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Author Topic: How difficult can it be to buy a ticket? Very challenging.  (Read 11576 times)
Brucey
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« on: January 12, 2013, 16:58:03 »

Yesterday morning, about 6:15am, I purchased a season ticket on Southern's website.  Main reason was to use a ^25 voucher I had sitting on my account.  Selected "London Waterloo" from the drop-down list to collect my ticket.  Subsequently looking at the site, it says these tickets can only be collected from "Southern stations", but makes no attempt to define what one of these are and then gives a big drop-down list of all ToD enabled stations from which one can select Waterloo.

About 8:30, collect the ticket from the TVM (Ticket Vending Machine).  All good, until I was walking down to the Underground station when I noticed this.....


Yes, -1 day of validity.  Plus no photocard number, no "Travelcard" in the orange header and ticket type should be "TRVLCD-00M07D" not "TRAVELCARD 7".

Back up to the ticket office.  Queue for a few minutes to be told by a rather unhelpful lady that I must have selected the wrong date online.  I tried three times explaining what the problem was, but she simply couldn't see the issue.  Told me to phone whoever I bought it from.

Not very satisfactory.  Off I head to the advance ticket sales counter as they tend to be more helpful.  This guy was much more interested and spotted the problem straight away.  He knew straight away that I'd bought this from Southern as it is a common problem, apparently.  He attempted to put it though as a damaged ticket for a replacement, but couldn't do this until the first day of validity.  Fair enough.  But my train on Monday departs at 0647 yet the ticket office doesn't open until 0645.

Head off to work, now arriving 20 minutes late.  First thing I do is phone up Southern.  Took about 25 minutes.  Was asked to send over a picture of the ticket and they'd credit e-vouchers to my account.  Seemed ok, I could just buy the ticket again and collect it from Victoria on the way home.

Come 4pm and still no sign of the vouchers.  This time, I spent 45 minutes on the phone, including holding time.  He said that the vouchers had been credited but it would take several hours for them to appear.  Not a great solution, so he offered ^10 extra vouchers.  I almost laughed at him for this.  I didn't want more vouchers, just a train ticket that I could use on Monday morning, not a ^130 piece of useless orange cardboard.

The vouchers weren't credited still.  A typical "grumpy customer" Tweet to Southern and surprisingly the vouchers were credited within the hour, but I was already out of "Southern territory" by this point.  My local stations aren't Southern operated.  So the dilemma was to buy a new ticket and be ^130 out of pocket until my next online purchase in two weeks time or get to a Southern station to collect it.  Opted for the latter, using my current season ticket to go to Emsworth, a round-trip of over an hour, including the time taken to get to Havant by car.

Overall, an incredibly poor experience.  I spent over three hours trying to get this fixed, all for a paltry ^10 voucher.  Had the vouchers not been credited by Monday, I wouldn't have had any second thoughts about travelling on this dodgy looking ticket and forwarding any Penalty Fares/Excess Fares/Oyster (Smartcard system used by passengers on Transport for London services) journeys to Southern.

Worth complaining formally?  The website is incredibly unclear and offers no explanation to what a "Southern station" actually is.
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EBrown
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« Reply #1 on: January 12, 2013, 17:06:40 »

I think you've had exceptionally bad luck!

By complaining 'formally' the matter should then be investigated which should stop it from happening again - so yes, it's worth a reasonably polite letter/email to inform Southern of its failures.

I'll add, never ever try and buy a train ticket to Calais; you'll find it more hassle than your season ticket issue! Smiley
« Last Edit: March 03, 2013, 19:03:26 by EBrown » Logged

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johoare
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« Reply #2 on: January 12, 2013, 21:34:19 »

How on earth can a computer system create and then print off a ticket which expires the day before it starts? However long it is supposed to be for!  Roll Eyes Roll Eyes
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eightf48544
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« Reply #3 on: January 13, 2013, 11:00:30 »

Unfortunately writing computer programs has in theory become so easy that people aren't doing all the Systems Analysis needed before a line of code is written.

Back when I started with hammer and chisel on slate, actually paper tape and punched cards. Computer resources were so scare that you had to write compact code that only did what was absolutely necessary first time every time, also with batch processing you had to vet the incoming data as thoroughly as possible to ensure you didn't get anomolies on the data base. So you had to have a comprehensive System Spec to Code from.

Also with batch processing you had to thoroughly test the system beofre it went live. I worked on a banking system and we had 10 graute new entrents who spent 6 months playing bank clerk before the system went live in 1970 and they still failed to test one thing that caused the sytem to crash on the 1st January 1972 having successfully converted to decimal in 71. Any guesses as to the problem?

