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Discussion in 'Fares Advice & Policy' started by infobleep, 29 Aug 2015.
I know analogies between the railway and other industries don't always work, but why is there a shock about this? If I was to walk into Currys and say I want to buy a TV, I wouldn't be writing to the papers to complain that he didn't sell me the cheapest one they have!
No, but while I might accept a bit of upselling ("You can have the Advance, but if you pay a little extra for the Off Peak you don't have to worry about missing your train", or to First Class) I wouldn't suggest it's directly comparable, as (unless you have eyesight issues) a more expensive TV will often provide a better viewing experience. Whereas, while more expensive tickets are generally more flexible than less expensive ones, many people don't require that.
OTOH, I think I can read an undertone in the article, which is less of "If people don't specify, we just flog Anytimes" and more of "If people ask for something specific we just sell it without question and don't waste time trying to find something cheaper". If it's the latter I don't have a massive problem with that, as trying to find something cheaper sometimes can cause issues. And, indeed, if I want something specific I tend to buy it from the TVM anyway, and that won't advise me anything other than a list of fares from which to select.
 Example: under the old GroupSave system I went up and asked for something slightly complicated but very specific which allowed me to split a group of kids in a very specific way. The ticket office person, no doubt trying to be helpful, sold me something slightly different which while cheaper did not allow the split I wanted, and I only noticed this once on the platform and didn't have time to go back and have it all non-issued and corrected, so I had to change the groups around. This was very annoying and not in the slightest bit helpful; what I wanted *was* exactly what I asked for even if it wasn't the cheapest option.
There seems to be an asterisked line about Northern Rail which doesn't bear any relation to the rest of the article - or am I missing something?
That's the way I read it as well, but that's not the spin that the article tries to put on it. I don't understand why some people hold that the role of the ticket office is to sell the cheapest possible ticket. It is to work with the customer to find an appropriate ticket for the journey.
In my experience (maybe I just have a really good ticket office) they do a pretty good job of it, and will offer common splits where appropriate. Just recently I was booking Dundee to Ayr return and initially the lady offered Off-Peak returns. When I said "Oh, that's quite expensive" she looked again and sold me Dundee-Glasgow Advances and Glasgow-Ayr returns. Saved about £30.
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I suspect the asterisked lines are links in the original article.
If someone turns up at the ticket office and asks for a return ticket from A to B, then the cheapest ticket appropriate for their needs should be sold. On many flows, such as Llanelli to Swansea, there is only one return ticket available, but even so I;d expect the clerk to check that the passenger is coming back the same day, unless they've explicitly mentioned a day return in the first place.
It's right to say that it's a two way process. Some passengers do know exactly what they want and ask for it. Others are less sure, and they need more help, but the clerk needs to ask questions and the passenger needs to provide answers!
Though the new brands do cause a little confusion - I expect people do ask for an "any time return" when they just mean one without train specific requirements. Or an "open return".
It'll probably be a picture caption, which doesn't make sense in the flow of the whole article, but is picked up by the original poster's cut and paste.
Actually it is a link, rather than caption, but same point.
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That's probably true as well.
To be fair, whenever I've asked for a ticket recently the clerk has asked about my return journey and sold me the appropriate ticket. Though I don't expect them to offer splits which might invalidate some journeys which don't stop at the splitting station and end up having to explain all that to the customer, you really have to do the legwork yourself.
Seems to me that there is a lot of misdirection in that article. I think there is a deliberate attempt to mislead.
It does cause confusion. Whenever someone asks for an "open return" or an "anytime return" I ask what they mean, sometimes it's to come back another day, sometimes at any time that day.
How to get positive PR, passengers on your side, and encourage the dodgy ones to buy tickets. First Great Western at it's best.... :roll:
The Press? Deliberately mislead? Never
Yeah, that was how I saw it as well - deliberate misuse of certain language to be factually correct while implying something rather different.
Suspiciously like the story which ran about 6 months ago on TV.
They have just announced next year's fare rise and now we have (badly researched and written) articles telling the gullible public how the nasty railway is ripping them off, quell surprise!
The point is that most people don't know what the cheapest fare is.
Another example of what FGW have done recently when they jacked up the fares along the Cotswold line.
So our TVM the front screen which says London, Reading, Oxford, Travelcard etc, gives the highest priced version of the ticket.
If you want a super-saver ticket you have to manually input the destination (say Paddington) and only then will it offer you the Super-saver, Off Peak etc.
Most people don't realise that the machine is set up in such a way as to offer you the most expensive ticket first and that to find the cheaper version you have to hunt for it.
It was only because I went and took the time to investigate the machine one afternoon that I worked out where the cheaper fares had been moved to.
When I spoke to the Line Manager about it he claimed that this was 'because the machine hasn't been updated yet with all the changes'...
This lack of proactivity in customer service is also handy for the TOC in that it reduces the bother of properly training their ticket office staff!
