Past EED rants


Live leaderboard

Poker leaderboard

Voice of EED

Tuesday 5 October 2004

Oyster sucks arse [Lurks]

Oysters are horrible. They look like some withered hybrid of alien offal and llama snot, for a start. Then they have the consistency of rotting phlegm and are generally encased, with good reason, in a barnackled clam resting at the bottom of the ocean with the rest of the fish turds.
Which is interesting because this blog isn't about that sort of oyster at all, I do of course refer to Red Ken's latest tax payer's money burning scheme, the Oyster card. For those of you that live in rustic forgotten villages on the coast, frozen tundra of Scandinavia and in-bred medieval ginger-harem islands in the middle of the Irish sea - I shall explain what this 'oyster' thing is that is not the disgusting sea creature that you regularly dine upon.
The Oyster card is the first mass market RFID application in the country. It's just a plain aqua coloured card with no visible features but within is burried a clever peice of technology. It's a little silicon chip wired up to an inductor so that when you pass it near one of the receivers on a ticket barrier, the inductor generates a small electric current, fires up the chip where upon it sends signals back to the aerial and communicates with the ticket barrier.
In short, once you have one of these cards and you've charged it up with pre-pay dosh - for this example - every time you touch your card in and out of a journey, the appropriate amount is deducted from some electronic wonga stored on the chip. You can also have travel cards coded on it. These things are accepted on all of the London underground stations and the London busses too. You can recharge them at ticket machines in ticket halls, with the human ticket selling tubeanderthals or online via an laughably rudimentary web site which is amusingly top hit in Google on the search term Oyster.
Anyhow, the system basically works and being unable to figure out a way to extract the RFID chip and implant it under my skin for comedy effect - I'm forced to press it to several of these yellow receiver things a day so I can effect passage on the busses and tubes which I must use during my daily commute to and from the office.
One day, yesterday in fact, when I was going home - it stopped working. That was it, just stopped dead. I may as well have been pressing a packet of finest lincolnshire bangers to the ticket barrier, it was dead as a douglas adams. I grunt at tubeanderthals and they let me through, mumbling something about how they do that sometimes.
I look it up on the web and apparently I've got to get into a tube station and fill out a form to get it replaced. Right you are then. So I try to log onto the web site to see what's on the card exactly, in case I'm asked and stuff. It wont let me in. It wont work with my username choices of usual, nada. I call up the oysteranderthal hotline and get some gum chewing chav bird who is outstandingly unhelpful, telling me that maybe it'll just work later or something.
Next morning, into Finsbury Park and a big queue to get to the ticket tubanderthal where I explain my delimma and I'm given a form that wants outrageous stuff filled in and given a glance which in no uncertain terms means I must go away and fill it out rather than trying it there and then. I do so, blagging my way through the tube system without paying - apparently the tubeanderthals are as baffled by the whole Oyster card thing as I.
I fill the thing out at work and head down to the Paddington ticket office to get it all fixed up at lunch. What follows is a solid 20 minutes of me standing at one of two open ticket windows while they figure out what to do. Not only that, the lady hasn't a clue and has to get the one on the other window to help out. The massive queue that amasses behind me is really not impressed, I can feel the malice wished upon my slumped back through the venomous stares behind me.
They even try to charge me three quid. I laugh, heartily. Your system breaks, I spend half my lunch standing here while you try to figure out how to fix it and you want me to pay for that too? Ho ho ho!
It got fixed. I scarpered. I wondered whether this is technology gone wrong or just yet another nifty-idea-in-theory but outragously expensive and impractical idea from dear old Ken.
Bizarrely they seemed to actually take my word for what was loaded onto the card, from the scrawl on my form. If I'd know they were going to do that, I'd have pencilled in an annual. Hmm, I wonder how this one would fair in a microwave...


