NJ toll road collectors lack customer service training

Under the US Freedom of Information Act, the popular internet site, The Smoking Gun.com released dramatic examples of complaint letters concerning toll collectors at the NJ Turnpike and Garden State Parkway for the years 2008 to 2009. Some hideous stories released told of a toll collector not wanting to make change for a $1.75 toll from a twenty-dollar bill and then throwing the change and telling the driver to get his change from the road and die, or another toll collector demanding a driver to submit to a strip search because she entered the wrong toll lane. Both toll collectors were docked pay or suspended, but no toll collector was ever fired.

On the flip side, I was able to find complaints from the toll collectors who seemed to be offended by the bad publicity they have been receiving since the FOIA was published. Charges of racial slurs, paying tolls with pennies, paying .75 tolls with one-hundred dollar bills, drivers spitting, and a general lack of respect seemed to rationalize the alleged behaviors of toll collectors reported as defensible because drivers are generally rude and disrespectful. One collector said he doesn’t have time to smile since his job is to give change, roll up coins and bills, and give directions.

Curious as I was since reading this, and since journalism and real estate both encompass miles of traveling, I intentionally stopped at various  different toll booths along the Florida Turnpike yesterday and today and conducted a quick survey among the toll collectors. This was far from a scientific study, but of the six toll collectors I surveyed (while in my car) the employees (and Florida collectors work for the Faneuil Group) stated that rarely had drivers been so rude that the collectors ever thought of retaliatory deeds to get even. In fact, one older gentleman told me he loved his job and smiled at every driver. “Do they all smile back at you?” I asked. With a huge Cheshire cat grin, he replied, “how can they help it?”

New Jersey Transportation Commissioner James Simpson has promised transparency and better customer service and promises to bring excellent service and public safety reforms to the Department of Transportation.

Toll collectors need to have customer service training also. They need to be hired because they can not only do the job, but be able to deal with the customers – just like any other consumer oriented position. What would be the results if a company used representatives who insulted, assaulted or told customers to “die” on the road? Would customer service representatives just be suspended for ten days with no pay?

Short of making it obligatory for everyone traveling the roads to use EZPass or Sun Pass, customer service rules should apply to everyone – even toll collectors.

photo credit: Dan4th