Lost: SBS Transit’s Lost and Found service

Many Singaporeans probably have tales to tell of organisations, particularly large ones, with shockingly bad internet interfaces. A “wired nation” we are not. Worse is when even the telephonic interface does not work. The organisation is effectively deaf to the world.

Earlier this month, my frustration was with SBS Transit, the larger of the two bus companies in Singapore. Their Lost and Found Department must be lost in deep space. There was no practical way I could lodge a report of a lost item. The item itself was not a big deal, but the frustrating experience magnified the vexation many times over.

It was a tote bag containing a shirt and a soft cap, though it hurt that it was a brand new shirt that I had just collected from an alteration tailor. I realised that I had left the bag behind in my hurry to alight from the bus some 5 – 10 minutes after I stepped off; by which time it was too late.

Back home that evening, I went to SBS Transit’s website and found:

  • A hotline 1800-2872727 that is only available during office hours;
  • A Lost and Found phone number 63837211 that is supposed to be available while buses are operating;
  • An online form for reporting a lost item.

Since it was not particularly urgent, I tried using the online form. Although basic, it was adequate, until I got to the “Submit” button – which gave no indication that it worked.

Now, I have designed online forms before, and I know that it is essential to build a subsequent page that says something along these lines: “Thank you for lodging a report; it has been registered within our system and an officer will contact you at the earliest opportunity.” As soon as the Submit button is clicked, the user is given this Thank you/acknowledgement page. With SBS, nothing happens when you click Submit. It’s as unresponsive as knocking on tombstones; I have no way of knowing whether the report was sent or not.

In the slim chance that the report was sent (but the idiot who designed the form did not create an acknowledgement page), I waited several days for an email acknowledgement – checking my Spam Box too, just in case. You can guess what I am going to say next – nothing came.

The following day, during working hours, I tried both the phone numbers provided. Repeatedly. Both of them kept me on hold, with a recorded voice chiming in every 20 – 30 seconds telling me I could leave a message if I wished. After about 3 or 4 minutes, the system simply disconnected the call.

Trying the online form once more produced no happier result. The Submit button was still dead.

Then I chanced upon another page on SBS Transit’s website. It said:

All recovered articles that are unclaimed will be kept by SBS Transit for three months before they are donated to the charities. Prior to the donation, a notice of the recovered property will be posted on this website for seven (7) calendar days.

This page had a link to another page that listed all the items they had collected (over the last 3 months?) and were about to give away to the nominated charities. I wish that I had taken a screenshot of it because now that I want to show it to you, that page is gone. Probably, the 7-day notification period had expired and the stuff has been transferred to charity.

Why do I now regret I hadn’t taken a screenshot of it? Because it was a stunning list. Based on my recollection, it listed well over a hundred (a few hundred?) mobile phones and a surprisingly large number of laptops, in addition to smaller items like sunglasses. I can’t remember the exact numbers, but I most certainly remember how amazed I was at the quantity.

You would think that most people who lost a mobile phone or laptop would make an effort to find it. A laptop-user, for instance, would be tech-savvy enough to search the SBS Transit’s website and lodge a report. How is it then that SBS never matched the hundreds of recovered items with owners?

Two possibilities:

1.  Reports were lodged and received by SBS, but whichever human it was who was tasked to do this job, wasn’t doing the job (and management was totally oblivious); or

2. Reports could not be lodged at all. As far as SBS was concerned – totally unaware, of course, that neither its phone lines nor its Lost & Found webpage worked – nobody in Singapore cared to report lost phones or computers. And management remained in happy-happy la-la land.

What does this example tell us about Singapore’s aspiration to be a World-Class City?

