Saturday, 8 August 2009

A negative bus journey and the kindness of strangers.(Cornwall by public transport V).

A sorry journey

Our last day was a trip to the lovely beach at Perranporth and the journey there was an example of the worst service that we had experienced in our whole holiday.

It began with attempting to buy our ticket on the No 403 Summercourt Travel bus from Truro, Victoria Square, at 10:45h on Friday 7th August. The return fare was £5.60 for 2. When I tried to pay with a £10 note I received the curt reply “no Change, only exact fare.” No further explanation, no apologies for inconvenience.

So we scrimped our remaining change together – and fortunately made the fare and boarded.
One stop on, another passenger with no change received the same curt, unsympathetic treatment. Since he had no change – he had to miss the bus, to his vented frustration and the driver's rude verbal riposte. A later passenger also nearly had to get off – were it not for the kindness of a stranger (see below).

At another stop a lady and her daughter boarded and asked about the service – The drivers comment - which had also been given to other alighting passengers - was “we don't travel very often” . So the lady and her daughter got off again to wait for the next bus. Note that “not very often” was actually an hourly service until early evening around 5pm.

Three potential customers were lost on that journey and others alienated.

Now, to be fair, we all have off days and this might have been an exceptionally bad one for the driver. However, the whole travel experience left such a bad taste in our mouths, that we resolved to make the return journey with the Greyhound 587 in the afternoon, despite needing to buy another ticket.

So what have been done differently? An apology and an explanation – plus an indication of alternatives; a more accurate explanation of the journey times, these small things would have made a big difference in the customers perception. The traveller might need the bus, but the bus also needs the passengers.

The kindness of strangers

Two youths, strangers to each other, boarded the bus. The first, a young woman, again did not have the right change when getting on and was in danger of having to get off. The following youth seeing her predicament, generously and unselfconsciously bought her a ticket - unconditionally (i.e. without trying a follow on chat up!). This was followed by her initially reluctant but then gracious acceptance.


  1. Thank you for bringing this to our attention. This behaviour is totally unacceptable and is not the normal feedback that we receive for our drivers and neither is it the behaviour that we are prepared to accept. I can assure you that the driver has been dealt with in the most robust of manners. When you are next in our area, please feel free to contact me beforehand and I will be happy to send you a complimentary pass for two people to hopefully encourage you to try out our service again.

    The question of change is a difficult one. For most of the year and on most of the journeys there are no problems at all but on early morning and busy season journeys, even the most passenger focused drivers struggle on some days to be able to change several large notes. We do not commit to a guarantee that change will be available and request that passengers tender the correct fare when possible. We do, however, expect that should the driver not be able to provide change he / she is sufficiently articulate and concerned about the service we provide, and therefore their livelihood, that they inform our passengers why they can’t provide them with change, in the hope that the problem will be better understood.

    I intend to use your blog in our driver training program, I can see a great benefit in using it to enable us to get across to the drivers how their actions or inactions influence how the customer perceives us and how the whole situation could be turned round with a different attitude and a few well chosen words.

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