Sunday, 21 August 2011

What Noise Annoys a Noisy Oyster?

A Cautionary Tale from No. 3 Son

Remember "The X Files", skilfully created by author Chris Carter to sow seeds of conspiracy and doubt in all our minds.
There was the enigmatic "Cigarette Smoking Man", we never knew his name, who seemed to be working for a global and manipulative "power", seeking to control the destiny of every man and woman alive.

There is an organisation in London that has similar manipulative powers. It operates under the code name of O.Y.S.T.E.R.

OnlY  Seeking  To  Extract  Revenue.

No 3 son is a "commuter"; it's an awful American word that derives from "commuted (= discounted) fare ticket holder" which we used to know in days past as a "season ticket holder". He "commutes", using a stored value smart card, from various stations in the Watford area into central London to do something impressive and incomprehensible with computers for a Japanese Banking Conglomerate. Sadly, he does not wear a bowler hat and carry a tightly furled umbrella.
He usually travels from Watford (Metropolitan Line) station because, as he avers, "it may be a slower journey but at least you can get a seat." And, adds fbb, he might get a ride on a spanking new train.
He never uses Watford Junction station ...
... because the fare is significantly more expensive due to the weird pricing policy of Transport for London. Good old Boris the Blue!
So fbb's little boy was surprised to receive this email from O.Y.S.T.E.R [names and numbers have been removed to protect the innocent.]:-


You did not collect the payment correction that we arranged for you.

This was the first he had heard of it.

Payment correction details:
Reason: Payment correction because of an operational issue

i.e. we messed up, again! 

Value: ?6.90 

? query £6.90 : they aren't really sure how much it should be.

Refund Number: XXXXXXX
Collection location: Watford Junction

 A station that he never uses.

Status: You did not collect the payment correction for Oyster card number XXXXXXXXXXXX

Naught, naughty boy! 

If you want this payment re-sent for collection at a location of your choice, log in to your online account at and follow these steps:

*Go to 'My account' and click on 'Orders/refunds'; your orders/refunds history will be displayed.
*From the list please select the 'Refund number' XXXXXXX
*Click on 'Resubmit Refund' and select the location where you want to collect it  

Why don't they just send the refund direct to his account? Why does it have to be "claimed"?
Please keep your Oyster card number safe. You may need to quote it if you call the Oyster helpline (0845 330 9876).
Yours sincerely,
Aderemi Ademola

Are you a real person, or a pseudonym of Cigarette Smoking Man?

Oyster Customer Services Manager

Please do not reply to this message. Replies to this message are routed to an unmonitored mailbox.

Really? Perhaps they are monitored somewhere?

If you would like to contact us, please go to for more information ...
... Where fbb could not find anything about refunds!

These people know all about you; where and when you travel; your debit card details if you have automatic top up; your address and phone number and it is all recorded, stored and available for access by THEM. And, unless you are going to monitor every journey you make, THEY can make mistakes with impunity, even offering refunds "out of the blue" to lull you into a false sense of security.
Don't be silly, fbb,  Oyster is a splendid system with not a hint of conspiracy. It is an ideal way to travel without hassle on the complex transport system of our Capital.

Next blog : due Monday August 22nd  


  1. A journey history is available on line. It has recently been revamped and is much easier to read. In particular it shows at what point travel on a particular day has reached the appropriate cap. It is probably good practice to look at it from time to time as, especially since National Rail signed up in full, the range of journeys and journey pairs has become considerable.

  2. There's a the link on the right hand side of this page though it does not seem to answer the questions posed here.
    I do have a vague recall of a blog where your son's card had apparently not recorded his entry to the system when he exited at one of the Watford stations (High Street or Bushey)?