Day 16 and still waiting

Myki scanner out of serviceI’ve got a spare Myki card that I’m testing online topups with. $1 at a time, to see how long they take to come through.

How it should work is this:

  1. You make a payment via the web site
  2. The web site and central database sends out a message to all the Myki vending machines and scanners saying your card has been topped-up. While it’s supposed to take anything up to 24 hours, it’s sometimes much quicker. But there have been numerous cases of it taking longer, or the transaction disappearing completely.
  3. You present your Myki card at a vending machine or scanner. It sees the waiting topup message, and writes the updated balance to the card (which is the reference point for what your balance is and for your transactions).
  4. A message goes back to the central database to say the topup has been received by the card, so the account balance there can be updated.

Fine, that’s fairly standard request-response stuff. And to the user it’s conceptually pretty simple. (London’s Oyster is similar, but more limited, as you have to nominate the station where the topup is to be sent.)

The catch? Only one topup can be in progress at a time. That is, if you do a second topup online, it waits until the first is fully processed before the second one gets sent to the machines, and thus to the card. Under normal circumstances this shouldn’t be too much of a problem, given you wouldn’t normally send through two topups in close succession.

So anyway, my first couple of tests went through okay.

But a topup I did on the 2nd of March has reached the card, but got stuck on the last stage of the process. The confirmation of its receipt is somewhere between the vending machine that received it, and the central database.

This in turn has blocked a second online topup that I did on the 4th of March. More than two weeks ago. I can still use the card, and topups at the machines will work fine, but any more online topups won’t work until the that stuck transaction is cleared.

Myki pending requests

It was suggested that I should travel with the card, to see if that would unclog it. I did so yesterday. That travel history has been transmitted back to the central database and is visible on the web site, but still the topup transaction is stuck.

So hopefully you can understand when I say yet again: Don’t use Myki. But if you must, for gawds sake avoid online topups.

(The other card, which I actually use, and only topup at machines, is going okay. My comments from the end of January still stand.)

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38 Replies to “Day 16 and still waiting”

  1. Let me get this straight – every single Myki machine, on the entire network, has a complete database of every single Myki card in existence? What? o.O

  2. No. But when a transaction like a topup occurs, it does get transmitted to every single Myki machine.

    They also have a blacklist of banned cards (eg a card reported lost/stolen).

  3. So far my on-line top-ups and top-ups at station machines (for myself and family members who are linked to my card) have worked OK. i.e. taken less than 24 hours to be credited on card.
    One advantage: Myki is cheaper on public holidays than Metcards.
    Myki is also less stress-free for early-bird train users (you always have a “valid ticket” with Myki, provided you touched on).

  4. I use automatic online top-ups ( “danger” is my middle name) and have not had any problems with the money not being received but I have had a problem for the last 4 days with the email system telling me that my account’s been topped up when it hasn’t. I spoke to myki today and they said they know about this issue and it should be fixed shortly. (I got through to an agent pretty quick which was a surprise.)

    The reason I went auto-online top up was because the machines at the station didn’t work for me. They said the money had gone in but nothing happened (no money in the card, no money out of the bank).

    It amazes me that this system still has so many bugs. Much of system should have been “off the shelf” and therefore pretty low risk , but given the costs and the bugs they must have built everything from scratch. Maybe they working on their own new project management methodology from scratch too.

  5. The only off the shelf bits is the actual hardware, but all the software it’s running on appears to be the product of Kamco and is the cause of nearly all the problems.

    Like Daniel I’ve been doing my own online top up tests and in the last couple of weeks it’s been on my card with in 24 hours. It does however still seem very hapazard… readers at my station don’t have the top up, so I go to the vending machine and there it is. Obviously there is some explanation for why top ups get to some equipment before others. Like Daniel, I definitely wouldn’t rely on it. The problem is, even the vending machines are almost a gamble, as they seem to randomly refuse to accept coins, notes, EFTpos or any combination of the three, or randomly crash in the middle of a transaction for no apparent reason. Not good enough.

    Meanwhile I’ve had it with excuses for default fares being charged on my myki pass at the weekends, after repeated promises from within TTA/Myki that the problem was being rectified, and have lodged a complaint with the VTO.

