Righteo here is my complaint to South West Trains after the shockingly bad experience I had with them last week. To be fair the staff at Fleet station are always lovely, but Guildford has a massive staff attitude problem, you never walk away from there smiling. Please excuse the odd way its written, I did it in the style we use at work for statements because it helps you think things out clearly, but with the downside that it makes you look a bit officious. Oh and its reeeeally long.
1. On either the 5th or the 6th December I travelled from Fleet to Guildford on the 7:40 train using a one-month season ticket as usual. On arriving at Guildford I approached the ticket office where an individual 'mobile' member of ticket staff was working alongside the counter staff. When it was my turn it was this mobile ticketing staff member that served me. I handed him my season ticket and photocard (both inside a wallet) and said asked him for a one week renewal, he pointed out that my current ticket was a monthly and I replied that yes, usually I buy monthly tickets but with Christmas coming up I'd like a weekly ticket. He issued my ticket and I paid using my credit card. I did not realise at this point that the ticket had been issued with the wrong start date. My previous ticket's last day was 6th December and the new ticket had been issued with a start date of 6th December. A very simple mistake to make and I had simply assumed that the ticket had been issued correctly.
2. On the 7th December when I first used my new seven-day season ticket it would not work on the barriers in the morning at Guildford. There are no ticket barriers at Fleet. In the evening for my return journey (the day of the fatality at New Maldon when SWT were unable to get me home and I had to take a taxi from Farnborough to Fleet at a cost of £10 and arriving home an hour and a half late) the same thing happened so on the morning of the 8th December I took my ticket back to Guildford ticket office and explained that it didn't work in the barriers and asked them to exchange it for me which they were happy to do. It was only when I got to my office that I realised that the ticket had the wrong start date. I thought the mistake had been made when the ticket was reissued. I did not have time to stop at the ticket office that evening, the queue was too long on Friday 9th and I was busy over the weekend so was unable to attend Fleet station on either Saturday or Sunday.
3. This morning, Monday 12th December, the day my wrongly issued ticket will expire I attended Fleet station especially early to deal with the reissue of my ticket. The ticketing staff member Lyn was friendly and pleasant, as she unfailingly is, but said she was unable to help me, I'd have to take the ticket back to Guildford as it was 'their ticket stock'.
4. At approximately 8:25 in Guildford ticket office I was firstly seen by the ticket office staff member at counter five. I regret I did not make a note of her name. I explained the issue and passed both my current and previous season tickets to her. She asked me on which day I'd obtained the replacement, at that moment I couldn’t remember the date but said it would be on the ticket. She repeated the question and I apologised for not being able to remember the date but said the date would be on the ticket (in her hand). I was then told to move away from the counter so that she could serve other people while a colleague searched through the tickets, I declined saying I'd rather stay at the counter whilst they dealt with my transaction. She discussed this with her colleague who agreed she could look through the bundles of replacement tickets while I waited. This being done and the original 7-day ticket having been found she passed my 7 day season ticket back to me saying the start date on the original was wrong too so I had paid for and received a 7-day season ticket and that there was nothing she could do. I said I didn't think that was right, the start date was clearly wrong. She said it was not possible to reissue a 7 day ticket with a different start date and then passed the tickets back to me and said she wanted to serve the next customer.
5. I asked to speak to the station manager, she said I could speak to her colleague at counter four who was her supervisor. I waited until he was free and explained the situation again to him. I took a note of his name and position – Stan Boardman, Shift Supervisor (but only after several minutes of increasingly rude and unprofessional behaviour). Mr Boardman first pointed out that the ticket had not been issued at the counter, I pointed out that in the same way as today there were ticket staff both in front of and behind the counter. He then said I could not prove that I had shown the monthly ticket to ticket staff at the time of purchase, he said it happens a lot that people ask for a refund but cannot prove the issue date is incorrect. I pointed out that the ticket and photocard are displayed side by side in the holder (I have several expired tickets in this holder which shows it is my habit to keep them together in there and not remove them when renewing). He then said I could not prove that I had not taken the ticket out of the holder when showing my photocard to the ticketing staff.
6. It is very much my belief to 'kill with kindness' when someone is rude or unhelpful I never stoop to their level, though maddeningly frustrating, it never helps to stoop to their level and I hope that by staying reasonable and polite the other person will revert to the same stance.
