Monday, 4 April 2011

Do we expect too much ?

This weekend we were really lucky to be guests of Vosene at London zoo (post to follow).  We had a wonderful time on Saturday and were even given overnight accomodation in a Marriot Hotel enabling us the opprtunity to take the boys to see some of the sights of London and visit the Natural History Museum on Sunday, a wonderful Mother's Day treat for me.

 As we live on a very limited budget, we didn't have much money for extras etc, but we made some cut backs in the months before the planned trip so that we would have some extra cash for food and travel around London etc.  We had a wonderful time travelling on the underground, the twins had a ride on their first double decker bus, we saw lots of London's top landmarks and finished our trip at the Natural History Museum.  I can remember visiting the museum over 35 years ago on a school trip and the wonder of the size and majesty of the place.  The twins too were blown away by it, although it has updated considerably since my last visit!  Sadly, by about 1.30pm they had had enough, My husband and I were hoping we could pop into the V & A next door, but the twins were just too tired.  Milo had been up in the night at the hotel crying and complaining of stomach pains, he was hot and over tired from all the excitement so we decided perhaps it was best if we headed home.

I checked our return tickets to discover that we did not have open returns but were booked on the 7pm train from Paddington to Exeter ! I accept all responsibility for this, I am sure that its is the train time that I requested from the PR company.  On previous occasions We have caught earlier trains than those stipulated on the ticket and the guards have never had a problem.  We arrived at Paddington and boarded a fast train to Exeter.  Milo was crying and very hot, all of us were very tired.  We settled into unreserved seats and then the voice of the guard came over the speaker advising that if you were travelling with tickets for a later train you must disembark!  I began to panic, visions of being manhandled off the train by burly policemen at Reading, like you hear on the news.  So I went in search of the guard, explained that we had tickets for a later train but that we were really tired, had a poorly son and just wanted to get home could we please stay on the train! NO! she barked back, your tickets are for 7pm you must wait for that train.  I pleaded, NO ! You must get off, I have 6 yr old twins, its such a long time to wait, we will stand up in the corridor if you let us stay on.  NO! get off now, the train is about to leave or you risk being forceably removed from the train!  The guards name was KAREN ! I told her, her name was the only thing she had in common with me and ran off down the platform to get my family off the train. 

Left standing on the platform with one hysterical twin, one weeping twin and one embarrassed teenager.  I was furious!  Where did my honesty get me.  Off to the ticket office to see the ticket office supervisor, we were met with the same reply.  You can pay £100 and we can let you on the next train.  I don't have £100 I replied, well you will have to wait!

We tried two more times to get on the next two trains and were met with the same answer, one guard even admitted it was at his discretion whether he let us on the train and overlooked the time on the ticket, but still they would not let us on. 

The wonderful PR lady Holly from Vosene had seen my tweets and called me offering for the company to pay the money so that we could catch an earlier train, back to the ticket office I went and told them the story. NO! can't take a payment over the telephone !

By this time I was so exhausted with trying, I gave in.  We had 3 hours left to wait until our train at 7pm.  Holly called me again and offered to send pizza to the station ! Two wonderful London based twitter people offered to come down to the station to keep us company or for us to pop to their homes for an hour or so, How fab was that !  I have spent my life trying to be the best and kindest person I can be, I teach my children the same values, what examples of kindness they witnessed yesterday!  Some of the very best in human nature and some of the very worst!

My question though is, did I have a right to expect to get a train 5 hours earlier than I was booked on ?  even though there was space ?   Technically First Great Western, the train company wasn't doing anything wrong by insisting I stick to the train I was booked on.  Do we expect too much in these days of the ME! ME! ME! Society ?

One last thing, when we finally boarded our train at 7pm (which was a slow one to Exeter and was over an hour longer journey).  Our tickets were not checked at all by a guard and there were people sitting in every seat, most of them had not reserved their seats and they just got up and moved when the rightful owners came onto the train!


  1. Oh Karen what a nightmare to what was a wonderful weekend. I have experienced both good and bad service at Paddington. Before Christmas I was booked on a train which I missed and they let me on to the next one without any charge, however, I have had to wait three hours before too. I understand your pain, especially as Mail was under the weather, however, if the train wasn't full, I( do not see the issue. We travel on a tight budget too, as you know and we couldn't have paid the extra. I do not have much faith in trains, which is why when with the children I always drive.

    When ever I travel in to London you can guarentee my train from the NE will be cancelled and we dont have them arrive that regularly either

  2. Oh I feel for you! The train guards obviously didn't have children or they would have been more sympathetic.
    I wonder what would have happend if you had never owned up to having a later ticket? Would they really have thrown you off the train if they had checked your tickets further down the line?
    Michelle x

  3. I'm sorry the weekend ended like it did. I really think you should make a complaint, a little discretion could have been used. Was the earlier train packed full? Or could they easily have accommodated a few extra people? I've got a good mind to send a link to this blog post to the train company.

