Apr 16, 2009

Superbus' Secretive Attitude About Rider "Smart-Card" Balances

A Guest Post by Moshe Burt

I started using Superbus service for my local Beit Shemesh travel in mid-January when their tender over a number of formerly Egged routes began.

It was with much trepidation that I went into their Beit Shemesh office, the day before their deadline for issuance of free "smart-cards", and was processed for a card.
Why trepidation? Consider what Nadia Matar and others have said and written about institution of technical identification databases here <http://www.sefer-torah.com/blog/2006/12/19/hi-tech-id-of-yesha-jews-at-checkpoints-preparing-yehudashomron-for-yudenrein/> and here. <http://www.sefer-torah.com/blog/2008/08/03/israeli-leftist-regime-animal-farm/> In short, "smart-cards" are another sign of Animal Farm, of Big Brother, of Israeli thought police and the state's surveillance of its citizens. But *Superbus' secrecy and deception and/or failure regarding providing customers of a full accounting, upon demand, of all blocks of rides bought, paid for and posted to their "smart-cards" shows that Big Brother, i.e. Police and Shabak surveillance of citizens is but a part of the problem.

*There were/are monetary incentives to using the "smart-card", i.e. that one possessing a Teudah Zacha'ut, for example, saves 11.50 NIS per 15 ride block by purchasing Superbus rides on their "smart-card." My understanding is that for pensioners, the saving is greater yet.

On the first full day of the Superbus takeover, I bought a block of local Beit Shemesh trips. After a period of time, I had run down the trips to where there were 3 or 4 left and went to buy another block.

American Anglo common-sense tells me that upon buying the second block of trips, the next bus receipt would show the total number of trips remaining that had bought and paid for, i.e. 19 (New block of 15 and balance of 4 trips remaining in the first block). Not!

Instead, on the next ride on Superbus, their computer terminal showed that there were but 3 rides remaining after deducting the current ride. What happened to the new block of rides which I had just purchased? I didn't know at the time that one could request a full accounting of everything on one's "smart-card."
Fortunately, when the old rides were used up, the new rides kicked in.

So then I ran down the rides on this block to 4 and then bought the next block, seemingly secure in the notion that the Superbus terminal would be consistent and again run down to old block of rides to zero before charging the new block of rides. Again, Not!

Instead, the Superbus computer terminal began running down the new block of rides instead of the old one. At that time, I raised a fuss and the driver printed me out a full accounting of the rides remaining in both the old and new blocks.

It concerned me that Superbus was not being consistent in the accounting for passenger rides. On Egged, it was very simple -- you paid your money, bought the denomination of trips and then the driver simply punched your card each time you rode. You knew, at all times, exactly how many rides you had remaining,
On Superbus, you place your "smart-card" on the spot on the terminal and the driver hands you back a receipt slip with your card. The problem is, that the terminal receipt only shows the how many trips are left on the block of rides being deducted from. Nowhere does it show how many total rides you have bought, paid for and have remaining. Nowhere on that receipt slip does it give a full accounting of what is still on your "smart-card."

Further the *drivers have begun deceiving their passengers by prentending that they don't know what the passenger is talking about when the passenger asks for a balance statement.* They continue their deception even when the rider shows them the previous balance statement document and they claim that they don't know what the statement is called in Iv'rit.

You try to ask for a cheshbon -- Not! You ask a friend who is in Israel longer than you and converses freely in Iv'rit and he tells you; Peirut (Pey, Yud, Reish, Vov, Tet) -- Not! One of the other passengers on one of the buses suggested the loshen "Duch" which I understood a long time ago to mean report. Once again -- Not! Meanwhile, one of the drivers who feigned not to know what I was talking about when I was asking for a balance statement double-charged me for the same trip.

Further, Superbus drivers deceivingly keep pointing to a Superbus office in Ramat Beit Shemesh, an office which has not existed for weeks.

Meanwhile, another individual who detected the same problems that I did spoke with *a Superbus supervisor* who checks to be sure everyone on a bus has paid. The supevisor *told him that we passengers have a right, on demand, to a balance statement of everything on our "smart-card."