    From day to day myki is working well for me on trains (mostly), but that still doesn’t excuse the ridiculous levels of incompetence we’ve seen. I hope that the lack of any news regarding trams and busses means they are hard at work fixing the problems, but for all we know they’ve been sitting on their hands Chief Wiggum style muttering “Well, I’m fresh out of ideas”. Would it honestly surprise any of us?

  6. I topped up at the machine in Mooroolbark the other day, using a credit card. It worked properly, though it took a while updating the card and printing two receipts (why are there two?).

    I then tried to scan on and got absolutely no response from the scanner. Held it there for several seconds. So I tried the other scanner and it worked instantly – as fast as it would work in London. To me, that suggests that the first scanner wasn’t working properly. Yet it either had not detected the error or wasn’t programmed to warn of its error.

    That’s not good enough. The scanners should be able to test themselves and work out if they’re not responding to cards, and they should display an out-of-order message in that case. They should also display a ‘scanning’ message the instant they detect a card, while they’re still verifying its validity.

    I’ve said this before but it’s my biggest gripe – the units give no indication to the user that they are actually working, until they finish their job.

    After that, I tried scanning off at Melbourne Central and got no response so I assume it didn’t scan off. That didn’t matter for me because I was travelling both zones for the whole day, and the return journey would have sorted it all out anyway. But this hardware certainly seems to have problems that are not accounted for by the software.

  7. Machine topups apparently aren’t risk-free either. Did anyone see this myki topup story in Suzanne Carbone’s column on the back page of The Age the other day?

    http://www.theage.com.au/national/melbourne-life/dont-spend-the-20x00a2-refund-all-at-once-ok-20100316-qclv.html

    If the facts are accurate, then it’s disgraceful. How can the TTA – how can *anyone* – have the hide to charge an administration fee in a situation which is clearly not the customer’s fault?

    Daniel, do you know whether this story is true, or just another urban legend doing the rounds? The fact that it was raised in state parliament makes me inclined to think the story has legs; MP Bernie Finn (who raised it) is going to look a right goose if it turns out not to be true.

  8. Bonnie- its true that thats what the call centre person SAID, but that was the wrong thing to say- no admin fee ;(

    Daniel- have you tried calling the call centre? They are able to process it manually.

  9. I was super-sceptical about Myki until I looked at the price list. As someone who makes very short train trips within the boundaries of each of the 2 zones, I’ve being getting 40% discounts for many weeks now, without incident.

    Looks like my general paranoid tendency of eschewing credit card payments (opting in this case to purge my smaller coins and notes at the station and maintain a modest balance) has served me well. I was accustomed to losing more money in temperamental Metcard machines, although the fact that I can no longer use 5c pieces is an annoyance.

    That said, Bonnie’s link is terrifying.

  10. Bonnie, the $9.80 fee should never apply when it’s not a problem initiated by the customer. At least, that’s the theory.

    MC, you know you can get the same prices (with one exception: the $3 public holiday fare) by using 10×2 hour and Weekend Saver Metcards?

  11. Re: 15, I’ve long carried a Weekend Saver because it makes no reference to zones. I’ve tried 10×2 hour cards, but given that my starting point and travel direction are highly variable (eg. I’m domiciled mostly in zone 2, but don’t undertake a predictable daily commute), it requires a substantial upfront investment to gain the same advantage – namely in multiple different 10x cards for each zone combination that may apply on any given day. Unless I’m overlooking something.

    The fact that Myki caters for all of those eventualities as they arise, with minimal upfront investment and less need for forward planning (eg. finally ensuring for even the oft-overlooked casual traveller that the equivalent of 2 x 2 hour will not exceed the price of 1x daily ) is a non-trivial improvement methinks. Sufficient for me to keep using Myki as long as the current pricing structure remains and the machines don’t start stealing my money.

    I’m certainly prepared to believe that my fondness for incremental cash payments and my relatively low level of dependence on trams and buses are – given the bugs reported here – just serving to delay my eventual disenchantment. :)

  12. MC, yeah it’s true Myki makes life a lot easier if the zone(s) you travel in vary a lot. (Though it’s not completely infallible; I’ll blog about that soon.)

