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Railway station customer service

Discussion in 'CycleChat Cafe' started by Mister Paul, 23 Aug 2007.

  1. Mister Paul

    Mister Paul Honky

    Location:
    North Somerset
    As I mentioned elsewhere, I had to go to New Street Station yesterday afternoon to book a train ticket, with bike.

    The person who dealt with me was faultless. I told her the times and that I wanted to book my bike on, she played with the computer, I paid and she gave me the tickets. It was a lot easier than I thought it was going to be. I was half expecting "you want to take a what on the train??"

    Anyway, while in the "window number 2 please" queue, I watched a foreign couple, with pretty stilted English, go to another window. The counter assistant (I shall call her the wolf-lady) sat, arms folded, with a "I have power with my knowledge. I choose who to impart it on. How dare you ask me questions" look on her face. I didn't catch the exact prices or stations, but it went something like this-

    "Hello, we want to go to --------- tomorrow morning"

    Wolf Lady "Before 9.30 or after 9.30? Before 9.30 is £120 and after 9.30 is £32"

    "At 9am. I got these prices from the internet and it says that it is £20 at 9am"

    (customer holds up page of numbers to window)

    WL <big sigh>"They're special prices and there are only a few available each day. I'd have to check the computer to see whether there are any left"

    "We'd like to know how much it would cost us at 9am"

    WL <even bigger sigh, exasperated tone> "Well I don't know what else you expect me to do. You've got the prices in front of you"

    "OK. We'll come back in a minute"

    Now I don't claim to be the most intelligent of people, and I know that the people weren't English, but I'm just guessing that they wanted to travel the following morning, and wanted to know whether there were any cheap tickets left. Was there more to it than that?

    If I was them I wouldn't return to the UK.
     
  2. Melvil

    Melvil Standard nerd

    If you think that's bad you should have been with us when we were at Nice station trying to book a ticket back to Paris.

    The service we had from the frankly obnoxious woman at the counter was almost pythonesque(!). Not only did she sigh loudly and frown as soon as we opened our mouths but in the middle of our question she left the desk and chatted to a colleague for five or so minutes before reluctantly flumping back into her chair, rattling off a list of options in high speed French and then shouting at us when we didn't immediately reply. She looked violent, too, so I didn't bother with compaining.
     
  3. Arch

    Arch Married to Night Train

    Location:
    York, UK
    <sigh>

    I despair, I really do. However shoot your job, or crap the last customer you dealt with, a smile and helpful attitude really aren't that difficult to master.

    Wish me luck, I'm off to book a ticket to Winchester later. I just checked the Trainline website, and there should be one at 9.44, which would be ok, and one at 15.44, which would do. However it told me on one page that there was an 11.44, and then by the time I came to check the price, that train had vanished...

    That's why I alway go to the station to check... On the other hand, when a friend and I went to London recently, thanks to the lady at the station we ended up with tickets about half the price we'd estimated from the website, which just confused the hell out of us.

    I've always found making a bike reservation fairly painless, although there was a stage when they seemed to insist on giving you 57 tickets for each stage of the journey - one for you, one for the bike to carry with you, one with seat reservation and 54 to stick to various parts of your bike (I may be exaggerating a little there. But there were a lot of tickets...)
     
  4. spen666

    spen666 Guru

    Do you need a reservation for the elephant?

    do you get a discount with a family railcard?
     
  5. Arch

    Arch Married to Night Train

    Location:
    York, UK
    Nah, it folds up into a large suitcase... Hence why it looks a bit cramped in the avatar - it takes a while to strech out again.

    No, but I do still have the joy of using a Young Person's Railcard, at 38...!
     
  6. Bokonon

    Bokonon Über Member

    I tend to cause no end of problems when booking a bike onto a train. I book tickets for myself online to get the very best prices available there and then before they disappear, which usually also includes breaking the journey into several sub-parts as it tends to work out cheaper. I then get myself down to the station at lunchtime (eat my lunch in the queue at the travel centre, much to the annoyance of other people in the queue who didn't have the forethought to do likewise) and book the tickets for the bike, which really screws the system up as a bike booking can only be made by purchasing a ticket at the same time. This results in an additional set of tickets being created to get the bike booked on and then be cancelled without stopping the bike booking - and this is supposedly an offical means of getting bikes booked onto the train!

