Greyhound Bus Lines: Making capitalism look bad

I’ve put off writing this for too long.

On Sept. 3rd, I rode Greyhound for the first time.  I only pray it will be the last as well.  Things got off to a terrific start when the bus showed up two hours late.  Originally I had expected to be in Kansas City by 10pm.  “Well whatever”, I thought, and took the opportunity to play Pokemon Silver.  We finally boarded the bus; two buses, actually.  A lot of people were headed east.  Keep this in mind as it becomes important later.

After a few hours we got to our lunch stop, a McDonalds.  “Greyhound Steakhouse”, the driver called it.  Good enough for me.  I had three dollars in change at the time and dollar menu fair sounded appropriate.  The same was probably the case for everyone else, since if they had money they would have taken a plane.  So after enjoying a McGang Bang I reboarded the bus.  As I was doing so I passed by the driver and a number of other passengers having a discussion.  Later (roughly 10 minutes later) I would learn that they were discussing a theft.

Apparently a young woman had left her bag aboard the bus during the break.  When she returned she found that her iPod and Laptop were missing.  The manner in which this was handled was nothing short of brilliant.  The driver boarded the bus and made an announcement: “We’re not leaving until whoever took it gives it back”.  This was the plan.  Needless to say, it did not work out well.  For roughly an hour the entire bus sat there.  Nobody came forward.  People started talking, pointing out previously ignored possibilities.  The thief could have stashed it somewhere in the McDonald’s.  Or someone from the other bus could have hopped aboard and taken it while no one was looking.

That’s right.  The second bus, containing half the potential suspects, was long gone.  Here we were being delayed.

After the first hour had passed, the driver realized that she couldn’t chastise the thief into returning the stolen property.  Rather than giving up or supposing that the thief was not present, she elected to call the cops.  At this point the passenger behind me said “This isn’t the policy for handling theft”.  Doubtlessly he was correct.  Some of the other passengers made statements saying that previous thefts which had occurred on Greyhound lines had not been handled this way.  (I did a brief search of Greyhound’s baggage policy and found this sentence: “Greyhound will only be responsible to the extent of the actual loss or damage sustained based on the actual baggage at the time and place of checking, and will NOT accept any liability for unchecked baggage”.  Based on that alone, it seems that the driver could have elected to give up the gambit at any time.)

The cops arrived.  We sat on the bus for another 20 minutes.  Apparently there was no plan outside of having them here.  After what seemed like an eternity in which the driver and theft-affected passanger conversed with the cops, people started volunteering to be searched.  I didn’t want to be searched.  I had thought of a rather dangerous possibility: the thief could have stashed the iPod in someone elses bag, perhaps my own.  At around this time one of the passengers elected to search the bus bathroom and found the laptop, sitting on the floor.

Finally, we were told that all of us would have to be searched.  This process took another hour.  It is one of three things I filmed during the trip (apparently filming is against policy, but I can deal with the consequences of that on my own).  After we all turned out clean, we boarded the bus and took off.  The iPod had not been recovered and we were now 5 hours late.  At the time I was trying to take all of this in stride, using a sense of humor to help me get through it.  What I didn’t realize was that this series of delays had dramatic implications for many of the passengers.

At around 8pm, the man behind me started to become agitated.  Like half the people on the bus he was traveling to another city for a job.  If this bus didn’t get to its destination soon, he wouldn’t be able to make his connection.  As the hours ticked onward he realized that this wasn’t going to happen.  He called his prospective employer and told them about his circumstance.  The job he was going to get was as a foreman, a position that would pay very well for a man of his qualifications.  The employer could not wait, however.  They hired another man who had expressed interest in the position.

It gets worse.

This man had been thrilled about the location of the job, because it would enable him to live near his children.

And worse.

He had been living off disability for a long period of time.  For him, this job was a way to regain independence.

And worse.

This man lost hope as a result of this.  A belief in God is quaint, but at its heart it is also optimistic.  This man was pious.  With his job, independence, and children all taken from him he began to falter.

