Ever since it was announced, I was excited about the $200 travel voucher scheme to boost the economy of the regional Victoria. It was a great step in the right direction, following in the footsteps of NSW. The 120,000 vouchers would enable any family which would travel to the regional Victoria and spend $400 or more to get $200 cashback.
The scheme as revealed on 10th December 2020, consisted of three rounds each consisting of 40,000 vouchers.
The applications for Round 1 to start from 10 AM on 11th December 2020 and would be given to 40,000 applicants who would travel between 12th December 2020 and 22nd January 2021 on ‘first-come-first-served’ basis.
The Round 2 would start from 10 am on 20th January 2021 and would be given to first 40,000 applicants who would travel between 27th January 2021 and 1st April 2021.
The Round 3 would start from 10 am on 30 March 2021 and would be given to first 40,000 applicants who would travel between 6th April 2021 and 31st May 2021.
If you notice the dates carefully, you will see that both the Australia day (26th January) and Easter holidays (2nd April – 5th April) are excluded to be eligible for these vouchers. Very sneaky!
Applying For The Voucher
Long before the scheme was announced, I had booked accommodation in the Grampians in the hope that the Victoria would be open by Christmas. After a long frustrating lockdown, a nice outdoor trip was overdue. So travel voucher or not, I was going but if the government is giving something back, why not go for it? So I was all set to apply for the voucher on the day.
The system was supposed to start accepting applications from 10 AM, so I kept refreshing the link from 10 AM, frantically looking for the Apply Now button which was missing. In a couple of minutes, I started getting 500 internal server error or 502 bad gateway errors which meant that the server started to crumble under a load of visitors.
During this frustrating experience, this OzBargain thread gave me some good chuckle and a lot of relief that I was not the only one experiencing it.
Frankly, this made me nostalgic. Back in India, every time there were festive sales on sites like Flipkart or Snapdeal, the sites would inevitably crash under the load. Heck, it even reminded of the frantic efforts I had to take to book tatkal tickets on Indian railways website. 😀
After frustrating 50 minutes or so, I was finally able to see the Apply Now button. Sadly, my excitement was short-lived. As I clicked on the button and it redirected me to a salesforce page, I got a brand new error – Concurrent requests limit exceeded. Nice!
Thankfully, I opened it in a new tab and so was able to keep hitting refresh until the I saw the page. The travel voucher application was divided into 5 pages. The first one was an introduction page which described the program. At the bottom of the page, there was a confirmation checkbox to indicate that you understood the program guidelines. Sadly, the checkbox was so dim that I didn’t see it the first time. Only when the application threw an error about an incomplete field that I saw it. Not a lot user-friendly!
Every time I clicked Next button I would either encounter “site under maintenance” or some other error. After pressing F5 key for 10-15 times and clicking on confirm every time Chrome asked me about form resubmission, finally I saw next page. Soon it became apparent that I would be doing this for practically every screen along the way.
On the second page, I had to answer Yes to all 4 questions to become eligible. After this page, it asked me to register for an account without which I couldn’t continue. Sadly, it neither redirected to the registration page nor gave a link to the registration page. Apparently, user-friendliness was not very high on the list of whoever designed this system.
Registering An Account With Business Victoria
Finding the registration page was not a trivial task since clicking on the person icon on the top-right didn’t do anything as it usually should do. Clicking on home proved futile as it took to the Business Victoria home page which doesn’t list any registration link. The trick was to change the URL to https://businessvic.secure.force.com/. *Rolling eyes*
As expected, the registration site crashed a few times before finally giving in. I opened it in a new tab as I didn’t want to lose whatever I had filled so far. When I entered all the information and pressed submit, it threw an error about password requirements not being met.
Well, if you had password requirements – (need to be of minimum 13 characters with uppercase, lowercase and special characters) why didn’t you show it upfront so that I could create password accordingly? What’s the point of wasting anyone’s time over needless things?
Sadly even after complying with the password requirements, the trouble was not over. After I clicked Register, it brought me back to the same page. No error message or success message. I had no idea what was the issue. Retrying was my only option. After a few attempts, it finally created my account. Phew!
Finishing The Application
Back to the application, I moved to the third page which asked about my contact details and residential address. Astonishingly, the Proof of Identity dropdown provided only 3 options – Victorian Drivers license, pensioners card or proof of age card. So if you live in Victoria but don’t have either of these, sorry folks! No provision to accept utility bills, rates notice or any other address proof. Seriously?
Next page asked about my travel details such as the place I was planning to go, approximate dates, number of people, the reason for travelling and the amount I would be spending on the trip.
The slightly annoying thing was that it asked about Local Government Area for the place. So if I was going to Apollo bay I had to search for the council under which it falls. I felt like zip code of the place where I would be going would have been more apt.
The fifth page was a feedback page asking about where I heard about this program and giving consent to the application.
The final page was a review of the application before I could hit submit button. That last click tested my patience though. Even after clicking submit, I encountered under maintenance or SalesForce error page for at least 20 times before finally receiving the “Submission Received” message. *sigh of relief*
It took me more than 1 and half hour to get it done. It doesn’t mean that I got the voucher. I am still waiting for an email from the Victoria Government confirming my position in the first 40,000 applicants. But at least I was one of the few who got it done quite early during the day so there is hope. Just after a few hours, the business victoria removed Apply Now button altogether with the below message:
Though if you were savvy enough to save the URL, you could still apply. Here was the URL: https://businessvic.secure.force.com/PublicForm?id=vrtv2020
To sum it up, you have to earn this $200 voucher. It was by no means an easy task. You are bound to pull your hairs or hurl expletives at the computer screen. By the time, I finished the application, my forearm was throbbing with pain due to constant mouse clicks, my eyes were burning and my F5 key was broken. Just like the COVID situation in Victoria, it gets worse before it gets better. If you didn’t get to sneak in your application today, don’t worry. There are still two more rounds to go. Good luck!