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01/20/2012

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Darlene Braggs August 1, 2013 at 5:01 pm

GOOD GRIEF, GREYHOUND!

In June, I traveled alone from New Haven, Connecticut to Marietta, Georgia on Greyhound. My first stop was to New York City. That arrival was hours late, so I missed the connection to Richmond, where I was to have at least a three hour layover. This is important because relatives who live in the area had made special plans and spent money for a get-together with me as the guest of honor. I was not able to see them at all. Management advised that we would be have priority seating on the next bus, which we did.

At Richmond, there were numerous passengers complaining about delays. An offer by management was immediately extended to them for food vouchers.

At Knoxville, I was scheduled to leave out approximately one hour after arrival, around 6:30p.m. When I retrieved my baggage, one of them was completely open. The zipper was completely off track, and there was no way to repair it. The porter professed too much that he did nothing wrong. It was obvious there is no way I could have traveled with two suitcases, including this one, if it was completely open. The manager agreed with me and also told the assistant to stop talking. My main concern was a temporary fix. Subsequently, they sufficiently wrapped tape around the bag.

By 7:00p.m., no announcements were made for boarding to Georgia, so I inquired. There was a delay because the bus coming in from Kentucky was experiencing mechanical problems. The Manager added that we should be leaving around 8:00p.m. I relayed this information to those who had by this time become my “bus buddies.” One of them was deaf, so I had to write everything down to communicate with her, although she was able to gather a lot by my expressions! Another was obese and had recently undergone several surgeries. She shared prior nightmare experiences on Greyhound while we waited. Yet another was in a wheelchair, traveling with her son. She would ride around to get additional information to share as well because no updates were forthcoming by Greyhound representatives and no special effort was extended to those who were impaired.

I asked for food vouchers for myself and my bus buddies. A representative first declined. After I relayed reaction from the Richmond station in response to its delays, I was told we would receive vouchers. However, we needed to wait until more buses were loaded so that others would not be able to undeservingly get a voucher.

We waited for a long while. When we realized the food area was closing, I went back to the representative to inquire. She told me they had no control over the food area closing; it is not owned by Greyhound. Surely, she was aware what time they open and close, so I questioned why she waited so long to disburse the vouchers. She referred me to the Manager, who replied with a nonsensical statement that included the word “policy” more than once.

Not long after, the representative approached and spoke in a whisper. She was suggesting that just two of us should follow her to get vouchers (me and another bus buddy who also inquired). At that point, I expressed my dismay more proactively. I motioned to my bus buddies to follow us to the counter. We were respectful and we did get the vouchers. However, we were not able to use them until the next shift reopened the food area. To appease us they ordered pizzas and soda in the interim.

Back to the wait — we were told that, once the bus arrived, we had to wait until other passengers who were scheduled for that departure were boarded before we could board. I relayed the procedures followed at the New York station, and was told by Knoxville Management that they had not followed protocol. The policy was just as he stated — we could not get priority seating.

Around 9:00p.m., the bus arrived from Kentucky with angry passengers. We find out the mechanical problem was with the air conditioner. It hadn’t worked for hours during the trip.

A mechanic attempted to fix the problem in Knoxville. More time passed. Now there are two busloads of angry passengers — those of us who were already waiting in Richmond to board since 6:30p.m. and those arriving in from Kentucky on a hot bus! We questioned why a replacement had not been sent as opposed to waiting on this faulty bus to be fixed. We heard more about policy.

Next, the Kentucky passengers are told that the mechanic does not have the proper tools; he has to leave to get them. I don’t know what transpired between the Kentucky driver and passengers after that, but it became heated to the point that the driver walked off the job! The bus buddies learned of these events from our roving spy reporter!

Security had to get involved because the Kentucky passengers were vocally furious. By this time, a new shift of workers were in place. This Manager walked away from the counter through a slamming door and out of sight!

