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Greyhound Knows How to Fail

Share/Bookmark Subscribe had the pleasure of attending Agile Coach Camp Canada this year. It was an amazing experience.  I’ll be writing about that experience in a future post, but in this post, I would like to address what I had to go through just to get to the conference. 

Two days prior to Agile Coach Camp Canada, I received an email informing me that a spot had opened up and that I would be able to attend the event.  I immediately began to make my travel arrangements.  I got my room taken care of, directions, etc.  All I needed to do was get there. 

I hop on over to the Greyhound web site and proceed to try and purchase a ticket for my trip.  During the purchase process I’m given the option to print my ticket or pick it up at the station.  I opt to print my ticket so I don’t have to worry about getting it at the station. 

I’ve paid for my ticket, the transaction has been processed, and I’m at the confirmation page which clearly says, “This ticket purchase confirmation page is NOT A TICKET”.  The page also tells me I can print my ticket by clicking the “Print ticket” button.

No problem…

I click the button and I get presented with a plain white page with plain black text saying “Reservation not found”.  That’s odd.  I just bought the ticket, why wouldn’t it be found?  I look at the URL and and see that the page gets passed my reference number and my postal code.  I check it against the information I received on the confirmation page and they match.  So I refresh it a few times.  Same error.  Try another browser, same error.

Ok, fine.  No big deal, I’ll just call them up and ask them about it.  After waiting on hold for a few minutes I get told that this particular issue “happens sometimes”. 



You mean you know that your website is taking orders and payments and not providing tickets?  And this isn’t a big deal?  This just “happens sometimes”?


Now, I worked for many years in the e-commerce industry, and let me tell you, that sort of thing would have been considered completely unacceptable.  As in, people would have been losing their jobs over something like this.  It wouldn’t be something that “happens sometimes”.  You know, because there are laws about taking money from people and not providing them with what they purchased in return.

Ok, but it “happens sometimes”, so I assume they know what to do when it just “happens”.  The guy walks me through their reprint ticket “feature” which should allow me to print my ticket.


No such luck finding my reservation again.

Unfazed, the customer service rep informs me that I can just print the “This ticket purchase confirmation page is NOT A TICKET” page, bring it in to the station with some photo ID and they’ll hook me up with a ticket there.

So by trying to avoid having to go through any hassle at the station, I now have to go through hassle at the station…

Travel day. 

Get to the station extra early because who knows what’s going to happen here?  I wait a good 15 minutes in line to get to speak with someone.  I explain my situation, get told once again that this “happens sometimes”.  It turns out they can’t help me.  Instead, I have to go to this makeshift booth over in the corner manned by guys in yellow jackets.  Those guys for sure, I’m told, can get my ticket for me.

So I make my way over to the booth, wait another 10 minutes in line.  Explain the situation again.  They’re familiar with the problem, but inform me that if I can’t print my ticket, neither can they.  So what I’m going to have to do is call this number, (they have scraps of paper with the number on it for just this sort of situation), and get them to refund my purchase and buy a new ticket at the booth.

Time’s getting short to catch my bus, so I hop in line for another 15 minutes and purchase my ticket.  My new ticket costs $2 more than the original ticket, but whatever, I just need to catch this bus.

While I’m waiting in line for the bus, I try to call the number they gave me, so I can get this issue taken care of once and for all.  I get another customer service rep who also seems to be familiar with the issue with the web site.  I give him my original reference number (though he called it a confirmation number) and he finds my original online ticket purchase.  He then asks for the confirmation number on my new ticket.  He tells me it should be in the bottom left hand corner.  Unfortunately, there is a blank box in the bottom left hand corner of my ticket.  I give him the 9 digit ticket number in the bottom right corner of the ticket I have, but he needs a 10 digit ticket number.

He then asks for the credit card number I used for the second ticket purchase. I tell him it’s the same card as the online purchase, but he needs me to tell him the whole number.  After shouting the number four times in a crowded bus terminal, he finally gets the number only to inform me that he doesn’t see a second purchase made with that credit card.

So here I am, in the bus station, ticket in hand, receipt in hand, in line, waiting for the bus, but apparently I haven’t purchased a ticket?

I tell him, “I can tell you what station I’m at and what wicket and agent I purchased the ticket from” (it’s on the ticket).  He can call them up if he wants to to confirm my purchase, but apparently that won’t do.

No, he tells me I have to fax him a copy of my receipt in order to do the refund.  Fax? What is this 1998?  Do I look like I have a fax machine on me?

