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Old Apr 26, 12, 11:31 am   #1
 
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Charged for Dinner, Traveling with Sleeper Ticket

Thought I'd share an odd experience on the Silver Star (#91) earlier this week. I was booked in a roomette from Raleigh, NC where the train is scheduled to arrive at 9 PM and depart at 9:13 PM. Thanks to schedule padding, 91 arrived at 8:35 PM and I promptly boarded.

I headed for the dining car hoping for dinner (hadn't eaten since lunch, plus my room was just vacated and not ready yet). The LSA seated me immediately, pointed out the menu and walked away. Five minutes later he comes back and says they'll be glad to serve me, but will have to charge because first class tickets originating in Raleigh do not include a meal. OK - fine. Let's eat and I'll work it out later. A polite but mediocre service followed with an outstanding steak dinner. The salad was cold and crisp, the roll warm and soft, the steak and potato were cooked perfectly.

During service, I asked a passing conductor his thoughts. Without hesitation he said the meal was included and to call customer relations right away. Customer relations also agreed the meal was included. The agent opened a case and asked me to call back the next day after arrival to finalize the details. After an on-time arrival in Florida, I phoned Amtrak and was promptly issued a $40 voucher, more than the $32 cost of dinner.

Additional thoughts/observations:

1) The LSA said these were the "marching orders" from management. Should they "comp" the meal to a RGH sleeper passenger, their paycheck would be debited for the cost. My impression is an 8:59 PM departure would have included a meal per their orders. If the LSA's interpretation of orders is accurate, it seems rather petty to deny a meal over a 14 minute schedule difference, especially since...

2) Accommodation charges from Rocky Mount, with a 7:30 PM departure, are the same from Raleigh. So Raleigh passengers pay the same as someone who boarded 1.5 hours earlier and received dinner.

3) The LSA specifically said breakfast was the only meal I was entitled to receive, as my scheduled arrival was prior to lunch time. Does that mean I would have also paid for lunch if the train was two hours late the next day? I've been served on late trains before without question.

4) The sleeper was in excellent mechanical shape. Not a single thing rattled, and this was over a junk railroad from Raleigh to Savannah. Water was hot and the pressure good in the shower. While I wish the blanket was a little heavier, the sheets were nice and soft.
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Old Apr 26, 12, 12:22 pm   #2
 
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The conductor was right. You had a rogue steward who made up his own rules. As a sleeper passenger, you're entitled to whatever diner meals happen to be available while you're aboard. If the train runs late and you're still on the train into an unexpected meal period, that's complimentary. By the same token, if the train is late before you board and you miss an expected meal period, it's usually tough luck. (Sometimes you can get comped items from the lounge if you ask nicely.)

Glad to hear that Customer Relations took care of you. Sounds like there are still some NYP-based crews who run things as personal fiefdoms and not for the benefit of their pax.
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Old Apr 30, 12, 1:42 am   #3
 
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I've boarded the train a couple times in Houston in roomette. It's scheduled departure is 9:50 pm westbound and I was offered a meal since the train was very early. They offered it to all people getting on. So scheduled departure time doesn't preclude meal service. Not sure what that LSA was talking about.
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Old Apr 30, 12, 6:56 pm   #4
 
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Recently, I rode the train from TPA - WPB and due to the train being sold out was forced to buy a sleeper for the short 3 hour journey between the two cities.

I was told by the ticket agent that I should take full advantage of lunch as it was included in my ticket. I boarded the train and found that my sleeper was not ready and the AMTRAK employee had no idea anybody was boarding in TPA with sleeping car accommodations. I explained that the train was sold out and that I had to buy a sleeper if I wanted to travel today between TPA and WPB. (truthfully when AMTRAK is sold out I would pay a few bucks more and fly WN between the two cities, but WN was sold out too so AMT it was). She seemed rather miffed that she would have to clean a sleeper for me for the short journey but suggested I take lunch while she fixed up a room for me.

I entered the dinning car and the attendant asked to see my ticket and said that since I boarded in TPA I was ineligible for a free meal, "Corporates Orders" and that if I wanted lunch I would have to pay for it myself. Honestly, I was hungry and would have paid for it anyway, but I was a little put off that two people told me that it was included in my ticket only to be told by a third employee it was not.

I agreed to pay for the meal and take it up with AMTRAK when I got home. I gave AMT a ring and the CS agent was very nice, but said she almost could not believe that any AMT employee would tell me that a meal is not included with sleeping car accommodations even if it is only for a 3 hour journey (I can more than understand her skepticism and do not fault her in the slightest for not entirely believing what I was saying).

She said that for any compensation to be issue I would need to send in (either through a PDF via email, fax or snail mail) a copy of my CC receipt from the dinning car and she would take care of me. I did as instructed and she called me back apologized profusely for the issue and gave me (like the OP) a $40 voucher.

