Amtrak

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Amtrak - Never again
Posted by on
In summary taking Amtrak was a terrible experience. Arrogant unfriendly personnel, dirty bathrooms, cold temperatures because A. C. is turned up too high, dirty windows, too uncomfortable to get any sleep, trains don’t run on time, for what they charge for a sleeper you may as well fly. I would never take Amtrak again, I would drive first.
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Amtrak experience was terrible. We took the Southwest Chief from Chicago to L. A.
, CA, 2 Reserved Coach Seats, departed 09-JUN-10; 3:15 pm - arrival 11-JUN-10; 8:15 am . This is what we experienced on the trip to L. A.
We were assigned seats by an Amtrak employee before boarding the train. Our seats were #3 and #4 on the last car of the train. We had all of bags in place and were all settled in. Then about 20 min. after the train pulled out of the station, the attendant for our car who’s name is Francis told us that we could not sit in those seats, they were for her and that we had to move. I told her that we were assigned those seats at the station, she said that they didn’t know what they were doing and we had to move. We were somewhat embarrasssed in front of the other passengers, since Francis made us feel like we were trying to get away with something. So took our luggage and moved to the new seats. Shortly thereafter we decided to go to the observation car, we spent maybe an hour and a half in the observation car and returned to our seats. When we returned to our car there were 2 people sitting in the seats that Francis removed us from. When I asked Francis why there were people sitting in those seats she said they over booked the train so she had to seat them there. Well the train was not over booked. The rest of the evening and next day Francis sat in the seats across from this couple and spent a lot of time talking to them, I suspect they were her friends and she wanted them to sit in the back across from her and that’s why she moved us. Francis was arrogant and not very friendly, she seemed to be bothered if you asked her a question. She spent a lot of her time texting on her cell phone. Sometime during the second day she moved up to the car in front of us along with her friends. Some other people then sat in the seats she removed us from.
All of the windows on the train were dirty, the windows on the observation car were very dirty, we could hardly see out of some of the windows, very disappointing since that’s one of the reasons for riding the train.
The bathrooms were always dirty but by the second day the sinks were clogged up, water was to the top. Some were out of paper towels. I saw a passenger put paper towels in one of the bathrooms, I don’t know where she got them from. I guess Francis was too busy texting.
During the second evening my wife came back from the restroom and told me that when she passed the baggage area she didn’t see one of my suit cases. I went down to the baggage area and could not find one of my suit cases. I was now almost frantic thinking of the things I had in my bag that would be lost. I informed one of the conductors that my bag was missing, he went down to the baggage area with me, asked me to describe my bag, I did, he then took me to another car, showed me a bag that was stored above a seat that had a passenger in it and asked me if that was my bag, and it was. He told me that sometimes they move people's bags from the baggage area so that can have room for larger suit cases. How can they move people's bags without telling them. If my wife hadn’t noticed that my bag was missing what would I have done when we got to our destination. Amtrak has no consideration for it’s passengers.
Forget about trying to sleep in coach. The seats are very uncomfortable, they give you a very small pillow about 12” by 8” and don’t even think of asking for two. The temperature was freezing at night, they wouldn’t turn off the air, grown men were bundle led up in blankets and wore hoodies. Also the aisle lights are so bright they keep you awake, I was lucky if I got an hour of sleep each night.
No A. C. outlets by the passenger seats. The only electrical A. C. outlets were 2 of them on the observation car, of course everyone and their brother wanted to plug in.
We were almost an hour late leaving Albuquerque, N. M., the morning of our arrival the conductor told me we would be a good 45 min. late arriving in L. A. So I called my son who was picking us up that we would be about an hour late. I don’t know how the engineer did it but we ended up getting to L. A. around 45 min earlier than what our original scheduled time was. So of course we had a long wait at the L. A. station for my son to pick us up.

The return trip, Southwest Chief, from Los Angeles to Chicago 19-JUN-10; 6:55 pm – arrival 21-JUN-10; 3:10 pm.
The return trip was slightly better than the train going out. But again we had a rude, arrogant attendant named Antonio. Again the air was turned way up and it was freezing at night. Earlier in the day an elderly man asked Antonio if he could turn the air down since it was cold on the car, Antonio was almost rude to him and told him that he couldn’t and wouldn’t turn it down. That evening I asked Antonio to turn down the air, it was too cold to try to sleep, again grown men were bundled in blankets wearing hoodies. Antonio told me that if tried to turn down the air he might break it and then we wouldn’t have air conditioning the next day, what kind of crap is that. Again about an hour’s sleep all night. The other thing on this car was the guy running the snack bar would come on the P. A. system about every half an hour trying to sell his snacks, drinks and food, Very Annoying. All the windows were again dirty. The bathrooms were kept a little better. This time we kept all of our bags with us. An attendant named Nina did try and keep things cleaner than the first train, she was often going around with a vacuum. The train arrived about an hour and a half late to Chicago.
     
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Apple Mac on 2010-07-02:
Sound like your typical government run agency, with employees who do not want to work for the high salary they make. Wait until the same government, who runs Amtrak and the Post Office, takes over the health care in this country.