*Finally, this morning (Sunday) I visited the Superbus in Beit Shemesh. A supervisor, Avi, who greeted me with a little bit too cheery Mo'edim B'Simcha, as if patronizing and condescending toward me, commenced to tell me that the drivers don't have to help passengers in any way, i.e. with a full balance statement of the contents of a passenger's "smart-card." He tells me that when there are other customers getting on the bus,* the driver has no obligation at all to provide such a statement upon a passenger's request. What that means is apparently that the driver can refuse to give you that which you have a right to.* Further, he told me that *the driver does not have to know what a card balance statement is.

*I told him that *Superbus' secretiveness and deception concerning balance statements leaves wide open the possibility of them lopping off blocks of rides from their computer* on passengers, poor passengers, mothers who travel on the bus with babies, strollers, often entering the bus piled down with groceries and just want to pay their fare and who probably lose their receipt slips most the time. If such lopping off blocks of rides on passengers, which these passengers had previously paid for but not used, were to occur, it would directly impact Superbus' bottom-line with excess, illegal, ill-gotten profits.

After heated words, I told Avi that I was unsatisfied with his answers. I told him that I believe that Superbus is hiding something by their deception of customers and that I have already informed the major RBS chessed organizations of a potential serious problem impacting poor people.
I did manage to get one piece of information out of Avi. I asked what the loshen is for the balance statement and he told me *"Meida (Mem Yud, Daled, Ayin) B'Cartis"* (pronounced Mayda). I strongly advise that passengers who have multiple blocks of rides on their "smart-card" begin requesting "Meida B'Cartis" as often as possible. And if something is not right, question it immediately. And if the driver doesn't or won't give you a satisfactory resolution to your question, do not hesitate to take it to the Superbus office in Mercaz Beit Shemesh.


  1. Rafi,

    I can't believe you let this pass. Basically, he thinks that:

    1) anything computerized reeks of "Big Brother" (still not sure of its relevance to the rest of the article);
    2) anything written by Mattar is torah mi sinai, and can be taken out of context at will;
    3) anything which is not organized the way he wants is a plot; and
    4) the drivers should be able to provide him with whatever he wants, whenever he wants, no matter how much it disrupts other riders, delays the ride, or distracts the driver.

    By the way, Moshe should be aware that A7 has a computerized, automated archive of all articled published on their site, including those written by him. Maybe A7 is part of an Orwellian plot as well.

  2. Moshe smells a rat, Yoni, but even if one doesn't, it seems to me well worth Rafi bringing this to the public's attention.

    Moshe's case, as I understand it, is that Superbus is ripping off passengers. It may or may not be deliberate (conspiracy).

    The case is:
    1. Buy a ticket with, say 20 rides.
    2. Use one ride.
    3. Buy another ticket, with say another 20 rides.
    4. Your *new* ticket will be active (20 rides credit).
    5. The old one will be either actively wiped out (lose 19 credits) or you will have to proactively insist upon having them re-activated. (I'm unclear which - Moshe?)
    6. Such a circumstance significantly benefits Superbus (which has now sold 21 credits for the price of 40 credits).
    7. It penalizes bus users, who are typically amongst the lower income bracket.

    (Moshe - do I have the story right?)

    If so, Let the buyers' beware!

    And perhaps Rafi/others can investigate this further, to get the problem rectified, for the public good?

    Reminder: Rafi's previous Superbus campaign, about the separate men/women hours in the Superbus RBS office, got them to change that policy.

  3. This story sounds so ridiculous that if it wasnt based on an Israeli company, I wouldnt believe it. Unfortunately, as its an israeli company being profiled, I dont see why it cant be true.

    However, though in general, Im not big on conspiracy theories - so I dont think this is one either - it seems to be a combination of doofus drivers, who are too lazy to give the passengers (read: clients) what they want, plus a doofus management who are too lazy to give their customers what they want, plus the usual lack of competition.

    See if there was competition, all you would have to do is go on the other bus. Now that they have the coveted tender (read: legal monopoly), if you want to stop them you have to show them that its worth it for them to deal with you - either a) after a long hard fight, theyll give you your stupid little paper with the numbers on it, and if its wrong, theyll let you fight and beg for the $10, and then give it to you. Or, they can be scared that youll run to the government offices in charge of this and beg them to get involved. Good luck on that account.

