Thursday, April 17, 2008

In which I knowingly break the law

I go to London on the train a lot. What I always used to do was pay for my ticket on line and pick it up when I get to the station. I say 'used to' as I did this up until yesterday but will never do so again.

When you book tickets on line, you have to book a journey some two hours hence as it takes time (god knows why but it does) for the instructions to issue the ticket to arrive at the relevant station. I had never had a problem with this - until yesterday.

I was taking my mum, daughter and niece to London as a birthday treat for my mum. I therefore booked 4 train tickets in my usual on-line manner.

We arrive at Northampton station in high spirits. We didn't know that we would not be departing from there in such good moods. We had 15 minutes before our train was due to depart - plenty of time. I went to collect my tickets.

Right - imagine the most miserable, unpleasant, vilest woman you have ever met and then in your mind try and imagine that person being twice as awful as she already is, and then you may come close to envisaging the person I encountered at the ticket office. I gave this Evil Bitch From Hell (EBFH) my reference number and she entered it on the computer. She then looked at me with ill disguised delight to inform me there was no such booking. "Of course there is such a booking," I said - "You've got all the details there in your hand. "There is no such booking", repeats EBFH. "If you want to travel you will have to buy the tickets again." "I beg your pardon?" "If you want to travel you will have to buy the tickets again."

At this point I get just a little irate, on account of I have already paid for tickets in good faith, and now this EBFH is telling me I will have to buy the tickets again. I suggest she has to be joking (this was a stupid mistake on my part as EBFH obviously wouldn't know a joke if it hit her in her ugly and smug face), and that there must be a way for her to issue me with the tickets for which I had already paid. She assures me with relish that there is not. I ask if she could ring up the ticket issuers what with them being London Midland Trains, and what with her working for London Midland Trains. "No" she said in a tone that clearly demonstrated that the last thing in the world she would dream of doing was anything that might possibly help me and that I was obviously insane to think anything to the contrary.

I go in search of the station manager, although I am not after my experience, convinced that such a person actually exists. This involved the four of us being let through the barriers and pointed in the direction of what was allegedly "Customer Services". I explain to a blank looking young man the difficulty and explained that as I have paid for four tickets, and my payment has been accepted, I am therefore not very happy to be told no tickets can be issued and say "Surely there is something that can be done?" He shakes his head and says "No - I don't think there is."

I then see an older, though equally blank looking man. By this time we have watched the train we expected to be on depart.I repeat my tale of woe and he says "Just your luck to get Shirley" for that is the other name of the EBFH. "Surely" (I kept on saying 'Surely') I said, "You can issue a travel warrant as you have the evidence that I have paid for these tickets?" "I don't know" he says and wanders off with my reference number with a vague promise to talk to 'Someone.'

Well we waited, and we waited. The next train came in and was sitting at the platform. Eventually the two blank men return and tell me there is no record of my booking and I can either buy the tickets again or I can wait around until such time as the internet booking reference gets recognised.

It was at this point that a red mist descended on me and I announced "Right, we are now going to go and get on that train and I will sort it out when we get to Euston.Are you going to stop me? " Then they all but read me my rights and warned me I would get fined £54.00 per person for a single journey taken whilst not in possession of a ticket. "I don't bloody well think so" I said as I marched my mum, daughter and niece on to the train and therefore became A Law Breaker.

It was without doubt the most rebellious thing I have EVER done.

(I rang customer services for London Midland from the train. The very nice lady assured me it was not a problem and the tickets would be available for collection at Euston - as indeed they were. And when I told the ticket inspector my story - well, was I fined £216? No I wasn't. He laughed and told me not to worry about it.)


Dandelion said...

You see, people like Shirley should not be allowed. Something should be done. I think an internet campaign would be a good start. I'm gonna to to that train station and point and laugh at her and take pictures. I would urge everyone else to do likewise.

Hope you enjoyed your trip despite her efforts.

