No Thank You, VIARAIL Canada
Ooops! Booked a round trip ticket Montreal/Toronto online and had a big surprise. First, it seemed more complicated than usual, more clicks-what ifs, how about this and that and that. Finally got the right price at the right time, closed the deal, and reported the details to family in Toronto later the same day. Leave Montreal at 9:55 am and arrive Toronto at 5:16 pm.
What? That can’t be! That’s seven plus hours. The slowest daytime train takes about five and the fastest a bit over four. I return to the internet, find a special notice of possible changes after a certain date on certain trains, check it out: all the stops are listed, one or two more than usual, but a suspicious gap in the morning – from Dorval to Brockville takes 3 hours and 19 minutes. That can’t be right! It usually takes one hour and 45 minutes. I take a screen shot of that trip schedule.
Urgent phone call to Viarail. Nice people, Really nice, very accommodating. “Oh that train “, I am told. “It goes to Ottawa first.” OH?? OMG!!!
During the brief moment I am speechless, I see myself on the train having a hysterical fit similar to the one Charles Grodin has in “Midnight Run” when Robert de Niro, the bounty hunter, forces him to board an airplane. I am shouting “Stop the train! Stop this train at once!”
But of course I say only, calmly even, “Ottawa? But I am not going to Ottawa, that is out of my way.” The person on the other end offers to re-book on a train that leaves 15 minutes later and arrives in Toronto, minus the side trip to Ottawa, one hour and 24 minutes earlier at the same price. Fine.
Not fine. Several days pass but my fantasy of hysteria does not. I cannot believe such subterfuge! Hysteria fueled by outrage? Oh-oh! I email my generous friend at customer relations, the one I thanked in a previous letter to the corporation. (http://www.elainezimbel.com/?p=389)
Subject: No Thanks this time!
I told the story of my booking misadventure and how it was corrected, mentioning with great restraint, I thought, how disturbed I was. In the re-telling, I see now, my true feelings were not well hidden. My letter continued:
This is a screen shot. I trust you can see that there is no mention whatsoever of a side trip to Ottawa….
XXXXX, while you may (or may not) argue that the Ottawa “detour” was mentioned when I made my original selection, I will spare you any discussion on that topic. I can only say that if I had seen it, I wouldn’t have booked it, and if I had not discovered this ruse before I boarded the train, I would have been extremely upset.
I am not a novice using the internet, and I have to say that it gets more frustrating, not less so, partly because it seems there is a game involved – let’s see if we can fool some of the people all of the time.
As you know, I am not soft on corporate sleaze, or whatever adjective “greed” goes by these days, but I think this degree of deception hits a new low.
And so, I will take this opportunity to add one more thing: my son (I have three) was on the train that struck a truck several weeks ago. He felt a great deal of compassion for the driver of the truck who died, and for himself, it was not a pleasant experience, you will agree. His arrival in Toronto was completed by bus several hours later than expected. I was surprised to learn that he was not offered a free ticket for another trip or even a reduction of the price. What does that say about customer relations?
I clicked on SEND and I was surprised to get a phone call just a few minutes later. My “friend” was very anxious to explain that at certain times of the day when there are fewer trains, they have extended the routes in order to get more people on a given train and they assumed that some people would actually enjoy the longer ride. (Who are these people? Fill in the blanks.)
I mentioned to my “friend” (who has never asked me to hide his/her identity) that the train I was re-booked on left 15 minutes later and that there was another to Toronto not long after that. Whatever VIARAIL was thinking, I insisted, it was really bad not to be perfectly clear about that thinking so the passenger had a choice.
And about the horrible train wreck my son was involved in, it turned out, oh yes, in fact there was a reimbursement for that one part of the trip. Perhaps in the confusion of the event, the staff forgot to mention it.
In doing my research for this tale, I have returned to the Viarail website several times. There is a slight indication that train 55 from Montreal to Toronto does go to Ottawa first. I am reasonably sure it wasn’t there before and that it could be easily missed still.
Perhaps the railroads are taking their cue from the airlines – direct flights from point A to point B are rare and rarely available at bargain rates. It doesn’t make sense to the traveler but obviously makes lots of $$ense to the corporations.
And that’s what it’s all about…making $$$$$ense.
©Elaine A. Zimbel 2011
Posted in Letters to the corporation