Clipper Troubles? Try Calling … Twice

Clipper on Muni
Photo by AgentAkit

Muni rider Geoff (he of the “other” spelling) sends along a story that would be humorous if it weren’t too annoyingly real. Geoff had his Fast Pass set up on his Clipper Card all right and proper. Until he tried to tag his card, that is.

Being experienced in the ways of customer service, Geoff decided to call Clipper. Here’s how that call went:

Her: How can I help you?
Me: (i describe my issue with the FastPass not showing up)
Her: In looking at your account, it seems like your Fast Pass for the month isn’t activated. You need to tag your card at a station.
Me: I don’t live near a station, I catch the L out in the Sunset
Her: Sometimes you can tag it on a train. That sometimes works.
Me: You can’t active my card from the screen you’re looking at?
Her: No, I can’t. You need to tag it. Most likely you need to tag it at a station.
Me: What if I tag it, and it still doesn’t work?
Her: You’ll have to call back.

(I then go on to ask her about the $2 I was charged for when my card wasn’t activated, and how to get it refunded. She told me that I needed to fill out a form on the website and send it in for the refund.)

Me: You can’t just issue me a refund right now? You obviously can see that I shouldn’t have been charged.
Her: I can, however I still need you to fill out the form.
Me: Ok, Goodbye.

(I then go online to see what this form I need to fill out is. The only form I find is to get a refund for my whole Clipper Card, for when you decide to not use it anymore (which I briefly consider). Obviously this isn’t correct. So I decide to call back.)

And … Call No. 2:

Receptionist: Clipper, can you hold?

(I hold, and in a minute get another CS rep.)

Me: (I give the same exact story)
Her: Ok, let me look.

Some time passes…

Her: Ok, I have activated your card, it’s good to use. Also, I refunded the $2 charge you incorrectly got.
Me: Thanks!

… and I hang up. It’s amazing the difference between two different CS reps. Not sure why the first person couldn’t help me at all. The moral of the story: Call back if you get an answer that is unsatisfying! I just checked, and I still don’t see the refund, but the activation worked!

So there you have it. Moral of the story? When Clipper Customer Service knocks you down, you can pick it up and try again, try again.


  • Roger A

    Dont expect them to ever credit you at all. Ive been told that while my card didnt work, and I paid $20 in transit travel by CASH and kept the transfers and faxed them all in – that I would get a refund on my card…. It never happened, this was 15 months ago, Im still waiting.

  • Now you have me concerned. I just ordered a Clipper card, thinking it would make travel in the city much easier than carrying coin, cash, bart card, etc. Haven’t received the card yet. mmm…

    • Ah, well, consider this: For every malfunctioning reader or bad customer service experience, there are countless instances of everything working peachy. Our aim in publishing these stories is to document as many contingencies as possible with a new system. That, and getting answers to troubling questions (such as what to do when you encounter a broken Clipper reader).

      • I’d expect mistakes to happen too when they just start to go mainstream.

        For other electronic farecard programs that just started, they all had their share of complaints and issues. Seattle’s ORCA card experienced the same teething problems when people argued their accounts was suspended when there is more than 90 days inactivity.

  • Boris

    To me it seems the bigger story here is that you need to be in a “station” to activate your card. Is there some follow up on this? When can you activate it on a bus or street car, when do you need to be in a station.

    • Months ago, I activated my TransLink card by tagging it on a bus. So you’re right: That information (coming from the cust. serv. rep.) is just plain WRONG.

    • Geoff

      This is the Geoff from the story.

      I think the first lady was just dead wrong. You are supposed to be able to activate it by tagging it on any bus that has the scanner on it. I think towards the beginning of the month the busses get updated with the cards to activate, or perhaps that it is a new month. Sometimes your buss is not activated by the time to try to tag your card for the first time in a month. Or something like that. It’s all very confusing.

  • EMo

    You should be able to activate your Fastpass on a bus, train, or at a station since those scanners can read and transmit. The exception is the cable car since those scanners can only read.

    • Regarding which equipment is capable of activating value on a card, all devices have this capability. However, the system is designed so that it can be more predictable when your value is available from a reader in a station as compared to on-board.

      Here’s why: The readers on the vehicles are off-line because the buses are not connected to a network at all times. When you add value via the website, the website sends a communication to the readers that says, ‘add value to card xyz the next time you see card xyz.’ Readers on-board the buses/street cards only pick up this communication when they pull into the bus/street car yard; for various reasons this may not happen every day (though it usually happens daily). Until the reader tells the card to add the value, the card doesn’t actually have the value (different than a credit card which communicates to a bank every time you use it). So, touching your card to a reader in a station, where the reader is connected to the network, can be a more consistent way of picking up value added via the website or over the phone. I hope this helps.