Good post - you are better off flying if you have a long distance to travel.
spiderman2 on 2010-07-02:
Apple is right, just wait until the government is running healthcare!
leet60 on 2010-07-02:
Just seems odd that the OP had such a horrendous experience on the outbound trip, yet jumped right back on the train for the return trip.
spiderman2 on 2010-07-02:
I'm betting the tickets were purchased for a round trip and they weren't cheap.
Harry Patterson on 2013-03-04:
Just because airlines aren't a line item in the federal budget (like Amtrak is) doesn't mean airlines subsist without any form of government subsidy.
Brendan on 2014-06-27:
Just a friendly reminder that no one should ever use Amtrak again. Their website will purchase authorize a ton of money out of your account, leaving you with holds on funds over $1000 for a $269.50 ticket (since they attempt a purchase authorization each time you hit submit, and if you bank approves it, that does not mean amtrak will approve it because if your billing info isn't the first set of billing info your bank returns (many accounts have primary, secondary and tertiary billing info, payment processors are expected to check all returned XML data, which Amtrak does not) then they will refuse to help you in any way for hours on the phone, and claim that contacting your bank to help resolve the issue is 'illegal' and attempt to blame the issue on you.

As a web developer who interacts with payment gateways and payment processors and ACH processors, I know exactly what their website did, why it is wrong, and why it is their fault.

The corporate bureaucracy involved with getting on the phone with a person that can help you is as follows:

Call. Press 0. Press 0. Ask to speak with a manger. Denied. Ask to speak with a customer rep, transfer hold for 45 minutes, 4 hours on the phone explaining the situation (monday) , told it will be resolved by Friday, given exact instructions (step by step) for what to do when you call on Friday. Call Friday and follow steps and be told that everything you were told Monday you were not told. One again told it is illegal for a merchant to contact a bank to tell the bank that the transaction will not be processed (yeah, totally illegal guys, no merchant has ever contact a bank, ever, because of how illegal that is, right? wrong, but hey, uninformed people probably buy that line all the time). Finally have the person admit they were wrong and that it is just an internal policy, have them tell you they can offer you a travel voucher for your outgoing trip, but only after your bank denies the transaction one last time, bank denies the transaction and they say 'it's your zip code, you aren't giving me the zip code correctly' and of course, I am SITTING AT THE BANK WITH THE BANK MANAGER WHO IS SAYING THAT IT IS THE ZIP CODE ON MY ACCOUNT.

Offer to put the bank manager on the phone, representative declines and once again says that the issue is with me, that no way could it be an issue with their system. Once again, while I am sitting at my bank, verifying the information as I speak it. Tell them once again you are not looking for anything FREE you are just not able to make the purchase, because they have already purchase authorized so much money out of your account. Told once again it will be 3-5 business days and the transaction will fall off (it should have fallen off right away when they pinged the payment gateway saying they were not going to pursue the transaction that was pre-authorized with the purchase authorization, but that is something the Amtrak programmer omitted). Explain to them that a mom and pop hair salon in rural vermont has a better system that was designed for less than the purchase authorization holds and once again mention I do this for a living so STOP LYING TO ME PLEASE. Told that a travel voucher for your outgoing trip will be made and that you can just hope and pray that the money is back in your account by Monday, because you are expected to show up at the train station with cash to pay for your ticket.

Accept this, but tell them you want proof in an e-mail that this is indeed the case, that you have been dicked around all week and do not trust that it is 'in the system'. They tell you they will send an email right away. Boom. E-mail sent. Call ended. Check e-mail, nothing about a voucher, just a bill that says:

THIS IS NOT A TICKET
==========================================================================
Reservation Number Is XXXXXX
Subject To Cancellation Unless Purchased By June 28, 2014
==========================================================================

Total Reservation Charges: $ 146.70
Ticket Delivery Charge: $ 0.00
-------------------------------------------
Total Charges: $ 146.70

--

Call back, ask the woman on the phone to confirm that it is paid. Woman says 'it's in the system', ask for an e-mail with proof because you were told 'it's in the system' on Monday, but when you called back Friday it was not. Mention that no less than 5 minutes ago, you were told by the customer relations person that they would send an email which would mention the 'travel voucher'. Start to get attitude from the woman, ask her employee id number, refused. Ask her name, mumbled, ask her to repeat it and spell it, mumbled and subject change to transferring to customer relations. Ask to some how not have to sit on another 45 min hold, or if there is ANY way to get some written proof that what is 'in the system' is going to still be 'in the system' the next day.

Refused. Hung up on.
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A Nice Alternative
Posted by on
A long planned trip to Disney World with the grandkids was scheduled for the week following Thanksgiving. When I was making the travel arrangements, I was dreading the airport hassles, with visions of my 5 year old grandson being strip searched. (I think we all saw that video).

Then I remembered the Auto Train. We did this trip a few times when our own kids were small, and liked it then.

It's even better now. The train departs from Lorton VA, so we drove down from Boston the day before, and spent the time on a quick DC tour. You board the train at 3 pm, and at the same time your car is loaded onto a car carrier.

The train pulls out at 4, and at 5 they have the first seating for dinner in the dining car. On the outbound trip I had chicken marsala, wine and cheesecake. Returning it was braised beef, more wine and a decadent brownie a la mode. In general, the conductor and support staff are very cordial and friendly, and took time out to socialize with the kids.