    I assume (but it’s not exactly clear from your comments) that you know 10×2 hour Metcards already cap daily fares at two 2-hour periods, but of course it has to be on the one Metcard.

  13. Anonymous: I take your point that what the myki admin fee policy *is*, and what the call centre person *said* it is, are not necessarily the same thing at all.

    But even if that should prove to be the explanation, the TTA can’t wriggle their way out of criticism that easily. It’s hardly an unusual sort of query, and it does not speak well for the quality of the myki staff and their training that a customer was told such a thing – assuming, as I said in my previous post, that the facts are as reported in The Age. (Which, as yet, I’m not quite certain about. I think I’ll go search for it in Hansard.)

    The myki project has been fraught with implementation difficulties, and is extremely politically sensitive. Were I in charge of hiring and training myki call centre staff, I’d make damn sure I hired the best and brightest I could find and trained them to within an inch of their lives. In this case they appear to have hired someone akin to a robot, who not only lacks the training to know that a $9.80 administration fee is inappropriate in this case, but also lacks the simple common sense to recognise that to charge such a fee would be outrageous.

  14. I’d like to know how the machine came to swallow $10.

    The Cubic machines in Sydney are ugly, and sometimes don’t work, but I’ve never known them to swallow money. If they can’t read money, it will give it back.

    I think it would serve everyone to know the technical details behind this failure.

    Nick.

  15. Regarding MC’s irregular travel patterns: with Metcard, you have to know your destination (when choosing which 10×2 hr card to use: single zone or both zones), and what your next trip(s) are going to be.

    Situations:
    You get a phone call in the middle of your trip which alters your travel plan.

    You need to take a 3rd trip across both zones without warning, after doing two trips earlier that day in a single zone.

    Either situation using Metcard means you’ve paid more than you should for your travel.

    Nick.

  16. I wish someone had told me this – I’m still waiting 3 weeks later and can’t use my Myki at all. Surely there is some infringement of consumer law going on when you’ve paid for something (my Visa card report recorded the transaction within 2 days!) and not received it, and nobody can tell you when you’ll get it? If I can’t reliably top up by internet for me that completely destroys any point to this system.
    Another problem that will emerge when (if?) larger numbers start using Myki is the time it takes to ‘touch on’ and ‘touch off’ – especially when leaving a station at night that seems to add 2 or 3 seconds per person at the gate, so heaven help us when there’s a crowd…
    I have made several complaints to Myki and also to the Ombudsman but so far no action (and no apology). My guess is they’ll have to extend the metcard system at least to the election (ie November) or there will be so much of a backlash. Perhaps after that they’ll chuck out Myki completely.

  17. The myki website is very clear that your card should not be charged until after the topup is processed (eg when it’s loaded onto your card). But that has definitely not been happening.

    Meanwhile I did another test top up overnight, and again it was at the vending machine (I touched on at a reader first, it wasn’t here, to went to a vending machine and joila there it was). I’ve had three or four top ups work this way now. Would I go so far as to say I’d rely on it? no, but at least it’s now mildly consistent.

  18. I’m a few steps behind you Rob. Have finally got around to prompting the Myki people to take a look, via online feedback:

    “I have two online topups in progress, both of which seem to have stalled.

    04.03.10 1265678 myki website -top up myki money Available at next touch on

    02.03.10 1260151 myki website -top up myki money Available at next touch on

    Can you please investigate? Thanks.”

    They have responded to say their technical people are lookin at it. Will see what happens.

  19. In my case I’ll be able to see if they’ve resolved it because the web site will no longer show both transactions under “My requests” as “Available at next touch on”.

    I’ll give them a few days to fix it then hassle them again. Yes, I could pull strings, but I’m not going to. I knew of problems with online topups, and the whole point of me doing it was to test the process. Now I’m testing their troubleshooting.

  20. I’m currently on day 52 of an online top up not appearing. Each day I dutifully touch on to see if the money’s made it through, only to have to use a Metcard. The results of 3 calls in this time to the help desk were:
    1. After a 20 minute wait I was told it was fixed
    2. After another long wait I was transferred to someone “higher” who told me it was fixed.
    3. I was told the problem would be escalated and someone would get back to me – which hasn’t happened.