Now a days it seems to me people sit in front of a screen and devise web applications from scratch without a clear System Spec that's why are most on-line systems are so poorly designed.

If I needed to work I would take a bet that I could take most companies web sites and quite easily cock up a transaction just by doing things like puting incorret data in various field using the back button etc. no need to hack.


 

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Brucey
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« Reply #4 on: January 13, 2013, 17:10:17 »

With my programmer hat on, I did wonder how on earth someone could program something that would allow this to be issued.  If I were writing this, the first thing I'd do is ensure there was an if statement ensuring the expiry date is equal to or greater than the start date.  It would only need a few lines of code.

I've written a brief letter to Southern, summarising what happened and what I'd like done.  I don't want compensation, just confirmation that changes are put into place to ensure this does not happen to anyone else.  Specifically, I've asked for their website to be made clearer and have the list of stations reduced down to just Southern ones for these tickets.  Not exactly a difficult change for them to make, lets see if it ever happens.
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ellendune
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« Reply #5 on: January 13, 2013, 17:21:11 »

Also with batch processing you had to thoroughly test the system beofre it went live. I worked on a banking system and we had 10 graute new entrents who spent 6 months playing bank clerk before the system went live in 1970 and they still failed to test one thing that caused the sytem to crash on the 1st January 1972 having successfully converted to decimal in 71. Any guesses as to the problem?

I suppose it only checked for the day and month of decimalisation, not the year.
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johoare
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« Reply #6 on: January 13, 2013, 22:53:01 »

With my programmer hat on, I did wonder how on earth someone could program something that would allow this to be issued.  If I were writing this, the first thing I'd do is ensure there was an if statement ensuring the expiry date is equal to or greater than the start date.  It would only need a few lines of code.

I've written a brief letter to Southern, summarising what happened and what I'd like done.  I don't want compensation, just confirmation that changes are put into place to ensure this does not happen to anyone else.  Specifically, I've asked for their website to be made clearer and have the list of stations reduced down to just Southern ones for these tickets.  Not exactly a difficult change for them to make, lets see if it ever happens.

I also have a programmer hat and that is basic coding.. that is the sort of thing that might happen in a test environment, but not in live..
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Brucey
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« Reply #7 on: February 02, 2013, 13:37:18 »

An update on my complaint.

Someone called on 21st January and left a message.  She noted I was probably abroad due to the ringtone and would call back later.  Never received a call back.

A comment I made on Twitter was picked up by Emma Toms (Head of Customer Experience).  She is looking into what has happened....

Today, I received a letter related to my "refund request on 18th January" stating they wanted my original ticket and would deal with my complaint separately.  I made a Delay Repay claim on the 18th January (which should be 50% of the ticket cost divided by 5.25 as the delay was just over an hour).  But these are always dealt with as compensation, rather than refunds.

I assume someone has got their wires crossed between my different correspondences.

I am now tempted just to give up and hope few people also make the mistake that I did.  Too much time spent when it seems clear that there are no plans to have the website amended to show the correct list of stations.
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Rhydgaled
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« Reply #8 on: February 08, 2013, 07:52:27 »

I've encounted similar but not quite so rediculus issue. I've booked an Arriva 'club 55 website' ticket for my grandmother a couple of times. These are supposed to have 8-days validity (at least for the return leg) but when collected at Manchester Piccadilly the ticket machine prints it as a day return and we've had to wait while the ticket desk staff think about it (for a long while) then stamp the back to prove the ticket machines can't handle issuing that type of ticket properly.
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Don't DOO (Driver-Only Operation (that is, trains which operate without carrying a guard)) it, keep the guard (but it probably wouldn't be a bad idea if the driver unlocked the doors on arrival at calling points).
Brucey
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« Reply #9 on: February 08, 2013, 18:16:21 »

My delay repay was paid at the correct rate over the weekend.

Today I received this, in response to my query asking which ticket they wanted and why/how I requested a refund
Quote
Thank you for contacting us on 03 February 2013 regarding a letter you recieved. Please accept my apologies for the delay in our response.

I can see from our records that we need the tickets for a refund, the delay repay has been calculated and approved.

If you wish to contact us further regarding your query, please contact our Customer Service team directly at comments@southernrailway.com, by phone on 08451 27 29 20 or in writing to:
Southern Customer Services
PO Box 3021
Bristol
BS2 2BS
quoting ticket number [] on all communication.

For the latest travel information, why not follow us on Twitter @southernrailUK and @GatwickExpress

Kind regards
I give up.  Have too much going on in my life at the moment to worry about this.  I just hope no-one else makes the same mistake as I did with the rather unclear website.
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