In the evening they run a movie in the lounge car, and put out cookies and snacks. After that, I was ready to recline my seat and close the shades. There are sleeper cars available, but I find the regular seats just fine. I didn't even need the bar car ahead of time to ensure a good sleep.

In the morning there is a Continental breakfast in the dining car. At 9 am the train rolls into Sanford FL, where they unload your car and you have a quick hop to WDW.

Perhaps the best thing is because you have your won car, you can pack whatever you want. No luggage to haul around, you just take what you need onto the train with you. ( i.e. your toothbrush) Since you never know what to expect at this time of year, we packed both summer and cool weather clothing.

The kids got a huge kick out of riding and sleeping on a train, and the cost (for 5 of us) was slightly less that airfare would have been. It was a win-win.

I think I am going to consider taking a train next time I vacation, it was a very pleasant alternative. I'd love to see them give the airlines a run for their money.
     
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Anonymous on 2010-12-07:
Nice review Obs, glad you and your family had such a good time.
Slimjim on 2010-12-07:
I've played around with the idea of taking this train when going to Florida for years. One time we'll have to try it.
MRM on 2010-12-07:
I didn't know the train takes that route. Thanks for the tidbit!
momsey on 2010-12-07:
That's awesome. Definitely something to keep in mind a few years down the road when we're ready to start hitting Disney!
werelucky on 2010-12-07:
Just remember, it's a 24 hour slow train ride, and it's not always on time.
Anonymous on 2010-12-07:
I like a nice, long, slow ride. Not so sure about a train though.
MRM on 2010-12-07:
How much is the train ride and how long was the trip?
madconsumer on 2010-12-07:
I love traveling by train. not the fastest way to get there, but oh so comfortable.

very helpful.
Obsfucation on 2010-12-07:
We paid a bit less than $1,200 for five people and our car. (r/t) The train leaves around 4 pm, and arrives around 9 the next morning.
madconsumer on 2010-12-07:
obs, just remember to tell everyone if they wanted a ptivate room, it adds 300-400 more per person!

but this also includes meals and preferred dinning time, and a private valet!!
jktshff1 on 2010-12-07:
great post thanks
Skye on 2010-12-07:
Great review!

Nohandle on 2010-12-07:
I've not been on a train since I was a small child. On my last trip, I recall my parents putting me on one to go to summer camp. I would love to travel by rail now. I'm weary of airlines and heaven forbid the bus but there aren't too many options anymore other than driving. It's a shame rail travel is not available in many areas. If you've never been on a train for a trip, not a morning commute, honestly you've missed something enjoyable.
momsey on 2010-12-07:
That's not a bad price!
Obsfucation on 2010-12-07:
MadC... there are 3 types of rooms. $190 (sleeps two), $547 (sleeps 4), and $415 (sleeps 2, has toilet and shower. The room rate isn't per person, it's per room.

Since the regular seating is similar to (actually better than) airline first class seats, I can't see a real reason to spend that kind of money for an overnight trip.
Anonymous on 2010-12-07:
There is a dinner train here, good food and great scenery.
3marliz on 2010-12-09:
My family and I always wanted to try the train. Three years ago was the first and last time. The first night the sleeper room we had reserved was unavailable. (We still paid for it by the way.)

We missed a meal because the train ran late to one of it's stops; we were not allowed to dine at a stop and so tough luck, we missed the meal.

They ran out of food the last day and the only thing to eat for our meal in the fancy dining car was Mac and Cheese.

The train was delayed and instead of phoning ahead to let the next station know we would be ten minutes late, the last train left. We waited two hours for a van to arrive and cram the passengers in to drive us the last few hours of the trip.

We talked to some people who loved taking the train and found out (too late) that the crews on different runs were different and those in the know timed their departure to be on the trains with good crews.

Maybe it's different now but it wouldn't hurt if you are taking Amtrack, to talk to some regulars at the station find out if there is still a big difference between the trains.

I thought of posting this as a review, but so much time has passed it seemed better to post it as a comment that might help others have a better trip.
ok4now on 2010-12-10:
Good post. Unless you are really pressed for time & need to fly this is the way to go. Excellent point about avoiding the airport screening & body scans. Plus they have a dining car instead of a bag of peanuts provided by the airlines. My only reservation from talking to friends who have used this is the possible damage to your car. Apparently they aren't real careful and this has generated many damage complaints. With the common $500 deductible the customer may have to absorb any potential damage out of pocket. Aside from this the train is definitely the way to go.
lorrwill on 2010-12-12:
Wow was your experience spectacularly different than mine.

The last time I rode Amtrak I had to stand almost the entire trip because I could not find a place to sit down. People were taking up 2 or 3 seats with their belongings and the porters told me tough luck.

