Talking about @Railcards … and systems glitches

I’ve got what’s described these days as a Senior Railcard. I’ve had one for some time now, must be coming up to 10 years, it gets me one third off most rail fares and although I don’t use it that often it has certainly saved me money.

A one year Railcard costs £30 but since I’m confident about my health and the ability of the NHS to keep me alive I’ve just renewed it for three years for £70. I will use it for trips to London, that’ll save £10 a time and from the annual trips I make to visit cities I’d like to get to know better. These have included Cardiff, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Durham and Bath and the saving on advance purchase return first class fares have easily paid off my Railcard.

This month Railcard the company prompted me to renew my Railcard because it expires 17 Aug 22, coincidentally Indonesia’s Independence (Merdeka) Day. Easy enough I think so click on the link to do so online.

But not so easy and despite numerous attempts to ‘clear my basket and start again’ I always ended up in the same dead end.

HELP on the website is just a list of FAQs none of which match my specific problem, there’s no phone number so I have to send a message. There’s an immediate response:

‘A member of our team will be in touch as soon as possible. This may take up to 10 working days’

10 working days? Whatever happened to the IT revolution and being able to do stuff more quickly?

Fair does the response only took 6 working days:

‘This could be a system glitch. I would suggest that you contact our team on the below-mentioned number so that they can assist you further’

And don’t you love the penultimate paragraph ‘have a lovely day’?

So I rang the number and spoke to the excellent Mervyn in Mumbai. Mervyn sorted out my problem but before doing so he had to get me through security. For that I needed my 15 character railcard number, my name as displayed on the card and my email address. You’d think I was getting clearance to enter Fort Knox.

He then renewed my card for me. Is this what the IT revolution does, allows you to talk to a person 7000 km away who taps onto a keyboard at your command?

Finally he talked me through setting up my new Railcard on my phone for which he read out to me the six character activation code. It’s at times like this you appreciate the phonetic alphabet! Mervyn spoke excellent English but his accent meant that it was easy to confuse ‘k’ with ‘a’ and ‘v’ with several other letters.

We chatted afterwards. I apologised for my grumpiness, he’d remained so calm and helpful throughout, and asked why it had to be done this way and if the ‘system glitch’ had now been sorted.

No the glitch has not been sorted and I’m just one of many who’ve had to be looked after in this way. Although it seems to be a minor glitch because it’s a part of a major global payments system fixes it seems cannot be rapidly fixed because of the need to maintain the system’s integrity. Makes you worried about other major systems with minor glitches which impact our daily lives doesn’t it?

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