TVM did not issue return portion and staff unhelpful

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tannedfrog

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Hi,

I booked an Anytime Return online, without reservations, and tried to collect from a TVM. It only issued the Collection Receipt and the outward portion. I put my hand in to feel around for the return portion.

The staff at the station either didn't have the keys or didn't want to get them to open the machine to check.

If the return portion had got stuck in the machine I would expect the numbers on the Collection Reception to show a range of three numbers (eg 11111 - 11113) but it shows a single number.

I went to a different station to input the collection reference in an attempt to collect the ticket(s) again but the TVM said no.

  • Am I correct to expect the Collection Receipt to show a range of three numbers?
  • Does the single number indicate a system error rather than a "physically getting stuck" error?
  • Who should put this right, the TOC I bought from, or the (different) TOC which runs the station / machines?
  • Can I prove it is their error rather than them suspect I'm trying to defraud them?

Thank you
 
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bb21

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If it were a walk-on return, it will just have one ticket number, shared by the outward and return portions, so in your example, just 11111.

What did you do exactly at the time and what did the member of staff say?
 

tannedfrog

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Thanks for your clarifying about the ticket number. I guess an Anytime Return bought online is a type of walk-on return.

I immediately put my hand in the slot and felt around, but there was nothing. I then went to the member of staff standing nearby and asked for help, she had a quick look at the screen on the machine where someone else was already buying/collecting a ticket. She tried to see if my ticket had been dispensed with his, but he was reluctant/in a rush. I asked her if she could open the machine but she couldn't/wouldn't. Her only suggestions then were to go to the busy ticket office or contact the Customer Relations team.

It sounds like if there is nothing wrong with the ticket number, my only way forward is to contact Customer Relations and hope that they believe me.
 
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dquebec

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Thanks for your clarifying about the ticket number. I guess an Anytime Return bought online is a type of walk-on return.

I immediately put my hand in the slot and felt around, but there was nothing. I then went to the member of staff standing nearby and asked for help, she had a quick look at the screen on the machine where someone else was already buying/collecting a ticket. She tried to see if my ticket had been dispensed with his, but he was reluctant/in a rush. I asked her if she could open the machine but she couldn't/wouldn't. Her only suggestions then were to go to the busy ticket office or contact the Customer Relations team.

It sounds like if there is nothing wrong with the ticket number, my only way forward is to contact Customer Relations and hope that they believe me.

Visiting the ticket office would be my ONLY choice. If you didn't go there then I think you're going to have a problem.
 

causton

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Indeed, at most stations it would be the sole responsibility of ticket office staff. I would imagine that it was not that the staff member "did not want" to open the machine, but machines contain money and for that, it means you have to be trusted with the cash, so only booking office staff will be able to unlock the machine both physically and on the software to stop the alarms going off and the police being called!

Unfortunately the collection receipt on most TVMs prints last so if that comes out fine, chances are the system will think everything is okay and unless some honest person has handed it in when it eventually comes out; or someone opens the machine and it comes out - there is not much hope of getting it back, and even then, you would need to go to the ticket office to get it back! :(
 

tannedfrog

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Indeed, at most stations it would be the sole responsibility of ticket office staff. I would imagine that it was not that the staff member "did not want" to open the machine, but machines contain money and for that, it means you have to be trusted with the cash, so only booking office staff will be able to unlock the machine both physically and on the software to stop the alarms going off and the police being called!
That particular machine was card-only. While she may not have been senior enough to open the machine, I would expect her to have made a call to the correct person and asked them to come out to the machine.

What can a clerk in the ticket office do other than call up the booking and tell me that the system says the ticket has already been issued?! I was reluctant to wander round the station looking for a senior person and in doing so miss my intended train..
 

causton

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That particular machine was card-only. While she may not have been senior enough to open the machine, I would expect her to have made a call to the correct person and asked them to come out to the machine.

What can a clerk in the ticket office do other than call up the booking and tell me that the system says the ticket has already been issued?!

In no way is it about being "senior enough" - I am the same grade as a dispatcher but I don't dispatch trains and they don't open up TVMs - but I digress...

If the ticket was stuck in the machine somewhere (which I have known to happen with a certain type of TVM we have) any subsequent tickets fly right past it and do not get stuck in the same way. I would assume this is what happened. Either that, or it is feeding from 2 separate printers or ticket stocks and one is empty or faulty and the TVM is too stupid to notice (which does happen), as so:

Out portion - Printer/Stock 1 - Prints OK
Rtn portion - Printer/Stock 2 - Does not print
Receipt - Printer/Stock 1 - Prints OK

Unfortunately not very reassuring but this is the sort of thing that happens. Not often, once a month or so, but is obviously enough to be a problem if an expensive ticket!

---

The TVMs do have the capability to set a print as Failed, which would let a ticket office machine, but not a TVM, pick it up, but I doubt this would happen if the receipt printed.
 

tannedfrog

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Thank you for explaining. The separate printer / ticket stocks seems a likely explanation! Is it too late now to go back there (it happened last week) or shall I just write to their Customer Services?
 

causton

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Thank you for explaining. The separate printer / ticket stocks seems a likely explanation! Is it too late now to go back there (it happened last week) or shall I just write to their Customer Services?