  1. As a daily user of the oyster card system, I have to say your plight is something I've dreaded happening to me given the very new nature of this technology and the observable lack of knowledge from tube staff when it comes to asking questions about it.
    That said, given the number of oyster card journeys daily on both the tube and the buses, I must confess to being impressed with the stability and resilience of the system as a whole; millions of oyster 'transactions' every week, and as yet (bearing in mind it has been running for nearly a year now) I've seen no large scale disruption to the service.
    However, I agree that their website is utter shit - diabolically unusable and a pain in the ass to use; their staff, those who sit for hours on end behind 4" thick bullet proof glass 'serving customers', are absolutely clueless in the main and there is nothing worse than having to watch some numpty go glassy eyed when you ask a question that doesn't fit neatly into their checklist of question/answers.
    Asking you to pay for it however is a joke, and I'm glad you blagged it.

  2. I stopped using my Oyster some months ago.

  3. S'fine when it works but it's just fucked that I don't have an actual record on it which will work with a visual inspection. So if it cocks up, then I'm screwed and they're not going to bend over backwards to help me and compensate me for my time in sorting it out. So back to regular travel card for me.

  4. AmLan is being held in Whitstable, my forgotten village / town on the coast. It is of course famous for its Oysters. Madame Nesia forsees a llama snot revival!

  5. Surely the records are all on a central computer and the oyster card is nothing more than an ID - which actually makes it far more secure than something which stores the transaction data locally. Probably impossible to cheat too.

  6. No, that's not how they work. Which is why I explained how they work, see?

  7. I'd just ordered an Oystercard when you started this blog. I'd waited and waited to see if there were ever any problems with the new system and had finally decided it was time to upgrade.
    My reasons for this are that I'm sick and tired of machines at the stations being exact change or cards only. Did you know you can only use your bankcard once a day at any machine?
    Even when the machines are operational I always seem to have the most crumpled, twisted, ripped banknote in existence. The change in my pocket is 5p short and the queue at the ticket window is out the door.
    I don't need a travel card as most of the week I cycle in. I only need it on the odd occasions that the machines are bust and every man and his dog are in renewing his/her travel card.
    I can see more reasons for it than against it. Even if it does mean that once in a while I have to deal with the tubeanderthals, it'll be a vast improvement on the present situation.
    or so I hope..

  8. Yeah, agreed. By and large they work fine and they do save you from having to buy a ticket... My local tube station is insanely busy and has just three ticket machines, only one of which takes cards and that has a good 10m queue in the morning. Usually with people at the head who are working out how to use it for the first time...

  9. I wondered why you didnt eat the oysters I lovingly prepared for you at the weekend....

  10. I heartily feel for you, Lurks. The same dilemma happenned to me, but I still had to face costs and all that for nearly 4 days.
    After complaining to a LuL staff they handed me a form to make my claims. But I need to supply the receipts... Bastards. Luckily, I had them at home.
    Even after that they were unwilling.
    The same goes for when you definitely "swipe" your card, but the ticket inspector's machine failed to register that fact. They tried to fine me on the spot. However, I was brave enough to argue with the inspector and exlcaimed in a very loud voice... "Why don't you come with me to my workplace and explain to my manager that you are so stupid. And that's why you made me late!"
    I must have hit a nerve in him as he was gonna radio the Transport Police. Maybe because I'm Asian and that an imagenary bomb will appear out of thin air and blow the Tram to smitherines.
    I believe that LuL and Ken are aware of these problems, plus others concerning the Oyster card. And that they are purposely putting us in the position where they will always win.
    Might as well, brush the dust off my cycle and use that

  11. Oyster card is nothing more than a tracking device for any one with the correct frequency to read your card. The fact that this frequency is within the legal boundaries simply means that any sod can read where youve been. Or so can the police, or underground staff...if they knew how to use the system.
    I wander if our 'good' friend Ken has an oyster card and whether he actually knows what it is. If you ask me...he should have spent the money on oyster on improving the transport system. The implementation of a tracking device is not improvement by the way its just plain stupid.
    I sincerly hope that it will only be a matter of time before some legendary genius will create a dummy oyster card which will work without deducting any money and simply creating that god awful 'BEEP' enerytime you pass. That will bugger the system up, lets see who will win then!

