I Am Pissed, Amtrak Screwed Up Massively and Now I Have to Renegotiate My Day Completely To Deal With It…

I travel a lot. I travel a lot by train. But today Amtrak seriously did something that is making me rethink how I will be traveling in the future. They completely have screwed up things. But don’t take my word for it. Let’s take a look at concrete evidence.

I arrived at Emeryville Station to transfer to a Capital Corridor Train to go to Oakland (Jack London Square). I had just boarded and enjoyed a trip from Denver on the Zephyr. Overall a nice trip. The second full part of the trip however wasn’t to start until Saturday the 26th when I would depart from Oakland on the Coast Starlight to Portland. Well, I wanted to reschedule for Friday to depart & to upgrade to a roomette.

I walked up to the ticket agent to make these changes on my ticket. Keep in mind this was a two part trip; Denver to Oakland and then a week later, departing on Saturday the 26th from Oakland to Portland. I asked the ticket clerk if it would be possible to change my ticket from Oakland to Portland from the 26th to the 25th and upgrade to a roomette. She replied, “yes, let me take a look“. She pulled up the information and supposedly made this change. As she printed out the ticket she handed it to me and stated, “here’s the ticket for Friday (she didn’t state the numerical date) and here’s the refund and changes summary on this other ticket“. She held the ticket and exchange receipt like this to show me.

Showing me the receipt, she held the ticket and receipt that where stapled together like this.

Showing me the receipt, she held the ticket and receipt that where stapled together like this. (click for a full size image)

So I assumed, that since she just stated Friday to me and handed me the ticket and exchange receipt that everything was in order. I pocketed the ticket and headed out to board the Capitol Corridor Train to Oakland to complete this first leg of the trip.

Fast forward to Tuesday (yesterday). I looked online to see what the exact departure time was for the Coast Starlight heading north and this is when I realized there had been a mistake. But this simple mistake was only the beginning. The website on Tuesday, at around 11:30pm when I’m looking at the site, all of a sudden shows that I’m supposed to be leaving ON TUESDAY!? This was NOT what I was told nor what I rescheduled. I thought to myself, ok, no biggie I’ll call them as soon as possible on Wednesday and get this figured out. I’m sure that Amtrak will fix it, they generally do. Here’s what the website actually shows now, on Wednesday at 10:30pm. Still the incorrect time.

Yup, it says the 22nd. Ugh, seriously Amtrak, that's three different dates I'm given. (again, click on image for full size)

Yup, it says the 22nd. Ugh, seriously Amtrak, that’s three different dates I’m given. (again, click on image for full size) …and btw, that amount isn’t what was charged to my card, to my company to anybody, nor was it the amount of the full trip or this part of the trip. I don’t even know who this amount of money applies to. I’m so confused at this point, I have no idea and it doesn’t seem anyone at Amtrak has any idea what is actually going on. All I do know is I don’t have a ticket for the day I need to take the train back to Portland.

So at this point I’d still not looked at my physical ticket, which was to have another surprise. I went in to the office to take care of meetings and other things I’d planned on well before that needed taken care of. I finally arrived later in the day to where I was staying and called Amtrak at 10pm. I know, this is outside of hours that anybody that can actually be helpful in these matters is available. I get that, but imagine being a customer that needs this fixed now, they’d be screwed. Fortunately I’m a pretty flexible and easy going guy. I generally don’t bother people and let people do right by me. Almost always, people do exactly that and treat me well and honorably with appropriate intent.

Well I called and the operator answered. I didn’t understand her name, except something like Alisha or something. It was, I’ll admit, hard to understand her since her accent was a little thick. It was an American accent, likely of the east coast with a little southern thrown in. Now, I can understand almost any accent. Especially southern, cajun, Boston, New York and pretty much anywhere in the United States. But her slurring wasn’t very effective at actual communication. Again, I’m easy going so I thought, “whatever, I can deal with this…”

She asked how she could help me. So I explained to her my plight, and this is where she, and Amtrak, screwed up in a horribly dishonorable and inconsiderate way again. After I explain to her the situation, and while looking at the ticket – which, before I go on look at the ticket below.

Hmmm, the ticket I received from the clerk actually shows the 21st. So wait, was I supposed to be on this train on the 22nd or the 21st? Well that isn't what the clerk said, she had told me the ticket was rescheduled for the 25th! (again, click for a larger image)

Hmmm, the ticket I received from the clerk actually shows the 21st. So wait, was I supposed to be on this train on the 22nd or the 21st? Well that isn’t what the clerk said, she had told me the ticket was rescheduled for the 25th! (again, click for a larger image)

Yup, that’s right. The ticket isn’t even for the day that the website shows on the screen. What the hell Amtrak? Somebody screwed up big time on this one. Ok, again, not a big deal we can remedy it. At least I thought that to myself. But this is when things got intolerable and completely unacceptable. The ticket showed that the departure time was supposed to be on the 21st, the website shows a departure of the 22nd, and I was told the departure was rescheduled for the 25th. Then the lady on the phone told me, “since you where a no show, you’ve forfeited the ticket…”

For those that don’t know how to interact with customers, the last thing you do in this particular situation is BLAME THE CUSTOMER. You NEVER BLAME THE CUSTOMER FIRST. You always try to determine if there is way to remedy things without a significant money cost, especially when there is the possibility (which in this case there’s evidence) that the company (Amtrak) is the party responsible for the fault. This was a customer service mistake 101. Completely unprofessional.