As for me and my bus buddies, we are in our own little area, which was roped off in red. We had nicknamed it “the lounge” by this time! We continued to bond in an attempt to make the best of it. We are just as furious, just not as boisterous.

I go back to the counter; the manager returns and we have a conversation. I empathized with his position but reminded him that he still had another busload of passengers who were aggrieved. He agreed but said he would not deal with the threats and yelling he was getting from the Kentucky passengers.

With help from my bus buddies, we were able to get the situation under control. Most of the Kentucky passengers were able to board another bus. We would be required to get new tickets because, with the exception of a few, we would not be able to board until 3:00a.m.

Now, we are livid but realize there is nothing we can do but wait. I attempted to make arrangements for my deaf friend to get a cab once she arrived in Georgia because she had no one to pick her up at that time. I also requested a hotel stay or at least a comfortable area for my obese friend to rest because these two would not be leaving until 7:00a.m.! The chairs were colorful, but not comfortable. The relieving manager said he could not make any promises but we would see what he could do. I still wonder if any accommodations were made for them. I truly hope so!

So, as soon as we get on the bus that is supposed to be adequately repaired by this time, the driver makes a speech. It detailed policies and what is and is not allowed or tolerated. I do not recall any apologies! The air shut off at times. The bus shut down at least twice and we also came close to having an accident!

When the bus finally arrives in Marietta, Georgia, we go to retrieve our bags. The driver tells us we have to get our bags at the Atlanta station because the Marietta station was closed by the time we arrived at 7:00a.m., and he was not going to put any bags back in! His justification also included the word policy!

One of my bus buddies was on the verge of tears. Even though I am almost 60 and a breast cancer survivor, I ignored what the driver said and started pulling bags out. I noticed mine. I began to pull out others. Three of us were able to retrieve all of the necessary bags and this nightmare — or so I thought — was over.

RELATED TO MY COMPLAINT AND REQUEST FOR REFUND AND REIMBURSEMENT

Within days of my return, I submitted an online bullet-list complaint of the above requesting, at a minimum, full ticket price refund and reimbursement for destroyed baggage. I did not hear back so I called to follow-up. Another verbal report was taken. The decision was to offer me $46.00! Again I heard policy mandates . . .. The gist was that this amount represents the hours of my delay divided into the price of my ticket (or something to that effect)!

I asked to speak to a manger but was told the only way to possibly receive a higher amount would be to write a letter. I traveled on June 21st. At this writing, I still have not received any restitution. When I called last week to check, I was told that policy mandates refunds may be sent out within 14 to 21 BUSINESS DAYS!

I should have known there might be problems when I first called to get ticket information. A line recording states something like, “If you are calling about a letter you have sent, it could take 4 – 6 weeks for a response . . ..” If it takes this long to respond to customer concerns, likely there are numerous complaints and concerns being submitted. If so, it just seems prudent that certain policies and procedures need to be changed to (1) provide improved, quality customer service, which would reduce complaints and (2) more effectively and expediently address complaints once received. This travel experience was dreadful on so many levels that my bus buddies and I actually speculated that we were being secretly filmed for a reality show!

In closing, through all the chaos, I met some very special people. For those several hours, we shared a bond that was easy-flowing and necessary under the circumstances. We fussed, cussed and gritted our teeth together. We laughed and there were some tears. We opened up about personal matters and experiences. We were a comfort to one another. Because of them, this was truly the best of times, but it was also the worst of times!

That said, I wonder if I can make a claim against Greyhound for false advertisement. After all, their icon is a greyhound dog. This animal represents speed. In fact, the only other animal that can accelerate faster than a greyhound over a short distance is the cheetah! It was my experience and others that the Greyhound bus service was anything but fast. Seriously, this corporation should not be allowed to misrepresent their business under a false pretense and/or consistently operate in such a negligent, inconsiderate, non-dependable and deficient fashion!

My hope is that this lengthy dissertation will generate some positive results on behalf of primarily low to middle income travelers who should not have to endure such subservient service just because.

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