Either Corporate issued a new rule that has not been accurately disseminated throughout the AMT system yet or there are some rouge employee out there trying to ensure AMT's financial survival one dinning car meal at a time.

Dan
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Old Apr 30, 12, 7:17 pm   #5
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dan1431 View Post
Either Corporate issued a new rule that has not been accurately disseminated throughout the AMT system yet or there are some rouge employee out there trying to ensure AMT's financial survival one dinning car meal at a time.
If they had any shame they would turn rouge, but apparently not.

I wouldn't be surprised if both incidents were the work of the same employee; I hope Customer Relations will notice a pattern and act accordingly.
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Old Apr 30, 12, 10:12 pm   #6
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dan1431 View Post
I entered the dinning car and the attendant asked to see my ticket and said that since I boarded in TPA I was ineligible for a free meal, "Corporates Orders" and that if I wanted lunch I would have to pay for it myself. Honestly, I was hungry and would have paid for it anyway, but I was a little put off that two people told me that it was included in my ticket only to be told by a third employee it was not.
Same train # my experience was on. That train leaves Tampa at 12:45 PM, in the middle of lunch. How you explain first class doesn't get lunch at 12:45 PM is beyond me. I've traveled TPA-MIA in a sleeper and been served lunch with no question on several occasions.

I've PM'd Dan to see if it was the same LSA and will post those results...
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Old May 1, 12, 8:42 am   #7
 
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Not the same LSA

Turns out Dan did not have the same LSA I did quoting "orders" from management. Seems awfully coincidental two people had very similar experiences on the same train around the same time. How many non-FT passengers has this happened to? Perhaps there is a rouge manager in the Southern Division ranks pushing the "Saving Amtrak, One Meal at a Time" agenda?
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Old May 1, 12, 12:58 pm   #8
 
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Ive ridden over 100k miles on Amtrak and never seem this happen. Of course I don't frequent the Silver trains as often. I'd be making a call to a few of the higher ups I know if it happened to me though.
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Old May 1, 12, 3:24 pm   #9
 
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Originally Posted by ByeByeDelta View Post
I phoned Amtrak and was promptly issued a $40 voucher, more than the $32 cost of dinner.
A voucher is not really appropriate compensation. You deserved a dollar-for-dollar cash refund, IMO.

That said, I'm sure that you will be able to use the voucher, given that (I assume) you use Amtrak relatively often. And I would certainly accept a voucher that was a higher value than what I paid for my meal. (And I assume you put the $32 on your AGR credit card, getting you double points. )

But all things being equal, you deserved your money back, not a goodwill gesture.
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Old May 2, 12, 6:13 am   #10
 
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@fairviewroad - I certainly see what you're saying, but I'd gladly take the voucher here too. There was a problem once where I didn't get a seat on an Acela, and they ended up giving me a 50$ voucher. That's where I got upset - reserved train, paid 120+ (something like that) for a ticket, and then didn't get a seat and the comp. is just 50$...? (Granted, my mistake was not getting the conductor to note the boarding card for me - I didn't know about the practice at the time)
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Old May 2, 12, 8:49 am   #11
 
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Last year, I boarded an ACELA in Wilmington, DE. only to discover my FC seat was broken (there was a little sign on the saying so) and the attendant was profusely apologetic, even trying to see if she could clear a space me after PHL, but sadly the FC car was full till NYP (my termination point).

AMTRAK did right by me by refunding my entire ticket (not just the upcharge for FC) and also issued me a voucher (which was above and beyond the call of duty).

AMTRAK is really a decent operation (at least now a days) and many of the employees do seem to try hard, but it is rouge employees and their Let's Save AMTRAK Campaign One Meal at a Time that ruin the image of the company.

Dan
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Old May 2, 12, 10:40 am   #12
 
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@dan, yeah, and not to mention the (possibility) that the reason I had no seat on my train was because the conductor had his other buddies in the seats that rightfully should have gone to us (8+) passengers that didn't have seats. I don't remember the exact numbers, but it was ridiculous, and either was an oversell error or was something fishy...
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Old May 9, 12, 4:32 am   #13
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fairviewroad View Post
A voucher is not really appropriate compensation. You deserved a dollar-for-dollar cash refund, IMO.
I'm thinking that as soon as the agent confirms that no payment was due and offers the voucher, politely decline the voucher and inform them (assuming they won't/can't provide a proper refund) that you will do a chargeback via the CC company. Reference the call made, date/time and agent's name etc. with CC company.
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Old May 17, 12, 10:51 pm   #14
 
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I wonder if some memo went out that LSAs are misinterpreting. As far as I know, if you're on board with a sleeper ticket and the diner is open to customers, you're eligible for a free meal, regardless of the train's actual schedule.
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