Vitalchek is terrible

We don’t have a birth certificate for the Little Man. Obviously we are terrible parents, but the fact of the matter is, in Georgia you have to wait X number of weeks after the birth of your child to send off for a birth certificate, which then is delivered Y number of days/weeks later. Well, when the Little Man was born, X+Y = the date of our move to Connecticut. Then, once we got here, we never needed a birth certificate.

About 10 days ago, we found out that the Under-6 soccer league in our town is now open to 4 year olds. (The Little Man is big enough and athletic enough to play. Plus he was in Start Smart soccer last winter.) Signing up for rec sports requires a birth certificate. And the following fall will involve kindergarten. So, it’s time to get the paperwork in order.

At the Georgia Vital Records website, I was delighted to discover an online option for ordering the birth certificate. Just about the only thing I don’t order online these days is pizza. Plus, ordering online meant I could pay with a credit card, rather than having to get a money order or certified check, *and* they offered quicker delivery. Sounds great! The company providing these magical services is VitalChek–apparently they offer similar services in most states.

My friends, I’m here to tell you that VitalChek is a ripoff, and is no better than writing directly to the individual county’s vital records department. I still don’t have a copy of my kid’s birth certificate, and it doesn’t look like one will be coming soon. Here are some of the problems I’ve encountered:

  • They can only process your application online if they can verify your identity using your address, a credit card number, and your social security number. Now, I am not off the grid. I’m a homeowner. I have student loan debt. I have credit cards. A reasonably motivated 8 year old, given my social security number, could figure out who I am, where I live, and who I’m related to. What an 8 year old could do, VitalChek cannot. They were “unable to verify my identity,” and required me to fax a copy of my driver’s license.
  • VitalChek never confirms whether or not they’ve received a fax. I waited 2 business days (as requested by their site), and then started posting questions–it took more than a week before someone acknowledged that they’d received the fax. They still can’t process the request, though, because the driver’s license was only magnified to 150%, not 200%. Wouldn’t you want to contact somebody about an incomplete form? Especially if they’re paying for expedited service?
  • Their website was clearly set up by someone who hates consumers. Even after my recent communications with customer service, if I click on order status, and supply the order status number from my form, the website says, “We could not locate a receipt for Order Number” X. That error message makes no sense–clearly they have a record of the order number; the problem is that the request is incomplete. Moreover, the error message has been unchanged since last week–i.e., their receipt of the fax hasn’t corresponded to an update of the message.
  • Asking a question through their website is slightly confusing. It turns out you need to create an account in order to ask a question, but they don’t really tell you that. Also, after you submit your question, it looks as though your question’s been submitted, but there’s actually another click that’s required to dismiss their–completely unhelpful–FAQs.

I would recommend avoiding VitalChek if at all possible. (I also wonder why a single firm is allowed to monetize public records in this way. Surely, either government agencies should do this for themselves, and profit from the handling fee, or a little competition ought to be introduced. But allowing one private agency exclusive access to the market just seems stupid.)

Update 9.18.08: Comments are now off–this isn’t really a consumer-type site, and I’m not looking to host a conversation about this.  Perhaps try the Consumerist?

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