure’s Office is Jacked

  1. Lalla

    Wow. Hey on a side note… My friend who was driving on 35 south of Wichita passed a cop while doing the speed limit. The cop pulled him over saying he was driving in the left lane too long and gave him a warning. Ahhh what?

  2. channel_zero

    California has an appointment system for the DMV. You can make your appointment online too. It works! An information system that even sort of works requires a good sized budget in the best case scenario. As long as voters swallow the ‘governments is evil. Starve the beast!’ thinking it won’t get better.

    As far as your photos go, I bet a Raid 1 NAS ($300) for backups is starting to seem like a bargain. The number of customers I’ve had that paid me that much and in some cases more to recover files is long. The few smart ones buy one.

    Your photos aren’t lost. Whatever you do, don’t wipe the disk. If you get in a jam, you have my email address.

  3. SB

    It amazes me that they don’t just raise fees enough to cover the costs of paying for a decent amount of staff.

  4. e carter

    I recently waited 5 hours at the dmv in Carson City NV with a 4 year old. Sucked for me but I felt worse for the ladies with multiple children.

  5. Zach

    It doesnt matter what money you give them, it will just increase the complexity and things will still be slow.
    Its government run, inefficiencies are built into the system. Its a renewal of tags for gods sake, its not that complicated.
    If it were privatized if would be done qucikly and with a miniscule sized budget compared to now. There is simply no incentive for it to run any other way. Life responds to incentives. The incentive is profit if it were privatized, which is why it magically works when these things are taken over (mail, healthcare, etc..).

  6. Thom

    Your photos aren’t lost. They are still on your computer. iPhoto doesn’t store the photos. It’s a program like excel or word that uses a special directory to open files (your pictures) associated to it. Try uninstalling and reinstalling iPhoto to reestablish the directory pathways.

  7. channel_zero


    Is California’s online DMV appointment system more or less complex than Steve’s?

    California’s system: Servers, bandwidth, multiple complex application silos that need to talk to each other and the inevitable bugs and IT staff in addition to the people actually working at the DMV. It’s not slower than the system Steve describes. Maybe 30 minutes last time I was there and it was PACKED.

    Kansas/Pawnee’s system: Take a number and wait hours for the people working the location.

    Pawnee’s system is simpler. But, it’s FAR less satisfactory. I remember when California had no appointment system, so I feel Steve’s pain!

    Enforcing some kind of ancient simplicity by starving the evil government doesn’t solve Steve’s or your problem. It makes it worse.

    Privatization has as many problems as a public service. You’ve been sold a lie that’s making you poorer every year.

  8. channel_zero


    Don’t “just reinstall iPhoto.” The consequences of the reinstall are not known. Get your photos folder copied off the computer before going any further.

  9. Phil

    You should come to SC. No lines at the DMV, cheap taxes, easy online renewals, no yearly vehicle inspections, no emissions testing, etc etc. And no snow!

  10. Andy

    iPhoto imports all photos into a specific directory structure. By default, the root directory for this is (~/Pictures/iPhoto Library). You can copy this entire directory to another computer and look for your pictures. Unfortunately it grows very large because iPhoto makes a copy of the photo every time you edit the photo.

    If you have enough disk space, rename the directory, then reopen iPhoto. If it opens, you know that iPhoto is fine. Don’t be alarmed that your pictures don’t appear. iPhoto will have created a new library because the old one was missing.

  11. GRJim

    Somewhat relatedly it’s the poor, non-English speaking or computer illiterate that congregate at the CA DMVs I’ve had the misfortune to wait at.

    Folks on both sides of the counter are endurance experts, current company nothwithstanding.

  12. Jordan

    5 minutes at the Tom Thumb (Safeway) stores here in Texas to get new registration stickers. And you pay for your beer at the same counter if you like.

