Wednesday, July 29, 2009

A customer service experience from Abbot and Costello

Because this is an etiquette blog, I like to share customer service stories - both good and bad. This one doesn't really fit into either category. It's more bizarre than anything else.

For reasons I won't go into, I find myself having to take a three-hour bus trip this Friday. I visited, the Canadian version of the bus company's consumer website to check out schedules and fares. I am delighted to find that they have an online purchasing option. I choose my date, time and fare and attempt to proceed to the actual purchasing part but alas, I am foiled. It won't let me. But that's okay. I am informed that I can call a toll-free number to get technical help. I dial the number. An automated attendant asks if I'm travelling in Canada or the U.S. I find this odd since I got the number from the Canadian website. When I tell the computer that I'm travelling within Canada, she tells me I need to dial the Canadian number and provides it. I dial the number. I get another automated attendant and after pressing numerous buttons in an attempt to reach a live person, I am connected to an agent.

The agent is lovely and polite. I tell him I had trouble purchasing my ticket online and he explains that this is because the website doesn't actually offer the capacity to purchase tickets online. This, of course, is in direct opposition to the flashing button that encouraged me to PURCHASE MY TICKETS ONLINE but I digress.

I ask if I can purchase the ticket through him and he agrees. Once the transaction is complete he tells me that Greyhound cannot guarantee that I will actually get a seat on the bus because it's first-come, first-served. I ask how they can sell tickets in advance and then not guarantee seats and he explains that it is "greyhound policy". He tells me that in order to actually guarantee my seat, I can cancel my order with him and purchase it from the actual station at any point between now and Friday afternoon, or, arrive one hour ahead of departure. Both of these options will cost me an additional $5.

Sensing my confusion, he asks if he can help with anything else. I politely tell him that no, I'm watching my blood pressure, and thank him for my time.

Is the human animal's capacity for complicating even the most routine of transactions not amazing?


  1. I have never really understood that Greyhound policy and it for that reason I have travelled with VIA over my last six years travelling home from university in Ottawa.

    It never works the best during holidays waiting at the station for hours before getting on a bus to wait hours.

    I hope you can find a way to your desination without any troubles.

  2. Alas, there's no train service to where I'm going. Greyhound really has a monopoly on transportation, unless i want to charter a small there's an idea

  3. It never ceases to boggle my mind why so many companies don't deliver on the most basic of promises they make (i.e. purchasing tickets online when they encourage you to do that). And, in a world where we have the ability to broadcast our frustration over broken promises and needless frustration, you'd think that would be a priority.

    Unfortunately, we're still held hostage by too many companies especially when there's no competition.