Earlier this month, I had the deep misfortune to travel with First Great Western to London. I had done my part and ordered my ticket ahead of time, and for this dilligence I was rewarded with a compulsory seat reservation. Unfortunately, I lost the reservation stub for my return journey. I didn’t think this would be a problem – I took my place on the correct train, and proceeded to sit. Given that no-one ever seems to care where I sit (never in my allotted – compulsory – seat) on the way out, I assumed the same nonchalance would apply on the way back. Not so…
Despite my protestations, I was forced to buy another ticket for the return portion of my journey. The conductor assured me that I would be eligible for a refund if I later found my reservation stub. I begrudgingly coughed up the money and sulked my way home. I’d bemoan the fact that the train was 20 minutes late arriving (sat out in the dark somewhere), but frankly that’s just par for the course.
But wait, the following day I discovered that I hadn’t in fact LOST my reservations stub – merely misplaced it – so I contacted First Great Western to ask how to apply for the refund that I was promised. Oh happy day!
*insert sound of needle dragging on vinyl*
Here is the response from FGW:
I’m sorry you did not have your seat reservation coupon and were asked to pay extra money to complete your journey. Whilst I appreciate this must have been annoying for you, my colleague was quite correct to ask you to pay this amount so I’m unable to offer you a refund.
1. Seat reservations are compulsory when buying ahead
2. Seat reservations, in my experience, are never enforced
3. The conductor LIED to me about being eligible for a refund if I later found my reservation stub (which I duly did, hence my initial contact)
I find all of this distasteful behaviour on the part of First Great Western, and an extremely poor excuse for squeezing money out of customers who are not in a position to take advantage of alternative vendors.
Warning to all: DO NOT LOSE your seat reservation stub, do not even MISPLACE said stub.