Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Amtrak's bad customer service

Dear Amtrak,

Last week the NorthEast was hit with a 'blizzard' causing the shutdown of Amtrak trains from NYC to Boston or beyond so I was not shocked that my train was cancelled.

When I called the customer service/reservation line to get on another train, I was on hold for about 35 minutes before I was able to speak to someone - not surprising since so many trains were cancelled or delayed.  But one would if you were willing to suspend train service, you'd have more people working customer service when the suspension was slowly being lifted.

I was speaking to a representative, who was not very friendly...then again, I probably wasn't either since it was 12:10 am.

I booked my tickets 2 weeks earlier to the station just beyond the NYC station on that Sunday.

But alas, I had a great solution for Amtrak - Instead of being placed on a Monday train to my destination - and miss work...just put me on an earlier Sunday train and I will incur the expenses to get to my final destination from NYC.  Really, I didn't mind the extra expense or the additional 2 hours it would take me to get home (with Amtrak, it would have been an additional 10 minutes).

The Amtrak representative however did not agree.  According to their policy, I was now changing my destination and would have to purchase a new ticket at today's rate.

I agreed I was changing my destination...to the stop earlier...I was helping them and willing to incur additional financial expenses because I was not leaving DC on Monday to miss work...and if I was going home Monday, I'd need the ticket to NYC anyway. Why should I pay today's fares when if it was up to me, I'd get to my destination without a problem...and if I wanted intentionally change my destination, I would have done it when I bought my ticket weeks ago when it was cheaper...how can I predict a blizzard?  So no, I was not going to pay for a new ticket.

But it is policy stated the Amtrak representative.

Believe me, I work with policies every single day, I understand their importance and the need for them.  However, there should be policies in place when Amtrak cancels the trains.  I am not changing my mind - I still wanted to return home on the original day I bought tickets too weeks before.  But Amtrak isn't going to my home destination...and I am lucky enough to live in a metropolitan area where I can combine alternate transportation.  I understand that it is unsafe to travel on tracks which is why they cancelled their service, I am being really nice and understanding - all I want is to be put on a train about 4 hours earlier than my original ticket at no additional cost - so I get home about the same time.  I can't imagine that all the trains are sold out that I can't just sit on that train - as a simple exchange.

The representative started to recite the times of the trains and the cost of their tickets.  For example - there was a 3:15 am train for $87, a 8 am train for about $175, a 9 am train for about $200, an 11 am train for maybe $185.  The tickets varied a bit - as did the length of the ride, but either way the tickets were easily $70 over what I originally paid.

I wasn't getting anywhere.  Clearly the representative wasn't going to budge..I was going to have to pay the additional fee to get home, which I think is insane...even the airlines put you on a flight, they don't make you pay day-of fares when THEY are the ones to cancel trips.  So, I sucked it up and got a ticket for 9 am, since I needed my rest (it was now about 1:15 am). I asked the representative for a letter stating that I had to pay a new fee for a new ticket since I was changing my destination for my boss - but she was not willing to do that for me.

I laid down to sleep...but I couldn't I was too annoyed at Amtrak.  I started to write my complaint letter in my head.  I was fuming.

At 1:40 am I decided I wasn't going to sleep - I got up, backed my bags and double checked the Amtrak train times.  I headed over to Union Station and returned by 9 am train ticket for the 3:15 am train ticket. Since the 3:15 am train ticket was less, about $87, I was going to be refunded the difference from the 9 am train, minus a $9.10 return fee.

I got home about 8:30 am.  

What do you think?  Do you think it is too much to ask that Amtrak didn't charge me same-day fares to get home on the day I wanted to get home because THEY cancelled my train?   Or do you agree with Amtrak that they are only willing to put you on the same train the next day (or next available day they operate) and any additional requests should be charged?

a side note - I really enjoyed my train ride down to DC, I thought taking Amtrak was a great alternative to flying.  But their policy regarding train cancellations  (on their end...not the customers) is not ideal, and would make me question if I would take Amtrak again.  Realistically, I would because it is convenient  and what are the odds of some sort of weather emergency (we get what 3 a year?).

1 comment:

  1. That's insane, and I would indeed write a letter to Amtrak. You may get a free ticket out of it.

    And did you say you were just changing your destination to the stop BEFORE your destination? I probably would have just gotten off the train. I've done that on flights before. Once I had a 4 hour layover in Seattle on the way to Portland, and instead just didn't get on the plane to portland and got a ride home from a friend. Which incidently, got me home about 3 hours earlier than the flight would have (plus drive home from the airport)

    Either way. Write that letter!