29 Responses to “Lost: SBS Transit’s Lost and Found service”


  1. 1 abao 21 October 2011 at 22:21

    maybe my long lost PSP could be found in the list T_T

  2. 3 meiming 21 October 2011 at 22:29

    You may write to the new MP Ang Wei Neng. He is a VP of SBS. His email address:

    WEINENG.ANG@GMAIL.COM

  3. 4 Saycheese 21 October 2011 at 22:48

    Nobody claimed, every item donated, no problem. Why create a problem to spend money and waste productive time when this is not a money-making opportunity?

  4. 5 yuen 21 October 2011 at 22:55

    http://www.sbstransit.com.sg/icfms/icfms_feedback.aspx

    the online feedback form appears to work, and when you click “submit” on its 3rd page, does provide an acknowledgement response; however, the software does not seem to verify that the input items, e.g., email address, phone no., have the correct format, nor whether the feedback box has any text

  5. 6 Charlie 21 October 2011 at 23:08

    I have a similar experience but it ended in a happy outcome a few month ago. Instead of SBS, it was with Comfort Taxi. I was transporting a load of test equipment from my company premise to a testing facility. At the destination, it my hurry to unload I forgotten one item. But the time I realised it, the cab had rushed away to it’s next pickup. Immediately I called the lost and found number but what do you know, they only operate during office hour and it was already after 6pm.

    The next day, I tried my luck with the lost and found website. The thing is, the web form is all funny, the fields were not properly aligned. This immediately raised a concern in my mind, but I proceed to fill in the forms. Then, I got stuck, there is no submit form button!

    Thinking this must might be a problem with browser support (I was using Firefox), I tried using Internet Explorer, but got the same problem. Is it a fake form, horror horror?!

    Finally I gave up on the website, and called the hotline number again. After being put on hold for long enough to frustrate Dalai Lama himself, I finally got a human voice.

    Luckily, I was able to get in touch with the cab driver. The missing equipment was still sitting in the trunk and the cab driver didn’t even realise it! Two hours later and ten dollars poorer, I finally got the equipment back.

  6. 7 You know lah 22 October 2011 at 01:38

    If I were running SBS Transit, where “lost and found” is concerned, I would think it this way.

    1. “Lost and found” is just to make the website look complete and nice (for show or PR) for a service company. Also how many of the so many commuters will use it? So actual priority to make it of “good service” is “you know lah”.

    2. And public transport is more or less a monopoly here. And also it is more or less a necessity for almost all commuters. Can they choose not use? “You know lah”.

    Same thing if I were the PAP. For 46 years, I know how voters will vote and what kind the opposition is. So will I care or worry so much when I have “unpopular” policies? “You know lah”.

  7. 8 twasher 22 October 2011 at 01:47

    It’s been a long time since this happened, but I’ve had better luck going to the terminal where the bus I took terminated and asking for their lost-and-found office.

  8. 9 Anonymous 22 October 2011 at 11:19

    Dear Alex, if you can set up a public forum page on your blog and allow more Singaporeans to participate, perhaps you will be able to create an impact.

    I notice how Temasek Review managed to achieve that with so many Singaporeans voicing their concerns. The authorities would have no choice but to respond. You will be doing Singaporeans a great service.

    So far, I see Yahoo Fit to Post as the only site with mass participation. However, the way the website is being manipulated shows possible control by the government behind the scene. I hope there will be an alternative forum where Singaporeans can participate in mass numbers.

    By the way, you have been doing a great job moderating your blog. Thanks!

  9. 10 Loh 22 October 2011 at 12:09

    I lost my handphone whilst travelling on the subway in Japan. I went to their “lost and found” department in one of the stations in Tokyo to try and recover it. Despite the language barrier, it was quite easy for me to report the loss. They tried to find the phone by calling the station I exited. Although they never found it, I was impressed by how efficient they were.

    • 11 C 26 October 2011 at 02:20

      Likewise in Australia, I lost my shopping stuff and I was able to retrieve it rather quickly (within a week) that’s amazing for a country where administrative work takes really long.

      As for my lost HP, lost ez link card on SG buses… nothing despite me going to the terminal, calling the hotline or submitting the form.

