Amtrak — Ticket Refund / Replacement Policy and inability to account for tickets is a breach of National Security, and poor customer service

I have an issue with the ticket and replacement policy.

I purchased a round trip ticket on Amtrak. I went to the station for my trip and I was told that I could not separate my tickets… “both had to be printed at the same time” i.e. my return ticket must be printed with my originating departure.

When I showed up for my train on my return trip, I asked for a reprint/replacement, I was told that if I didn’t have the original ticket to give up, there would be a 10% penalty and $75 fee. It did not matter the if it was lost, stolen, damaged, etc. I was then told that if I was going to ride today, I must purchase a new ticket.

I was given a form for lost ticket refund and told that I had a year to submit the form. I was told that it generally takes 6 months to process the form (verify that the ticket had not been used). The form also included a waver stating that Amtrak was not responsible if they could not prove that it was not used, or used by someone else. (even though they require id’s, and I reported it missing/stolen)

This whole process is first a customer service issue, and a second, a homeland security issue that I am sure the news media would love to hear about.

First, customer service, this is just plane poor customer service for the passenger involved. Plus, since it took so long to deal with at the station, several other passengers had longer waits for an agent ( I should have been able to just print my ticket for the trip at the kiosk when I arrived at the station… if both tickets were not printed initially. Since they were, a replacement should have been printed invalidating the other one).

Not only this, but poor customer service may continue to other passengers as you have agitated the passenger(s) involved, and stressed them out. They are now wandering less forgiving when they must navigate a stressful environment. The train need not be stressful, but with the poor customer service, delays, and Chicago’s busy union station, it is stressful. The passenger may be less likely to step aside when another stressed passenger is passing by [Either A: in the terminal where the line is the entire length of the corridor including past the restroom or B: in the train]. They may be less likely to fit entirely into there seat when barked at by a conductor. Heck, with last nights news, (Airplane annoyance leads to brouhaha in the skies over D.C.  By Ashley Halsey III, Published in The Washington Post: May 31 — http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/a-common-airplane-annoyance-leads-to-a-costly-brouhaha-in-the-skies-over-dc/2011/05/31/AGrlMcFH_story.html) We see that two stressed passengers ended up fighting costing more customer service and homeland security issues, and tens of thousands of dollars – Amtrak DOES seem concerned about money loss…. Hence the $75 replacement ticket fee.

This incident could even cause medical issues. Ranging from heart attacks to seizures. Heck this one incident has caused me to have numerous prodromes which are potentially precursors to an aura which precedes a seizure. These incidents could cause further delays, stress, expenses, and a poor customer experience affecting hundreds of passengers if an ambulance is needed. This could even affect / trigger passengers with mental health issues.

The poor customer service continued but was better when I called on June 2. It continued because I spent 45 minutes on the phone. It improved because the customer service representative offered to send a voucher valid for one year – No confirmation number (something the counter agent should have done).

Second, this affects Homeland Security / National Security. This occurs in multiple ways:

A: lack of reporting missing tickets (due to cost, and agent’s attitudes)
B: Lack of security… Amtrak apparently is unable to track tickets. They can not invalidate tickets, or note that it has or has not been used or stollen. They can scan barcodes on reservations, but they can not do what every ticket taker at every concert I’ve been to in the past 3 years can do, and that is scan your ticket with a hand held scanner to verify its authenticity, and mark it as used.

C: Distraction: If TSA agents, and conductors are busy dealing with stressed out passengers – or potentially, a cascade of stressed out passengers, they are less able to direct there attention to potential security issues.

 

How can this be solved?

1: Issue scanners to the conductors. Whether used when boarding, or once on board – when the tickets are taken or processed in bulk after the walk through, it would be an improvement.

2: Check ID’s when entering a secured area. i.e. boarding? Or when a flagged ticket is used.

3: Reprint tickets at the station, let people print the tickets at home, or just don’t print all the tickets for the entire trip until they arrive at the station for that departure – a multi leg trip is different than a return trip days or weeks later.

4: Anything other than being told by an agent that they can’t replace your ticket unless you wave your rights, pay $75, and wait 6 months. I can understand being issued a voucher for future travel. But even then, not everyone can pay over a hundred dollars while waiting in line waiting to board, if they want to opt for an immediate replacement, and you still want to discourage irresponsibility, charge $5 or 10 to replace it on the spot, but even that is cheaper than mailing a voucher. Heck Email the voucher as you do the confirmation number, and weekly specials / offers. – Either way, replacing a ticket would not be required if you waited to print the ticket until the passengers arrival at the station for the scheduled departure – If you continue to issue all [departure and return] tickets at once you would not need to wonder if the replacement was fraud if you scanned tickets (see 1 above).

P.S. BTW, I did not agree to the replacement policy in the terms and policies when I purchased my tickets (I just double checked), and if it were buried in the terms, they may not be enforceable in court unless it is line item checked.

 

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