It depends. We would keep the tickets pinned up until the outward date at least, so if it has been found by staff or handed in they may still have it, so if you can easily get there it might be worth it.

If not it might be worth speaking to the TOC that a) you will be travelling with and b) whose TVM you used (if both are not the same), preferably somewhere where they can quickly reply e.g. phone or Twitter, to see if they will help or can authorise anything.

Failing that, the website you bought them from may be able to help.
 

AndrewE

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So what on earth does a punter do if they were about to travel?

1) Miss their train in a (possibly fruitless) search for someone to sort it out and have their plans for the day go down the pan? What if the ticket had been tied to a specific outward train?

2) Set off without the return half and beg to be let through the barrier for the return journey? How's that for stress? - and a good way to spoil a day out.

You have to feel really sorry for people in this sort of situation, it's what provokes "Rail rage" and makes people swear they'll drive or go by bus in future.

(Sometimes I pity the staff involved, but if they just couldn't be arsed then I'm sorry they are in the job and damaging the industry)
 
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bb21

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It's quite unfortunate and there is not always a standard answer.

Yes, I would say you should have spoken to the person in the ticket office, who would in all likelihood know the right person with a key for the TVM, so that it can be checked for mis-dispensed tickets. Failing that, if the ticket was shown as not printed correctly in the system, they could be printed again. As a last resort, they always have the option of endorsing your ticket, which is more likely if the matter were reported there and then. I have had this happen to me a couple of times before, once at a Virgin West Coast station, where a friendly ticket office clerk endorsed my confirmation email to say that there was a TVM error and to allow travel on production of ID.

I think the member of staff you spoke to could have been a bit more helpful in explaining and been a bit more proactive in accompanying you to the ticket office, where she could have been a witness to confirm that this was reported first-hand to her, which can carry some weight too in discretion being exercised.

So as we are, there is not a lot of options open to you unfortunately, if the system shows that the ticket had been printed correctly, and causton has pretty much covered them. One thing I will say is that it might be worth trying at least two different TIS types, since I had it happen to me once before where FasTIS said that the ticket had been printed correctly, but STAR next door showed that an error occurred during the process so worth a try.

Depending on the type of TVM, there could have been quite a few mis-dispensed tickets inside, as I once found out when a member of staff opened one to retrieve my ticket that didn't drop into the tray correctly. So it is always checking with them after a few days.

And that passenger who refused to let staff check the ticket tray for you, what a selfish prick.
 

causton

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And that passenger who refused to let staff check the ticket tray for you, what a selfish prick.

Unfortunately we have people like that all the time - if something happens with a machine (e.g. the coin mechanism is jammed and the coins are stuck, we tell them to "wait by the machine and make sure nobody else uses it until I get there") I frequently arrive at the machine with a second person trying to stuff coins in, who has pushed past the customer waiting at the machine for me (and would not listen to them telling them not to use it) which means more coins get stuck and reduces the chance of me getting any out! Same with tickets.

Unfortunately in response to other queries, I have been let down by TVMs enough times myself and have seen others been let down by them at many places to reliably not recommend them if you are in a rush. If you are in a rush try the ticket office (I know some offices and clerks are more happy than others to collect ToDs, and some may not) - there is a good reason why many retailers suggest people leave 20-30 minutes to collect the tickets in case something goes wrong like this, as there is little to no links between the stations and the online retailers to resolve the query - even if you book from the own TOCs website (not just in my case, I have had VT staff at Euston say they do not have the number for Trainline who supply their ticket website) - thanks to the fragmented privatised railway where even if you buy from TOC A's website, it's a completely different company behind the scenes to TOC A's ticket offices.

In summary: Pick your tickets up as soon as you can; if something goes wrong speak to the right staff as soon as you can; if they can't get your ticket they might be able to endorse what you do have!

Or just buy your ticket from the window and it would be all so much easier :lol: (now I shall hide before I get bombarded by "company travel policy says..." replies like I do in real life!)
 

ajdunlop

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As an aside, all this talk of going to ticket office if there are problems is all very well if there is one and it is open. What are you supposed to do if the office is closed or at smaller stations there isn't one?
 

bb21

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As an aside, all this talk of going to ticket office if there are problems is all very well if there is one and it is open. What are you supposed to do if the office is closed or at smaller stations there isn't one?

Then you may have to go down the Customer Service route.

As I said earlier, there isn't a correct answer per se. It all depends on the specific circumstances at the time. For example, one can always tweet the TOC these days during manned hours, which is another route of getting the information through to relevant personnel should there not be a ticket office.

But collecting at a large station with good facilities is always more preferrable to doing so at a remote unmanned station in the middle of nowhere, even if only for the reasons set out upthread.

It is one of the reasons more portable forms of ticketing can offer great advantages if implemented well.
 

talldave

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When this happened to me at Gatwick the staff couldn't have been more helpful. Three members of staff got involved, opened the machine and re-united me with my missing (split!) tickets. IIRC it was someone from the ticket office with the keys who really saved the day.
 

Sprinter153

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I have previously issued a ZF excess, or stamped and signed the outward portion where this has happened or issued an authority to travel slip. As a TM on a technicality I have nothing to do with TVMs but I unfortunately know of a number of station colleagues who would leave passengers up the creek because it's easier!
 
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