System glitches, human error slow move to fuel ration cards in Germany
July 7, 2008
More than a month after the Army and Air Force Exchange Service’s new fuel ration card went live in Germany, customers, the exchange and Installation Management Command-Europe officials are ironing out kinks and learning the system’s quirks.
Human error continues to be the leading cause of problems, but such instances are on the decline as customers become more familiar with the system. There have been a few snags with the automated system as well.
Some customers, worried that they might get stuck paying in euros at Esso stations if their card was rejected, tried testing it out by pumping just a small amount. Their transactions were denied because the minimum transaction with a ration card at Esso is two liters, said Dave Mattingly, the card’s development coordinator for IMCOM-Europe. That fact is being added to the command’s Web site.
Around the same time, customers noticed the cash remaining and ration balances on Esso receipts were up to 99 cents or .99 liters less than they should be. Then at the beginning of July, a computer glitch temporarily left some fuel card users thinking they’d been severely shorted on their monthly ration.
All three issues were identified ahead of the first communitywide card activation, which begins Monday in Ansbach. By Wednesday, 8,623 cards were in use across Germany. By the end of the month, all drivers in Ansbach, Baumholder and Bamberg should be using cards instead of coupons, and officials are rushing to calm anxiety over the hiccups.
The glitch at the beginning of July led the system to count fuel pumped in June against some customers’ July rations. AAFES corrected the problem by Thursday, and posted a message about the mistake on the IMCOM-Europe ration card Web site.
"If there are any other performance issues with the system, we will post a notice at this location on our web site," the note goes on to say.
The rounding error on Esso receipts turns out to be a benign quirk of the system that is likely to persist. Receipts show every quantity — dollars or liters — rounded up to the next whole number.
So if, for example, a customer pumps just an ounce more than 16 liters and the price comes up to a bit more than $18, the receipt shows that 17 liters and $19 have been withdrawn.
This happened to Mattingly, who re-registered one of his vehicles at the end of June and is now on the card.
"It was a real concern," he said. He immediately checked his remaining balance on the AAFES Web site and through the automated phone system and found he hadn’t been cheated.
The glitch doesn’t appear to affect AAFES receipts.
Still, the misleading information on Esso receipts is a worry, he said, because if customers aren’t aware of the quirk, they’re going to think they’ve been overcharged. The rounding issue wasn’t noticed during testing last year, according to Mattingly.
Drivers in Ansbach and some other communities have received their cards in the mail already. Customers are strongly encouraged to show up at their local card activation site at the dates and times printed on envelopes their cards came in.
"You don’t want everybody showing up at the same time,"" said Lt. Col. David Konop, an AAFES spokesman. But, he added, if customers can’t make it at the appointed times, they can show up at any time and have their card activated.