Amtrak's customer service depends privilege people like me don't have.
Alain on 2011-01-06:
Just read this, Obsfucation. Good review and just the type of airport alternative I'm considering these days! Maybe it's time I gave Amtrak a try again even if it does take a little more time!
ms millie on 2011-01-14:
It's refreshing to see such a positive review. So many people use these sites to "bash" a company instead of feeling compelled to write when something wonderful happens. I enjoyed reading your post!
canucks1 on 2011-03-24:
CHEAPER TO FLY!
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StarEmpty StarEmpty StarEmpty StarEmpty Star
NEVER Use Amtrak - Awful Customer Service and Zero Accountability
Posted by on
Rating: 1/51
BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS -- Just a friendly reminder that no one should ever use Amtrak again. Their website will purchase authorize a ton of money out of your account, leaving you with holds on funds over $1000 for a $269.50 ticket (since they attempt a purchase authorization each time you hit submit, and if you bank approves it, that does not mean Amtrak will approve it because if your billing info isn't the first set of billing info your bank returns (many accounts have primary, secondary and tertiary billing info, payment processors are expected to check all returned XML data, which Amtrak does not) then they will refuse to help you in any way for hours on the phone, and claim that contacting your bank to help resolve the issue is 'illegal' and attempt to blame the issue on you.

As a web developer who interacts with payment gateways and payment processors and ACH processors, I know exactly what their website did, why it is wrong, and why it is their fault.

The corporate bureaucracy involved with getting on the phone with a person that can help you is as follows:

Call. Press 0. Press 0. Ask to speak with a manager. Denied. Ask to speak with a customer rep, transfer + hold for 45 minutes, 4 hours on the phone explaining the situation (Monday) , told it will be resolved by Friday, given exact instructions (step by step) for what to do when you call on Friday. Call Friday and follow steps and be told that everything you were told Monday you were not told. One again told it is illegal for a merchant to contact a bank to tell the bank that the transaction will not be processed (yeah, totally illegal guys, no merchant has ever contact a bank, ever, because of how illegal that is, right? wrong, but hey, uninformed people probably buy that line all the time). Finally have the person admit they were wrong and that it is just an internal policy, have them tell you they can offer you a travel voucher for your outgoing trip, but only after your bank denies the transaction one last time, bank denies the transaction and they say 'it's your zip code, you aren't giving me the zip code correctly' and of course, I am SITTING AT THE BANK WITH THE BANK MANAGER WHO IS SAYING THAT IT IS THE ZIP CODE ON MY ACCOUNT.

Offer to put the bank manager on the phone, representative declines and once again says that the issue is with me, that no way could it be an issue with their system. Once again, while I am sitting at my bank, verifying the information as I speak it. Tell them once again you are not looking for anything FREE you are just not able to make the purchase, because they have already purchase authorized so much money out of your account. Told once again it will be 3-5 business days and the transaction will fall off (it should have fallen off right away when they pinged the payment Gateway saying they were not going to pursue the transaction that was pre-authorized with the purchase authorization, but that is something the Amtrak programmer omitted). Explain to them that a mom and pop hair salon in rural Vermont has a better system that was designed for less than the purchase authorization holds and once again mention I do this for a living so STOP LYING TO ME PLEASE. Told that a travel voucher for your outgoing trip will be made and that you can just hope and pray that the money is back in your account by Monday, because you are expected to show up at the train station with cash to pay for your ticket.

Accept this, but tell them you want proof in an e-mail that this is indeed the case, that you have been [removed] around all week and do not trust that it is 'in the system'. They tell you they will send an email right away. Boom. E-mail sent. Call ended. Check e-mail, nothing about a voucher, just a bill that says:

THIS IS NOT A TICKET
==========================================================================
Reservation Number Is XXXXXX
Subject To Cancellation Unless Purchased By June 28, 2014
==========================================================================

Total Reservation Charges: $ 146.70
Ticket Delivery Charge: $ 0.00
-------------------------------------------
Total Charges: $ 146.70

--

Call back, ask the woman on the phone to confirm that it is paid. Woman says 'it's in the system', ask for an e-mail with proof because you were told 'it's in the system' on Monday, but when you called back Friday it was not. Mention that no less than 5 minutes ago, you were told by the customer relations person that they would send an email which would mention the 'travel voucher'. Start to get attitude from the woman, ask her employee id number, refused. Ask her name, mumbled, ask her to repeat it and spell it, mumbled and subject change to transferring to customer relations. Ask to some how not have to sit on another 45 min hold, or if there is ANY way to get some written proof that what is 'in the system' is going to still be 'in the system' the next day.

Refused. Hung up on.
     
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Obfuscation on 2014-07-01:
A couple of things jump out here. If it is placing a hold each time you click submit, why are you repeatedly clicking submit? Beyond that, when the hold is submitted, the bank does not return any information other than accepted or declined. The merchant doesn't get any type of information about your account.
Finally, banks don't take calls from merchants about charges because there is no way to verify who is calling, and what their true motives may be. The system is designed so that debits that are not finalized automatically get dropped after a predetermined period of time. It may be as short as 24 hours, or as long as five days, but most often is 3 days. Your own bank makes that determination.
I work in the industry, and you seem to have some misconceptions about how it all works.
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StarEmpty StarEmpty StarEmpty StarEmpty Star
They Couldn't Locate Tickets Even Though I Have Receipt and Credit Card Proof and Refused Refund
Posted by on
Rating: 1/51
PENN NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK -- They continue to change contract (verbal and written) and policies after already holding my funds. When they initially obtained my funds, the policy as Id known it until that point was: if I didn't travel I was not charged or was automatically issued a refund. Then when new policies were written no staff was sure when they went into effect, if they were in effect or if there was a grace period (I asked during travel when I overheard them talking about policy change on the train). Furthermore the Refund and Research department takes 15min to an hour to get through to in order to be issued a credit voucher and they are very rude (I was hung up on for asking if she had located any of the reservations and criticized for being what she called and assumed was 'white' even though I was rightfully owed a refund and I had been extremely patient with them. This woman said her name was Karen and after attempting to call back multiple times I kept reaching her and eventually needed to get help through customer relations because she would either hangup or not answer).

