Saturday, August 13, 2011


Epic FailA mistake of such monumental proportions that it requires its own term in order to successfully point out the unfathomable shortcomings of an individual or group. 

Epic Fail - AMTRAK's Customer Service

I don't usually post a lot of personal things, but since this incident is indirectly related to books and blogging, I decided to share my rant in the hopes of saving other booklovers from making the same mistake.  This is rather a long post and I apologize if it offends anyone EXCEPT the guilty - AMTRAK. I need to air my discontent and disgust publicly due to the fact that Amtrak's customer service department refuses to acknowledge and obviously doesn't care about customers or providing service. 
You may recall that Bec and I were in Denver, Colorado last weekend for the RomCon Romance Readers and Writers Convention - recap posts to come. Anyhoo, we almost didn't get there thanks to the lovely people at Amtrak. (I really need to find that sarcasm font.)

We purchased our train tickets about 8 weeks before the trip, having decided it would be fun to ride the train AND due to the fact that we would save several hundred dollars each over flying or renting a car. Neither of our own vehicles would be able to make the long trip. Our physical tickets arrived about two weeks before we were supposed to leave and we mistakenly thought we were all set...

Weeeeel, imagine our surprise and shock when Bec got a phone call late Monday informing her that our tickets were cancelled.  They gave her some lame excuse that there was a speed check or something and that we HAD NO SEATS with no alternate routes and no other options with Amtrak.  (The ever so NOT helpful representative told her that we could still take the train up to Sacramento, we just wouldn't be able to get on the one to Denver.  Seriously, did she think we'd just hang out at the Sacramento train station for a week until our return ticket became valid?)  Since we were scheduled to leave early on Wednesday morning and needed to be there by Thursday evening for scheduled events, this sent us into a panic.

I checked online and the Amtrak website showed that the train was SOLD OUT.  NOT cancelled, but sold out.  In other words, they just kept selling seats over and over - our bought and paid for seats.  I realize that we probably aren't the only ones they screwed over, but I don't understand how they chose to cancel us when we had our tickets purchased for almost two months.  There were still plenty of open seats when we bought ours.  Why not cancel the people they had just recently sold seats to?  Or better yet ~ STOP SELLING SEATS WHEN THEY'RE FULL!

How can a person trust them and schedule a trip when the idiots at Amtrak will just cancel your transportation and tell you to find another way to get to your destination ` AT THE LAST MINUTE?  At least the airlines will try to get you another flight even with another carrier or compensate you in some way for the added costs and inconvenience that THEY caused.  We would have tried to fly at this point but the last minute flights' prices had TRIPLED from when we first decided to try the train.  The car rental prices had also gone up considerably.

Bec lost her cool (and she's much nicer than I am) when they informed her that IF she wanted her money back she was to mail the tickets back to them via certified mail AT HER OWN EXPENSE.  They would issue her a refund in 6-8 WEEKS!  Since they were purchased online you would think they would just credit the card we used to buy them ~ ESPECIALLY since we needed the money to make alternate travel arrangements.  But noooo, they decided to hold onto our money for another month and a half ~ while it is accruing interest charges by the way.  Of course we were informed we could keep the tickets and use them within the year to try our trip again.

I called customer service on that Tuesday morning to see what they could do to help us since this entire screw-up was their fault, not ours.  I was told that it's company policy and they didn't have to do anything to assist us, including finding an alternate train route.  Even her supervisor just kept parroting "company policy, company policy".  She then got snotty and told me that they really didn't even have to give us our money back as they could force us to just keep the unusable tickets.  I must admit that I lost my temper at that point and slammed the phone down.  It was either that or lose what little sense of being a lady I had left.  My unladylike vocabulary "that makes an old sailor blush" as my husband calls it, was just about ready to spew uncensored from my mouth and burn the phone lines and this horribly rude and unhelpful woman's ears. I WAS MAD!

I have since sent two emails to their customer service and have heard nothing back.  Bec wrote a scathing letter as well with no response.  I'm not really surprised at this since they are very clear in their opinion that customers don't matter.  I would just like to know when the words "company policy" translated to "we can do whatever we want to you and you have no recourse or rights".

To finish this long-winded tirade, Bec and I were forced to beg, borrow and scrounge around for enough money (thank you hubbies) to rent a car and DRIVE the 2500 miles round-trip. Since we had credit cards tied up with the convention hotel reservations and non-existent train travel, we were in a bind.   As it was we had to spend quite a bit more money due to fuel prices that are still extremely high and the cost of two more hotel room nights on the road.  It's not like we could drive there in one day.

So in conclusion:


** I might note that this was the second and last chance for me with Amtrak.   I had a horrible experience with their personnel and service on their train from Indiana to California many years ago.  I was under the misguided impression that they had improved their service and chose to try them again.  I think I will now become one of their biggest ANTI-FANs.     See below:

INSANITY - Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

INSANITY - Thinking that AMTRAK had changed.

If you made it this far, thank you for listening/reading.  I appreciate it.  I feel better.

Have a lovely weekend dear readers and  
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Disclaimer:  All opinions expressed on this blog are 100% my own. 


  1. Ah that made me so mad just reading it. ESPECIALLY that you had to wait 6-8 weeks to be refunded. What the hell!?!?! That's so not right.

  2. What an enraging experience!

    Call your state's AG office. There will be a consumer protection office. I Am Not A Lawyer, and all that, but I'm fairly certain that if THEY cancel, they can't keep your money. Not much help at this point, but they can't just decide to commit fraud.

  3. That sucks! I've looked into taking the train during holidays out of DC to Florida, or ever up north to visit other family, but the prices are usually more than flying! Why would I pay more to sit in a train car for x amount of hours when I could just fly? I really want the experience and a chance to see the country side without having to drive, but not for that much money. They're certifiably INSANE. And now that I've read this...

    Jennifer @ The Bawdy Book Blog

  4. That does suck! I would contact your local state's attorney general's office over this and see what they can do. I would also contact your federal congressman and senator as Amtrak receives money from the federal government yearly. And write a letter to whoever their CEO is and let him know his employees aren't doing his company any favors.

  5. OMG I cannot believe that! How can they not help you?

    I just cannot believe they can cancel the tickets after they are bought and paid for. What are you supposed to do call and check every day that your seats are still there? And they wonder why people don't ride trains much anymore. There you go. You've convinced me not to give it a try. Thanks for the warning.


  6. Thank you all for the support. I appreciate you taking the time to make me feel better :)

    I am definitely geared up for quite a bit more letter writing..

  7. Call your local news station, they LOVE stories like this. Give AmCrap...Oops! I mean AmCrappyTrak a little earned bad exposure. I'm so sorry you had to go through that. You must have the same luck I have.

  8. Call the BBB, state's consumer protection, travel woes blogs, etc. This needs press because this cannot be legal.


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