Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Oyster Fun

Warning: this is a rant about the London transport payment card, and as such is of limited interest to those outside the capital (or indeed within, the less kind may suggest)!

Background to story: I had an Oystercard before going travelling. Quite a low serial number too (couple of thousand), which I was quite proud of (being a geek). It had an auto-top up set up for West Hampstead station (I now know that it was just the initial setup that happened at WH). Anyway.. I’m back from travelling, and a couple of weeks ago it topped up at St. John’s Wood, which at the time I thought confusing. Another time, it topped up randomly (apparently on the bus I later discovered). All a bit strange. Then when I tried to go through the barriers at Heathrow T5, it rejected my card. Given all the trouble with the system recently I ignored it and used one of my spare PAYG cards. It then didn’t work on the bus today. So I tried to log in to the website, and it tells me to call their 0845 number, which I do.

Story: After a multitude of automated choices, I get through to a chap. It turns out..

1. Because the credit card that the auto-top up was linked to had expired, I had not paid for the last two top-ups
2. The fraud team had investigated, and tried to get in touch with me, but..
3. All of my contact information was out of date on the website, partially because the site wouldn’t let me in anyway!
4. Without being able to contact me, they had put a block on my card.
5. The chap said technically I could just default on the card and they wouldn’t pursue it, but I of course wanted to do the right thing, so offered to pay..
6. So he says the way this has to be done is two separate payments of 20 pounds to cover the two auto-top ups.
7. Then, they can release the 21 quid or so already on the card to me. Fine. So I give him card and he does this.
8. So will he now unblock the card? No, he can’t, the card is useless now and can’t be reactivated! Bin it! So I've just spent 40 quid to get to 21 quid.
9. Where does the credit go then? He’ll send it to my other PAYG card, but it won’t appear on there for a few days, and at a specific station (i.e. annoying).
10. At my request, he’ll send it instead to my credit card, which I had to hand over for the third time.
11. Can I get the 3 quid back for the card? Apparently not, as allegedly I never gave a deposit for it (I am sceptical about this but have no memory or evidence to prove otherwise)
12. So new Oystercard for me..

All this was a 20 minute phone call to an 0845 number. Not helpful with my exorbitant Orange bill (switching as soon as contract is up). Maybe I’ll make an Oyster magic wand to use instead of the blue card.

TFL I shall be watching for tube delays like a hawk with a refund form in its talons!

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