J.J said...

Dandelion - please do just that! How someone like her can have a job that involves dealing with the public I simply can not comprehend.

But yes, once I eventually stopped fuming we all had a great day out.

cookie monster said...

I bet Shirley had to 'train' hard for the job eh? At least you're on the right 'track'!

Yorkshire Pudding said...

Hurrah for Griselda! Take that Midland Mainline! Yer all a bunch o' tossers!
What is it with many frontline counter staff in this country? They are meant to be SERVING the public and yet they often treat us as enemies. We pay their wages. The scenario you describe tallies with recent experiences I have had at Sheffield station - including the totally unnanounced closure of the station car park for "maintenance" - not funny when you have driven down to park your car at 7.30 in the morning intending to leave it there for the weekend! No apology. No compensation. No explanation. Have a nice day!

JoeInVegas said...

What is the benefit to buying on line if you still have to get tickets from the clerk?
We can purchase movie tickets on line, then when at the theatre there are three or four vending machines we put our code into to get the actual tickets.

Gill said...

Good for you!!! I have to put my code into a machine at Carlisle station which is often not working. Fortunately if you print off the booking details and reference number on your computer the guard on the train accepts it. (Virgin trains btw)

The Fatalist said...

ou might sound angry, & feel you've complained, but get angrier!
Write a strong letter to their customer services and moan about the surliness of the staff. Customer care? More like customer care-in-the community! And complain about your inconvenience, hurt feelings, pointlessness of booking on-line, distress at worrying about the fines, and so on. Hit them hard girl!
At worst you'll get a bland acknowlegement, at best, hopefully some money off vouchers for your next trip.
And if you're not happy with your reply feel free to send a line to your local rag...

Not that complaints always work out quite right. A good few years ago me & a mate went up to Leighton Buzzard to watch Leighton Town FC, for a midweek game, not involving Dulwich Hamlet, as we both fancied visiting the ground, as we'd not been there before. Our train(s) out of Euston, Silverlink, were delayed & we ended up missing kick off. We both shot off letters of compalint, his must have been more articulate & without some of the old fashioned 'Anglo-Saxon' I included in mine. He received a £5 voucher for his next journey, I only got a £1 one!

A couple of seasons ago I saw our Reserves in a pre-season match at Andover New Street. The trains out of Waterloo were up the spount, and there were severe delays, though we made ghe trip. But, there and back, our tickets weren't checked. So I sent off a letter claiming I'd bought the ticket, then not made the journey, as I then realised the trains were all delayed & diverted.
I got a letter back with a refund in vouchers from South West Trains for my £12 re, but MINUS a £5 administration charge! Now I couldn't really complain as I was ripping them off, but they didn't know that. So I did complain again, and included my own personal invoice, asking for £5 for MY TIME in writing to them. The bastards never wrote back!

timesnewroman said...

You MUST write a formal letter of complaint to the company. That is not the sort of person who should be dealing with the public. The least they'll do is send you some free tickets! Well maybe, you never know. I got £10 worth of vouchers for complaining once from Scotrail.

Moo said...

Fucking jobsworth JJ!

trousers said...

Thank you for making me GET INCREASINGLY ANGRY AS I READ THAT!!!!!


Good for you to do what you did though, that was a very satisfying outcome. Now, have you made/are you going to make a complaint about our friend Shirl?

Karen said...

Public transport always seems to be badly organised. You should definitely make a complaint.

I hate it when you buy a ticket and no one checks it as youcould've made the journey for free. I have been lucky enough to get away with not paying for the journey between Grange-over-Sands and Barrow-in-Furness a couple of times though!

J.J said...

A letter has been sent - I will let you know what response I get.

Thanks to everyone for the support on this.

Lisa Rullsenberg said...

Soz to be late to this but you have my deep empathy: having travelled by train an awful lot over the years I have encountered far too many Shirleys. Loved your tag for this post btw.