  12. Actually it's a bit more than that. These RFID cards do not simply transmit all available data stored on the flash memory just to any joe bloggs, nor will they allow anyone to write to them either. There's a layer of authentication and encryption built-in. It's still possible to provide officials, presumably law enforcement etc, with the keys to read that information but it's not done today and were it done, I think you'd find that we'd come to know about it.
    The idea of a fake oyster card that goes beep is quite a fun one but of course it will do nothing for getting you onto busses (it lights up for the driver and shows your current credit) or onto tubes because the gates wont open. As for it being a tracking device, that's not really any more true than the bank card you carry now which is probably also a smart card, only that needs to be placed into a device. You still don't have the keys to get at the data on it so wireless or plugged in, the result is the same.
    To be clear, I think the concept of RFID cards for transportation payment is an excellent idea. It simply takes far too long for people to fumble for change and buy tickets for, what amounts to, very frequent journeys. No, the problem I have with it is that it wasn't fully integrated with the transportation services. It isn't perfect, it's liable to fail and they need to give you the benefit of a doubt and resolve it as THEIR failing, and not ours.

  13. Picking up on Lurk's comments in the last post, I have to say that I agree with him and a lot of other posters on this site.
    I also think that the idea of the Oyster card was a good one. My bugbear is that a paper travelcard will actually give you genuine unlimted access to Zones 1 - 6, but Oyster pay-as-you-go won't. Let me explain.
    If I want to take a journey from Liverpool Street (Zone 1) to Romford (Zone 6), I can do this with no hassle at all with a paper travelcard covering these zones. I just pop the card through the ticket barrier at both ends, and bobs-your-uncle, journey completed.
    On an Oyster pay-as-you-go card, journey this is not possible. Why? Because the section of the journey between Stratford and Romford does not run parallel to a tube line, therefore is not set up for pay as you go travel. To add to the madness, a travelcard on oyster covering the same zones will allow you to undertake this journey. What is going on here?
    Similarly, a journey I have to do regularly runs from London Bridge to Sidcup. Again, a travelcard on either system (paper or oyster) will allow this journey, but pay as you go will not. Why???
    For me, this is THE MOST frustrating thing about oyster. I do not use the tube/rail enough to warrant a travelcard (indeed, for some journeys I do on national rail, a travelcard on oyster would be more expensive than pay as you go), but do use it enough that pay-as-you-go is a viable option. And yet despite using pay-as-you-go for part of the journey, I still have to buy a paper ticket for the part of the journey that is not covered by it. How is that cheaper?
    Overall, I like oyster, but once you dig into it in more detail (IE: Start to use it for yourself), you tend to find out how wobbly it actually is!

  14. Ok heres a problem, wondering if you can help...
    I'm a regular user of the Ostyer card and don't have any problems with it. That is until I recieved a Court Summons! I'm a good honest girl and this was a shock! I made a bus journey in March and for reasons quite boring, I sat down before swiping my card. Later, I got up to swipe it so the machine could deduct the 80p fare. I was stopped by an inspector, questioned and my card was taken from me. I'd explained my girly reasons for sitting down first and that I had every intention of paying the fare before leaving the bus. It didn't matter. I was not fined or heard any more about it, until last week when I received this court summons. London Buses are asking the court for £95 from me, for an 80p fare that had been paid! (the card thats costs £3 to get, had about £3 on it and was never returned) Any ideas?
    The vast machine is watching....

