You Think Airline Service is Bad? Try Taking the Bus

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My daughter was home from college this holiday break, and wanted to visit her brother in Ames, Iowa, about four hours away. As we’re a one-car family, she elected to take the bus. That started a series of inexcusable events that makes a CX enthusiast shudder in disbelief. 

It started when I went to buy her ticket. If the credit card doesn’t match the rider’s name, they add on a $18 “gift” fee. Apparently because they can. So, I had to wait until she was home and could give me her credit card. Inexcusable Issue #1. 

As departure time came, we headed to the station early and went inside to check her bag. That’s when we found out that all the Jefferson Lines buses were canceled for the day due to weather. We purchased the ticket through Greyhound, with no idea the actual travel was with a different company. And the person behind the desk could give us no information about when buses would run again, simply giving us an 800 number to call, saying she had no information to give us. Inexcusable Issue #2. 

I called Jefferson’s support line. It was at 6:30, 30 minutes before the bus was supposed to leave, but customer service was closed, even though buses are typically running at that time (customer service apparently always closes at 4 on weekends). Apparently, if you have problems after four, you’re on your own. Inexcusable Issue #3. 

I went to leave a voice mail, but it was full. Inexcusable Issue #4. 

I went to the Jefferson Lines website, and submitted my issue. I received the following automated response: 

Dear Jim,

Thank you for taking the time to reach out to us; your feedback is invaluable. If you requested a response, please note this can take up to six weeks. 

Six weeks? That’s even worse than Air CanadaInexcusable Issue #5. 

Finally, I realized that I purchased the ticket from Greyhound, so I should probably go there with my issue. Their website had no information on how to get a refund for a trip canceled for weather. So, I went through the refund process, and discovered this message: 

“To apply for a refund you’ll need to send us your original ticket along with your refund request, in writing, to [address].” 

So, they can take your money immediately, but to get a refund you must wait weeks until they get around to mailing it to you. Inexcusable Issue #6. 

Curious, I went and checked the status for the buses. Apparently, our bus was canceled before we purchased the ticket. They let me purchase a ticket on a bus that was already canceled! Inexcusable Issue #7. 

It really got me to thinking: How can any company feel that this is an okay way to treat their customers? We all love to hate Spirit Airlines. But not even they would stoop to this type of service. 

All I can think of is that the buses are this bad because they can get away with it. There isn’t a ton of competition in busing; combined with a lower-income clientele that doesn’t have an alternative, they’re able to continue without investing in the most basic of CX. 

So, the next time your plane is canceled and you talk with an agent to get a new flight, just be thankful there is an agent. And, whatever you do, don’t try to take the bus instead! 

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