Monday, November 24, 2014

This Crazy Train's Presto Chronicles, Chapter 30: PRESTO? No. It’s more a matter of hurry up and wait …

All 29 chapters of the Presto Chronicles start here

The entry was written by Frank E. Futor:

This chapter of the Presto Chronicles has its genesis over a year ago.  I finally have some time to knit together the various events and bits of evidence to try to relate what happened.

My son, “N”, was an early adopter of PRESTO.  He liked the Autoload feature until it stopped working for him.  No one knows what went wrong, but he had to resort to loading funds manually to his e-Purse, which did not sit well with him.  After one agonizing trip (I’ll spare you the colourful language) last spring, I told him to give me his card and access to his online account.  After some investigation, I dashed off the following e-mail:

From: FF
Sent: Thursday, May 22, 2014 11:01 AM
To: Greg Percy
Cc: Robert Hollis; C.J. Smith
Subject: Yet another PRESTO problem – Autoload doesn't

Dear Mr Percy,

My son, N, approached me with a problem he has had with his PRESTO card (3124*****23090007) since last autumn, namely, Autoload does not work.  Despite discussing the matter with PRESTO CSRs and cancelling and recreating Autoload "contracts", the matter persists.

Here is a snapshot of how Autoload is configured for the card:

Here is a snippet of the transaction history showing that Autoload did not trigger:

Here is the card status as viewed on a GO Transit bus.  Why is the Autoload status "Disabled"?

Is this yet another PRESTO bug, or a case of “users unfamiliarity with the features”?

Thank you for your assistance in this matter.

I extend to Ms. Cindy Smith the rights to publish this e-mail as she sees fit on her blog site,


In response, I received the following e-mail:

From: L. B.
Date: Fri, 23 May 2014 13:15:20 +0000
To: FF
Cc: J. S., C. T.
Subject: FW: Yet another PRESTO problem – Autoload doesn't URGENT

Mr F,

My name is L. B. with the PRESTO Customer Care team.   I left a message for you this morning and just wanted to follow up with an email to ensure you had my contact information.

Thank you for your recent email to Greg Percy, President of GO Transit and Robert Hollis, Executive Vice President of PRESTO. Please allow me to respond on their behalf. I’m very sorry to hear of the challenges your son has experienced with his autoload contract.   On behalf of the entire PRESTO organization, please accept our apologies for these issues and the inconvenience they have caused him.

My investigation has determined that the autoload contract that was set up on October 20th, 2014 was not picked up.  After the contract is set up online, the card must be tapped to pick up or activate the contract.  If the card is not tapped within 30 days, the contract activation request expires.  According to the transaction history on the card, the next tap did not occur until December 20th.  At that point, 30 days had passed and the activation request had expired.

We can have the autoload contract activation resent, then after 24 hours (but within 30 days) you can tap the card, and the contract will be activated.  Please contact me to have this done if it is something you are interested in.

Also note that we have not determined what happened to the original contract.  To investigate this further, I would need to speak to you to gather more information.  I can arrange a call if you would like this investigated.

Thank you for bringing these matters to our attention and I look forward to hearing from you.

Senior Business Analyst - Customer Care - PRESTO

Problem solved.  Right?  Not so fast!  The investigation by PRESTO staff wasn’t as thorough as it should have been.  They completely missed the following attempt to reestablish the Autoload by tying it to a different credit card on April 18.  The PRESTO system fired off the following e-mail:

From: PRESTO Customer Service
Date: 2014-04-18 12:14 GMT-04:00
Subject: Contracts Modified / Modification de contrats
To: N

Dear N,

Congratulations, your request to modify the Autoload contract associated with the PRESTO Card 3124*****23090007 has been successfully processed. The contract ID number is 000618687_133.

Please take note of the contract number in your records, or keep this letter for future reference should you need to contact the PRESTO Call Centre for inquiries regarding this contract.

PRESTO is committed to providing you with the best customer experience possible. If you have any questions or comments, we would be delighted to hear from you. Please visit us at or call our toll free number at 1-8-PRESTO-123 (1-877-378-6123).

