(Fred Weinberg/The Penny Press) – I tried. I really tried not to write this.
But as Barack Obama and Mitt Romney debate important points like the recovery of America’s economy, a part of America’s economy is doing its darndest to discourage people from doing business with them.
I’m not talking about Sam’s Club’s three cashiers on a Friday afternoon—although that could be another column.
I’m talking about Greyhound Lines. You remember them. “Go Greyhound and leave the driving to us.” The folks who brought you the MaddenCruiser because John Madden was scared of flying.
I have a stepdaughter in New Mexico who wants to see her mother and stepfather in Reno. Needless to say, she doesn’t have the bank account to accomplish that herself.
So, her mother and I thought it would be wise to acquaint her with both the vastness of America and a certain level of economy by buying her a ticket on the Greyhound as opposed to Southwest Airlines.
Now, travel is no big deal these days. You go online and book these things through a web site. I did, like I’ve done thousands of airline bookings and, using the same credit card, was told something like “you can’t do that, call customer service.”
Well, I tried.
I first called Greyhound customer service and they actually have an option for people who tried to use their credit card and could not—so it’s reasonable to think that I’m not the first person with this problem.
I checked with the card issuer to find out that Greyhound had actually successfully authorized the price of the ticket but had not issued the ticket.
So, I started calling. And calling. And calling.
Anybody who could help, would not come to the phone. There were a couple of people who answered the phone but could only refer me to people who would not come to the phone.
Now let me ask you a question.
I have a pretty full (and electronic) Rolodex. I can usually run down somebody because it is the nature of what I’ve been trained to do. In fact, I eventually ran down the assistant to the Vice President in charge of the “customer experience.”
If I’m having this much trouble buying a lousy bus ticket what about their regular customers? How much business is this company throwing away?
If you were told on a recording on a “customer assistance center” line “we are experiencing high call volume, you may have a wait as long a 30 minutes. The shortest wait times are between Tuesday and Fridays between two and five Central time,” Would you line up to be on time to call these guys back?
Well, I called the office of their Vice President of Operations (customer experience) in Dallas. Got his very nice assistant on the line who sent me to a supervisor in “customer assistance” who told me that I should either call the 800 number or go on down to the bus station. I said no.
So, her supervisor sat her down as a terminal to book the ticket and they tried to hit me for even more money because the fare I had tried to book was a “web only fare.”
At that point, I had just about enough and started writing this. I am now told that they cannot, despite having authorized almost $400 in charges against my credit card, actually issue a ticket. Nobody’s really sure why and—truth be told—nobody really cares. Just cannot be done but also can’t be fixed anytime soon. (They should probably ask Coach Madden. He’d get it fixed.)
And they really don’t see it as an imposition for me to drive down to a bus station and spend even more money to buy a ticket because then, I won’t get the “web only” price.
Well, they’re wrong.
Why would anybody would want to do business with this company unless they were forced to. Isn’t that a shame? An iconic American brand name—owned by a foreign entity—in the toilet.
I know that there are good people who work there. I talked with some of them. But their executive leadership can’t seem to make their systems work well enough that a normal transaction is no problem.
Until they can fix that, either I get the MaddenCruiser or I’ll just fly. As for my stepdaughter, Greyhound got her a ticket. The nice folks there realized that this was getting silly and got her the ticket. She’ll get to do her quarter of a lap of America and we’ll hear from her about the actual Greyhound experience. If she never gets a credit card, she’ll never have to deal with this part of the “customer experience.”
Like they say, film at 11.