Not mine for once but Silverlink’s. I was reminded of this as I renewed my season ticket for the last time ever with Silverlink today. Way back before records began, after a particularly traumatic delay involving a broken down freight train and the entire Silverlink network shutting down as a consequence, I found myself back at Hackney Central three hours after I’d set off, wondering if – given I couldn’t get my morning back – I could at least get my money back. A protracted correspondence ensued during which I managed to spend more on stamps than I ever would have gained from a refund. However, at one point one of the automatons that staff the Silverlink customer services department stuck a ‘passenger’s charter’ leaflet into the envelope along with the usual crop of evasions, denials and outright obtuseness.
I was annoyed enough to read it carefully and realise that the bastards did owe me money. After combing through the Silverlink website I found that as they had not achieved their (woefully lax) standards for the month I was entitled to a discount on my next ticket. So, armed with a printout of the relevant page, I marched into the station, demanded, and got (after a bit of discussion) a 5% discount. The next month, I did the same thing, and the station guy barely murmured. The month after that I forgot the printout but found I’d got the discount anyway without even asking. This passenger charter stuff must be working, I thought.
The month after that I renewed my ticket at Kew Gardens instead of Hackney.
‘Oh,’ said the hyper efficient lady behind the counter. ‘You’re eligible for a discount. You just need to fill in this form.’
‘Form?’ I said. I’d never had to fill in a form before.
‘Oh yes, you need to fill it in to claim under the passenger’s charter.’
It would appear that the guy at Hackney Central was obeying the first rule of all low level counter staff: when faced with a sufficiently determined customer armed with a printout from the internet, just agree with whatever they say. I don’t know how he had the discretion to award me a discount without the form, but he did. After that I have always felt too embarrassed to claim again.
(And for those of you wondering about Silverlink’s stellar performance today, I only took the train in this morning and had the glories of the District line in the evening).
Total time wasted today: 0 minutes
Total time wasted to date: 11 hours 20 minutes