Thank you for choosing PRESTO.


The team continued to investigate, but first they “pushed” the Autoload contract to the field, and my son activated it after waiting 24 hours.  So, why was Autoload still not working after the e-mail was sent?  As L. B. explained:

Subject: RE: Contracts Modified / Modification de contrats
Date: Tue, 17 Jun 2014 14:21:53 +0000
From: L. B.
To: N

Hello N,

I just wanted to let you know that our technical team completed their investigation into why your contract did not kick in in April.  It appears that while the contract you set up in October of last year expired because it was not picked up in 30 days, it did still appear in your account (which is normal, but misleading).  When you went into your profile in April it appears you altered that contract (changed your credit card info, I think you said?).  That triggered the ‘Congratulations’ message you received, but unfortunately, because the contract was not ‘active’, nothing was pushed out.  Interestingly enough, I have been told that if you had changed your threshold, or top up amount, it would have reactivated the contract and sent this info out to the devices and you would have been able to pick it up with no problem.  As you know, after I contacted our technical team, they resent the action (contract) and you were able to pick up the contract and start receiving autoloads.  And because you had changed the billing info, it is billing to the correct card.

Well, I just wanted to pass on that information.  As always, contact me if you have questions.


Post Mortem Analysis

On October 20, 2013, my son talked to a PRESTO CSR who admitted "something doesn't look quite right" with the current Autoload setup.  My son informed the CSR he had to catch a GO train within the hour, so with the CSR still on the line, the existing contract was cleared and a new one created.  The CSR confirmed that the new contract was set up correctly in the system and would be activated on the next tap ON and that my son was good to travel.  This advice wasn't quite correct.

When an Autoload contract is created, the PRESTO system requires up to twenty-four (24) hours to push the contract request to all card interface points in the field.  In order for the contract to be applied to the card, the customer must tap the card after this one day synchronization period and within thirty (30) days of the Autoload contract's creation.  Because the October 20 tap ON was within an hour of the creation of the contract, the card did not pick up the Autoload request, and because there was no card usage until December 20, the Autoload request expired.

Even though the October 20 contract had expired, it remained tied to the PRESTO card and displayed a status of Active, although the PRESTO technical team stated it was not active.  This situation cannot be viewed as normal.  It's clearly a deficiency – a bug – that must be rectified.

It should be noted that PRESTO’s congratulatory e-mail confirmations state nothing about actions required by the customer to activate the contract.  If the system requires specific synchronization steps to be followed by the cardholder, then it would behoove PRESTO to communicate those instructions to the customer at every opportunity.  Otherwise, as we've seen, a race condition is created wherein the results are indeterminate, i.e. a bug.  Hence, the e-mail confirmations need to be revised to include the same timing constraints that are displayed after an Autoload contract is completed online.  CSRs need to remind customers of the timing constraints, too.

Thank you to L.B. and her team for resolving nine months of Autoload grief for my son.

PRESTO’s Autoload advertising, “Set it up once.  Never have to think twice.” remains pure balderdash.


George said...

It wouldn't be balderdash if they had clear and easily understandable instructions including what you have to do to enable the autoload. Apparently that's too much for them to do, they'd rather dick around trying to fix something that's easily avoidable.

This is why I tell people to forget the autoload and spend a few minutes per month at the ticket sellers to load up. No headaches and no calls to CSRs to initiate investigations.

Bicky said...

They better get the autoload and online loading glitches fixed before they do something crazy like charge a fee for loading in person at a ticket counter.

No one I know will autoload or online load their PRESTO cards.

I didn't know you had to tap in order activate the autoload contract. Who knew?

Squiggles said...

Agreed George.

I avoid it like the plague. And after they goofed with an online payment, I take a few moments twice a month and have them add the money manually.

Haven't had a problem since.

Anonymous said...

Not to worry. The service is rapidly being expanded so I'm sure it's all in hand now...;)