My Dad’s recently had his 80th, my Mum’s not far behind so I thought I’d give them a treat, a day on a train eating a five course meal with champagne and all the trimmings – £500 but with the Orient Express you know it’s going to be good. Or so I thought.
I booked on the internet and got a little message saying that my booking had been processed and I’d be hearing more in due course. As the day’s passed by I phoned my Mum and Dad each day asking if they’d had their tickets, I checked my mailboxes and waited. Eventually I started using the phone navigation provided by the Orient Express and firing off e-mails to information centres asking when I could expect to hear more. Typically I got through to a recorded message stating that I could expect to receive my ticket within a few days of travel.
Yesterday being a couple of days before the train journey I finally broke protocols and called a new reservations person. After a few minutes trying to locate my booking reference number I was told that my booking, though received , had never been processed. I was asked to wait to see if there was space on the train. Eventually the nice lady agreed that my parents could go and that she’d arrange a temporary booking reference number.
I asked her what had happened – apparently what happened to me happens quite often – a glitch in the system that allows people to be told they have a booking when really they don’t. Presumably some passengers turn up at the station with their e-mail confirmation thinking that’s their ticket while others like me have to go through the wakey wakey procedure.
I pointed this out and asked if I could speak to someone in authority. I was asked why. I explained that I did not think that the booking had been handled very well. It was explained to me that this was no one’s fault but a fault in the booking process.
A few hours later I was phoned by another nice lady who apologised , told me that if my parents stayed at home the following morning, their tickets would be delivered by special delivery. As a special gift the Venice Simplon Orient Express would like to offer my parents a bottle of champagne to accompany their meal. I didn’t have the heart to tell them that they had already been promised that.
So there you have it. Gone the days of grand ticketing halls, gone the days of polite and attentive staff , hello brave new world of internet bookings that are faultless because no-one’s to blame if they go wrong. We’ll see over the next three days whether any of the promises made yesterday materialises.
The Venice Simplon Orient Express is a luxury brand – the Pullman my parents are taking is no more than a nicely appointed set of carriages pulled by a standard diesel loco, the food won’t be that special. The price is about the experience, the experience needs to be impeccable. When something goes wrong, Venice Simplon Orient Express are asked by their customers to take note and sort the problem. I’d be pretty keen to sort th problem if the main thing supporting my brand is impeccable service.
It appears from what I am told , they are aware of the problem but cross their fingers and hope that everyone involved says nothing (so as not to create a fuss and spoil what’s left of their great day out).
Similarly, I will not make a a fuss – except on here (where my parents don’t go). I don’t want to spoil my parent’s great day out.
If however Venice Simplon Orient Express don’t buck their ideas up and sort out the problems I and my parents experienced, someone will make a fuss and Watchdog or some other consumer champion will be only too pleased to investigate.
If my parents don’t get a superior service as a result of the worry they’ve been through about their tickets, I will be the person who calls for the investigation.
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- YD Session Notes 8th Oct 2011 ¦ Horror on the Orient Express #5 (davidjrodger.wordpress.com)
- ‘In New York, all the cultures are undiluted’ (independent.co.uk)
- UK train travel like the Orient Express? That’s rich (guardian.co.uk)
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