    Lets end the monopolizing of the transportation industry. Lets open it up to more than one tender in a certain area. If it doesnt work, lets call back those Van Cabs from 10 years ago who undercut egged

  4. we are supposed to ge a discounted card for our son who learns in bet shemesh. we can only get this discount at the office in old bet shemesh at very inconvenient hours..so we pay the full price for the privilage of buying in rbs .

    we complained but it did not help

    has anyone else had this problem

  5. DAvid,

    From what I could understand from what Moshe wrote, it seems that you get the number of rides you pay for, but the computer is inconsistent in how it displays the number of rides remaining. Either it shows how many are left of the "old" block (while those of the "new" block are still maintained), or it shows how many are left of the "new" block (while those of the "old" block are still maintained). It does not, however, show the most logical number, i.e., the total number of rides remaining. Moshe never accuses Superbus of cheating passengers, just not enabling them to get an accounting of their credit when they get on the bus (and I could see the logic behind this restriction - it could lead to arguments as people are getting on the bus).

    This is a stupid system, which is typical in this country. But why bring up Olmert's (alleged) plan to empty the Shomron of Jews and a "Big Brother" society? (Moshe - if they're not even smart enough to figure out which one of the numbers to display, what makes you think they're smart enough to run a "Big Brother"-type society?)

    Beginning the post on such a hysterical note is unnecessary.

  6. first of all, my previous campaign against superbus probably did nothing. they did not change their policy. eventually they shut the office in rbs down completely. maybe nobody knew about it so they never went in, maybe the hours were inconvenient, maybe they were upset at the separate hours. I doubt it had anything to do with my post on the subject. But maybe it did.

    second, the way I understood it from Moshe, conspiracy or not, the system is inefficient enough that it looks like you very well could lose some rides if you buy addirtional packs before you finish previopus ones. And if they do not give you an accounting, you have no idea if you are almost finished with your previous pack. I don't know what the solution is. Having drivers print it out on the bus seems like it would cause serious delays. But if the only other option is to shlep down to the main center in BS every time you want to see how many rides you have left which is an even stupider situation, then perhaps that is the only solution.

    The truth is that with these smart cards, I see no reason why they should not allow you access on the superbus website to your own card. They should have you log in with a name and password, access all your card numbers so you can see the status (how many rides left, etc) and even allow you to refill the cards on the internet. I am not sure why this is not being done already. It seems like a simple solution nowadays

  7. I dont know how these cards work as I have never been on a super bus in my life - but why cant they make a system, that when it reads the card - at the same time that it lets you pass bc you paid, it can also show you on a little screen how much money you have left on it? That would save time as there is nothing to print up.

  8. Rafi,

    If Superbus allowed internet-based refilling, it would lose its "mehadrin" status!


  9. yoni - that could be a potential problem... but superbus does not have a mehadrin status, other than unofficially for one line, and I would be willing to compromise on that line. So I hereby propose that for Superbus allow checking status on the internet of smart cards and allow refilling. the Superbus bus #11, the unofficial mehadrin route of BS, will be the exception and no internet dealings will be accessible for that route. Perhaps smart cards should be sold separately for the #11 bus.

  10. I did the wild goose chase looking for the office in the RBS-A mercaz the driver told me about (by Yesh there is one--- right!) after noticing that I paid for a new block of rides and on the same piece of paper still had only 2 rides left. When I asked the driver about it, he shrugged and told me I must be wrong (even though it was the refill followed on the same piece of paper by it saying there were only 2 rides left).

    Do I think it is a conspiracy? No. I think it is a bunch of idiots leading each other around and no one wanting to be the one to say "Oh you're right, that does not make sense" to the customer.

  11. happyduck - does that office still exist? I was told it shut down a little while ago....

  12. not that I could find-- hence wild goose chase!)

  13. I was really excited with the Superbus change over. The smartcards were a great idea. It would reduce the amount of time a driver would handle cash so he could look at the road once in a while. You wouldn't have to carry 5 different carticism. A bus directly to the train, a bus directly to the tachana etc...

    Then I discovered they were going to implement them the way it would have been done in 1948. They missed a chance to improve the system and ended up making it worse.

    At least the bus to HarTuv is not run by Superbus. We take the 417 to Jerusalem and the 416 home.


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