Hold Tight! - Ten bob fiddler
Chapter 4
Page 19
Hold Tight!
Chapter 4
18 Fare game?
19 Ten bob fiddler
20 Back to front
21 Fareham tales
22 Baby blues
23 Winter blues
24 Double trouble
25 Bus companies
26 Get lost
27 Time to move
1 Beginnings
2 Learning
3 Getting Away
4 Winchester
5 Freedom
6 Southampton
7 City Transport
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As well as single tickets and returns we sold weekly tickets. These allowed regulars to buy one ticket on a Monday or Tuesday for one journey each way until Saturday. Initially two of the journeys were free but later this was reduced to one and then the discount was abolished. Soon after I started, weekly and return tickets were phased out. Before this, conductors were instructed on certain days to collect tickets when used for their final journey so that usage could be assessed. Passengers would argue that we were stealing the ticket they had paid for, although it always remained company property and was only really a token.
Weekly tickets were carried loose and overprinted with the price, date and fare stage by inserting them in the front of the ticket machine. If the ticket was put in at an angle the extreme left of the price missed the ticket but of course the value still registered on the machine. But if you didn't set the price up in the first place .....
There was a possible fiddle on tickets priced above eleven shillings. If the price was set on the machine and the ticket was printed at an angle, the one was missing. Having spotted this, one conductor started deliberately printing the tickets at an angle. So if the fare was twelve and eight he would only set two shillings and eight pence on the dials. This gave him a profit of ten shillings (half of a pound) at a time when our weekly wage was about thirteen pounds. He printed a lot of tickets and made a great deal of of money.
The end of the ticket was inserted in the machine and the details printed. A badly printed ticket would have the 1 missing but the 2 would still be the correct size (narrow) as in the top example. A dud ticket would have a 2 the size of the lower example but would be deliberately printed close to the edge to make it appear that the 1 was missing.
Naturally this showed up in the takings whenever he was on a bus on a Monday morning but although I could spot these tickets easily and so could a conductress from Andover who I talked to about it, the inspectors could not.
It was clear from analysis of the takings where he was making the money and a lot of tickets were collected and examined but the inspectors simply did not know what thet were looking for. He was eventually caught issuing a three penny ticket instead of a one shilling and three penny and sacked!
How to spot it? The problem with this particular fiddle was that there were only two dials on the ticket machine, one for the shillings and one for the pence. This means that the 12 had the same width as the 2 on its own. To put it the other way, the two on the dud ticket was too wide as can be seen on the lower ticket. Obvious when you know.
During the time the conductor was carrying out this fiddle, I was asked if I would change shifts with him on a Wednesday so that he could play football. I agreed, not knowing that the exchange had been set up by the inspectors. I went out on the first bus to Eastleigh and Southampton and was surprised to see an inspector waiting for me on the way out of Eastleigh. My first thought was that I had a passenger with one of the dud tickets. Technically I was at fault for accepting it and the inspector must have been taken to this point to catch me. I need not have worried. He didn't check any tickets but got off in Swaythling saying he was going to get some breakfast and would see me on the way back.
The return journey was one of the hardest I had ever known. Instead of simply clipping weekly tickets and selling some singles and returns, I had to collect every weekly and replace it with the correct fare and stages printed plus all the same journeys cancelled and the current one. The inspector collected all the other fares or let people off without paying. On arriving back in Winchester, instead of having a break, I had to calculate the cost of all these tickets and claim a credit for the total value.
Despite all this, nobody could see what was wrong with the tickets. Much later, when the fiddle was no longer possible, I finally showed the inspectors how it was done.
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