    Holly the PR sounds absolutely lovely though!

  4. I think the entire situations is absolutely appalling!! When it comes right down to it you had fully paid for tickets in your hands, it's not like you were trying to sneaking onto the blinking train.
    The staff obviously have no people skills and the company should take note of this incident and realise that these incidents are obviously happening more often that not (judging from the tweets I saw last night).
    I am glad you had support from twitterland, but some real life support from the train folk would have gone a long way too!

  5. Jen, I can see the sense now in using the car. Next time : ) Five hours was a nightmare. You can imagine, they boys were crying and constantly asking for food, we had no money left! OMG! xx

  6. Michelle - I ask myself whether I am too honest sometimes. What's the answer though ! I was furious when I wasn't asked for the tickets on the 7pm train and all these people were hopping around the seats everytime the train stopped
    : (

  7. What an absolute nightmare, I imagine you'd have been furious had you had the energy :( I know people say that it can't be one rule for one and one for another but that doesn't mean a thing when you are tired, hungry and ill and especially when it clearly WAS possible to let you on earlier as you'd be told it was at a guard's discretion. Horrid!

    Well done to Holly at the PR company and the lovelies offering you help & company. Most definitely two different extremes.

  8. Oh my heart goes out to you - public transport and children is a difficult enough combo without throwing in some obtuse megalomaniac 'guards' to boot! This reminds me of that Channel 4 documentary recently done with the Victor Mildrew (Meldrew?) character, he was charged extra because he didn't have his old age pensioner card with him - I mean, seriously, he doesn't exactly look like a spring chicken!

    Often behind situations like this is an element of over-management, i.e., somewhere along the line the guards got a boll*cking for bending the rules, and now they're all regimented in the way they handle such things, to the complete detriment of their company's public reputation.

    No company does this quite so completely as Ryanair, I always choose the train over them wherever possible, but not if they're all going to go the way of First Great Western! They're managing the customer service right out of their businesses.

  9. Oh Karen, what a truly awful experience, horrible when your stuck somewhere with your kids and all they want us to get home :(( and those people.. Grr.. I think i may have lost my temper ! ;) on mothers day too, hope you managed one giant ( pint sized) glass of wine when u got home xxxx

  10. Nicki, thanks for your comment, its worse now to find out from a fellow blogger who used to work on the railways that of course they can let you stay on the train and that in her experience most train guards are power crazy who get a kick out of this sort of thing ! How awful, she must not have any children! what a total cow !

  11. It really annoys me. Those tickets are so over priced for often rubbish service. Maybe if it was a busy trian and there weren't enough seats but to me that just seems like that woman and the rest of them were just being "jobsworths".

  12. A silver lining will be the train company getting in a complete twit when they see how much negative publicity they're getting. Horrible experience, and hopefully something good will come out of it. It's not as though you tried to force yourselves into someone else's seat in a First Class carriage.

  13. Rachael - Thank you for your comment, lol I missed that documentary. What is it with people these days, so told how to do absolutely everything they are not left to learn how to think for themselves and use initiative, hence a lot of the problems that occur. Do you think it might be because of the american suing culture we have adopted over here ? Now everything has to be absolutely and totally documented and adhered too.

  14. I think you're 100% right Karen about the lack of initiative -that's where the famous line 'computer says no' comes from! :)

    The simplest example I've ever seen of this is when I went to purchase four sausage rolls in a garage deli, on special for €1.20. When I asked could the server put two in one bag and two in another (for the OH in another car), she pulled off the price sticker and re-attached one bearing a price of €1.80. I was confused, but the server explained that as I was purchasing "two lots of two, not four" she had to charge me separately, hence losing the special offer. Utterly and totally insane.

  15. Rachael - OMG! That is insane ! what did you do ? I think I would have just walked out of the shop.

  16. I SHOULD have, but I was so utterly bewildered I carried it up to the counter and paid in a daze! It's a funny thing, we're all about 'not making a fuss' and then seething later, silly really! Being cripplingly hungover probably didn't help though! ;)

  17. Oh Karen, I do feel for you. Whatever happened to good old customer service and common sense. If the train was not full then where was the problem, some people are indeed jobsworths, unfortunatley I come across these sort of people regularly and it annoys me so much.

    You will probably find that Great Western would be horrified to find out that there staff are dealing with people in this way.

    There are times and circumstances when rules can be bent a little and a little compassion is called for. COMPLAIN! COMPLAIN! COMPLAIN!

  18. Ooooh it's juts so outrageous! I hate customer service in this Country and it isn't limited to the trains either!! I always drive because a)it's much cheaper and b) I spent 29 years not being able to drive and waiting around for buses and trains and I can no longer bear to do it!!! Grrrr! I hope that you get an apology from them xxx

  19. I totally feel for you, the poor children. Some people are total jobs worth's and don't seem to have a caring bone in their body.

    Dianne x

  20. Thank you all you lovely people for your kind comments. These big companies could learn a lot from you xx



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