So here is my opinion on the issue, and tell me if you disagree.  A refund is not good enough for this man.  He lost something which was far more valuable than the price of the ticket he payed for.  To rub salt in the wound, the aim of the delay wasn’t achieved: even now the iPod is still missing.  The Chief Operating Officer ought to track this man down and beg him for forgiveness.  It was because of a procedural failure that this man suffered what he did.  There were either none in place to handle it, or those that were in place were woefully inadequate.  If it had been otherwise then the driver wouldn’t have sat around trying to think up what they wanted to do.  They wouldn’t have tried three different ineffectual solutions to one problem.

Call me quaint, but I think of a ticket as a contract.  Frankly I don’t care whether the law agrees with me about this or not.  On Sept. 3rd, a contract was broken with disastrous consequences.  The responsibility for the theft of the iPod lies entirely with the thief.  The responsibility for failing to provide the service which people payed for, however, lies with Greyhound.  If anyone responsible for Greyhound procedures is reading this please listen.  These are dangerous times for businesses.  Learn to keep your word, or you’ll doubtlessly find yourself submitted to procedures every bit as senseless as those which we dealt with as passengers of your lines.

There is a limit to even my cynicism, but I must end this article with an insight which is too clever by half.  The Facts and Figures section of the official Greyhound website contains the following, verbatim.

Customers

  • One-third of Greyhound passengers make more than $35,000 per year.
  • More than half of Greyhound riders have received higher education beyond high school.
  • Forty-two percent of Greyhound passengers are between the ages of 18 and 34.
  • Nearly 60 percent of Greyhound passengers travel less than 450 miles.
  • In many cases, Greyhound passengers report they own automobiles considered sufficiently reliable for a trip of a similar distance, but travel by bus because it is safe and more economical.
  • The majority of Greyhound passengers travel to visit family and friends, but more than 21 percent travel for business reasons.
  • The average ticket price is $45.

By your own admittion, 2/3rds of your clients are what might be described as “not affluent”.  Up to 49.9% are uneducated, and of the other percent fuck only knows how many actually have degrees.  Many car owners ride Greyhound because they cannot afford the gas to drive to their destination.  Oh, and 4/10ths of your riders are young, making them the perfect face for a sympathetic victim.

Sounds like a human interest story to me.

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~ by Kilroy del Dancefighter Estallion the First on September 23, 2009.

4 Responses to “Greyhound Bus Lines: Making capitalism look bad”

  1. I’ve road Greyhound a few times and they were all crappy experiences. The first was with a friend of mine out to northern California. Not only were we constantly delayed everywhere we went, but someone stole a bunch of stuff out of her purse, AS SHE SLEPT ON IT. She used it as a pillow the whole way, in the front seat, next to and across from the driver, and someone reached in and took her wallet and other things.
    At some points we got to meet some interesting people, but other than that it was mostly sketchy guys asking us if we wanted to smoke meth in the bathroom.
    Honestly, it’s all about opportunity cost. If you can somehow afford the extra $50 – 100 to buy a round trip airline ticket to wherever your going, does it really make all the time, hassle and headache of greyhound worth it? Obviously there are times and circumstances that do not permit travel by air, and greyhound is basically there to fill that need.
    If greyhound had any shred of respect for their clientele, they would overhaul their entire system and make themselves a decent company. However, I believe Greyhound came to the understanding long ago that most of their business comes from those individuals who are somewhat use to poor service and couldn’t stand up for themselves in court if it really came down to it. This attitude, mixed with a somewhat fixed demand and little competition means they can get away treating customers like shit. But who knows what the future holds? After peak oil and the rising cost for air travel, we might see some other bus companies step up the game and put pressure on Greyhound to improve.
    Though, I won’t hold my breath just yet.

  2. The other travel arrangement of choice for those with a limited budget, hitchhiking, is severely restricted by law in many states. There are also countless regulations on passenger transit which serve as barriers to entry, but apparently not as any sort of quality control.

