This morning I was subjected to some awful customer service by the Northern Rail staff at Manchester Piccadilly. On this occasion I decided to stand up and be counted and have written a letter of complaint. (See below) This is the start of what I consider to be a ‘war of words’ and I shall keep you all updated as to my progress. I would love to hear from anyone who has similar issues with Northern Rail, so please let me know in the comments below.
21st January 2013
To whomsoever it may concern,
first of all, I would like to say that I use your service regularly and in general I’m not the type to complain. When your trains are cancelled or late, (which is more frequent than I think is reasonable), I don’t complain. When your trains are filthy or stifling hot, I don’t complain. When you replace our usual train with a 2 carriage train, forcing all passengers to get uncomfortably close to each other, I don’t complain. However on this occasion you have pushed it too far and my complaint will be vehement and relentless until I get an apology.
Let me set the scene: It’s a cold January morning; snow listlessly drifts through the air. I arrive at Mauldeth Rd station at the usual time of 7:25 to buy my ticket. As I approach the ticket office I can see that the lights are on, but no one is home. Whether your member of staff was having a smoke break, on the toilet, or practicing his favourite Kylie Minogue dance routine, is no concern of mine. Either way, he was not there to help with my purchase of a ticket. Unfortunately I was unprepared for this eventuality and was not carrying a bank card to use your ticket machine. In my innocence, I thought to myself, no problem, I’ll buy a ticket on the train.” At this point I would like to point out that I have been forced to buy a ticket on the train in the past, most often due to your ticket office being closed. On occasions when this has happened, I have had no problems, hence my surprise this morning.
On the train I looked around for the ticket conductor and after a few minutes saw him ambling down the carriage. I approached him to ask to buy a ticket, as did a few other passengers, to be somewhat rudely told to buy a ticket at the station. Ok, no problem I thought, and subsequently sat back down, comfortably unaware of what was to happen once I got to the station.
Arriving at the station, I hurried in front of the crowd to buy a ticket from the conductor on the platform. Money in hand, I approached and duly requested to buy a ticket. The conductor asked where I had come from, to which I replied, “from Mauldeth Rd please”. To my surprise he sternly said “wait there one moment.” In a moment, I was approached by another stern gentleman who informed me that he was a revenue protection officer. This is where my story takes a turn for the worst.
Over the next 10 minutes I was treated like a common criminal at the hands of your revenue protection officer. I was told that as Mauldeth Rd was a manned station, I would have to pay the full standard fare and fill out a “Failure to purchase” form. Your revenue protection officer was unable to listen to my mitigating circumstances and made it quite clear that it was my fault, even though your member of staff was not present at the station.
I was then informed that I would have to pay the full fare for my journey, which amounts to £2.30. Again, cash in hand I tried to pay for my fare to be told that the only way I could pay the fare was by cheque or postal order. Cheque or postal order, are you kidding me? What decade are you living in? Who in the hell has a cheque book anymore? I have now been forced to go to the post office and buy a postal order, for which I was charged 50p for the privilege. I was also forced to buy an envelope and a 2nd class stamp. Not only that but you have wasted over 10 minutes of my time at the station, 20 minutes walking and queuing in the post office, and 20 minutes writing this letter. For the sake of argument let’s round it up to an hour of my time that you have now wasted.
As an adviser and social media consultant I charge a minimum of £20 an hour. So, if we add up the total cost of your unhelpful and quite frankly aggressive campaign, you have cost me £23.30. (For a breakdown of the costs see below)
£2.30 – Standard fare for my journey
£0.50 – Postal order charge
£0.50 – Second class stamp
£20 – Fee for my time
I am unwilling to let this go and want an honest apology from yourselves and remuneration for the costs that I have incurred. For your information, I shall be sending this complaint to your customer relations team and I shall be blogging and tweeting about this online.
I understand that you are trying to encourage payment of fares but the only thing this has encouraged me to do, is to use the bus instead. I do hope to hear from you soon and I hope that we can deal with this issue swiftly and in a professional manner.