Sunday, March 01, 2009

YRT responds Quickly to Mike "The Fixer" Suddard

As of January 1st 2009 York Region Transit (YRT) raised transit fares for the third year in a row. At every VIVA station (the rapid transit stations in York Region) their is a poster showing VIVA routes and the fares to ride both YRT (local transit vehicles) and VIVA.

At my local VIVA station there was the usual transit and fare poster. However, at this stop there was a leftover poster from last year. Thus, the poster was displaying the 2008 fares instead of the 2009 fares which, it seems, every other VIVA rapid. In mid January I called YRT customer service to alert them that whoever had done the changing of the fare and route posters obvsiouly missed one. The reply from the customer service agent was that YRT/VIVA was aware of the problem and there was an issue of the hardware preventing them from changing it. At that point I was happy figuring that some handyman contractor with YRT would have the problem fixed in the next two weeks.

However, last Sunday I had had enough. I walked down and snapped a photo of the poster, did a little research on false advertising (i.e. displaying a lower price and charging a higher price for the same service...read: showing 2008 fares and charging the higher 2009 fares), and sent an e-mail to YRT at transitinfo@yrt.ca with the photo attached:

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Dear Sir/Madam:

Back in the middle of January I called YRT/VIVA customer service about the the Golf Links Southbound VIVA Blue Stop (Stop #9801) found here. At the time I mentioned the fares poster still hadn't been changed when the other VIVA stops were changed to reflect the increase in fares that began January 1st 2009. The response was that YRT was aware of the issue and there was "a hardware issue."

I've since taken a look at the poster in question (see attached photo taken Sunday February 22, 2009) and am not seeing what the issue is. The frame of the fixture holding the YRT/VIVA fare information poster is screwed in with regular Philips screws that are the exact same style of screws on the frame holding the updated poster at the Northbound VIVA Blue Golf Links Drive station (Stop #9800) accross the street.

It is now coming up on sixty days since the fare increase and this poster is still up and visible to the public. The poster causes confusion with possible riders approaching the stop as it obviously presents incorrect information to them. The poster presents misleading advertising on behalf of YRT/VIVA in terms of presenting false fare information to riders as this poster does advertise the false fare information to passers by. Misleading adverstising is against federal law under the Competition Act (as found here) as it states:

Misleading advertising occurs when a representation related to a product or service is materially false or misleading in order to persuade the consumer to buy it.

Double ticketing (charging the higher of two prices) occurs when a seller represents two or more prices on a product or service and the consumer is not charged the lowest price.

Both of the above apply to this particular poster as YRT/VIVA:

a) Presented its product a falsly advertised cheaper fare in hopes the consumer (i.e. rider) may by it.

b) The seller (i.e. YRT/VIVA) advertised two prices (i.e. one on the poster in the picture attached and a higher fare in the YRT/VIVA map or on the website www.yrt.ca) and the consumer (i.e. the rider) is not charged the lowest price (i.e. the posted price on the poster attached to this e-mail).

Thus the poster could possibly be in contravention of the law.

Further, with January 2009 fare increase, it is the third such increase in three years that YRT/VIVA has implemented. Thus, obviously, YRT/VIVA has been successful at changing this particular location at least two times in the past three years to reflect the fare increases. Therefore, this station was able to changed in the past and thus should be able to changed to reflect this year's fare increases or the display fixture repaired to show the correct poster.

If this location cannot be changed due to further "hardware issues" I would like at least for the poster to be removed and front panel to removed for repair or replacement. If this request is not able, I would like a full written response as to why this is this case.

Thanks for your attention to this matter and await for a response on this obviously pressing issue.

Michael Suddard

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A few days later I received the following reply from the same person from YRT Customer Service who mishandled this issue for me:

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Dear Mr. Suddard,

Thank you for your email.

Your concern has been forwarded to our Marketing department for review. We appreciate you taking the time to notify us of this problem.

We value your continued support of YRT/Viva. Your ticket reference number is T-50037. Please do not hesitate to contact us should you require further assistance with this matter.
Sincere Regards,


Rhonda DeBaeremaeker
Customer Service Coordinator
York Region Transit (YRT)
50 High Tech Road, 5th Floor
Richmond Hill, Ontario L4B 4N7
Tel: (905) 762-2100
Toll Free: 1-866-668-3978
Fax: (905) 762-2113
www.yrt.ca

OUR MISSION:
To provide quality public transit services which support the economic vitality,
environmental sustainability, and health of the Regional community
.


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So to say the least I wasn't to hopeful that YRT/VIVA would actually get around to it considering they were "already aware" of the problem from my January 2009 phone call. But at least Rhonda promised to forward the issue to YRT "Marketing Department" (i.e. the department responsible for the waste of taxpayers dollars on side of the road VIVA advertising banners instead of using same said money to ensure VIVA service actually operated on time and intersected with YRT local service for decent connection times...but I digress).

I was foaming at the mouth now over the possibility that a week after sending the e-mail nothing happening. I was excited to find an issue that "The Fixer" of the Toronto Star could take up with YRT/VIVA.

However, I was even more impressed that I turned out to be "The Fixer" as I noticed on Tuesday of this past week the offending poster had been removed and a new one put in place. Sometimes taking a second attempt does work out after the first one fails.

But I can't help wonder if YRT/VIVA only acts to customer inquiries or complaints if there is a picture involved. In the above case YRT/VIVA only acted once an e-mail was sent with the above picture attached. Also, in 2007, I sent an e-mail to a YRT Transit Inspector with an attached picture about a driver smoking at Finch Station that was acted upon. Coincidence? I wonder. But then again pictures do say a thousand words.

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