  10. 12 Desiree 22 October 2011 at 17:24

    Being rather absent-minded, I’ve had repeated similar experiences (but not with anything very valuable, thankfully). The only way to retrieve the items in my experience is to go to the likeliest-looking bus depot (the one where the vehicle you were on would have terminated its route) as soon as possible and ask the drivers taking a break for help.

  11. 13 Teck Soon 22 October 2011 at 17:43

    When I was in Japan I once left something on a bus. I called a number, spoke in English, and I got it back within 2 hours. I didn’t even know what bus I was on. They figured it out. Impressive. Not surprised to hear your Singapore experience.

  12. 14 SG Girl 22 October 2011 at 19:16

    Perhaps you could write to ST Forum to air your feedback so that SBS Transit ‘might’ look into this problem.

  13. 15 yawningbread 22 October 2011 at 19:32

    Here is today’s joke. For failing to meet service quality standards over a six-month period, SBS Transit was fined $700. Only $700.
    ————————————————————-

    Straits Times, 22 October 2011

    SBS, SMRT fined over service

    THE two main bus operators here have been fined for failing to meet quality of service standards.

    The Public Transport Council (PTC) dealt SBS Transit a $700 penalty while SMRT received a $300 one.

    The PTC said yesterday that its latest six-monthly review of public transport operators, conducted from Dec 1 last year to May 31, concluded that the two companies largely met the required standards, but fell short in two areas.

    One was reliability, measured in terms of the departure times of buses and breakdown rates.

    The other was loading, or how full buses were during peak hours on weekdays.

    Checks by the PTC over the period showed that both operators failed to ensure that their buses left their interchanges and terminals no more than five minutes after the scheduled time in at least 85 per cent of all daily trips.

    The two operators also failed to guard against their buses becoming more than 95 per cent full during peak hours on weekdays.

    PTC chairman Gerard Ee said the latest performance results showed that although the operators were generally able to meet the required service standards, the performance results indicated that they still faced challenges in delivering service quality.

    He assured the public that the PTC will continue ensuring bus operators comply with required standards.

    Besides reliability and loading, it also assesses them on safety and accessibility of services in HDB neighbourhoods.

  14. 16 Saycheese 22 October 2011 at 23:08

    Maybe Gerard Ee will also reduce the ministers’ salaries by $700 each over a 6 month period for not meeting some arbitrary service standard?

  15. 17 ash 23 October 2011 at 09:24

    I had a different experience with this. I lost my cardigan a few months ago and reported it through the online form. I received their reply via email early the next day to inform me that they hadn’t been able to find it. I just want to share as this may not have been the experience of everyone who used their online lost & found service. However, agree, the form can definitely be better designed >_>

  16. 18 TWS 23 October 2011 at 09:58

    There’s another way to email to SBST. I’ve done this back in 2008 and the reply would usually come back about a few days later, something like 5 working days or more. The email is crc@sbstransit.com.sg.

    However, this may not work now, but there’s no harm trying it.

  17. 19 Poh Kai Wen 23 October 2011 at 10:34

    The online feedback form does work: Please use Internet Explorer.

    And anyways, it is your responsibility to take care of your own items and ensure that you don’t lose them. You can’t sue SBS Transit for stealing your items when you were completely careless by leaving your items onboard the bus. SBS Transit is not 100% obliged to find your items and return them to you.

    • 20 yawningbread 23 October 2011 at 11:27

      Amazing! You’re right. It works in IE, which I never use. Thanks. I submitted my report.

      However, the question remains, what sort of webdeveloper writes code that does not work on other browsers? Why is the entire govt and quasi-govt machinery out to drive users to Microsoft products — a point I had noted before in a previous article?

      • 21 Poh Kai Wen 23 October 2011 at 11:33

        i believe they hadn’t updated the interface for quite long, worth a try to write feedback to them to update the UI. SBS Transit takes input from the public quite seriously, as compared to SMRT which I barely ever get replies from.
        Meanwhile, hope they are able to find your item: they replied me in two working days though they are unable to find it.

