Almost Renewing Online With ServiceOntario Is An Almost Great Experience

I had to renew my health card and Ontario Photo Card this week. Since you can renew a lot of these things online now if you don’t need a new photo (thanks, Covid), I thought I’d give it a try. I had a picture taken last time I was in and I haven’t moved or done anything else that might cause a problem, so I figured I’d be golden.

I was almost right.

Renewing the photo card couldn’t have gone smoother. You enter the numbers from your current card, answer a couple of questions, pay the fee and you’re off to the races. Other than the extra required blind guy time it takes to do things like get the numbers into a readable state, I had that done in maybe five minutes.

the health card started off similarly. Answered some questions, typed in some numbers, hit the button…”beginning of error messages,” it said.

Error messages? What did I do wrong? Everything here looks correct.

The site, which had up to this point been surprisingly pleasant to use, was no help whatsoever in answering that question.

Above the info I had entered, it said that perhaps the card numbers or my postal code were incorrect. Didn’t bother telling me which one, just that they might be. I checked several times. They were not. Below it, it said that what I had entered did not match the information on file. Well duh, my friend. If you think it’s wrong, of course it’s not going to match.

Puzzling over this for a moment, Carin wondered, quite logically, whether I had perhaps done things in the wrong order. You need your photo card to renew your health card, so since you renewed that first, maybe it invalidated it.

Well crap. Maybe it did.

So it was off to ServiceOntario with me.

If I’ve never said it, I’ll say right here that as much as one can love a government office, I love the Service Ontario on Manitou Drive in Kitchener. Every time I have to deal with them, they’re always friendly and helpful. I mean that in the usual explaining everything sense, but also from a blind person who might need a little extra help perspective. And man, that place can move! Whether there are three people waiting or we’re lined up out the door, I’m always in and out of there in no time at all. Give those people all of the money at pay raise time, Doug.

This time was no different. There was no line, so I was able to walk in and talk with somebody right away. I explained to him what happened and he said that the website is “notorious for doing this to people.” I handed over my health card and my photo card. Not even the temporary printout you have to carry between the time when you renew and when your new one comes in the mail, just the current card. That put to rest any thoughts of my having gotten the order of operations wrong. And any further worries I had that maybe I really did enter something incorrectly were also quickly torpedoed when he came back a few seconds later and said “I found your problem. You need a photo.”

A photo? Really? The very thing the website told me would stop an online renewal in its tracks, and it couldn’t tell me that? Brutal! That’s day one, basic, must have upon rollout functionality, guys! And it not being there ruined what was an otherwise very good user experience.

I’ll definitely use the online system again, even though I’m worried that I’m going to need a new frigging picture every time. They say you need one every 10 years, but I was under the impression that they were going to start using the same photo for both cards. The way my timing worked out, I was absolutely due for a new health card photo, but I got one taken for the Ontario Photo Card five years ago that I thought would be valid for this. Apparently not. I guess I’ll see what happens in 2028.

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