Salik is a joy to the hearts of many Dubai residents. There are few things that make me happier than passing under that smashing RFID-tabulous gate and hearing the sound of another four dirhams going 'ching' into the giant cash register that is Dubai's Roads and Transport Authority, or RTA. It makes me happy.
Recently I started to get text messages telling me that my Salik balance was low. And then I realised that I really had to do something about it: I was in danger of triggering... gasp... violations. So I went online to try and pay.
The RTA website is a bit of a mess, if I'm honest. It hasn't really been updated since they launched the whole Salik scheme and much of its functionality remains 'under construction'. Online payment doesn't work if you use Firefox, either - only IE is supported. Which is a little Victorian if you ask me.
So I loaded (with a shudder) Explorer and got on with making my payment. It's enabled through the Dubai e-Government 'Epay' site and the mechanism is a little, well, Victorian. Worse, my attempt to pay 'em Dhs 250 (good for a while, about 62 'chings') bombed out: the transaction failed. I tried again, keying my card details in very, very carefully. Failed again. And then I noticed an error message:
“Server was unable to process request. ---> uspEPayResponseUpd: OKCannot insert the value NULL into column 'dtUpdTime', table 'dbDTS.dbo.tbEPayTrxn'; column does not allow nulls. UPDATE fails.”
This didn't look good. I left it a while and tried again, same error message. Three attempts, three failed transactions. I called 'em, but they won't do credit card transactions over the 'phone, which struck me as a little, well, Victorian.
You know what's coming next, don't you? I logged on to the Salik website next day to see how much trouble I was in with those potential violations and... ta da!!!! I've got Dhs750 credit on my Salik tag.
The RTA call center won't process a refund because it's not their policy and anyway it's epay I have to talk to and not them and is there anything else I can do to help you?
The Dubai government helpline ('Dial one to stick knives in your head, dial two to eat lightbulbs, dial three to speak to a human being and solve your problem. Thank you for dialling three. Sorry, nobody's answering that line. Dial one...') says I should go to the RTA because they took my money. Great.
Having lost the plot with both, both have agreed to 'escalate' the complaint to 'the concerned department'. This has been followed by a long silence, but I'm not giving up. Even if it takes me as long as 187 crossings of Salik to sort it out...