How can any TOC expect the average passenger to understand the ridiculously complicated ticketing system we have in this country? I have some sympathy with the person in the ticket office because, in my experience, they don't always understand it either.
Then you have the example of some TOCs ( yes Northern Rail I'm looking at you) whose TVMs don't even sell the cheaper tickets in many cases.
People who do understand the ticketing are much more likely to do their research online and buy their tickets that way. It is those who perhaps are not savvy with the internet, who will turn up at a ticket office and expect to get constructive advice. Obviously FGW don't think it is their job to have that advice to hand.
I saw this article today and was baffled.
I always sell the cheapest ticket, the money doesn't go in my pocket at the end of the day, so why would I sell the most expensive ticket?
When doing long distance I'll try to sell advance tickets where possible, if the passenger of course doesn't mind the various restrictions, and being tied to specific trains.
Sometimes I won't always offer advance tickets if the passenger wants flexibility or is unsure of the days/times they want to go - open tickets are much better.
I had the opportunity to sell an advance ticket to Manchester from Liverpool today for next week - passenger had specified the trains he wanted but after offering the cheapest fare (think it was £4.50 in the end) he said he wasn't sure and would prefer the SDS just in case he didn't make it.
Cheap tickets are out there - splitting journies etc - people are always amazed when I tell them I get them to London for £10 (albeit via London Midland and changing trains) but if they want the best deal, that's what they get. But usually I'll tell them the price and they are made but then told about the changes and longer journey some aren't bothered but some will just say they'd rather go with VT direct.
I'm even proud of the fact I got feedback for my line manager and customer relations about a customer who left excellent feedback about a set of tickets I got them.
So I know for a fact the article certainly doesn't apply to my colleagues and the station I work at.
I always ask if they are returning same day etc. and usually get a funny look as though I have asked if they want to go via Mars or Jupiter !!
I think you might be buying into what the paper wants you to believe. There are a few snippets of quotes in the article which say that FGW aren't doing anything wrong. The only way for that to be the case is if they do offer the cheapest through fare for the journey being made, in line with their TSA obligations, but don't offer splits or other options that might make the fare cheaper.
I wouldn't expect if I asked for a ticket from A-B to be told that if I split at C I'll save money.
However, I would expect if I asked for a 'return' from A-B, then some questions should follow as to whether I'm coming back today, whether I need peak or off-peak, etc.
There becomes a tricky situation on probably my most regular route from Scarborough to Accrington. Anyone generally using this route changes at York/Leeds and travels via Burnley for the cheaper route (and I dare say quicker too) but there is a more expensive ticket via Manchester. I don't even know if the MAN ticket is valid via Burnley, I'm guessing it is. So should I be asked if I want the Burnley route if I just ask for an Accrington return with it being the ticket I reckon 95% of people would want?
I can understand FGW's stance, because where do you draw the line?
One time I did have someone at Paddington sell me the wrong ticket.
I was coming back from work and thought - I've got some time so I'll get my ticket now. Went into the ticket office said which train I was getting c08.30 and could I have a travelcard for tomorrow.
The guy then sets up a supersaver travelcard. I said 'that is valid for leaving at 8.30'. Yes comes the reply. I'm thinking 'I am sure this isn't right.' On the train back the guard is checking tickets so I ask him, if this ticket right for tomorrow? Yes, that is fine for getting the 8.30.
Next morning, the guy doing the ticket inspection looks at the ticket and tells me it isn't valid. He believed me but did warn me than an RPI wouldn't.
Thankfully I never met an RPI that day.
So while I was sold the cheaper ticket it wasn't actually the right ticket
What neilmc says.
In my experience (at Crewe) if somebody asks for a ticket to Liverpool, for example, the clerk usually asks "coming back today?" to check if a Day Return is appropriate.
If somebody asks for a ticket to Birmingham I would hardly expect them to ask: "Shall I sell you a ticket to Stafford plus a ticket from there to Birmingham, which will save you some money, but will require you to use a train which calls at Stafford which rules out two of the three hourly services in each direction?"
The queues can be long enough as it is!
Agreed. No clerk can know the cheapest possible split for many journeys, and it would dramatically increase waiting times if it was ever made compulsory to offer these type of fares at the window. I believe that this is what FGW are referring to when they talk about passengers doing their own research.
I don't think anyone would expect a clerk to offer splits.
This article is about clerks routinely selling anytime returns when an off peak return / cheap day return would do, or cheap day return plus excess paid for at the other end if needed.
What's a tickdy and why should FGW offer the cheapest ones?
Since when was it considered acceptable not to offer the cheaper fare?
The fares system is complicated enough as it is with all the different fare types and restrictions. Hence most people (other than FGW and people who think all passengers are scum) think that for your average irregular user to know those restrictions/ticket types off by heart and to be able to ask for the right one to get the cheapest fare.
Its short for "ticket day". In future if you ask for a ticket, FGW will automatically sell you an open return. If you want a day return you have to specifically ask for a tickdy.