That didn’t take long, did it? Southwest trains decided today that Monday morning during rush hour would be a good time to not have any ticket windows open in Vauxhall station, because that’s only the busiest time of the whole week. After all, why only inconvenience a few customers when you can inconvenience almost all of them in one go?
The guy who lets people in and out of the disabled gate told me that as I didn’t have any cash I’d have to go to the tube station and buy a ticket there (this is pretty much the default answer to any enquiry to Vauxhall station staff). I thought I’d be clever and got some cash out, and went back only to be told to use my tenner to buy a ticket in the machine, even though the machine won’t sell me a ticket to Kew Bridge because it doesn’t have enough buttons for all the stations. I asked if he could sell me a ticket instead but he refused saying (I didn’t follow the logic of this at all) that he couldn’t because there was a long queue at the assistance window (inside the barrier) already, and another long queue in front of the guy who was standing in the concourse (also inside the barrier) selling tickets from his handheld machine. Eventually I managed to persuade him to at least let me in through the barrier so I too could join one or other of these long queues as by now I only had a few minutes to catch my train.
Having got through, fuming, and after waiting in a non-moving line for a minute or two, I finally had the bright idea of not buying a ticket and getting on the train anyway. Now, before you write in and complain, I knew this is technically wrong and passengers should buy tickets if it is humanly possible. But when you only have a train every fifteen minutes and when you’ve left enough time to buy a ticket, does humanly possible include actually missing the train? Morally, I reckon I was justified (and I did buy a ticket on the way back). Fortunately I didn’t have to argue the legal position with a ticket inspector bent on giving me a �20 penalty fare. And besides, I actually had a ticket, I’d just lost it – which makes the whole episode doubly galling.
Next week, by the way, is Customer Service Week. SouthWest Trains are making a big thing of it, asking for nominations for exceptionally good service from their staff. Strangely, I couldn’t find the form to fill in for nominations for exceptionally bad service … They’ve still got until the end of the week to be really nice to me to get the nomination. I won’t be holding my breath