Clipper Card Woes: Overcharges and Cable Car Fail?

I had planned on getting my August fastpass on a Clipper card
Photo by Steve Rhodes

We’ve got more reports of Clipper card issues. Rider Denise said she was overcharged on the 6 “Sassy Parnassy.” Her transaction history showed the wrong time:

August 7th, Saturday afternoon. At about 3:45 p.m. my friend and I are at 15th and Castro. We’re waiting for the 24 Divisadero to take us on one of two buses to the Upper Haight, with punch bowls from Hobson’s on our minds. We both tag our respective Clipper/Translink cards on the 24 at about 3:50. We get off at Haight and Divisadero and catch a 6 (Sassy Parnassy, as we like to call it) five minutes later towards our final destination. Once we tag our cards on the 6, the machine takes another two dollars off our accounts in addition to the initial tagging on the 24, making our two-buses-within-20-minutes trip a total of $4 dollars.

I’m broke, on summer break from school and unemployed so I had the time and energy to look into this. My transaction history shows my first tag on the 24 at 6:20 a.m. instead of something closer to 4 p.m.. My thought was obviously that the time on the 24’s Clipper machine was off (I was definitely NOT up at 6:20 a.m. on a Saturday). After spending a good hour on the phone with a personable woman from Clipper, I have the possibility of a refund after an “investigation” given my “report.” So until I hear back from Clipper, I’m stocking up on quarters and giving my card a rest.

I’m curious if this has happened to anyone else? Maybe if your accounts seem lower than it should, you should keep an eye on your balances after tagging your card.

Rider Mary reports another Clipper card reader malfunction on the cable car:

This morning I was on the cable car on my regular commute coming down Powell St. to Market turnaround. The conductor asked for my card, apparently scanned it, and incorrectly told me that my Clipper (Translink) card, which has the August Muni Fast Pass loaded on it, was invalid. I told the conductor that the card did indeed have a valid Fast Pass loaded on it and that so far this month it has worked on Muni cable cars, buses, etc. He said that he would let me ride this time but not again.

Clipper had gotten off to a rocky star this month with Wageworks issues, and we know Muni has had clock error issues (reported by KGO about the cameras on the bus). Have you been overcharged when you use your Clipper card? Let us know.


  • Aaron

    YES. Only by looking at my ride history online did I learn that my July Muni pass loaded a day late. As a result I was charged $4 in eCash for two one trips (i.e., my commute) on July 4.

    When I called the Clipper customer service center to report it, they were pretty quick to apologize and offer me a credit for the $4.

    Still, had I not caught this I doubt I ever would have received a refund. And the rider history reports only go back so far… So, I’ll be checking my reports for awhile until I get a little more faith in the system.

  • Since I’ve gone back to not using Muni passes on my Clipper/TransLink card, I haven’t had any issues riding both BART and Golden Gate Ferry.

    As for the Cable Car incident posted on Muni Diaries, if you know you have a pass on your card, ask the conductor to review the card’s history report. The conductor’s reader has the ability to do more than just scan cards, the conductor can look at past history and all passes that’s on the card (including non-Muni ones).

    The oddest incident I had is I got off BART at Daly City with my card, was supposed to get a free ride from the 28 bus, but instead paid $1.75. The big deal breaker is I had to transfer to another bus to get home, and got the e-transfer ride free. If the system worked right, I’d be paying $2 for taking the second bus.

    • susie

      i’ve had the same problem with the cable car operators on the california line and i’ve told them they have to look for my pass but it’s on there. most of the operators find it right away without me having to say anything but the ones who try to tell me i don’t have a fastpass won’t listen to me when i say they have to scroll through the history. they try to act like they can’t do that but i know they can. it’s a pain in the a**. there are 3 guys who do this to me and the rest of them are cool. who do i contact to complain about this??? i even had a transit fare inspector check my card for me and she said my fastpass was on it. she even wrote me a note to show the cable car operators and told me to tell them to call the POP unit if they have problems.

