Monday, June 23, 2014

When good technology goes bad.

If there is one thing I hate it is intermittent faults.

Like when sometimes your car won't start and the rest of the time it starts and runs just fine.

When you take it to the mechanic there's no symptom - nothing to diagnose.
When my 10 ferry trip concession card passed through the red laser beam this morning the portable display unit read 9 trips remaining.

"9 left" reinforced the man attached to the portable scanner, beaming.

"Impossible I said - it should only have three trips left." I said.

"Consider it a bonus." He chimed, filled with the beneficence of those who favour others with other people's money.Clearly the matter was above his pay-grade and, in any case, it was the last run on the route for the morning and his mind was on a well earned cup of tea.

I'd like to report that I did indeed think of it as windfall but it just troubled me all day.

If the digital scanner could get it so wrong, even apparently in my favour, then it must also get it wrong at other times - in a less benign way.

How many times had my card been read incorrectly and I hadn't paid any notice.

Haw many times had other people been subject to the same casual assumption that the system works and, being an electronic device, beyond question?

What if I had one journey left but the computer said 'no'?

I'm pretty certain rules would have been rules and I would have had to cough up even as I spluttered my insistence that I was good for it - loaded even - if only with the single fare I needed to cross the channel.

This afternoon I made the return trip. Low and behold the reader read two remaining journeys we left on the card. That's a pretty wild variation as far as margins of error go. I mentioned it to the pursor - or whatever the description of a ticket guy is on the ferry to Stanley Bay.

"That's a Fuller's problem. You'll have to take it up with head office."

Resistance was futile.
But I will be checking the reader carefully in the future.

Maybe I will ask for the kind of ticket that has to be manually clicked?

Or maybe Fullers Ferries should get their equipment checked and audited. They might owe passengers some refunds or consolation.

I'd ring head office but last time I did to try to locate a lost iPhone I never got through - even after three attempts. Or maybe it was four?

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