7. He did admit several times that a mistake had been made by South West Trains staff but stressed that the mistake had not been his (I confirmed this and said that if I say 'you' I mean 'South West Trains'). But he then stated that it was in fact my fault for then using the ticket in the barrier in Guildford seconds after my purchase. He said at that point of use it was no longer possible for the mistake to be rectified "the same as at Sainsbury's."
8. I again said I wasn't happy to pay twice for one day's travel, he said he couldn't give me a refund as I'd 'used six days' I restated that I didn't want a refund, just a replacement ticket that gave me the travel dates I'd paid for and that it cannot be right that if the ticket office staff make a simple mistake that it cannot be rectified unless the customer notices it immediately. I believe it was at this point that he mimed a pantomime-style yawn. I said I didn't think that was helpful. He said he'd yawn if he liked.
9. He then said the Terms and Conditions on the back of my ticket state that mistakes cannot be rectified once you walk away from the counter, I said I don't think the Ts&Cs are printed on the back of the ticket, he told me to go and check on the internet, but then offered to show them to me. I accepted this offer, he would not show me the printout but read out something to the effect that mistakes must be notified as soon as possible. I said that's clearly not the same as 'before you leave the counter' and that as my ticket was still valid there must be a way of rectifying it.
10. I then asked if he could issue me a free return ticket for travel on 13 December (my 'missing' day). I also pointed out that this service wasn't very good and that South West Trains had failed to get me home at all on Wednesday 5 December. He said 'If you don't like the service don't use the train' at this point I must admit I was completely exasperated and said 'Well how else am I supposed to get to work?'.
11. I then asked to see station manager he said the station manager would say the same thing, I said "Well lets allow him to do that for himself shall we?" Mr Boardman then said "How old are you?" I replied "40" he said "You're behaving like a child, you're behaving like a 10 year old." to which I replied "That's really not the attitude is it?". I swear that this accusation has no basis in fact, if you are to view CCTV footage you will see that I did not behave badly at all beyond raising my eyes and saying "unbelievable" when the staff were turned away from the counter.
12. He then told me to wait by the ticket barriers to see the station manager, I declined saying I would rather the station manager came to ticket office. He radioed the station manager, I didn't hear the conversation, but was told the station manager 'was in meeting' I asked when the meeting would end. He hesitated for a few moments and then said 10 o'clock. I said "is that what the station manager said?" He said no, I asked him to radio the station manager again to ask. He refused, said he could not interrupt the meeting. I pointed out that the station manager was willing to accept the communication seconds before. Mr Boardman refused to contact the station manager again. I asked if there was anyone else Mr Boardman said he was the deputy station manager (though his badge, as I pointed out said 'shift supervisor') and that there was no-one else. He told me to contact 'customer services' if I wanted to complain, I asked if there was a complaints form, which he duly handed to me. I asked him to write down his reasons for refusing to reissue my ticket (please see attached) but on reading this I found he had written about refusing a refund which is not the same thing at all. I then left the station.
13. Prior to this on leaving my train and taking the stairs because I have a injured my legs (muscle damage so nothing you can see other than my limping) I waited til there was space for me to take the banister to the right of the stairs which I need to use to pull myself up. About three quarters of the way up the stairs a member of station staff came down directly in front of me stopped and glared, I paused and said, "Sorry I've hurt my leg I need to hold the rail" she glared at me again and pointed to her side to indicate I should move aside for her. I repeated "I'm sorry I've hurt my leg, I need to hold on to the rail." She then made a loud 'humpf' sound rolled her eyes and stepped to the side. Normally I wouldn't bother to complain about something like that but I'd made a conscious effort to not let that incident make me annoyed because I knew I'd have to speak to the ticket office staff shortly and didn't want to look grumpy at the counter!
14. On arriving at my office I telephoned your customer service office and spoke to a perfectly pleasant and helpful person called Paul who said if I return my tickets they will arrange for a one-day refund and that he would arrange for someone to telephone me to discuss further, for which I thank you and look forward to hearing further from you but I feel strongly enough that the behaviour of the Guildford station staff this morning was so awful that I feel it is necessary to also formally put my complaint in writing.
Since then I have spoken to a really lovely chap from Customer Services fcalled Paul who sent me £20 in vouchers to make up for it and has spoken to the manager at Guildford station who is going to call me to talk about my complaint perhaps over coffee. Fingers crossed he is willing to sort out his staff.