    The fun really starts when you make the actual train journey...
     
  7. OP
    OP
    Mister Paul

    Mister Paul Honky

    Location:
    North Somerset
    I know. I'm dreading the 'Which end, which end?' bit as the train comes in.
     
  8. monnet

    monnet Über Member

    That reeminds me of when I was inter railing. My mates and i were sick of Bucharest and were trying to book a couchette on the Bucharest - Budapest train from the ticket office. The women seemed only to know the phrase 'very expensive.'

    We kept asking her for a couchette and her response was 'very expensive.' I'm sure it was for Romanians but, given we'd paid £6 for a five course meal and wine the night before we guessed that 'very expensive' in decadant British terms would be 'quite cheap.' We even resorted to telling her we didn't care how much, we had dollars, sterling deutsch marks, swiss francs etc. (it was 1997). But still it was 'very expensive.'

    This all resulted in us nearly missing the train (we actually jumped on to a moving train). When confronted by the Hungarian guardsman (who looked like Christopher Biggins) we explained what we wanted and he charged us £8 a head and we got out couchette.
     
  9. Arch

    Arch Married to Night Train

    Location:
    York, UK

    Assuming you can find one, ask a member or staff!

    Best plan is to travel from Berwick upon Tweed. One time I went from there, as I was wheeling my bike over the footbridge, a member of staff who'd just helped an old lady with a suitcase saw me and stopped on his way back over the bridge just in order to tell me that due to old rolling stock, the bike accomodation on the next train would be at the other end from normal, and pointed me the right way - I hadn't even got as far as asking!

    Then the lovely lady guard on the platform, saying how hot it was (last August) she'd leave the door windows down slightly, because being a slam door train, she could. So we had a lovely cooling breeze. All the way to Newcastle, where it broke down, and we all got put on the next train which was already quite full and which had no windows and a rather feeble aircon system... Ho hum, can't have everything.
     
  10. gbb

    gbb Legendary Member

    Location:
    Peterborough
    Oh dear, its just occurred to me....i've hardly EVER travelled on a train. :biggrin:

    Caught the tube for the first time EVER to go see the TdeF in London.....

    Errrrr, thinking.....took two train trips in my late teens.....and thats it.!!!!!!

    I found the tube staff at Harlow quick and efficient..but did they swear a lot, apparently oblivious that i was there, and that it may not be the way for staff to talk in front of customers.
    I was thinking...would this happen in John Lewis...maybe not
     
  11. Melvil

    Melvil Standard nerd

    You cannot be serious - first time on a tube????????????????????? Wow.
     
  12. OP
    OP
    Mister Paul

    Mister Paul Honky

    Location:
    North Somerset
    Unfortunately it doesn't work like that in Birmingham.

    There are several lines out of the station, and loops and junctions all around the inner city. On some of them you can get a train out of either end of the station and it will still end up on the same line. At busy periods or during works the train will sometimes come in or go out the opposite end to where it is supposed to. So it's pretty regular for them to come in backwards. And the platform staff won't necessarily know which end is coming in first. And some, even though they have no idea, will guess but not tell you they're guessing. So you can't trust the ones who do know.

    If you guess right it's fine. If not then you have to negotiate you and your bike the whole length of a platform filled with people getting on and off, parents putting up pushchairs, and sailors kissing their loved ones through open windows.
     
  13. asterix

    asterix Comrade Member

    Location:
    Limoges or York
     
  14. Elmer Fudd

    Elmer Fudd Miserable Old Bar Steward

    And after standing on platform 11B for 20 mins, they announce "the train now approaching platform 2 is the 13.54 to Newcastle, this is a platform change".
    Couldn't they announce it before its approaching ???
     
  15. asterix

    asterix Comrade Member

    Location:
    Limoges or York

    Welllll.. they probably could, but it wouldn't be nearly as entertaining for station staff, would it?

    I was at Birmingham (New Street, I think); first they directed us to one platform, then a few minutes before the train arrived told us to move over the footbridge to a different one. When the train was drawing in they told it was stopping at the original platform we were on:angry:.