diamond geezer

 Sunday, July 06, 2014

Hello. I would like to travel on your bus. Here is £2.40.
Sorry, I cannot accept your money, it is out of date.

What do you mean? Last time I travelled by bus you took my money quite happily.
Sorry, but the rules have just changed. From today passengers are no longer able to use cash to pay for their bus fare.

Since when? You kept very quiet about that!
Since 4.30am this morning. And TfL have been anything but quiet. They ran a public consultation, they stuck posters up on buses, they stuck posters up on bus stops, they made announcements on buses, they sent out press releases, they put adverts in the paper, and they've been tweeting little else for days.

It's OK, I've got the exact money, not a £20 note.
No really, we're not taking cash any more, it's inefficient. You Luddites with cash slow the bus down by boarding slowly, plus all the coins have to be collected and counted back at the depot. By getting rid of cash we speed everyone's journeys, plus we can make some backroom staff redundant, so that's good.

And people actually agreed to this?
No, two thirds of the people who replied to the consultation said they wanted to keep cash as a means of payment, but they were wrong so we ignored them.

So how am I supposed to travel on your bus, then?
Do you have an Oyster card, madam? They're very popular we find, and the vast majority of Londoners own one.

Oh I might have an old one somewhere. Let me dig down in my handbag.
I hope you do, madam, the fare's 95p cheaper with Oyster, You were wasting a serious amount of money paying by cash when you could have been swiping in at a fraction of the cost.

Here you go! But I'm not sure there's much money on it.
That's OK. We have a special new feature called 'One More Journey' which allows you to make one more journey on a bus even if you don't have enough credit on your Oyster card. You'll have to top your account up before you can use the card again, but that should get you home.

Actually you're only my first bus, I need two buses to get home.
Sorry madam, but we don't accommodate that possibility. Maybe you can top up your card after you get off the first bus and before you get on the second. Or maybe you could walk the last bit.

OK, let me tap in... oh, what does that beep mean?
It means there's no money at all on your Oyster card. Sorry, but we don't allow 'One More Journey' in this situation because you are digitally bankrupt. I'm afraid you're going to have to go and find a local Oyster agent and top your card up.

Do you know where the nearest Oyster agent is?
No dear, I'm only the driver. They don't get us to memorise all the newsagents along the route when they send us out. But there's a parade of shops about five stops down... oh I forgot, you can't get on the bus can you? Plus the shops might not still be open, so that's a fat lot of good.

Excuse me, I'm this lady's husband and I'd like to pay her fare for her. Here's my card.
I'm sorry sir, but you can no longer pay someone else's fare on their behalf. I know it used to be possible to pay two or more cash fares, say if you'd brought a family member or friend with you, but that was yesterday. Today every passenger has to pay separately. Your card has already been used to pay your fare, so it can't pay another, end of.

So what am I supposed to do then? Get a taxi?
There's no need for that, madam. Those clever people at TfL have another solution - the contactless card.

I don't have a contactless card.
Contactless cards are the future. They're bank cards with a special chip inside which records a small payment when brought withn close proximity of a reader. They're especially popular on credit cards, rather than debit cards, I understand. And TfL waited until contactless cards had been rolled out to the majority of the population before withdrawing the option of cash on buses, because they're thoughtful like that.

But I don't have a contactless card.
Well get with the program, grandma. TfL can't be held responsible for minority interests such as people without plastic money. You're still in the dark ages having circular bits of metal in your pocket, and society can't be expected to tolerate your old school ways any more when there are considerable efficiencies to be made. Going cash-free will save millions every year, and then Joanna Lumley can have her bridge.

So how the hell do I get home if I can't give you £2.40?
Are you sure you're a real person? You're coming across as a hypothetically awkward character dreamt up solely for the purposes of creating a negative narrative. Data from earlier in the year proved that only 1% of passengers are still paying cash... and that's dropped to 0.7% since the introduction of 'One More Journey' last month. I think you're being deliberately obstinate because you don't really exist.

Oh well yes, obviously I have a contactless card.
Great. I should now give you a long sermon about card clash, because contactless cards and Oyster don't mix, and we haven't found a suitable solution to that problem apart from lecturing our customers to be extra careful. But we've already established that your Oyster card is blank, so your contactless card should work perfectly. Please, just wave it in front of the reader.

Hmm, what was that beep for?
Ah, I'm sorry madam, but your card requires a security PIN check. From time to time your card issuer requires that you enter your PIN as a security check, but if this happens when boarding a bus then you won't be able to use your contactless payment card to pay for your journey.

Typical. No wonder I've never used it before.
Well that'll be the problem, then. For security reasons, some cards need to have been used for a chip and PIN transaction before they can be used in a contactless environment, so your virgin plastic is essentially useless on a bus.

This contactless technology's still sub-optimal, isn't it? Who outlawed cash payments before the system was rolled out properly?
There is an official solution to your problem, madam, which is to make a chip and PIN transaction at another retailer and then try your card again on another bus journey. Perhaps you could go and buy a coffee or something and then come back?

But I'm standing in the middle of a housing estate after dark and there are no shops nearby and even if there were they'd be shut.
Well you should have topped up your Oyster card earlier, like a responsible citizen. If you want to use a London bus then you need to follow the rules, and as of today the rules say you need an electronic payment card of some kind to pay your fare. Honestly, you can't just amble around the capital with no money to your name.

But I have £2.40 I'd like to give you, it's just that you won't take it any more. What do you expect me to do?
You're only an imaginary character so you can bugger off and walk home. Thank goodness no real passengers will be inconvenienced by today's move. Right, next please...

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