I feel ashamed of only noding daylogs lately, but I hope they're informative. If you downvote all daylogs on principle, go find something else to dump votes on.

Today was a good day, until 7pm. I visited family friends, and had a good time chatting to them. What happened next is best explained by the letter I wrote (and eventually emailed) to Thameslink rail's customer service department:

For the attention of the Customer Service Manager

Dear Manager,

This evening, Saturday 4 May 2002, I arrived at St Albans City station at about 7pm, on a slightly delayed Thameslink service. I intended, before going home, to purchase a ticket for a journey I shall be making next weekend to Dudley. Accordingly, I queued at the ticket office and was served at window number two by a large, bald-headed member of staff who was not wearing a visible name badge.

The ensuing attempt to buy a ticket took me twenty minutes and was unsuccessful.

Initially, the salesperson did not know where Sandwell and Dudley (the official name of my destination) was, and had to be told, and reminded several times of the station's name during the course of the attempted sale. I explained, clearly, that I was happy to reserve a seat when travelling from Watford Junction to Dudley on the morning of Saturday 11 May, but that as I would be dining with friends in Dudley on the evening of Sunday 12 May, I should prefer not to reserve a seat in the return direction.

I was initially (but not rapidly) informed that I could book a 'Virgin 7' for £10, but was not informed what the conditions of this ticket might be. The salesperson then changed his mind, and said that I could not book a 'Virgin 7', but could book a 'Virgin 3' for £17. However, in order to do so, I would have to specify which train I wished to return on. I pointed out that I had already explained why this was not reasonable. I did learn that there was a service to Dudley departing from Watford Junction at 7:40 on the Saturday morning. For some minutes, I persisted in trying to discover whether it was possible to book a simple weekend cheap return. I was not given an answer to my question, but repeatedly told that I could purchase a 'Virgin 3' if I reserved seats in both directions. There was also a reference to a 'SuperSaver' (or some similarly named ticket) which would restrict me to Silverlink or Central trains1. I was not told the price of that ticket. Moreover, when I enquired which company operated the 7:40 service previously mentioned, I learned (after a delay) that the service was operated by Virgin Trains. A 'SuperSaver' ticket would therefore not have enabled me to use that service.

I maintained that I was unwilling to be prevented from using Virgin Trains (which despite their reputation are certainly better than Silverlink, and often, in my experience, better than Thameslink), and that I wished to retain flexibility as to my time of return on the Sunday. I pointed out that the absence of timetables for Virgin services at St Albans made it difficult to book a return journey even if I wanted to. The salesperson then offered to use one of his computers to provide this information. The information he provided was distinctly selective, and was delivered by him bellowing the across the area behind the glass screen. He continued to speak loudly for the remainder of the transaction. By now I was much later in leaving the station than I had hoped, and named the most suitable sounding of the Sunday services mentioned. The salesperson took another five minutes to find out seating information, during which time he was working on two different computers at the far side of the ticket office. He then returned, and stated the arrangements offered, and the price of £17. Before I presented my Switch card for payment, I asked him to confirm what he had consistently implied, that there was no way to reserve a seat only on the outward journey. He refused to do so, and said that he would not sell me my ticket if I continued shouting. As I am recovering from a throat infection, and had earlier appeared to be having difficulty making myself heard at all, I was surprised by this untrue accusation. The salesperson, on the other hand, was most certainly shouting, to the extent that his colleague in the ticket office, and several customers in the booking hall, were by now watching him. I pointed out his error, and left before I could be further insulted.

Despite having spent twenty minutes on the transaction, the salesperson failed to sell me the ticket I requested, or the ticket which he had seemed to determined to force on me. Moreover, I now discover from the Railtrack website that he failed to advise me of the correct range of return services; and from Virgin Trains' own site I have found and purchased a Saver Return for £21:502, taking just five minutes. This fare was not referred to at any point during my visit to St Albans Station this evening, despite it fitting my stated requirements exactly.

Moreover, in attempting to transmit this complaint, I have just received an error message from your (poorly designed) website and would have had to re-enter this entire message, had I not had the foresight to save a copy in advance. I also had to fill in entirely irrelevant and not entirely accurate journey details on the form above the message area. The operation still failed, and the telephone number offered is only staffed during normal office hours - a fact not in any was mentioned on the error page - and refers to 'Swallow Information', and not to Thameslink at all. As, up to this point, I had no complaint with Swallow Information, whoever they are, I saw little point in leaving a message, especially not on the Saturday of a Bank Holiday weekend. I have retrieved this e-mail address from the National Rail website, as you decline to advertise it on your own.

I look forward to receiving, by email to the above address, a full explanation of this very poor standard of customer service.

Yours sincerely,


Facts not mentioned in letter:
1: Central Trains don't operate over the route in question.
2: Virgin give you a pound off for booking online, and post the tickets to your home address for nothing.