Apologies to Paul for this post, I got bored on a train and wrote it up despite not originally planning to. Travel arrangements this week have all been a little last-minute this week and so I found myself on the interweb making arrangements on Monday. Whilst I was looking at the arrival time for my train into London I observed that a single ticket could be purchased much cheaper than a return, note to self to take that option. Arriving at the station the next morning I eschewed the return option in favour of the discounted single, only to be told that it wasn’t available. Apparently this was an advance ticket and would have to have been ordered online.
I use such a system regularly with another train company, picking up my tickets from self-service machines at the station so I am familiar with the concept. At the quiet, end of the line backwater that I call home there is no such machine and so I resolved to understand how the process could be made to function. A month or so ago I read that the train company was rolling out a very limited scheme for using smartphone ticketing and print at home options. At the time I was very interested and scrutinised the publicity but it fell at least 50 miles short of my location.
A telephone call to the customer services was answered by a cheery customer services woman in Norwich. I should say that this was Norwich UK and not Norwich Bangalore which meant that whilst the language was easier to understand the IT literacy was probably some way behind. As always the conversation below is not verbatim, because at my age memory is not a strong point, but it’s pretty close, I will start after the introductions:
Me: So if I order an advance ticket can I collect it from my local station?
Me: What if it is closed?
CS: Is there a ticket machine?
CS: No you can’t, what you would have to do is to get off at the interchange and collect your ticket there
Me: But if I do that I will be on the next train and the tickets are train specific. In effect whilst collecting my ticket I will miss my train and then not be able to travel on the ticket that I have purchased
CS: Oh yes I guess so but you could collect them the day before
Me: But the ticket office is usually open but sometimes the guy is not there so I purchase my ticket on the train can the staff print my ticket?
Me: So if I arrive at the station to collect my ticket and the office is closed will I then receive a penalty fare from the guard even though I have paid for my ticket and have all of the relevant details?
Me: And you will refund that?
CS: No because, you see, you would be travelling without a ticket (explained slowly for my benefit)
Me: So you are discriminating against me for living at the end of the line? Why even offer advance fares if it is going to be Russian roulette trying to use them?
CS: Well you could get them posted to you, just allow 5 days
Me: Don’t be so ridiculous, you offer discounts the day before travel but I need to allow 5 days to receive tickets! What sort of sense does that make?
CS: Well that is just the way it is I am afraid
There followed a few minutes of me ranting about the injustice of offering me a deal but then making it impossible to take it up. During which, I must say, she remained charming.
CS: If you had access to a printer then you could print the tickets
Me: But that is only available at a few ‘select’ stations
CS: Oh no anyone can do it if you have a machine that prints (she actually called it a “machine that prints”)
Me: Since when?
CS: Oh for a while now
Me: But it doesn’t say that on your website, your publicity, on your trains or at your stations
CS: Oh, it says it on my screen
Me: Thank you very much, it’s a shame that we didn’t try that first it would have saved a call
CS: Oh that’s ok I wasn’t busy and at least you’re sorted now
The last comment was made as if she was my mother; honestly it made me think that she was going back to her knitting! I am still not sure if ‘machines that print’ were new to her or if she looked at the map and wondered if electricity had made it out as far as where I live! On a positive note the Norwich accent made it pretty much impossible to get angry something that I cannot say of the Indian equivalent.