POOR service on over-booked Coast Starlight

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robjacox

New Member
My 15 year old son travelled from Chemult, OR, to Oakland, CA, last night on Amtrak #11, the Coast Starlight. This is normally a busy train, but even when full the ride has always been pleasant with great customer service, even for the lowly coach passenger.

Normally, they board the coach passengers into two coaches, based on destination. I was surprised that despite one of the largest crowds I've ever seen board the train at Chemult, they boarded everyone into one coach - the one directly behind the lounge car.

I helped him load his big bag (no checked baggage at Chemult) and the conductor assigned him to "seat 78, lower level". The train departed (a few minutes late at 10:30), we got in the car, and headed home.

A few minutes later he texted me "They put me in the lounge car". We replied "Just to Klamath Falls?", and he said "No, they said I could get a seat in Sacramento" (8:35am). That means we paid $98 for my son to sleep in an uncomfortable lounge car seat! He said he'd be fine, and would talk to us in the morning.

In the morning he called from Davis (8:50am), and still didn't have a seat. He was told that he now "didn't need a seat since he was only going to Oakland".

To top it all off, the crew member(s) couldn't provide him with a pillow. Two employees said they'd look for one but never returned. When he reminded one of the guys he got rude and told him to roll up his sweater. He ended up having to go to his bag (downstairs in the coach, one car back) and dig out some clothes to use as a pillow.

And, as usual, conversation and traffic in the lounge is heavy all through the night...

I spent a half hour on the phone this morning complaining, and was only told to "call back after his round trip is complete" to discuss the problem. I was really hoping to get a refund on this return trip so I could fly him home from Grandma & Grandpa's!
 

muralist0221

Active Member
Sounds like an Amtrak equipment shortage problem. In the olden days, railroads had equipment in storage for heavy travel periods. I once saw (in 1963) the "ricketty" Rock Island pull out enough passenger coaches to run a second section of the Rocky Mountain Rocket. Suspect that most of the revenue passengers in that second section provided profit for the R.I. that week. Amtrak has lost more revenue over the years because of sold out trains. Amtrak must crawl before it can walk. The first order of business is to get all the damaged equipment out of Beach Grove and get new coaches and sleepers on the tracks ASAP.
 

Bob

Forum Host
Staff member
Rob,

Sorry to hear he had a bad trip. I know they've had all kinds of weather disruptions in California, that probably lead to equipment problems/shortages. I was reading someplace else about how late the trains have been recently.

This happens no matter how you travel. You can find Amtrak horror stories and of course you can find many tales of whoa for airplanes too. I once waited 8 hours in Harrisburg for a flight, had a layover in Cincinnati and got home a day late. As we left Cincinnati, I called in to work and said "I'm going to be rather late today, I've got a long commute..." "Why, where are you?" "Cincinnati..." ;)

Hopefully the return trip will go better for him, and he won't let this ruin his enthusiasm for trains.
 

Tacoma Tom

New Member
I have rode Amtrak all over the United states. One time I even took a trip from San Diego to Washington DC. Customer service is average at best. I remember taking a trip from Seattle to Sacramento and then to Denver. The crew from the Seattle to Sacramento were complete a**holes. Lots of delays the whole way there and when asked what was going on they would look at you,not speak a word and totally ignore you like you weren't even there. I remember them telling us we were about to pull into Salem shortly,I swear it must have been a hour later after he said that when we finally pulled in. I remember sitting in the diner when I was the only person in the car. 15 minutes went by before my order was taken.

I arrived into Denver over 26 hours late. Although I love trains and love to travel on them Amtrak is the last resort. It's slower than a bus and more expensive than a airplane. If I do ride it will be when I have my own room and I expect to be at my destination a minimum 8 hours late to where I need to get to.

The shorter runs like the Cascades and Acela usually get you to where you need to go on time and I have never had a problem with the trains or the customer service.
 

andrewjonathon

New Member
A few years ago I used to take Amtrak all over the country. Customer Service depended primarily on the train crews personalities. Some where great and some were not just like in the rest of life.

I don't want to excuse poor customer service by the train crew but I will say an overbooked train with more people showing up than they have seats is probably not a fun trip for the crew either. The more people onboard the more individual complaints and issues they must deal with.
 

NM_RailNut

Member
A few years ago I used to take Amtrak all over the country. Customer Service depended primarily on the train crews personalities. Some where great and some were not just like in the rest of life.

I don't want to excuse poor customer service by the train crew but I will say an overbooked train with more people showing up than they have seats is probably not a fun trip for the crew either. The more people onboard the more individual complaints and issues they must deal with.
You're not excusing it; you're just pointing out a simple fact that often gets overlooked in situations like this. Keep in mind as well that far too many Americans these days are themselves rude, obnoxious, overbearing, and want their needs/wants/demands "taken care of RIGHT NOW with NO EXCUSES, GODDAMMIT!!"; throw idiots like those into a situation like the one on the Starlate and even the most customer service oriented persons are gonna be in a mood to kill after a while. There are a few souls who can tolerate such people no matter what, but they are indeed few and far between, and they often aren't working in service jobs like these, either.
 

setxrailfan

John 3:16
Don't expect a full refund. I received a coupon for future travel on Amtrak based on a portion of the cost on one of my trips a few years ago.
 

Kevin M

New Member
It sounds like to me that Amtrak saw a 15 year old boy they could push around and treat like crap. If you paid for a coach seat one should have been provided. If one was not avalible some sort of re-fund should be in order. I dead head on Amrtak often enough but only for a 3-4 hour period. If i can I will sit in the lough but I would not want to for the whole trip.
Kevin
 

robjacox

New Member
It sounds like to me that Amtrak saw a 15 year old boy they could push around and treat like crap. If you paid for a coach seat one should have been provided. If one was not avalible some sort of re-fund should be in order. I dead head on Amrtak often enough but only for a 3-4 hour period. If i can I will sit in the lough but I would not want to for the whole trip.
Kevin
My son is a very polite Boy Scout that is trained to deal with adversity, so he just dealt with it.

It probably worked out good for the coach passengers - he snores a lot when he doesn't have his CPAP machine!

I will be calling Amtrak upon "completion of his round trip" and let you all know how they did.

On the otherhand, my other son Austin (austinjacox here on RRF) took a day trip on the northbound Starlight and had a wonderful trip! But he wasn't forced to sleep all night in the lounge! And, unlike my 15-year old, he loves trains.
 




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