When I was back in Denver, CO trying to get to Athens, OH for 11Fest, I had a very disappointing first experience with Greyhound. It was so upsetting that I wrote them a pretty lengthy letter detailing the experience and my suggestions for how service could be improved. Here is that letter.
It should be noted that yesterday I “ranted” on Twitter about this letter and was contacted by Greyhound directly to figure things out. Actually, they CALLED me, which was something I was definitely not expecting. So shouts to Greyhound on damage control and being quick to resolve things via social media.
To Whom It May Concern:
First off, allow me to introduce myself. My name is Eric White. I currently try to make a living as a travel blogger/freelance writer and have been cruising ‘round the United States via train, car and plane since early January.
A few weeks ago, I decided to give Greyhound a shot for the first time for a lengthy journey from Denver, CO to Columbus, OH. At first, I didn’t know what to expect from a bus going essentially across the country but it wasn’t long after checking in at the Denver station that I realized what I was in for: hassle and indifference.
My bus was scheduled to leave promptly at 8:35am so like a smart traveler does, I got there with plenty of time to check-in, grab a quick bite and ultimately get in line with all of the other doomed souls.
I should have known something was fishy when after overhearing that one of the other eastbound buses had been cancelled no immediate announcement was made by any Greyhound employee. In fact, business proceeded as if everyone was on time. I received my ticket and simultaneously overheard the Greyhound employee on the phone talking about what to do with the travelers whose ride east had literally JUST been cancelled. This happened shortly after 7am. They announced the cancellation shortly after 9am.
I ignored it though and felt confident in MY bus east. I found a spot in line and began waiting for the bus. I was confident it was still coming since it was headed a little further north than the previously cancelled bus and the weather maps didn’t look threatening to my route. Even at 9:35am, an hour after the intended departure, no bus or update on the bus had appeared and yet I maintained my place in line, confident to end up in Columbus the next day if only a few hours behind schedule.
At 10:30, I was anxious and so were the other 50 or so people waiting in line with me. No announcements were made, no hints that the bus had been cancelled at all… but indeed, it had been. A woman in front of me sought out a Greyhound employee then and confronted him about the bus to which he admitted that it was cancelled. TWO HOURS past the scheduled departure and travelers were being forced to investigate the status of their bus like it was an episode of Scooby Doo or something… only this time, Old Man Jenkins was all of Greyhound. Jinkies!
Needless to say, my feathers were very ruffled. I was pissed. I left the Greyhound station assuming I’d be able to call customer service and get a refund for my bus ticket since it had been cancelled and was not at all my fault. I intended to buy a ticket with Amtrak since I’ve had so many excellent experiences with them. They are timely, polite, considerate and update their travelers as the updates come in whether via text, email or just word of mouth at the station. Amtrak does things the right way and is a good example of how Greyhound can improve service.
Granted, trains do not have the same delay issues that buses do. Most train delays are due to equipment issues whereas I assume most bus delays are the result of inclement weather. However, regardless of the cause for delay, travelers should be able to expect the same courtesy of timely updates and customer service regardless of the method of travel. I received neither of these from Greyhound.
After calling customer service, I was informed that it was in fact impossible to refund my ticket. I could write to customer service but even then, nobody could guarantee me anything. Instead, they advised me over the phone to go back to the Greyhound station and see if the evening bus would be leaving on time. Not only did I waste another round of cab fare getting back to the Greyhound station but I arrived to be treated like scum by one of the Denver employees who instead of helping me through the situation, scowled at me and said, “There aren’t anymore tickets for the evening bus. Try stand-by. NEXT!” That is literally everything she said to me. I tried stand-by and as it would happen, there was in fact no room for me. Which raises another question: how does a person whose bus was cancelled not get a guaranteed spot on the very next bus out? Anyway, I left Greyhound Denver… again.
At this point, it was almost 8pm and I was out 4-ways of cab fare, a $156 bus ticket and more importantly, an entire day that could have been used productively on freelance projects or my own personal blog. I wasn’t treated with kindness or respect by Greyhound; I was treated with indifference and in that final instance, flat out disgust.
I was originally writing this to request a refund but now that I am closing this up I realize that I am in fact writing to inform Greyhound of its faulty service and the ways in which it can improve. Speed is certainly an important factor in the transportation industry but really, I believe travelers just want to be treated fairly and feel like the people who are transporting them actually care about getting them where they’re going. Shit like weather happens and travelers understand this. It’s the response that can make or break a travelers relationship with a transportation service.
For me, Amtrak has been that transpo service. The employees are ALWAYS incredibly kind and willing to do whatever they can to enhance the amazing experience of train travel. But they are also ready, and even eager, to admit fault and let their customers know when things aren’t going as planned. And guess what? People dig that a lot. You only need to look at the success of Southwest Airlines or the recent bump in Amtrak’s rider numbers to see how much people value the quality of solid customer service.
Greyhound has the potential to be a cheap and relatively hassle-free way to travel even if it’s not the most comfortable way to go. Instead of trying to improve your buses or your routes though, how about starting with the people who work your stations and your policies for dealing with customers whose travel plans fell through even though they were at the station on time and ready? All we want as travelers is to know that you will have our back if/when things do go awry. Because let’s face it, nobody takes the bus because it’s luxurious.