      Thanks for your interest in Clipper.

  • danielle

    The $2 not showing up yet might just be a delay, like when you use credit cards or get a refund from anywhere else. Transactions are done in batches at the end of the day. When I was “refunded” my BART card to switch to Clipper, I got an e-mail that said I had been refunded but it didn’t show up on my credit card for a day or two.

  • Beyond the issues specific to the TransLink/Clipper card (mine is still the old green TL kind…which still works), I have found that the explicit moral of this post to generally be true for all CD reps everywhere: if you are at all concerned that the info you are getting from one is wrong or simply unacceptable, chances are you are correct. I have gotten three wholly different responses from three people when asking the same question. This phenomenon is no relegated to small or also-ran companies but has reliably reared its head at many larger, well respected companies more often than not.

    Call again. It’s an unfortunate reality.

    • agree wholeheartedly. i had this experience recently with airline reservations. after spending (i wish i were kidding) 45 minutes on hold with Expedia, and getting nowhere, i called the airline directly and got the correct information. dust yourselves off!

  • Rachael

    My monthly pass just activates on the bus.

    I had some difficulty establishing monthly payments until I set up autopay- I’ve never had a problem since then.

    Has customer service changed over too? I’ve never called Clipper CS but called Translink several times and they were always very kind, helpful, etc. The woman I spoke to was always willing to waive fees when I had problems.

  • Daishin

    What makes you think that this Clipper System is run by any more competent people than those who run Muni? It’s called poor employees. It’s the mark of the 21st century. Get used to it. It will get a lot worse.

  • Lloyd

    I’ve always been dreaded the day when I have to use Clipper because of one incident where this guy got his card tagged on the L, but when he reached Powell with the security and the card had some problem and he got a ticket. How do you explain that, huh?

  • kevin

    DO NOT participate in Clipper until the Fast Pass becomes obselete. I wanted to purchase a Fast Pass on Clipper at Powell Street. The Clipper agent at the machine was extremely rude and begrudgingly offering guidance to those of us that didn’t know what we were doing. His exact words were, ‘This isn’t even my job, go get the Muni Agent’ which I did. She told me she wasn’t budging and that he worked for Clipper, deal with him. Back to him I went, he told me I wouls NOT get a Fast Pass put on–watched me as I selected the 60 dollar option–end of transaction.
    Now, everytime I use Clipper it deducts 2 dollars per ride. While company representatives were very sympathetic, nothing was resolved.

    • Roger A

      Sounds about right in regard to Clipper Customer Service – those who ARE friendly when you call, have no idea whats going on, or how to take care of it, so they lie and are sweet as pie about it. Those who are rude, are pissed off that you caught them in a loophole or system meltdown and now you are forcing them to fix it, essentially doing their job, which it seems to me, Clipper doesnt like actually doing – a job.

      Clipper HAS TO GET 3G WIRELESS CONNECTED terminals at not only stations, but trains and buses so we can tap on and off anywhere, add money from online, and most of all.. PLEASE PUT CLIPPER ADD VALUE MACHINES AT MAJOR TRANSIT STOPS AND LIGHT RAIL LINES!!!

      Jesus H Christ – how do you expect people to use the system or eCash if they cant even top up? Walgreens? Have you ever waited there for someone to top you up? It HAS TO BE A MANAGER and it takes 10+ minutes to find one of those.

      Clipper is a big fail. IT fails more then George Bush failed this country.

      • Alex

        so i really fucking hate clipper, because your right. they are clueless!
        i called one night i was on hold for 20 mins, when they picked up the phone THEY HUNG UP ON ME! 20 mins for what!? and then what i called back the guy was like well ill give your number to so and so, and guess what i never got a call! when i called about the problem where clipper double charged me for the 20$ac transit disabled persons pass, i told them, and the lady was all like, “oh girl we wouldnt steal your money that pass will load automatically next month” so last night i board 22 fillmore and i get charged 0.75 cents and im like what the fuck?! turns out even though i set up autoload with the ac transit and muni unlimited monthly passes. they fucked up. so i had NO passes on my clipper at all!
        so i had to take J church to church street and once again manually load the passes shelling out 40$. on monday im going to the customer service guy at embarcadero and they better refund me the 20$ they stole from me and never delivered a pass for. who the fuck can wait 5-10 days for a god damn pass to load? thats close to like half the month.
        its unacceptable services need be rendered when payment is rendered thats final! they need to beef up there stupid system the way it is currently is unacceptable! i still am pissed that that lady at clipper LIED to me because that ac transit pass i paid twice for never loaded! im taking screan shots and muni receipts to them monday and i better get my fucking money back. i hope they fucking get rid of clipper its AWFUL! they have no customer service AT ALL!
        they probably fucking outsource those people i swear!

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