08 Oct Paris Velib’ 👎
Initially, I was impressed that the public/city bike option in Paris offered both regular and electric bikes (especially appreciated in a city with quite a few hills), as well as extremely reasonable subscription options (the most expensive is 8.30 euro/month).
However, both of these elements are really only of interest if you are able to use the bikes in the first place. After trying both through the app (which has 1 star…an initial alarm bell), and online over the course of two days to purchase a membership (with three different credit cards from both Canada and the US), I broke down and wrote to them using the customer service form. To their credit one day later I received an email with a reference number, asking me to call them. I did, and selected the option for an English speaking customer service attendent (a bit impressed that was an option). The result was that I was put on hold, then told to call back later and the line was cut. I then went with the French option, and managed to get ahold of someone quite quickly. However, they did not know why my payments were not going through, and said they would check with their supervisor. I was put on hold, which involved almost maniacally upbeat music. The tone felt a bit off. She then came back and said that they don’t take VISA. I explained that I had tried Mastercard as well. She said they don’t take that either. I pointed out that the logos are prominently displayed on the payments page. I got put back on hold. More music. She then came back and told me that, actually, it was just that they were not accepting non-European credit cards. She explained that this was part of an anti-fraud campaign. I pointed out that this was not a terribly sophisticated approach to fraud deterrence. In not terribly sophisticated French, I am sure.
To be fair, it is an effective approach, to be sure. And non-Europeans likely make up a small portion of the Velib’ user base. But would it really have been that hard to add text on the payment site that mentioned the fact that non-European cards are not accepted, rather than just keep indicating “payment refused”?