I moved to Wellington about a year ago and was introduced to the world of Snapper. In my first week I had clocked up 2 penalties on my card. I very quickly learnt to ALWAYS tag off and what each message from the machines meant.

Earlier this year I encountered a new message - “Fare already paid”. Everyone tagging off the bus was getting this message. I thought "oh well, everyone’s getting the error, it can’t be too bad". But the next time I tagged on a bus I got the dreaded “penalty applied”!

So 24 hours later - this is how long it takes charges to appear on your Snapper account - I called Snapper and asked them what it meant.

Turns out the bus driver had entered the route number incorrectly on the machine (they had most likely entered it for the return journey) and therefore the machine thought it was in a different zone from the one it was. The Snapper call centre was very helpful and gave me a credit for the penalty, so I got my money back – although I had to go to the iSite to collect it.

In the last fortnight it has happened to me twice more. Again the Snapper call centre was very helpful and credited my card the penalty – by now I had the Snapper Android app on my tablet and could collect it easily with my Snapper + card.

However, the last time it happened there were people on the bus that were looking worried at all the “fare already paid” messages. When I told one person they could call Snapper the next day and get the penalty refunded, a number of people piped up asking me if that was possible and was it hard to do.

It’s very easy and I would recommend that anyone who thinks they have an incorrect charge to call the call centre and ask. It makes me wonder how much money was lost by people not knowing they could or should claim back the incorrect penalty. Considering the bus would be applying penalties for every person who received this message for the rest of that route, I would say it could be quite a bit.

When I spoke to Snapper, they told me they are raising the issue with drivers, so it shouldn’t be a common problem. But it makes me ask, how many people are questioning the charges on their bus cards or do they trust the machines are always right?

By Erin Bennett, technical writer