    When travelling, a couple of times, I’ve pretended to have only the Myki to travel with to see what AOs would do (i.e. haven’t mentioned the valid Metcard in my pocket). Once I’ve shown evidence of the broken system (printout of top ups), they’ve always suggested “just don’t do top ups online”, but have never moved to issue a fine. One even took the time to check the card on his hand-held scanner and couldn’t believe I’d been waiting so long for a top up to reach my card – of course he happily let me go on my way. So while the system may be broken, at least (so far) ticket inspectors are showing reasonable discretion.

  21. I finally got to talk to someone from the TTA today but they seem to be apologists for the system. I was told the technical problem is being investigated, but they don’t know when it will be fixed. Apparently I need to be patient and wait for the top up to come through – but it won’t happen if I don’t touch on. My Myki is now so low I won’t be able to use it after today unless I top it up again – which of course won’t work (unless I do it with cash at a machine on a station). I raised the issue of faulty machines and the $9.80 admin fee and was told that you can dispute the fee if you can prove the machine was faulty. But I’m not sure how you do that.

    It feels like we are still in the pilot stages of this system – it is clearly not ready for full operation. I suspect there is political pressure not to admit there are serious problems, but would actually be more comfortable if the operator was honest and told users clearly which functions are currently reliable and which are not.

  22. I think that old top up is gone. They should just cancel it, refund your money, and start again.
    For them to be pretending that they can fix a problem which is now so old, is reckless.

  23. @enno, comment 30. I think it is reckless to avoid investigating a problem regardless of its age, unless they are reasonably certain that a software update since has eliminated the issue.

    Problems do need to be removed from the system, otherwise there will be many frustrated users.

  24. At last! My $25 appeared on the card today (day 24)! Not sure whether it was pure coincidence, but Consumer Affairs were making enquiries for me. I had asked them whether the process as I experienced it infringed any consumer law.

    I also topped up with $10 cash last night. I asked the guy in the office at my usual station if the machine was working. He just laughed and said he wouldn’t be putting any money through it. So to make sure I could demonstrate any potential machine malfunction (and avoid the $9.80 fee) I asked him to watch me while I used it – which he did quite happily from the office. It topped up with the $10 (quite slowly – you need to wait for the transaction to be processed fully and not pick up your card in a hurry). At that stage the $25 hadn’t appeared – that seemed to happen overnight. The guy in the office then told me he had dozens of complaints every day about top ups not working and suggested I go back to Metcard (which I will as soon as I run down the current balance on the Myki).

    I must say I’m left feeling dissatisfied, even though this instance has been resolved. I just don’t trust the system to work – so I’ll be one of the early adopters who withdraw from using Myki.

  25. Thanks for the update Rob. My view is the safest way to do a topup is using a credit card at a vending machine (if it works of course). There’s no mucking about with the transaction flow to/from the web site; you can get a receipt straight away; and if the money doesn’t properly get onto your Myki but is gone from your account, you can get your bank to dispute the transaction.

    As for my own request, I got a voicemail this morning from Myki Customer Care claiming it’s resolved; the first transaction is been completed and the second transaction should go through tomorrow. Will be interested to see if that’s really the case; when I checked the web site, it was timing-out, so I haven’t verified anything’s changed yet.

  26. Daniel,

    Can your intelligence source on the top up sequence number issue, explain the jackpot top up phenomena – I have a hunch TTA/Kamco are not being entirely truthful regarding its cause.

  27. Just had an email from Consumer Affairs – clearly they had nothing to do with the resolution of the issue for me. Their advice was to contact Myki (and if that failed, try the Ombudsman).
    Unless the contact I had from the TTA was initiated by the Ombudsman (I’m not sure how that process works), I have had no response from the Ombudsman’s office.
    I think I have just been lucky. No jackpot, but justice…

  28. Anon2, I have no info on the specifics of those cases.

    My transaction has moved forward: the topup from 2nd March has completed now, and the one from 4th March has reached the card (as-of yesterday morning). It hasn’t yet got back to the web site though.

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