  3. While my bad experiences with Greyhound are nowhere near your experience I myself am getting tired of their lack of customer service and service standards. I break the mold on your stats there, I make well over $35k per year I do have a truck that could make the trip I use them for and I can stand up for myself in court.

    My problem isnt something worthy of suing them over though. It is about random bus cancellations or buses that dont arrive on time and that they dont bother to pop in a “make up trip” to catch up on the backlog, rather they just let people back up all day. Why they would want to infuriate customers all day rather than fixing it I will never know. The Whistler BC route is busy and they rarely have buses that arent sufficiently full.

    Once a bus just didn’t show up. Nobody realized this at the Vancouver depot until the bus was an hour and a half late. The next bus was coming in 45 minutes so we all waited. Problem was, another crop of people, enough to fill that bus showed up and had to wait until we all boarded, leaving tons of them behind. That problem I’m sure ensued for the rest of the day.

    Today they cancelled the 8am bus to Whistler. Its the height of ski season so people trying to get there all morning backed up and up. I showed up on time for my 12:30 bus to go to Squamish and was met with a lineup that stretched the length of the depot. Nobody bothered to tell me I wouldn’t make it on the bus, I was the first guy to not make it on board. So I stood in line like an idiot until the driver told me I’d have to catch the next bus at 1:30.

    Then the customer service guy wandering around frantically and taking notes that I had no idea what they could possibly be seeing as he wasnt talking to anyone told me I’d make the 2:00pm bus and suggested I alter my open ticket to ensure I would make it on board. I walked by the ticket desk and the same guy told me to alter my ticket so I would make it on for the 2:30. I was getting right pissed now, I said when is the bus ACTUALLY coming because I’ve heard 1:30, 2:00, and 2:30 now and I want to know when it is actually coming. He told me OH, it is coming at 3PM and wanted me to alter my open ticket. I told him to forget it.

    Other than the random cancellations, buses that dont even show up, or when they are way overfull without running an extra catch up bus, they have no service standards from driver to driver. One jerk told me that he wouldn’t stop anywhere but at scheduled stops and that there were no flag stops. Another driver stopped at all the flag stops and went out of his way to stop where people needed to get off. Apparently its just up to the driver. Woe be to people standing on the side of the road when they get that one guy.

    This is amateur hour and the joke is on their customers. If you have 28 people waiting to get on a bus that they can’t board because you had an unexpected cancellation – run another bus! We’re all standing around looking at these jokers at a depot filled with Greyhound buses while they tell us they dont have enough buses to run an extra bus to catch up. The buses are all idle.

  4. In July ,2013 I traveled from Portland Or. to Reno Nv. While enrt. Sacto., Ca. from Redding Ca. the driver was drinking from a clear plastic bottle. She began to veer from the center of the road bumps to the right roadside shoulder. I could readily see that she was not texting and was informed that when she took over as the replacement driver for the 2.5 hour trip,from Redding ,that she was doing so after being on break / rest period as required by law. I was majorly concerned for the passengers aboard as well as myself. I walked to the busses mid section area and dialed 911. The Calif. Highway Patrol was not in position to intercept the moving bus and check for sobriety of the greyhound driver. Thus, I reported the driver when the buss pulled into Sacramento ,Calif. The clerk relayed my concerns to a customer service rep. who appeared to be asleep in his chair in a office with windows. The day following, as I boarded a Reno Nv Greyhound bus, the driver told me not to turn on his overhead seat lights or he would throw me off “his buss”.( Please remember that this contract encompassed offer,acceptance,and consideration-money.). Immediately thereafter, that driver stated to me,”I heard what you did to that other driver”. Quite apparently ,this driver was on friendly terms with the other Greyhound driver who was driving while impaired the day previous……. An amazing experience for this passenger and one that should be of extreme interest to any person who has their mental faculties intact and is caring for their personal safety and /or a family members.. S. Tarbuck, Washington.

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