Thursday, May 17, 2007

NH EZ Pass--Not So Easy; Not So Smart

If I ran my business this way, I'd be "separated from the company" immediately for poor planning and decision-making.....(if you're here to figure out what you can do about your last chance letter, you now have until May 25th to respond).

Remember my mention of my little snafu with the NH EZ Pass system? It turns out that my little snafu was only one of 23,000 New Hampshire violations that EZ Pass decided to clear up with a "Last Chance Notice." 23,000 letters sent; no time allowed for response and no action by EZ Pass to move resources to handle the call volume/customer response that this mailing created. (Someone should lose their job over this; really.)

Those 23,000 letters were dated May 2, 2007 . We received our letter in the mail on the 11th of May (according to our housesitter), but I didn't open the letter until May 14th, when we returned from Ohio.

The letter was incredibly vague. I might 1) not ever have responded to the violations notice; 2) not paid the tolls; or 3) fought the violations and EZ Pass decided to reject my explanation. There was no clue as to which of the three it was. If they'd rejected my explanation, I might have just paid the fines and moved on, but I had no idea if that was the case.

The letter stated that I must respond within 15 days of the date on the letter. Not 15 days of receipt of the letter, mind you, and I had three options to do so: 1) by calling EZ Pass; 2) by faxing a written response to EZ Pass; or 3) by appearing in person at one of the three New Hampshire Customer Care Walk-In Centers.

I waited on hold for 55 minutes. No answer. I tried to fax a response to the number given for three hours. The line was busy for three hours. At 3:45 pm, I decided to drive to Seabrook to talk to the Customer Care Specialist in person. I left the fax on the fax machine, still auto-redialing.

As I passed through the Hampton Toll EZ Pass lane, the light went red and did not record my toll. This is precisely what happens approximately 50% of the time when I pass through the Hampton toll; the other 25% of the time, it flashes yellow and asks me to call EZ Pass. 25% of the time, it seems to work......

Anyway, I get to the center. There is a line of 12 people standing outside. There are 3 inside.
The gentleman ahead of me was fighting a violation from June 2006, that he'd already paid. The gentleman two ahead of me had $400.00 in fines because of an expired credit card on his Maine EZ Pass (which is the cause of $100.00 of my $200.00 worth of fines). After waiting 30 minutes, a man comes out of the building, smiles at us and says, "Good luck. I waited in line for an hour before I talked to someone. There are only two women in there and one of them just took lunch."

Took lunch? It's now 4:45. The center closes at 6 pm. At this rate, there's a good chance that I might not even talk to someone before they close. Hmmmm.

As we get closer to the door, we notice a sign posted. It says that if we want to fight the fines, we must respond in writing and while they are happy to forward our response to the main EZ Pass Center in New Jersey, they can't clear this up today. There is a pad of paper provided inside for us to write our response.

The Mainer (two ahead of me), mutters under his breath and I hear "lawyer, yank my chain, bullsh*t...". I decide to wait to talk to her anyway.

At about 5:10 a gentleman gets out of a car holding a cell phone to his ear. He asks how long we've waited in line and tells us he's been on hold with EZ Pass for 1 hour, 45 minutes. He snaps the phone shut and announces "I'll go to jail before I wait one minute more for these people. I've done nothing wrong here." He leaves.

Finally at 5:15 the woman comes back from lunch. The other woman leaves on a break. Sighs, panic, and disbelief ensue.

At 5:25 pm, I get to talk to the really nice lady (no sarcasm, she was wonderful) who took the first lunch break. I tell her that part of this is caused by the fact that the Hampton tolls rarely register my transponder--they didn't today on the way here, I tell her.
Last year, after six months of getting the yellow light and dutifully calling and being told, I'm OK, I stopped calling. I figured I was OK. She checks the license plate numbers, she checks the battery and says she has no idea why this would happen.....

She looks at my violations. She tells me she has no idea if they rejected my response, did not receive my response or if I didn't pay the tolls owed. I show her the cancelled check that they cashed for the toll payments. She sighs and says the best she can do is overnight my handwritten letter to them and log that I'm disagreeing with the information in the letter. They'll get back to me. She's sorry the letter is so vague and that she doesn't know where my violations stand.

I drive north on 95. As I pass through the Hampton tolls, I get a yellow light and I'm told to call Maine EZ Pass. I do. I get an answer from them on the second ring. She tells me I've got money in the account, the battery is fine. I'm all set, have a nice day......

According to this article, the deadline for response to the letter has been moved to May 25th. EZ Pass also has shifted resources to make sure calls are answered. I do know that if they reject my explanation for why I don't owe the fees and fines, I'm going to bill them back for time I've spent (due to their incompetence), at the hourly rate of $75.00 an hour. Grand total-- $329.89.

I move to retire Live Free or Die. The New State motto is: New Hampshire EZ?--not so much.


Anonymous said...

Not the only Mainah who has a problem with them...I unfortunately passed in the wrong lane Columbus day weekend of last year. Ok, so what's a buck, right? Traffic was behind me and I couldn't get to the other lines safely, on the way back-I offered to pay $2, the man said, nope you will get something in the mail. Ok, so I wait and the Weds. before Turkey day, the "letter" shows up saying I owe $1 in tolls AND $25 in admin fees! Ok, so I try calling them, on hold... and this was back in Nov. 2006 (they probably all left early for Turkey) so I turn the notice over and see where it says I could "dispute" the violation. It tells me to explain why I wanted to dispute (couldn't safely move to a paying lane thank you) send my $1 toll, but not the admin. fee-so I send the idiots a check for a buck and don't receive anything until the "last chance letter" on the 17th of May, my letter was dated 5/2/07 as well, so I got mine on the last day I could fight it...and the phones are jammed due to "high call volume". This was the first notice I had gotten, and I wonder why they even bother to allow you to dispute if their $25 administrative fee is non negotiable? If they are gonna send you a letter later wanting it, why bother to tell us not to send it in? I agree someone's head should roll over this, as this whole fiasco could have been avoided had they capable people working there. Yes, I was guilty of driving thru the wrong toll lane, next time I think I will just swerve over to get to the right lane and cause a major pileup instead, it would be a heck of a lot easier than dealing with EZ Pass Customer Care Center!

Anonymous said...

Hi, I just found your blog while looking for directions to the NH EZ Pass center in Seabrook. I've had similar experiences with them ( infinite wait times, etc )- a failed transponder read got me mail about paying the 75 cent toll + $25 administrative shakedown fee. I thought their ineptitude was exemplified by getting mail about how I had to pay this while they have my account information ( I owe them + I have an account + they know who I am = deduct from the account ). However, I found the best example of the EZ Pass experience while trying to find their customer service center today, which is by exit 1 in Seabrook. As you've been there, you'll know that it's not _off_ exit 1, it's _before_ exit 1 at the vistor center, and is only accessable from 95 North. So for a New Hampshire resident like me, I have to LEAVE THE STATE and go through Mass to get there.

Although I should have expected this, given the unofficial state motto is: You Can't Get Here From there.

Here's hoping for better service - I was able to walk right in, but I took early lunch from work and got there at 10:30. In fairness, the people I've talked to have been polite....when I've been able to get ahold of them.