  15. Its the Darwin effect, happens to all women who leave the kitchen.

  16. Alfa you crack me up :-) Dj, a court summons means you've got to show up really, or face a default judgement. So either do that or show up and explain your side of it and see what the court says. They might be reasonable given how little love there is for red kenny in various halls of our esteemed capital. Maybe.
    On the other hand, I feel duty bound to say something mean because it's what we do on this site. I'm just going to take a wild stab at the 'girly reason'. You didn't have your Oyster card out when boarding the bus. It was in the bottom of your handbag and despite the fact you waited at the bus stop for 20 minutes and stood in the queue of people getting on the bus for a further five minutes, replicating the standard behavior of public transported women across the country no doubt, it only occured that you had to actually pay for the fare and find the means to do so just as the driver looked at you expectantly.
    So in that respect you may or may not be unfairly penalised by this incident but in some small way this represents a modicum of justice for all those poor bastards who have stood behind you waiting for you to fish the ticket out of the masses of other unfathomable girly crap in your hand bag. I'm going to predict that the outcome of this matter will be rather dependent on wether the right honorable gentleman presiding has ever travelled on public transport himself.

  17. And I thought I was going to get a sensible answer!
    The facts are these. The pre pay card, with more than enough fare on it, was in easy access. However, a few days earlier I had had a rabies injection and was feeling a little faint and the hot and crowed bus was not helping. I sat down in my faint condition, before swiping the card. (It was a bendy bus where you can use any door; therefore I wasn't holding anyone up.) When I was feeling a little better I got up to swipe the card. It was then that the inspector stoppped me and preventing me from fulfilling the destiny of the Oyster card.
    Is this really justice? A Court Summons, not a penalty fare, A COURT SUMMONS for not swiping 80p immediately on boarding?!! Have Transport for London not got anything better to do?!
    Yes, penalise the people who don't pay their fares, or those that abuse the system, but if London Buses checked my full Oyster record, would they not be able to see the daily journeys I take, and when and where and how often I swipe the hybrid of alien offal?
    Alfa, I love your answer. Do you think if I apologise to the right honorable gentleman for leaving the kitchen, he will let me off?

  18. Dj, hat's off. Normally we'd be in hissy fit territory with this but you've taken it well. In fairness though, I consider it a huge failure of ours to convey the impression you would ever get a sensible answer on this site. :-)
    Bah, being serious; I think this is pretty shocking and I'd be as angry as you are about the whole thing. There just cannot be any justification for a courts summons over the penalty fare. The latter is the normal proceedure and has an appeals process to go with it. I'm not sure where you stand law wise. In order to demonstrate we aren't always a bunch of cocks, I shall summon the clan phat lawyer to offer some more appropriate advice than remaining in the kitchen. Well, he might say that anyway but we don't know until we ask eh?

  19. I hath been summoned.... Now unfortunately the facts are these - London Transport staff are tasked with meeting out a vast majority of non-production of fares by on the spot fines but unfortunately also with regularity to start the ball rolling on court proceedings against a small number of individuals. This doesn't seem to have a particular rhyme or reason but is done pour encourager les autres. That's "make an example of" for those of you reading in english.
    In these situations you have one priority which is to win / extract yourself at minimum cost. Rule number one eat total humble pie and never get an attitude with anyone ever. This is very hard to do but essential.
    In your case, I would ask LT if they could explain to you why you have a summons and do ask incredibly sweetly. Is there anything you can do to close matters out? Explain about your injection and obtain a record from your doctor that this was the case. You will need to take this to the magistrates unless you can extract yourself earlier. Secondly ask LT to provide a copy to you under the Data Protection Act of your records of usage of your Oyster card. I have no idea of your rights on this but it may well work. Again, you need this for the magistrates or you need a record of the fact that you asked for it and that you were denied such records. If they turn you down ask for it in writing.
    At the magistrates, dress smartly, turn up on time and when asked say "I am very sorry that this is occupying your time. I tried to explain my situation to the inspector and I hope the magistrates will allow me to produce a medical record of medical treatment {hand it over} which left me feeling weak and dizzy. (Explain as above in your post). I also provide / have been denied a record of my Oyster card usage which proves that I diligently swipe in and out every day for xx months. I am of good character (say this as long as you have no convictions etc) and always pay my way as evidenced by my records / which I am unable to prove to the court because I was denied access to the records. I am sure the court deals with many dishonesty offences but I was just a single woman feeling unwell who made an oversight on a single day. Thank you for your time"
    If you got bolshy with the ticket inspector, blame that on feeling unwell but stick to the above. Lastly you may want to try the Citizen's Advice Beaureau who may have local examples of people who've successfully extracted themselves from these situations.
    Now the most important part - my fee; We expect an update! And if you're hot, pictures too....