Nobody should have to go through this to get credit or a refund for a service they did not receive. I'm a single parent and full time student with my own business, I can't put time aside to deal with these shenanigans especially when the hoops keep changing direction. They also admit to the misinformation due to constant changes in policy. I was issued a voucher not the refund I was told I would receive for only some of my funds, itinerary 15DE12 and 15DCFE, at the time I was issued these vouchers (2400302060744 and 2400304146293) I was not told that I had to use them w/I a year and also only within the last two months did it come into effect that I had to apply at least a portion of them to travel booked w/I a year to extend the credit for another year. The other reservations could not be found apparently (15DC95 for $36) They make it very difficult to seek retribution to say the least. Not to mention that I missed one of the trains because a concierge at the State Fair told me my train was delayed because there was a fire on the track but he assumed I was on a different train even though I never asked for his help and told him I was on a NYC bound train after he asked multiple times.

Either way, I went to use the bathroom since there was apparently a 1hr delay and walk my dad and son to his car only to find out, when I returned, that my train was not delayed, I had been misinformed and now had to figure out how to get to Greyhound because there were no more trains out that day. That Amtrak employee ended up taking me to Greyhound after the train he thought I was on (heading upstate) had departed. I paid for my bus ticket out of pocket. That reservation (161570) was "hotlisted" and another very rude employee with R and R said she did not even know why or what that meant but that that was why who ever I spoke to that did issue me the refunds last year in customer relations (she was very nice) because R an R would not help, could not find the reservation. She did not know why I was never given credit for 15DC95 but said that there was no one else that could help me, that she was at the highest level there.

Both of them are the only people I can reach when I do get through to R and R. I am only owed a total of $131 but I would also like my Greyhound ticket refunded which was $96.
     
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StarStarStarEmpty StarEmpty Star
Love Hate Relationship With Amtrak
Posted by on
Rating: 3/51
CHICAGO-LOS ANGELES, ILLINOIS -- Here's the good, bad and ugly regarding my many trips on Amtrak, always long distance (since I had to stop flying due to an ear pressure issue)

Good: if you get a sleeper car, you are treated well by everyone working on the train it seems.

Bad: Sleeping cars will make it prohibitively expensive if you need to travel more than once a year and book quick.

Ugly: if you book coach (which still costs slightly more than a similar airline ticket for long, big city trips), be prepared to be treated like trash by most Amtrak employees. You might as well not be human. I have dealt with 10% of attendants who aren't like this (and be very thankful if you get a dreadlocked gentleman named Michael, he is awesome).

Good: food, which is included in your total if you book a sleeper, is surprisingly edible.

Bad: if you do not get a sleeper, the dining options are pretty pricey for what you get and they tend to serve you with less care (a recurring theme with Amtrak employees).

Ugly: Amtrak is ridiculously disorganized, will overfill overnight trips with seating arrangements, when you walk through the train, there are empty 2 seaters all over the place. Meanwhile, they consistently put tall guys together for days, making it very uncomfortable just because they can. And they will not rectify it because if you are traveling in coach, who cares about you.

Good: very informative about delays, which aren't their fault. Anyone who travels by train knows Amtrak doesn't own the rails and the vaunted private sector believes all goods have the right of way over people. So if you blame the government, as some commenters do, you should note the next bad. And they try to make up time in the middle, but obviously can not get ahead until the end since they can't leave stops early.

Bad: a lot of entitled jack holes seem to ride, whether it be 12 pieces of luggage guy or fall asleep on your shoulder guy.

Good: lots of great scenery. Great way to see the country. Multi city option is great.

Bad: the guest rewards program is awful. They spend more time with point gimmicks on credit cards and other shopping offers than they do on loyal travelers, which is just awful.

Ugly: I will reiterate, most of the attendants are just horrid. Watch your stuff like a hawk, because if something goes missing, they don't care at all.

Good: always had an outlet right at my seat. Makes travel easier.

Bad: get wifi and join the 21st century. Most Greyhounds have it for crying out loud.

Good: loads of legroom and carry on space. Bring some food with you if you can taking advantage of this.

Bad: pay someone to clean the bathrooms, although maybe some passengers should join civilization instead of being gross.

I could say more, but this covers the what to expect.


     
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saj80 on 2013-03-24:
Great post, and from my Amtrak experiences, 100% accurate.
trmn8r on 2013-03-24:
If there is plenty of legroom, I don't see why Amtrak intentionally (???) putting tall people next to each other is an issue.

Greyhounds have wifi? Cool! That almost makes me want to try go for a bus ride, with people even more gross than the ones you described. Travelling using public conveyances is an eye-opener for the uninitiated.