  13. Ryan

    I had the same problem with my pin #’s being reset here in Johnson County. I was renewing two vehicles and did one in the middle of the month and was going to do the other at the end of the month to lessen the impact of the payments. Apparently logging in and paying the first time caused my pin #’s to be invalid for the next time. Unfortunately the next time I tried was on the last day of the month a half hour after the Treasurer’s office closed. That meant I couldn’t get my pin # reset until the next day/month and my registration was going to be late. If you register late, you can’t do it online anymore. I called and yelled but they said it’s not their fault. Maybe a little warning on the renewal notice they send you like “WARNING: EACH PIN # IS VALID FOR ONE LOGIN TO THE SYSTEM AND THEN MUST BE RESET OVER THE PHONE” so people don’t run into this problem. I rarely drive my spare car so I haven’t registered it yet. The system is moronic.

    channel_zero, have you worked in the public and private sector? I have and the differences in efficiency are astounding.

  14. Zach

    I live in texas as well. Only have been to the DMV my first month here to get my licesnse registration. Every other time its online, piece of cake, you pay and click and its in the mail, you stick it on your car at home, no dmv ever.

    Simplicity doesnt necessarily mean going back to stone age. I am just implying the usual solution is an added layer or position that can at times actually worsen issues rather than help them by making another unnecessary checkpoint.

    Some places do it right and some places are awful. Why is the question? My point is they are approaching it wrong, which leads me to believe they have poor incentives to actually getting their job done.

    Case in point: When things are awful slow what did they do? Look to states/counties/cities that are doing it well, comparing systems, and choosing the one with the best cost/benefit ratio? No, they decided to put a camera on the wall pointing to the number and construct a website to view it. All wasted resources that could have been put towards actually fixing the issue. This is the case with everything in life though, its some big deal that brings about obvious change or improvement rather than early recognition and implementation.

    All these things are big and complex and have all kinds of unintended consequences when messed with. Obviously, it is being done better, so its possible, it just requires effort. For people to expend some effort, their just needs to be motivation.

  15. channel_zero


    I’ve worked the private sector (big businesses) my whole life. I worked in gov’t contracting too, so I’m familiar with the politics and the corruption. There are plenty of inefficiencies in the private sector. Since humans populate both, the fiefdom/’not my job’ mentality likely applies to both sectors equally.

    So John,
    Not one of the promises of health care privatization have come to pass. Health care is neither cheaper, nor more accessible in the last 25 years. Americans do not live longer. Americans, on average, are not healthier as a result of a profit-based medical care system. We’ve got erectile disfunction pills though… Wooot! Heaven forbid someone try something different, because the other sure isn’t working.

    And if you took the time to get politically involved instead of swallowing entertainer pablum that is making you poorer by the month we’d all be much better off.

    Andy’s iphoto instructions are a good start.

  16. Vincent

    Launch iPhoto while holding down the command and option keys. This will give you options to rebuild or recover the database. My experience is this full rebuild should be done about twice a year.

  17. campbell dawson

    Hey; who’d have thought Australia could leave the US behind . Now its all computerised; from the vehicle inspection which is linked to the central registry to the registration. Funny thing is that it’s a really quick paybck /cheaper to build the system with minimal human to human involvement than to staff registry offices, let alone the hidden cost of wasted waiting time

  18. Sean YD

    Thanks for the advice, Vincent. I was wondering how to get rid of some of my outdated albums and recover “orphaned” photos.

    Great post, Steve.

  19. Andy

    Sean YD, I’ve had good luck using iPhoto Library Manager ( to split albums out of my default iPhoto Library and into a new library. Once you have multiple, smaller libraries, it’s a bit easier to save or archive them elsewhere. When you want to access another iphoto library, hold down the option key while starting iPhoto, then select the appropriate library when prompted.

    If you have room on the hard disk, make a backup of the library prior to any changes in case something goes wrong.

  20. Jef

    Steve – you should have tweeted “Brownback sucks” and you would have had the attention of the governor’s office within 20 minutes.

  21. H Luce

    Buy a house in Douglas County, and get your tags there, took me all of five minutes to get mine done. Lawrence is still a small town. Hint – don’t wait until the last day. While we’re at it, government in Topeka is an absolute disaster, incompetent drunks running around with guns would be better.

  22. RC

    “government in Topeka is an absolute disaster, incompetent drunks running around with guns would be better.”

    But isn’t that what Kansas already has?


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