  • Molly

    I have definitley had the same issue on the Cable Car before. Unfortunately they would not let me ride.

  • JC

    As a pass holder, I’m worried about the cable cars. I’m worried because the operators really don’t have any imperative to accommodate the growing pains of the whole Clipper system. They’ve got plenty of cash-paying or tourist-pass-holding customers. Clipper card people are now more time-consuming with the readers, the bugs, etc…

    And this over-charge story also bugs me because it seems to be another example of where the burden is placed upon you, the consumer, to make sure you’re not being ripped off by your transit system. Which never used to be the case but still would be fine except that it’s not all that transparent. It’s not like we’re issued receipts – we either have to be paying close attention to the reader (sometimes difficult to do when you have people trying to get around you to flash a pass, pay cash, etc… while boarding) or log on to our accounts to confirm that we’re not being ripped off.

    Basically, for the person who primarily uses MUNI or BART within city limits, once you get past the technology, this continues to appear to be a tremendous downgrade unless MUNI and Clipper get their act together.

  • It’s always an interesting observation that most of the Clipper complaints I research is about 95% about Muni, while other agencies that participate (BART, Golden Gate, Caltrain, and AC Transit) have way fewer.

    I know Muni has always been the punching bag for Bay Area folks, yet, there has to be more reasons why. Any thoughts?

  • Derrell Piper

    I haven’t been overcharged, but my card has crashed a 27 and a 1 and wasn’t accepted on an F last weekend (after being successfully scanned on several buses and a cable car that same day). At first the driver just yelled at me to hurry up and board, but less than a minute later, he started screaming down the train that it was my card, not the reader, and I needed to pay. I screamed back that I’d been using my card all day and he just yelled at me more. I eventually just stopped responding (I was nearly at the back of the car by now) and he eventually gave up.

    I’ve also run into a failed hand scanner on a California cable car, but they didn’t give me any grief. I just told them I had a valid Fast Passes loaded and that was that.

    There’s also somewhere between a 10-25% chance, I’d guess, of encoutering a dead scanner on the 1 line. I run into one every couple of days. No problems boarding these, we’re just waived on.

    It sure looks like this system is headed for certain meltdown come October… Face it, we’re just guinea pigs in a beta test run by people who don’t really care if the system actually functions.

  • edog

    my question is… if someone wasn’t as honest and virtuous like I know ya’ll are, why don’t people just stand next to the card reader and when you see cop, tap it.

    You can think of this with this fun slogan:
    Stand By
    See Cop

  • Ted K.

    I took advantage of the free Clipper card handouts and got one for free. Then when the switch-over card was sold, instead of the paper “A” pass, I got one of those. Now I have two Clipper cards – one for my Muni pass and one for my e-cash – that are kept in different pockets. Also, I carry my receipt for the Muni pass in case the electronic gadgets aren’t working.

    • Hi Ted,

      That’s fine that you carry a receipt for your Fast Pass, but you could carry this instead: A printable memo from SFMTA instructing Muni operators to allow Clipper/TransLink cardholders to board when card-readers malfunction.

      Also, you know you can have a pass and e-cash on the same card, right? There’s no need to have two cards.

      • Ted K.

        I know I can have two kinds of fare media (pass + e-cash) on one Clipper card. But the history of glitches and privacy concerns make a split approach more comfortable. Also, if I have a guest with me they can borrow my e-cash card and not have to hassle with the Clipper dispensers.

  • time error

    I know it’s over a year since this entry, but I just wanted to share useful information with anyone who gets this as the top result (like I did) when searching for being overcharged because Muni’s card readers had the wrong time:

    Clipper will not handle overcharges due to time errors, and after a lot of explaining, you will be directed to call the 311 complaint line at 415-923-6164. The 311 complaint line reps are familiar with this sort of situation though, and are very helpful in helping you file a statement/reimbursement request with Muni.

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