      • 22 joeyfjj 23 October 2011 at 14:18

        Agreed. In fact, I’ll take it one step further.

        Adobe Flash should not be used on Government websites at all. Flash is nevertheless a proprietary plug-in. They should be utilising GIF images or even HTML and JavaScript.

        “Best Viewed with IE 6.0 and above, 1024 x 768 resolution” should have been a thing of the past – 1024 x 768 and IE6, you kidding me? Shouldn’t citizens get a choice to use browsers they prefer?

        XHTML and HTML5 exist for a reason, shouldn’t they be utilised? Shouldn’t JavaScript be preferred over Flash, especially if the animation is just-for-show and does not serve any purpose other than move some objects around, which even a GIF image can do?

      • 23 Anonymous 24 October 2011 at 08:16

        I believe there is PAP MP who heads Microsoft Singapore. She is Ms. Jessica Tan Soon Neo, Managing Director, Microsoft Singapore
        Member of Parliament East Coast Group Representative Constituency (GRC). Its a case of I scratch your back & you scratch mine scenario between PAP & Microsoft.

        Though I believe there are some efforts to decentralize away from Microsoft products with National Library Board & Ministry of Defence becos they are using open source Open Office software.

  18. 24 AnT 5 November 2011 at 05:46

    Just remember this and you will never be wrong.

    From everything to anything, we are just paying prices higher than Tokyo and New York for service and goods quality closer to Indonesia.

    But then again, even Indonesia is now upping its human rights record and Malaysia is in the process of abolishing the skewed ISA.

    And for a dose of retro fashion statement, it’s Disneyland with the death penalty, where everything looks like the future but still stuck very much in the past.

  19. 25 Winston 15 January 2012 at 18:58

    I lost my item on the bus and googled and found this website. Which scared me. I nearly stopped trying after seeing this website. It sounds bad. I think it’s helpful if you recommend possible modes of retrieval of our lost items. I approached the bus drivers at the bus interchange and they were very helpful and friendly. They even showed me a few reported items if any was mine. There were quite a few items just on the same day and it’s just one interchange. The bus captains actually look around the bus from time to time to see if there are items left behind. And they report it to the office. Promptness to find ur stuff is really key. Becuz i realize that they get so many lost items it’s nearly impossible to get back ur stuff once it’s thrown into the pile. You should go in person and request to inspect the lost items to see if urs is in the pile. If ur lost item is important i mean.

  20. 26 Eesha Muneeb 3 July 2012 at 10:03

    Yep I just lost my keys on the bus yesterday, and although not a big deal, it is frustrating that the phone keeps disconnecting and you can never trust a website to respond to you quickly; especially one that looks like that.

  21. 27 :D 31 August 2012 at 14:56

    If you have lost an article on board a bus, train, at an interchange or train station, and would like to report it, please contact SBS Transit’s Lost & Found hotline at 6383 7211 or submit through our lost and found form for our investigation.
    i called the hotline no. at ther was a HUMAN voice finally after several attempts…
    they said nothing was found or given to them…i still dun think the will investigate..

  22. 28 Anon 300r 9 November 2012 at 15:21

    After more than a year this blog has been written, I still experience the same thing. An unresponsive ‘submit’ button in their online form, and an ever-busy Lost and Found phone number 63837211.
    I am trying to recover an item for a tourist friend who will be leaving in a few days time, and i guess she won’t be able to get it back in time with such service from Singapore SBS.

  23. 29 Bee Leng 26 February 2013 at 15:32

    Lost my phone this morning and the same unresponsive “submit ‘button and lousy L & F phone number.Cannot even find the interchange telephone number to call.!!They do not even try to improve after all this time.Tried to submit 3 times. and finally sent a feedback to their “responsive ‘ online.will pop down to the interchange personally .


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