By Tracy Swartz
Going Public doesn’t have the best track record with Ventra customer service.
While some people played Christmas music in their cubes over the holidays, the Ventra hold music became my classic tune.
Once when I tried phoning customer service in October, I was disconnected by Ventra six times and got through on the seventh try after a 56-minute wait.
So I was apprehensive to visit the Ventra customer service center, 165 N. Jefferson St., to fix a mistake charge on my card.
I noticed recently I was getting a low account balance message when I tapped my Ventra card on some bus and train readers—even though I have a 30-day unlimited pass. I logged onto ventrachicago.com and realized that I had a negative balance of $2.
I tried to figure out what the extra charge was but the account history only allowed me to go back a month. All those trips were funded using my 30-day pass.
I visited the customer service center, which is around the corner from CTA headquarters and near the Clinton stop on the Green and Pink lines, at about 1:15 p.m., Monday. There is a large sign outside to denote the center, which is open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Inside, five service windows were open and clerks were helping four riders. There were no more than three riders in line at a time. I waited five minutes for a clerk.
I handed her my Ventra card, and she asked me to verify my name and the answer to my security question that I filled out online. She didn’t ask to see my ID.
The clerk said I had double tapped my card on Nov. 12, which accounted for the negative balance. I explained that I didn’t pay for another rider and the second tap was a mistake.
She nodded and handed me a receipt showing my balance had been credited. I was out of the center within 15 minutes.
Online, the customer service center gets a bad rap. There are more than 150 Google reviews of the center but the reviews—overwhelmingly negative—are more about the Ventra system overall and customer service call center than the bricks-and-mortar outpost.
The call center has seen improvement, the CTA said. Ventra reduced call hold time to a minute or less early last week, the CTA said Friday. The customer service number, (877) 669-8368, receives about 4,000 calls on average each day.
The agency also said Friday that last weekend it started changing the messages Ventra readers display to specifically tell riders if their card is expiring or they need to add money.
Good thing, because when I tapped my card after leaving the customer service center, the same low account balance message appeared.
So much for progress.