  20. If she was hot she wouldnt have been busted in the first place :)

  21. No fair. It was an old man who busted me. He couldn't tell his arse from his elbow!!
    Thanks for ya help... I will let you know how it goes.

  22. I'm getting done too

  23. Sorry, let me explain further. I'm being summoned to magistraits for using someone elses oyster (even though I also had my own (validated) oyster as well). I don't know wheather to fight it and risk large court fees and large fine £1000!!!! or just bite the bullet. But what if I plead guilty and still get a £1000 fine. Does this count as a criminal record? I might move to Australia with all the other cons.

  24. Atleast you chose an appropriate nick!

  25. I'm free....
    Actually case never got to court in the end. I think London Buses realised how stupid they were.
    I wrote a very humbling letter (even though I was fuming inside) to Transport for London explaining situation as advised by am (thank you very much). I rang them a few days later and was informed that they were withdrawing the case. I even got an apology!
    So thank you. Sorry I don't have pic :)

  26. Victoire!!!!!!!!!! Well done dj! Your excuse about no photo is shiiiiiite but we're too busy celebrating the victory (and can supply several desparate and needy addresses where a four pack of Stella would be, instead, gratefully received instead). But hah! and indeed PAH! We sweep off into the sunset in an improbable ElectricDeath lycra cape shouting "One more for the people from the public service channel that is ElectricDeath!". (Our slogans were always shit).
    So kidding aside - all random readers read up and see why this succeeded. Read and digest. Take course of humble pie and particularly getting in *early* and dead apologetic even if you want to rip the heads off orphans. The first place is the ticket inspector / cop. After that just keep on trying as much as is possible as soon as is possible.
    Right buba, really what we need to know is why you used your mate's card. We need to know if your explanation has "legs" i.e. credible. Hit us with the explanation and lets see how the other side might attack it.
    For this there is no upfront charge. ElecticDeath - doing shit since 1998(TM).*

  27. Congrats dj, well done. Good to hear of a success story.
    The facts in my case (and this is all true) is that the Oyster card belonged to my recently deceased Father. As far as I was concered it was out of date (it even had EXP 05 or something on the front!!) and I was only carrying it (along with his photocard and more of his old cards etc) for sentimental reasons. The thing is, it was in the same wallet along with my Oyster and the reader seems to of chosen mine or his at random.It chose and charged mine only minutes before as I left the station then charged his as I re-entered the station after using a cash machine( in fact I feel this may have something to do with it not reading mine again as I know tickets and travel cards are disabled temporarily for a few minutes after use to prevent them being passed backwards).
    The Inspector even said at the time that as I had my own card as well he didn't think anything more would come of it. (of course there's no mention of that in his statement which they kindly sent me)
    Anyway, thats what happened. I'm going to write a letter now but what do you think?

  28. Buba
    Sorry to hear about those circumstances mate. Yes, write the letter and tell it as you do - just factual. If you can include the serial numbers of the two oyster cards and names and for the best level of proof perhaps a photocopy of the two that would be best. Also in your explanation you did not explain about the "selecting" of the cards by the charger was this because you swiped your wallet with the cards inside? If so explain, if not explain how this happend i.e. more precise about this.
    Do mention what the inspector said to you and conclude your letter with the same thing I said to dj about them seeing lots of dishonesty events, but you are of good character (as long as no criminal convictions (will be checked in a magistrates) with a very individual circumstance which you hope they will understand. I would be very surprised if you didn't get an appropriate closing of no further action - just keep that letter factual and provide as much "proof" as possible. Good luck.

