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On 26th February 2007, I tried to book a Saver Return, and experienced an amazing lack of customer service. My e-mail to Midland Mainline (sent at 19:27 on 26/02/2007) explains all.
Dear Sir or Madam,
Today, I wanted to book a Saver Return, making a cycle reservation for both legs of the journey. I'd already looked up prices and train times on the web. Rather than risking getting the tickets sent in the post, I wanted to buy the tickets from Slough station, but thought that it would make things easier if I made the cycle reservation directly with Midland Mainline. How wrong could I have been?
First of all, I called 01332 262008. I was told that I had to call a different number (0845 712 5678), but the person that I spoke to kindly spoke to one of his colleagues, and found out that making a reservation without having previously bought a ticket wouldn't be a problem. He also explained what to say at the voice prompts when I called the 0845 number. I then dialled the 0845 number, following the instructions that I'd been given, and got straight through to somebody. Things had gone well so far, but they went downhill from then on.
I explained to the person who answered my call what I wanted. She started explaining the different types of tickets, and I told her that I didn't want to buy a ticket, I just wanted to make a cycle reservation. She then put me on hold for a while. When she spoke to me again, she said that it wouldn't be a problem, and then made the reservation. She took my name and address, and then put me on hold again. After a while, she spoke to me again, said that she'd made my seat reservation, and asked for my credit card details. I told her again that I didn't want to buy a ticket, and asked her whether she'd made my cycle reservation, as well as my seat reservation. She hadn't, so she put me on hold yet again. After a while, she picked up the phone again, and told me that she could only make a cycle reservation for one journey at a time. I asked her whether if she reserved my outward journey for me, if I called back in five minutes' time, whether she could book my return journey then. She confirmed that this is true. This sounded absolutely stupid, so when she suggested that I buy the ticket, and make the reservation, at the same time, I decided to give up dealing with Midland Mainline, and deal with my local station instead.
About an hour later, I decided it made more sense to book the ticket directly with Midland Mainline. I therefore redialled the 0845 number. The voice recognition system was excellent. Before I even got to speak to somebody, the computer knew exactly where, and when, I was travelling, and whether I had a railcard. I then got through to talk to somebody (the same woman, I think), and things went downhill again.
She had to ask me lots of questions, and every time I answered a question, she had to put me on hold while she updated the computer system. About half-way through, she managed to quote me a price of £52.70. Since the whole point in buying the tickets from Midland Mainline was because I wanted to make a cycle reservation, I checked several times during the telephone conversation that she had made the cycle reservation, and she said "yes" every time.
Eventually, we got to the point where she was going to take my credit card details, and she told me that the price was £53.70. I questioned the amount, but she confirmed that it definitely should be £53.70. By this point, I realised that I'd been on the phone for 15 minutes (and been put on hold at least half-a-dozen times), so didn't have the energy to argue about £1. She then took my credit card details, and told me that the tickets would be sent in 3-5 working days. I explained that I was travelling this weekend, and 5 working days would be too long, but she assured me that the tickets would arrive in time. She then confirmed that my tickets had been booked, and told me that she was just going to put me on hold while she transferred me to another department, so that I could make my cycle reservation. Having been lied to during the previous 15-minute conversation, and being put on hold for yet another time, you can tell that I wasn't impressed.
Somebody from the customer services answered, and said, "Hello, Mr. Dickson. I understand that you would like to make a cycle reservation. May I please put you on hold". I'm sure you can imagine that I wasn't impressed, so said, "No, I have already made my cycle reservation with your colleague, I have been on the phone for the last 15 minutes, and you may not put me on hold.". The woman said, "Well, I'm afraid that I have to put you on hold, while I check the availability of cycle spaces on the trains". I was beginning to get annoyed, so said, "That is just unacceptable. I've already given all the details to your colleagues, I do not intend spending another 15 minutes on the phone just to make the cycle reservation. Please cancel this transaction completely, and I will make alternative arrangements". The woman on the phone said, "OK, but there will be a £10 administration charge if you cancel the tickets". I was amazed, I'd been on the phone for almost 20 minutes, I had been lied to, and now I was being threatened with a cancellation charge. I told the woman that charging a cancellation was unacceptable, and that I would not be paying it. She said, "I'm sorry, but I can't make that decision". That seemed fair enough, so I told her that somebody in the company must be able to make that decision, that I ought to be charging Midland Mainline for my wasted time, and that I definitely won't be paying the administration fee. She didn't answer, so I politely said goodbye, and put the phone down.
I expected somebody from Midland Mainline to have the decency to call me back to sort things out, but nobody has bothered to call me back so far. I therefore went to Slough station after work, and bought my tickets, and made the cycle reservations, all in about 2 minutes. If only, I had decided to go to Slough station in the first place, I wouldn't have had so much of my time wasted by the incompetent sales staff at Midland Mainline.
I would appreciate it if you could check your records, and make sure that I am not charged any money as a result of today's phone call.
A bloke from Midland Mainline called me. He blamed the problems on Trainline.com, because the people on the phoneline weren't familiar with the particular route that I wanted to travel on, and weren't used to dealing with routes that charged extra for bikes. I suppose that they're only likely to be familiar with trains going into, and out of, Bombay. He said that it was too late to cancel the tickets, but that if I posted the tickets to Midland Mainline, then I would get a refund. I couldn't be bothered to tell him that Midland Mainline's website said that bikes are carried free, and that if the tickets had been cancelled when I asked, then it wouldn't be too late. As long as I get my refund, then that'll do me.
My tickets arrived today. I had been charged £53.70, instead of £52.70. Not only had Trainline.com sent me tickets when I asked the lady to cancel my tickets, not only did she make a cycle reservation when I asked her not to, but she managed to make the cycle reservations on the Slough-Paddington parts of the journeys (which isn't possible), and not on the long-distance parts of the journeys (where it is essential)!
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Created on: 28 Feb 2007. Modified on: 28 Feb 2007.
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