Would you fork over $19.99 for a prime DMV appointment slot? Oakland-based site YoGov is betting you would. The startup is capitalizing on the dreadful scheduling system of everyone's least favorite place to waste an entire day, selling "expedited appointments" to beleaguered Californians who are willing to pay a premium to avoid hassle.
On YoGov, you can schedule a DMV appointment for free—which you can also do on the California DMV website. But since you often have to wait at least a month for a spot to open up, YoGov offers something the government doesn't: an "Express" option that promises you an appointment within the next two weeks in exchange for $20. The site also offers simplified services for TSA pre-approval, and a link to the government website where you can renew your passport.
Paying to jump the appointment line, however, is the feature that has attracted the attention of the government. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, DMV investigators are currently looking into the legality of those expedited appointments. Those investigators "found they are charging customers a fee and attempting to find an appointment using DMV's online appointment system, which is free and available to everyone," a DMV official told the Chronicle. The California Attorney General's office added in a statement that, “If a business is making false or misleading claims about government affiliation, or being able to provide customers with faster or better service from the government, then the company is violating California law."
Beyond the legal question, there's the moral one. Government services should benefit everyone who needs them—that's that requirement to serve the entire population that makes places like the DMV so crowded in the first place. If all YoGov does is provide the wealthy with a chance to get better treatment at the DMV than the poor, it's just created another avenue of inequality.
Ryder Pearce, YoGov’s founder and CEO, is no stranger to finding ways to profit off of loopholes. He previously founded SherpaShare, a "rideshare driver assistant" app that helps drivers for apps like Lyft and Uber maximize their profits. Pearce, who reportedly started YoGov after a frustrating visit to an Oakland DMV, told the Chronicle that YoGov does not sell data from its users, and is trying to set up a face-to-face meeting soon with the DMV.
Amusingly, Pearce claims they don't have any proprietary technology. “There’s nothing secret about it,” Pearce told the Chronicle. “It’s a bunch of people sitting around hitting refresh.” That sounds even worse than waiting in the IRL DMV line.
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