Your post is informative, and reminds me of a few train rides I have taken. The sleeper option is costly but definitely results in a more pleasurable experience.
Nohandle on 2013-03-24:
I have not traveled for years by rail (as a child) but it sounds like what someone would expect by plane now. At one time by air seats could be swapped after take off if there were empty ones. I have no idea now how it works now.

I've thought for a long time a trip by rail staying on the same train until I reached my destination would be just the the ticket. Perhaps not so.
Chaparrita on 2013-03-24:
Good, fair review. Better than most I've seen on this site.
Desolationangel34 on 2013-03-24:
Nohandle, for one time travel, book the roomette, you'll be very thankful. I travel too often right now for that to work price wise but when it was a 1 time expense as you sound like you want, it's well worth it.

I could have been more clear on my legroom problem. They are very strict on seat assignment for no reason, and unlike what I remember about flying, you have no choice, they do it all as you board. And anyone over 6'2 when mixed with another person for a long duration of the same build, is going to be more uncomfortable as legs take up space. But it is by far more legroom than a coach plane ticket or bus. I just don't get their unwillingness to let tall people switch to aisle seats for more than 24 hour trips when they are open. To be honest, it's truly just attendant laziness. I was on one really late trip where they discussed leaving people because one of the attendants left the seating chart in the terminal and a few paid ticket holders didn't get theirs. Outside of sleepers, they hate coach travelers (and my last coach trip cost 400 dollars, not like it was cheap).
jonthethird on 2013-03-25:
As a regular AMTRAK passenger, your review is spot on for the Southwest Chief. I ride the Zephyr and Coast Starlight regularly, and find the crews much more professional then those on the SW Chief. LA has a beautiful station, but the people there are the worst.
The BEST is the Empire Builder.
Alain on 2013-03-25:
I'll be thinking about this when I decide whether to take a plane, train or bus later this year for a quick trip, Pitt to Baltimore. Thanks for the excellent, helpful review!
Dale on 2013-08-25:
This review is informative and accurate. I am a retired Airline Pilot and I LOVE the train.

However, I would never travel if a roomette or bedroom was not available.

Perks on the sleeping cars not mentioned: You are allowed to bring your own alcohol on board. There are free mixers (water, juice and ice) at a bufette in each car.

You get reserved seating for meals. Your steward asks you what time you want to eat and calls you 15 min prior.

When buying the cheapest coach ticket you can get, and add a roomette or bedroom, 2 additional people (BR or 1 Roomette) are entitled to that same cheap fare regardless of when they book as long as they share your room...and they eat free as well...

Yes, I LOVE the train...D
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StarEmpty StarEmpty StarEmpty StarEmpty Star
Train Service Sucks!!
Posted by on
Rating: 1/51
CENTRALIA, ILLINOIS -- I arrived at the train station in Centrailia, IL 3 hours before the train was scheduled to depart. The train ended up being almost an hour late with no way of knowing exactly when it would show up. Finally, when it did arrive, it slowed down, stopped, the conductor threw some bags off, a couple passengers departed, and the train took off. I barely had time to get out of the car I was waiting in before the train was already on its way out.

They didn't even check to see if a passenger was supposed to get on the train and sure as hell didn't wait for me as I ran towards the tracks. It's utter bull crap. Even the station conductor, who knew I was there waiting, failed to tell me prior to the train's arrival that if the train is running late and you're not waiting on the platform, they will leave without you.

No signs were posted or anything listed on the website that stated you must be on the platform waiting if the train is running late. The website also suggested that the train has a load and unload time of about 5 minutes. This train had come and gone within a minute.

And besides all that crap, it makes it even worse that they expect you to stand on the platform and wait for a late train, not knowing when the hell it's going to show up, in the freezing cold at 1 in the morning in the middle of a shady side of town by yourself.

Their service sucks, their staff are douche bags, and the idea that trains are supposed to be on time is a bull crap lie.

The best way I can put it: if you're new to train travel, make sure you can read minds.
     
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Notatrainfreak on 2012-04-28:
AMTRAK offers multiple way of checking train status. You can go online, use a smartphone app or simply call their reservations number for automated service. If a train, or a bus is running late, they don't hang around. Unload and load - then gone. The web site does not show a scheduled 5 minute stop. In fact Centraila is a 'flag' stop which means if they don't see you they don't know you are there.

BTW, what station conductor are you referring to? Centraila is an unstaffed station. No ticket office, just an enclosed waiting area.
copper_works_ on 2012-04-28:
Maybe it was some freaky guy pretending to be a conductor.
jonthethird on 2012-04-28:
AMTRAK is indeed a different way to travel. The trains are subject to delays due to track work, traffic, etc as AMTRAK does not own the rails. It is still a much more relaxing way to travel
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Amtrak needs a major overhaul/housecleaning
Posted by on
FREMONT, MICHIGAN -- I am compelled to write and relate the horrible experience we received at the hands of the Amtrak Company. In the last five years, my family and I have been frequent and preferred travelers on Amtrak. We have traveled on Amtrak on our last three cross country vacations as first class passengers. We even use the Amtrak Visa as our most used credit card. I would also like to add here that as a teacher, I was one of the biggest advocates of train travel and your company until our most recent experience.