  29. More troubles... need help please!
    My girlfriend had her Oyster card stolen back in August. I cancelled the card on the Oyster website the same night. A few days later, I got an email telling me my oyster card had been automatically topped up! I rang the helpline and they told me there was nothing they could do. I wrote a letter of complaint but I heard nothing. As far as I see it, LT owe me £20 plus whatever was on the oyster (about £13) at the time of cancellation.
    I had my switch card replaced recently and so I have a new issue number, etc. In September I got an email telling me my auto-top-up had failed. I immediately went to the PoS website and updated my card details. I thought nothing of this until I received an email 4 days ago telling me auto-top-up had failed AGAIN. I didn't actually read this email until last night, at which time I received another email telling me I had TWO failed auto-top-ups and that they have cancelled my card! I also owe them £40.
    As far as I'm concerned they owe me £33, and I owe them the £40 for the top-ups that failed, even though my card details are correct. I've had TWO major problems with the Oyster website now.
    How should I proceed? Recommendations?

  30. I also have been summons to court. I am due in November at court for an incident in February. I am a car driver and very rarely use the bus and one day my husband and I were driving to somewhere and because of a change of plan I decided to go home but I did'nt have any cash on me and my husband in his encouragement of me using the bus and an oyster card lent me his card. (I can't remember what the change of plan was). It was a busy noisy bus and I swiped the card and thought that was it but on my journey an inspector came on board and checked the card and found out that it only had 30p on it. My fare was £1.50. Thanks husband!!. OK hands up we cocked up. But I have now received a courts summons for £95 where on earth do they get this figure from?? I am going to go to court if I have to and there is no way that I am paying this - comments from friends are that this is just pure bullying from red Ken - its causing me stress and I am now looking for evidence to support my case. I am guilty but for £1.30 or a more appropriate fine and one that has no need to go to court for. Any ideas?? I hear red kens gots off his court case!

  31. As you said, you're guilty. So only job is to try to minimise the fine. Really just follow the guidance given above. Phone up and be extremely sweet and show your terrible concern - "I can't sleep because I'm worried about going to court". Tell them you are not a bus user usually and admit your mistake but say "I am sure you deal with a lot of dishonest people deliberately trying to fare dodge but I am an honest person who made a mistake. I am willing to accept that that means I may have to pay a penalty fare - I recognise that but is there any way we can deal with this more quickly and efficiently?"
    Hope you succeed. To anyone else reading this blog, please read up. All you need to know is here. Won't be answering any more personal cases unless it's something weird that can't be dealt with by the tactics above.

  32. I have also been summoned to court! i am distraught because i am an eighteen year old student who has just left london being told i have to come back during term time to plead in front of a magistrate! i was on a bendy bus, like dj (on my eighteenth birthday as it happens, and so just eligible for an adult oyster card). I had borrowed my mum\'s pre pay and forgot- Yes forgot- to swipe as i got on, even though the card had money on it, because i was used to having a travelcard. An inspector got on and when he had found out that i hadn\'t paid, i expected i would just be allowed to swipe my card then. It says nowhere on the bus that you have to swipe as soon as you get on. I was removed from the bus and my oyster card taken \"as evidence\". The point is that I would have paid, and the dishonest thing to do ould have been to swipe my card before the inspector got to me. But I didn\'t and now I have to do all this court/magistrate/fine thing. my friends have been caught on tubes and they only have to pay a 20 pound fine. I feel i am being made an example of nd it\'s really unjust.I am going to try writing a letter as suggested and will update when I find out.

  33. I think the best way to sort these problems would be to demand an iq test with the application for the card.