WHAT THE HELL?! I didn’t “no show”. I was misinformed, Amtrak’s clerk screwed up. The website shows the wrong information and I screwed up? No I didn’t. I didn’t screw up. Amtrak did. Technically, they screwed up and I’d already overlooked multiple other screw ups. But then their phone line person has the inappropriate and rude training to blame me for screwing up? This is, simply, completely unacceptable. I just wanted my ticket fixed. But instead I get this crap about how its all my fault that I didn’t check the ticket in the email and the physical ticket I have and verify that they’re all the same and that what the ticket clerk said they gave me was the correct thing that they gave me. Seriously Amtrak? I’m supposed to check 3 different things to verify that your clerk didn’t screw up my request?!

That is absolutely, in every way inexcusable. On top of that, which I was willing to forget all of these screw ups, the phone person then has the shoddy training and bad customer skills to say its my fault. I don’t know how many ways to say to Amtrak that you guys owe me big time.

So I’ll be calling on Thursday, tomorrow, with basically one day to go and now cutting it close, to fix this nonsense. I expect things to be fixed and will be sorely upset if they don’t have a roomette to have me in on the north bound trip on Friday of the Coast Starlight. If Amtrak really wants to fix things I’ll receive a full refund and be able to write a positive blog entry after this one commending Amtrak customer service on fixing their multiple wrongs they’ve done me.

No matter what, this is going to cost me customer time with MY CLIENTS tomorrow. Which is even worse, because I actually have to work with my clients, I have no Government to bail me out, I ask for no union to protect me, I just want to provide value to my clients that they find worth paying me for. But instead, I have to break of from my time with clients to call Amtrak to fix this during their “business hours”. So hopefully, I receive a full refund and get this ticket situation remedied immediately upon calling tomorrow.

I honestly want to write a story about how Amtrak fixed all of this. I have my fingers crossed.

PS Amtrak: I’d highly advise two other things in addition to hopefully fixing my ticket and giving me a refund. One is to check out the system and see why it would do this. Something, most likely whatever the last pushes live with various systems were, are causing a bug. The second thing is, fix this inappropriate actions taken by the phone staff. They should have better customer service skills than this.


  1. So the first mistake here was on your part, “you assumed all was well and you left without looking it over”. That’s no ones fault but yours. Now I’m not taking Amtraks side, because they have screwed me over in ways that over takes any ticket issue. I will say, I have been there when the computer changes the date on its own, and the agent has to keep fixing it. Usually, agents showe what they have on the screen, “so train ### on x/xx/xx leaving at xx:xx” and so forth. For some reason or another, you failed to check your tickets before you left that counter, and then didnt bother to check them for days? I can see how they can see this is your fault, assuming will always get you in trouble.

    Now, the big question is, were the rooms sold out on your ticket date? If not, that’s a play in your favor, you didn’t rob them the chance to resell the room, and leave someone without. If the rooms were sold out, this will be a hard game to play. Good luck, and always double check tickets of any kind, many cost $$$$ to change, or may be non-refundable, and your back to this again.


    1. I love how people have such low expectations of quality and integrity in people that it all of a sudden becomes “my fault” even though Amtrak has screwed up not once, but several times in this situation. I hate that so many people have such a low expectation that someone does their job at even a basic level. Sure, I’ll admit and as stated, was taking it easy and letting things slide. I didn’t get truly pissed until the rep was completely unresponsive and entirely blaming me. Fuck that, they screwed up. Not once, but multiple times. If I brought this up pre-Amtrak, I have zero doubt the company would have fired the ticket clerk and those involved, because the behavior was unacceptable. Especially to someone (me) who is a regular and respectable customer. I even tip many Amtrak employees (even though Amtrak people are paid full salaries and not dependent on tips, which is in large part written into law that tipped professionals are generally tipped to fill the gap. Again, something we in America have become absurd about with our associations. Ever look up where the practice and behavior of tipping came from?)

      Anyway, in summary I’m just saying people – including you – should have higher base expectations of people. People can do better and should be held to higher expectations. We lower all of ourselves when we trash on people in society by holding them less accountable for no reason.

