7 On Your Side investigates FasTrak toll violations

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Have you crossed a Bay Area bridge and then received a toll violation by mistake? An inside source at FasTrak spoke exclusively with 7 On Your Side about why you may never get justice.

This former employee reached out after seeing 7 On Your Side's first report in February. He worked at FasTrak's customer service center and gave us an inside look at how its call center deals with customers, or doesn't.

"They weren't resolving the issues for customers," said Nathan Webb. "They were just, you know, appeasing them or saying whatever they had to say to get them off the phone."

Webb was a FasTrak customer service agent up until last year. He quit because he didn't like how they ran the operation on First Street in San Francisco.

7 On Your Side has heard firsthand from drivers who've called in upset about mistaken violations.

"What are these charges for $500? I thought it was just a joke," said Marin County resident Ron Acosta.

"I kept calling and calling and calling. And nothing happened and then I'd call again," said San Francisco resident Henry Padula.

"'Too bad, sorry. It was our mistake, but we have your money so we don't care,'" said Hayward resident A.J. Jacobsen.

Jacobsen crossed a bridge with a FasTrak transponder, but still received a violation. Rather than correct it, she says FasTrak took $75 from her tax refund to cover the fine. Webb tells 7 On Your Side problems like that rarely got solved.

"If a customer was to call in, they would want you to deal with the customer and get them off the phone in three minutes or less," he said.

The Xerox Corporation operates FasTrak and imposes job performance standards. Webb says employees received higher pay if they got callers off the phone fast.

"If you were actually helping the customer, which would take longer than three minutes, a lot of the times, then you weren't meeting your performance measures, which means your pay would be less," he said.

Webb says Xerox paid workers $13 to $14 per hour as a base pay. But wages went up about $2 per hour if they kept calls short.

"Therefore you have a lot of customer service representatives who are trying to make that three-minute mark so they're not going to put the time and effort into assisting the clients," Webb said.

A FasTrak customer speaks to a representative at the San Francisco office. (KGO-TV)

He says time was everything. Solving the problem was not really the goal.

Frustrated callers would demand to speak to a supervisor, but Webb says they were not supposed to transfer the calls.

Derek Reid of Sonoma knows that all too well. He's recorded dozens of calls to FasTrak customer service trying to get a mistake off his DMV record.

We asked the Xerox Corporation for its call center policies and pay structure. The company would not talk to 7 On Your Side on camera and would not allow us inside the FasTrak call center.

However, a spokesperson released a statement saying in part: "Our call center pay structure provides a base rate of pay, plus a monthly bonus for handling calls in an accurate, courteous, and efficient manner. Rushing to shorten the length of a call is a call quality issue and is not incentivized."

Xerox is receiving $117.5 million in public funds over the next five years to operate FasTrak customer service. The Bay Area Toll Authority, which oversees the contract, says call times at FasTrak have dropped to under five minutes.

Bay Area Toll Authority spokesperson John Goodwin insists it means problems are getting solved faster. "I can't speak to the incentive to cut short a call. But not only our contractor, but any business does have a legitimate interest in maximizing the efficiency of its operation. So the quicker a problem can be resolved, the more calls can be handled per hour or per employee."

That's not a good answer for the folks we spoke to.

"It's still hanging out in limbo," said Jacobsen.

Padula added, "They have to give you a clear answer. Never got it."

"I'm sure a lot of people gave up," Webb said.

All four of the drivers mentioned came to 7 On Your Side when they couldn't get help at FasTrak. Because of all the problems, FasTrak has added an escalation desk to handle disputes.

Contact 7 On Your side and let them know if this probable gets any better when you call in or when you deal with FasTrak. We'll be looking out.
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