Saturday, 3 November 2012

I've got the public transport ticketing blues.

Yesterday I lost my myki card.  I'd been travelling around all morning, flitting from one appointment to the next and when I boarded the tram at the end of the day I could not find the card.  I got on the tram anyway, thinking that the card was probably buried somewhere in the dark corners of my handbag.  For the duration of the journey I rummaged but disembarked without any sign of the card.

Due to my participation on the myki customer experience panel, I have acquired a small pile of myki cards.  I have participated in various activities where I've had to purchase a card - from a machine, online, from the call centre, from a station...I didn't particularly want to fork out $11 on a new card + the fare just to get home.

I lined up at the ticket window at Flinders Street Station only to discover the only tickets that are now available is myki.  No paper tickets are available any more.  I found myself face to face with the biggest problem with myki - the lack of a short term, one off ticket option.  The man at the ticket window said that a paper metcard can still be purchased from a machine on board a tram as long as I have coins.  I had coins, so decided to board a tram to Southern Cross station.  I could buy a ticket on the way and then catch a train from there.  After 29 December this won't be an option and there is still no sign of a short term ticketing option.

I started to feed my money into the ticket machine.  The money was sluggish going through the slot and I couldn't hear it dropping into the machine.  The display also was not showing the $4 I had fed in.  I pressed the cancel button in the hope my money would come back, but it didn't.  The machine shut down and I was left with no ticket, no coins and no options.

The tram driver said there was nothing he could do and handed me a leaflet with a phone number to call.  He advised me to record the serial number of the tram and the ticket machine.  I left the tram.

The myki discovery centre at Southern Cross Station was open, so I went in and caught the eye of one of the aqua clad "myki mates".  A woman greeted me with a friendly smile, took me straight to the telephone so I could report my myki lost.  Luckily I had registered it, so a block could be placed on the card and the unused balance on the card refunded.  The blocking was done in the blink of an eye and with $20 on the card I was very pleased that I had registered it.  The balance will be put on another card which I will receive in the mail.  To have the balance transferred to one of the cards I already have, I would have to fill in the refund/replacement card form which would then have to be posted in.  I decided not to bother.

I was given a replacement myki at no charge and was able to top it up with $5 to get me home.  Phew.  While the replacement process is still a bit clunky, the customer service aspect was excellent.  I do wonder why so many forms and postage is required for processes attached to a "smart" card.  Why can't I speak to someone on the phone and then be handed a replacement card with the balance from my other card on it while I'm at the discovery centre?  The back office processes could be completed without needing anything further from me and be much more efficient.

While dreaming of greater efficiency and truly customer-centric approaches from government agencies, I came face to face with the Metcard system when I called to report the faulty machine and organise to get my money back.  I can now see why myki has some of the design "features" it has - they have been lifted directly from Metcard.  Here's what happens when a machine has malfunctioned.

I called and provided the serial number of the ticket machine and the tram number.  They would get a technician to check the machine.  Simple.

To get my money back, I had to fill in a form.  I was sitting in front of my computer while I was on the phone, and was directed to a website.  I was to type the words "metcard refund application" into the search box.  The first option from the list was the one I was to select.  I received an error message advising that the website no longer existed.  The customer service officer emailed me a form.  The form can not be lodged electronically.  It can't even be filled out on the computer and then printed.  It must be printed, filled in by hand and then posted in.  My printer driver is not working so I can't print anything at the moment.  Another copy of the form is being mailed to me.

Once I fill out the form and send it in, I will receive a cheque for my refunded amount.  Sound familiar?  This is the process they used to go through for a myki refund. 

I asked whether I could provide the number for a myki card and have the balance topped up onto that card, rather than requiring a bank cheque to be purchased for $10.  No, there is no possible way that can be done.  I'm actually pretty sure it is possible.  The process just isn't set up that way. I think the system was designed to deter people from getting small amounts of money back when a machine malfunctions - another clue that the customer is a long way from the centre of their universe.

The other thing I discovered is that the $9.80 administration fee for gaining a refund does not apply when a machine has malfunctioned, but it will apply to people surrendering their metcards and switching to myki!  I suppose that will cover the cost of the refund to me, but people with metcards, need to get cracking and use them all up before the end of the year.


To win one of three in-season double passes to see "Bachelorette": leave a comment at the end of this blog post telling us where you met your oldest friend.  Entries close Saturday 10 November 2012.  Winners will be drawn randomly, announced on the blog and contacted individually.

Good luck!

* Passes are valid even with a "no free tickets" listing at participating Australian cinemas.

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