      But I digress, I deserve blame like a victim of a house break in deserves blame. Sure they didn’t lock their door. They could have defended themselves and their house more. Blagh blagh blagh. In reality we should have the expectation and integrity in society that we shouldn’t need to do this. There are entire parts of the world were the integrity and trust is just that. Where people don’t lock their doors, they expect basic performance of one in their occupation. If one has never had a break in, there’s no expectation that one should occur – just as, Amtrak has rarely (out of hundreds and hundreds of trips) ever messed up my tickets this bad. Overall, it doesn’t matter about that, it’s the shitty way the phone person handled the situation. Blame is simply, unprofessional at that level. I wasn’t blaming her or Amtrak until she started trying to push off all the blame and NOT offer a solution. Pure, simple, basic customer service 101 screw up.

      It’s just sad. If I had a train travelling choice, I’d probably start traveling another way. Unfortunately for America and me we don’t have that choice anymore and instead have created a monopolistic behemoth of a company that isn’t affected by markets or consumer demand, but that’s a whole different story.


      1. Wow….the other problem here is your so irritated, theres no right answer, but your answer. You left the ticket counter with tickets displaying a date, you didnt check. Now its your word against theirs what was said at that counter. If you left, and didnt check, all ANY of you can conclude, is what you took from the counter was correct. The agent you called to complain to has NO idea what you told the ticket agent at the station. For all they know, YOU made the mistake (or changed your mind) and are trying to finangle your way out of it (And im am in NO way saying thats what your doing, but really, sit back for a second, and think about this from the other side of the table.) The policy has been for years no shows forfeit the accommodation fare, it says it in the ticket jackets they give you. Amtrak is following policy, you FAILED to check their work before you left the station, and now you expect them to bend over backwards for you. While a customer service thing is “the right thing”, remember they have no idea what you said at the counter.

        I am tired of people who think because they made a mistake, failed to double check their plans, or confirmations (emails, tickets etc) feel the need to lash out on customer service reps, who are simply doing what they are told. If they do for you, they have to do it for everyone, and what of polices designed to keep travelers options open then? You can choose to fly if you want, that flight change would have cost you a fare difference plus a change fee in most cases. No one is perfect, and stop thinking everyone is out to get you, I see a mistake made on your part, once you left that counter, what you shoved in your pocket was considered confirmed and good to go. Just because Customer service is telling you “The policy, printed everywhere is”, doesnt make Amtrak non-customer service friendly, just because your not getting your way. Just try to understand it from a different, its not all about you, point of view.

        As a bus driver, i have to take a LOT of “Benefit of the doubt” from riders, because I am one of 3000 employees they can come in contact with, and I have no idea what was said, what has happened before they set foot on my bus, while suspect foul play in some cases, all i can do is follow policy, is the only way to maintain equal ground with all my riders.

      2. I’m just asking for people to not be dicks and to do their job. Nothing more than I ask of myself.

        Either way, Amtrak fixed it. I didn’t raise my voice, I didn’t argue the point. The person I spoke to today actually realized and found where the issues occurred and we worked through the problem. In the end Amtrak had actually made even further errors besides just those I experienced. I’ll be providing a full technical write up and more on this whole debacle. Maybe they can learn from it and use it as a case in point example.

        In the end though, when the employee was enabled to do their job, did their job (well might I add) everything was resolved in about 20-30 minutes.

        I figured they’d come through, the crux was they have a bad rep that doesn’t know how to run customer service in a professional organization.

        …and yeah, I was pissed. Thus the title. 😉

  2. I’d love to hear what the root cause of this issue. It was a fun read to see what service expectations you have from Amtrak. I think we all become numb to poor service, I put on 150k of miles last year on United, and I was abandoned in random cities without a ride out for days even as a member of their highest tier (global services).


  3. Some time I should share with you my Amtrak horror story. The best thing is to keep on them during regular business hours. Good luck and safe journey.


  4. The sad part of this story is it happens way too often in many businesses–more than than just Amtrak. The medical profession, insurance business, banks, utilities, or just about any large organization where customer service is key to facilitating smooth transactions and where correcting a genuine mistake should always be priority. When a company goofs, they should admit it. The unnecessary harangue one is put through is ridiculous. If phone calls are monitored (as many are), I always ask them to please have their supervisor review the call, and to followup with me.
    Another point of this story is, these kinds of happenings should be few and far between–I am finding they are so common place and frequent that companies, in general, should start, hiring the best trainers they can find when it comes to teaching customer service skills to staff.

    Because so many times customer service is lacking, whenever I get good service (not even excellent), I always try to emphasize how good the service was and why it was better than usual and encourage them to keep it up. It is refreshing to receive excellent customer service!

    Looking forward to your resolution story.


    1. Right there with ya on that. The follow up is posted now. 🙂

      Overall they didn’t do a bad job. I think one of their recent software updates has messed some things up. Will see how things go. Enough have read this, and it’s gone around Amtrak HQ enough that they ought to act on it in some way.


    1. Yes. I’ll take some cheese with that.

      But I digress, I won, thankfully there are some that believe in reasonable customer service and competence. 😉


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