Small print can scupper (what should be) small conversations
Posted by amscon
I use the inter-city rail service often, and generally it’s okay; but there is one snag in the way it operates which many travellers will confirm causes ill-will and chaos. This is that the ticket / receipt of payment to travel, and the required seat reservation which goes with it, are usually printed on separate ‘business card’ sized tickets.
The very, very small print says that the seat reservation is not valid without the ticket / receipt itself – but many irregular travellers don’t see this micro-message, or they assume that simply having paid for the travel ticket is enough, and there’s no need to produce it alongside the seat reservation.
How ‘wrong’ these hapless train travellers are. If the ticket-receipt is not produced, the seat reservation ‘ticket’ is pronounced worthless, and the passenger is required to pay for another (full, no concession) ticket instantly, or else leave the train altogether.
Perhaps, I think on my more cynical days, this is a wheeze to extract more money from passengers (‘customers’) when they are at the mercy of the train company and have no option.
But on other days I suspect it’s more likely that the (poor and ill-designed) technology was cobbled together by someone who thinks micro-small print is an adequate way to communicate with unsuspecting travellers.
Whatever, the result is the same:
> the unsuspecting passenger, having already parted with good money for the journey, is firstly incredulous about this unbendingly bureaucratic position, and then becomes very upset; and
> the train manager is placed in a position which only the most hard-hearted of them enjoys, and which is acted out in full view of often many other increasingly uncomfortable and embarrassed travelling customers.
Perhaps there is extra money in the short-term to be made in this way, but it looks dreadful (as also do the stories such as that related by Tom Wigglesworth, the ‘Good Samaritan’ who was nearly arrested for collecting money to pay the cost of a new ticket for an old lady who erroneously boarded a train 30 minutes different from the one scheduled).
So why is literalist technology allowed to trump human misunderstanding in an issue as simple as a train journey? Was there ever a trial run of the ‘two ticket’ policy, or was it dictated simply by the size of already-installed ticket printing machines?
* Is it ever OK to permit the infliction of distress and humiliation resulting from technological ‘requirements’ on customers who actually have paid for the service they believe they have purchased?
* Is there a role for someone in relevant organisations to ensure that the technology will interface appropriately with normal human expectations, so that situations such as those above are avoided?
* Who is looking after the customer interface in instances such as these? Or isn’t it considered?