You can review the file # 2021846 for details on our train reservations and tickets, but our trip went seriously awry almost at the very beginning of our journey. We planned to park in the long term parking in Holland Michigan and meet the Southwest Chief in Chicago. Upon pulling into the parking lot, we were immediately accosted by two women who refused to identify themselves. They were telling everyone that they could not park in the Amtrak designated lot but must move to a lot over a half mile away. The women claimed that the alternate lot was clearly identified with Amtrak signs and flags, but it was not. Afraid that we would miss the train, my husband parked the car in a completely random parking lot nearly one mile away from the Amtrak lot. Throughout our entire stay in California, we never knew if our car would be in the lot when we returned or not. The one Amtrak employee at the station would not comment about these two unidentified women who were claiming to everyone that the parking lot would be “ripped up” for remodeling in a day or two even though the parking lot looked like it was in fine condition.

The train to Chicago was canceled and busses were sent to take us to Chicago. The Amtrak employee on our bus was very nice, but he did not know where the train stations were. We were lost a few times, and the employee had to go into gas stations (in full Amtrak uniform) and ask where the train stations were. Fortunately, we arrived in time to still catch the Southwest Chief train #3 on July 6.

As I stated before, my family and I are seasoned Amtrak travelers. Our car Hostess was excellent on this trip out to California. Our kids were really disappointed that Amtrak no longer employed a Native American guide for narration in the Western states or provided a movie in the lounge car. Our car Hostess, however, did point out many places of interest to us. Also very disappointing on our trip to California was the major decline in the food and service of the dining car. We tried to understand paper table cloths and plastic plates as the ravages of budget cuts, but the “special” was the same “country fried steak” on both nights of the trip, and the passengers who were in the private, pulled cars treated the diner like a bar. They were given very preferential treatment to the Amtrak first class customers who only wanted to fed. We found the dining staff to be exceptionally rude to paying Amtrak customers and exceptionally accommodating to the people in the cars that were being pulled behind us.

All of the minor inconveniences pale, however, to what we experienced when our Train # 5 Southwest Chief arrived in Chicago at 9:00 p.m. - over five hours late. Once again, as seasoned Amtrak passengers, we did not worry about the delay and believed all the assurances we were given on the train that busses would be waiting to take us to our destinations or appropriate hotel accommodations would be made. Now, the nightmare begins.

When we arrived in Chicago, the customer service staff acted completely surprised and irritated by our presence. We were herded back and forth between a foyer, the ticket line, and waiting room G. Our family was sent and waited in line in three different places. The promised busses never came. Finally near midnight, we made it to a customer service employee who informed us that we were all going to be sent to a hotel in Homewood - a far south suburb which was over 40miles away. I have enclosed a review on this hotel. I grew up near this hotel and it had hourly rates when I was a child. There was no way I was going to this hotel 40 miles away from the station, after midnight, when I knew what a filthy and dangerous place it was. Because the employees would not send a bus back to this hotel until noon, anyone with a possible morning connection was basically told to like it or lump it. Especially rude throughout this entire experience was an employee with the last name Maloney. She was seriously angry when about 15 of us opted to spend the night in the station and catch morning connections rather than go to this “fleabag” motel over 40 miles away. Amtrak claimed that all Chicago hotels were filled. This was not true. Ms. Maloney said they usually put people up in Hyatt, Swisshotel and Westin. I called all three hotels that night, and they all had rooms.

Those of us who were spending the night were not given pillows or meals or even allowed in a first class lounge. Were were ushered into a filthy coach lounge with individual metal chairs that were bolted together - not conducive to sleeping. Ms. xxxxxxxx backed by an equally nasty security guard who insisted on treating us like prison inmates informed us that we had “refused” their offer of a hotel and we had better get something to eat (with our own money) in the next half hour because we were going to be confined to this room by the security guard.

Making the best of it, we found some mats that were velcroed to the wall, and we made up beds. In this group of fifteen was a crying teenage girl who we had to give money for food, other children, and a man who was traveling to his brother’s funeral and needed to be thereby the next afternoon. My husband had to phone work and tell them he would miss another day - not an easy call to make when you have been on vacation for two weeks.

When we got all settled, in comes the nasty security guard and this Ms Mxxxxxxx again. In a loud voice with guard behind her, she demanded to know who had taken the mats off the walls. We explained to her that we all had, and that it was our only means of passing the night without food, pillows, blankets, and now locked bathrooms. Again she angrily insisted that we were offered a hotel that we we did not take and we were lucky they were letting us stay in this lounge. I then informed her that all of us wanted MORNING connections and would not be transported 40 miles away from the station without transportation back until noon could not go to this hotel. She then said she was going to get a manager and that we would not be permitted to use the mats.

After she strode away, the security guard told us that we were lucky we were not going to be thrown on the streets. He told us he should take us out and turn us out on the streets of Chicago and it was only by the grace of Amtrak that we were getting this lounge. My kids started crying and then he left. A few minutes later, the manager strode into the lounge, took one look at our pathetic selves that you must remember had been a train for three days before this experience. Then he strode out again without a word. Thankfully, we never saw Ms. Maloney again, but at 5 am, the security guard yelled in prison tone and fashion, “OK, ladies and gentlemen, this lounge is opening in 5 minutes. You need to get up, put the cushions back and get out. McDonalds will be opening in 5 minutes!!!” Let me tell you, at that moment, I did not feel like someone who had paid thousands of dollars to be a first class passenger on Amtrak, my husband was missing work, my exhausted kids were sicker than dogs, I felt dirty inside and out. We cashed in our train tickets, and headed to Greyhound by cab. We slept on the floor of the Greyhound station until our bus came to take us to Michigan.

