Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Duplicate vs. Replacement

My drivers license qualifies as a government-issued photo ID card so that I am allowed to go through TSA at airports. TSA scrutinizes all IDs that pass in front of them and it was mentioned to me at one point that the corner of my license has laminate peeling off and that might cause some TSA workers to not accept the ID. When I could, I should get a replacement license.

I did that today. Before going to the DMV, I checked the web site to see what I needed to bring. The web site explained that duplicate licenses cost $5. I thought that having a duplicate might be a good idea. Keep it with my important documents should my wallet decide to spontaneously combust or end up in the hands of someone who shouldn't have it.

I went to the DMV and was pleased that no one was there in line. I went straight to the window. I explained the laminate was starting to peel off and TSA tipped me off that I should get this fixed so they don't hassle me at airports. The clerk said no problem and told me to go wait by the cashier for my name to be called. She took my old license.

Before going over to the cashier, I asked for a duplicate as well since those are only $5. She looked a bit confused and told me that's what she was doing. I explained that I wanted my current license replaced, but a duplicate as well since it would be handy to have a backup copy of my license. She said that I can only have one duplicate. I said, "right, replace my current license and give me a duplicate." The clerk next to her chimed in after a while and explained that a duplicate is a replacement.

No it's not.

I asked how I can get a duplicate. I mentioned the FAQ says I can get one and it's $5. They told me that's for lost, stolen, or damaged licenses. I said, "so it's really a replacement then?"

Yes.

Yes, I am confused by this poor word choice. Using duplicate in this context is ok since my new license is an exact copy of what I had, but the FAQ needs to be more clear. The context implies that you can get a duplicate of your license for $5. Maybe replacement is even a poor word, but it would have made it more clear. What they really meant to say is:
If your license is lost, stolen, or damaged, a duplicate can be issued to you for $5. If you have your damaged license, you must surrender it to receive the new license. If you wish to make any changes to the information on your license at this time, regular processing fees apply.
Now, after all of that, they didn't even charge me the $5 processing fee. Score!

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