Straightforward… (Part 94)

In which The Author encounters the TfL website again

Earlier this week I told you about my adventures with the Transport for London website. You’ll be surprised to learn, I’m sure, that things haven’t improved in the intervening period.
As I’m going to London a week on Monday, I decided to put another £5.00 on my Oyster card. I knew I already had an opening balance – it took me nearly half an hour to verify it, but it’s there – and I thought I’d put an extra fiver on to cover myself for the exciting journey to Hammersmith and back to the centre again. I opened up the TfL website and tried to log in.
It turned out that the weekend’s confusion had arisen because my Username wasn’t actually my email address, as I’d assumed. Having established that my Username was something different, and after setting a new password to be on the safe side, I thought all would be well. I typed in my Username and got the following error message: Please note: Your username is now your email address.
Just when I’d begun to think that someone was taking the piss, I managed to log in and accessed my Oyster card account. I selected Pay As You Go top-up and decided that a fiver would be plenty. Then I had to decide on a particular station at which I was going to ‘activate’ the credit.
That was a tricky one. On nearly all my previous trips to London, I’ve jumped off the coach at Earl’s Court and gone straight to the tube from there. That’s pretty much what Rhian and I have planned for next week. However, I’m not 100% sure whether the coach still sets down there. I decided to select Earl’s Court and thrash it out with the guy in the ticket office in Victoria if we had to switch to Plan B.
Within a matter of seconds, my confirmation email arrived, advising me of my new balance.
It also advised me that if the credit hadn’t been ‘activated’ by 27 September, it would be cancelled and automatically refunded to my bank account. I’m in London on 29 September. Go figure!
The upshot of this is that I’m already a fiver down, which I can ill-afford to be at this stage of the game. There’s no way that the refund will hit my bank account over a weekend, so I’ll have to spend another fiver when we eventually get to London. A few days after that, my original payment will return to my bank account, just when I don’t really need it.
Am I just stupid in thinking that once a Pay As You Go top-up has been added to the Oyster card, it should stay on the card until it’s needed? After all, if I top up my mobile phone, the credit stays there until I’ve used it all up. I don’t have to ‘activate’ it at a mobile phone shop within seven days. If I put credit in my electricity meter, I don’t expect a man from the utility company to come and ‘activate’ it for me. I certainly don’t expect it to be cancelled and refunded if I don’t use it all within seven bloody days.
Considering that the whole philosophy behind the Oyster card is allegedly to make life easier for people travelling around London, so far I’d have to give TfL a very grudging 3/10 for effort. I haven’t even used the fucking card yet, and I’ve already wasted far more time and effort than the £2.50 saving on a tube ticket would seem to justify.
Watch this space for a further account of my adventures when I eventually do hit the Big Smoke.

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