Well, now the bus is boarding, so I postpone this adventure for now…

By the way did I mention I had a great time at Agile Coach Camp Canada?

Ok, back home.  Time to get this refund.

Call the same number again, hey, I got randomly selected to take part in a customer satisfaction survey!  Awesome.  They’re going to call me back after my call to ask me some questions.  I can’t wait!

I immediately ask to speak to a manager or supervisor.  I’m not interested in going through the same routine again, especially because I want to make an explicit complaint about the lack of actual customer service I have received so far and how no one has been able to help me with a problem that is a direct result of their broken web site.

I let Shalene, the “Elite Agent” I’m speaking to, know that I’m going to be taking part in a satisfaction survey after this call.  I explain my situation again.  Shalene tells me to call head office.  I ask her if she understands what is wrong with this situation.

She says, “yes”, and proceeds to recite back to me the details of the incident.  I explain to Shalene that she seems to have missed the point.  Why do I have to go through all this trouble to get a refund when it is your web site that failed?  Why am I being punished for your failure?

Shalene refused to be of any further assistance.

Survey time!

A few minutes after my pleasent discussion with Shalene, I receive a call from an automated computer survey service!  Nothing says we care like a cold harsh computer voice.  I proceed to rate Greyhound as low a score as possible in every customer service category.  They even have breaks where you can record a message for them describing your issues further.  Unfortunately they don’t give you enough time to go into details before they cut you off and bring you to the next question.  Nice!

Next, head office!

First thing I’m asked, “What’s your customer ID number?”.  Uh, what?  What is this and why should I have to know this? 

Apparently Shalene and the others I spoke to were supposed to provide me with one of these, but then, who can expect any sort of level of service or organization from these people…

Now I have to sit through creating a profile on the phone.  I give the guy all the contact information that they should already have since I already filled it out when I placed my order!  Why don’t you already have this information?

Turns out, the second ticket wasn’t issued by Greyhound.  All tickets purchased at that terminal are sold by the terminal on behalf of the bus companies.  How did no one prior to this know this?  And knowing this, how could the people at the terminal ask me to go through a process which they knew would fail?

I get put on hold.  This conversation goes on and off hold for 20 minutes still going nowhere.  Finally, I ask again to speak to a manager. 

Here comes Mr. Maestro. 

Yes, that’s his name.  No first name basis either.  He’s so important he has to be Mr.  He’s also the “Supervisor of Customer Service”.  He wants me to mail in the receipts.  Mail? Now we’re back to 1958 here!

And why do I have to mail in the receipt?  Because it’s “policy”.  And he stresses to me that, “the policy must be followed”.

Well, surely, after knowing my whole story and what I’ve gone through trying to get this refund, and knowing where I bought the ticket and the relationship you have with the terminal, you can clearly put the information together to confirm that I did indeed by the second ticket, right?  Right? 

Nope. Policy.

So I ask him why?  What is the purpose of this policy?  To confirm that I purchased the second ticket?  I’ve still got the receipt in front of me and will gladly give him whatever information he needs off of the ticket right now so he can confirm that I’m not lying to him. 


Why do I need to convince him that I’m not a liar when it’s his web site that is broken and everyone there seems to know that?!?


"So, Mr. Maestro, you’re in customer service, right?  You provide service to customers, right?  Do you think I’ve received good customer service?  Is this how customers should be treated?  Is that what’s in your job description?  What is your job description by the way?"

He responds, “To provide customer service within our policy”.

"Do you believe that because your web site failed to provide me a ticket that I should be made to jump through these hoops?"

"Yes, that’s correct."

Well, that was thirty more minutes wasted.

So what did I do?  Did I go pay for a photo copy of my receipt and an envelope and a stamp to mail it to them?  Go somewhere and pay someone to fax them the receipt?


I called my credit card company and did a charge back.  I paid for something that I did not receive and that’s not my fault.  It’s yours Greyhound.

I gave you plenty of opportunities to do the right thing, to make up for your poor web site and your poor customer service and you failed at every opportunity.

You want to plan for failure?  Start by not caring about your customers.  Be just like Greyhound and you’ll achieve failure soon enough.

Quality and service matter. 

Those who care, win. 

I’ll be following this up with another post analyzing step by step what happened and how Greyhound could have turned this failure into a customer service success story. 

Have any ideas on what they could have done differently?  Leave them in the comments section below.


Today’s image by anselm

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