Alan Chartock | I, Publius: Lost E-ZPass PIN turns into tangle of frustration

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GREAT BARRINGTON >> Oh, come on! This E-ZPass thing has gotten out of hand. This is a result of the state decision to go full-time with electronic toll collecting.

In truth, the bureaucracy has made a complete mess of things and it turns out that their eyes were bigger than their stomachs.

They told us what to do but when we did what they asked, they were so backed up that they couldn't keep up with the paperwork and confusion reigned. When people did what they were asked to do, they were actually fined for doing the right thing.

In my case, I got a new debit card from the TD Bank with a new number on it. It seems that I have authorized E-ZPass to deduct the money from my account.

Imagine my surprise when Roselle and I were on our way to Portland, Maine on the Mass Pike and I got that terrifying yellow signal that my account was low and I should call E-ZPass. That's exactly what I did from the car. I had to wait but eventually I got a human being on the line who assured me that she could help.

She asked for my name and the number on my transponder and got it. Then she asked for my PIN number. I, of course, had no idea what my PIN number was and the lady became belligerent.

I mean, she got really angry and told me in no uncertain terms that she could not help me and that I would have to get a new PIN number. She said she'd mail me a form that would allow me to apply for a new PIN number.

I got the form, filled it out, faxed it back and heard nothing. Someone much smarter than I am at WAMC offered to help and got someone on the phone. Again, we got the form. Again, we faxed it back to the bureaucracy and again, after weeks, we still hadn't received a reply. Then, we did it one more time and still nothing.

Hey, I pay my taxes and in the meantime I had to pay every day on the way to Albany. Naturally, I was so used to going through the E-ZPass booth that at the last minute, I had to swerve into the pay up lane.

In one case, I actually did accidentally go through the E-ZPass lane, pulled over and begged the lady in the booth to give me a proper ticket. (She did.)

In the meantime, in spite of several entreaties to figure out what was going on, I was told to go to the E-ZPass place in Lee. It turns out that there is no such place in Lee and in fact, it is in a service area between Exits 1 and 2 in the eastbound lane on the Pike.

It wasn't until I read an article in this paper that I realized you could do E-ZPass business at the Registry of Motor Vehicles in Pittsfield. You might think that the people on the phone might have mentioned that. Also, the actually location of the so-called Lee E-ZPass office had nothing to do with what was said on their website. To put it mildly, what a mess.

Finally, after another phone call to E-ZPass we were told that they had found all my past paperwork attempts and that I would be allowed to change my PIN which I have now written down.

So, thanks to the Eagle for its good work on this mess and beware everyone lest the obviously underfunded bureaucrats do you in. Then, too, you might think that this whole thing is one more piece of automation that will cost some good people their jobs.

Alan Chartock, a Great Barrington resident, is president and CEO of WAMC Northeast Public Radio and a professor emeritus of communications at SUNY-Albany. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of The Berkshire Eagle.


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