The Great Touch ‘n Go Swindle…

Not so long after our highway tolls became fully automated, Automologist MAC gets an unpleasant surprise. 

So, Malaysia is looking to say farewell to all tollbooth workers and replace them with an automated system that is mostly okay. The trouble is it is not 100%. Regularly I find myself having to get out of the way of another driver as they try to reverse on the tollbooth lane because their card is not working, usually much to my personal displeasure.

So, imagine my astonishment when, horror of horrors, my card refused to work in the SmartTAG lane and the traffic built up behind, making me, I am sure, the brunt of numerous muttered curses. But I knew I had money on my card; just a few days earlier, on the weekend, I had “topped it up”. So I reversed from the booth, laterally traversed about eight lanes of traffic, thanking my lucky stars that it wasn’t that busy, to get to the one staffed booth. I protested that “there is money on my card”, “why does it not work”, only to be told that it was because the card was old and it had expired! What? A card that costs 10 ringgit (approx. US$2.50) has a life span? Where were the warnings that this was going to happen? Why was I not told or warned to replace it? What about the 30 ringgit balance on the card? Alas, the worker at the tollbooth could not answer my questions and I was directed to the Touch ‘n Go counter hidden behind the toll offices. Here, it was explained to me that the card was old and I would have to PURCHASE a new one and go to Touch ‘n Go Central (wherever that is) to get my refund.

The use of an automated payment scheme to collect tolls on the highways makes sense – it reduces costs and should increase efficiency. In fact, to use the highways in Malaysia, you sort of have to have a Touch ‘n Go Card and there must be tens of millions in circulation. But what is quite absurd is that the public gets charged for the card. It is not a lot of money – a mere US$2.30 to purchase one – but do the Math; the total is a very large amount.

But here is the thing: in the first place, the card should be free to encourage us all to have them, but ignoring that, what a great way for Touch ‘n Go to raise funds; all they have to do is cancel sufficient cards every year so we all have to pay another ten ringgit for a new card, not to mention the balance we will lose on the card as so many of us will not be bothered to go all the way to Touch ‘n Go Central (wherever that is) to claim the balance on the card. So Touch ‘n Go has just got 40 ringgit out of me for nothing………………..Genius.

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