I am not writing this letter because I want anything from Amtrak, but you need to be aware of the way first class passengers were treated at the hands of your corporation. Our experience was nothing short of a nightmare but then I think what if I were elderly, or a mother traveling alone or someone like that poor terrified teenage girl with no money who spent the night in the lounge with us? What about these people? C’mon Amtrak, you can do better and you know you can….time to clean house and start being a service for people again. I am only a teacher, but I could have never treated anyone the way Ms. Maloney and the rest of that staff treated us. I could have never went home to my comfy bed knowing there were people in that stuffy, nasty lounge all night. Shame on them. Shame on them. And if you ignore this letter and do nothing about this: Shame on you.

Sincerely,

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Amtrak Guest Rewards Member #xxxxxxxxxxx

****When we arrived back in Holland, MI and hiked the mile to our car absolutely no changes had been made to where we were originally going to park in the Amtrak lot.



     
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firengine103 on 2007-07-23:
unbelievable
Anonymous on 2007-07-23:
Wow! Some vacation
familytravel on 2007-07-23:
This sounds miserable, and it doesn't surprise me at all Amtrak treated you all this way. I only travel for extremely short distances. I find most Amtrak staff to be downright mean and cruel to passengers. Let us know if Amtrak responds to the letter!
Starlord on 2007-07-23:
I don't knnw what happened, but my post was eaten in mid-composition. Thie person's treatment is intolerable. I have not traveled by train since I was a child, and I remember the trains as a great way to travel. I have never used Amtrak, as they did not exist when I went by train, my last two experiences with Greyhound were very similar to the OP's treament at the hands of Amtrak. I go by air or by car, and have been very satisfied. Amtrak should hang it's head in shame and learn how to treat customers. It is time all companies pick up on the fact thaqt the customer is the reason they are in business, and without the customers, they will have no business, regardless of how pretty their stores, offices or cars are. Treat your customers right, or you will find out what red ink is REALLY all about.
Anonymous on 2007-07-23:
Totaly unbelievable! what a bad vacation!
lepearso on 2007-07-23:
This is outrageous!

First of all, you should refer the matter at the Holland train station to your elected officials in Michigan. The train to Holland is sponsored by the State Dep't of Transportation.

Secondly, Amtrak has had problems in the past with the management at Chicago Union Station. Send a letter to Mr. Alex Kummant, the president of the company, and let him know how horrible this was.

Third, the decline in first class service is partially a result of congress trying to micromanage Amtrak's on-board services. Or, it could be a result of Amtrak making cuts in the wrong places. Whatever the reason, it is not acceptable.

I too am an Amtrak rider and a supporter of the train system. However, sometimes Amtrak is its own worst enemy.
Anonymous on 2007-07-24:
Admittedly the OP had a horrible experience. The Southwest Chief operates with Superliner cars. I am assuming the private cars are not Amtrak equipment. If there are private cars attached there's no way for those passengers to gain access to the Amtrak diner. Passage through Superliners are via the upper level whereas private cars are single level. There is a way to move from one level to another through what's called a Transition car but those are only used for employees and there are always locked to prevent passengers from gaining access. Also passengers in private cars are not allowed to enter the rest of the train except in emergencies. They usually carry their own food and drink. I'll agree that the food on Amtrak has really gone downhill what with budget cuts. In fact no railroad ever turned a profit on food service. Amtrak loses millions on food service every year. In all my train travel over the years only once have I experienced poor service, but never coming close to to this story.
mangomaiden on 2007-07-24:
This is one the best well-written, legitimate grievances I've seen on here. I certainly hope you take lepearso's advice and forward this onto both the management at Chicago Union Station AND Amtrak. Your experience sounds absolutely intolerable.
Ponie on 2007-07-24:
'I am only a teacher,...' Do NOT belittle yourself. You sound like the type teacher we need more of in our public school system.

This is a very well written letter and I hope Amtrak responds favorably to you.
Anonymous on 2007-07-24:
Over at http://discuss.amtraktrains.com/index.php?showtopic=17663
There a multi page discussion on the subject as posted here. No, I did not originate it there.
Dakota17 on 2007-08-03:
I think that I had also met your Ms. XXXX while we were trying to work out a hotel/bus solution after missing our connection as well. I thought she was just having a bad day when we met her. She is the part of the reason I sat down to write a complaint letter to Amtrak. I did want to let you know, not that this helps at all, that they did redo both the overflow lot and the main Amtrak lot in Holland. It only took them about four days to do it but anyone gone over that time period had to park in the old Pietro's parking lot. Not that it changes how they handled the situation or anything, just for info. We also had to park in the Pietro's lot and I can understand how anyone that's not from around here might be hesitant to do so. Thanks for your post. It was very well written.
Leave Early and Walk on 2007-08-18:
Maybe politics has no place in this discussion or perhaps it does. I last rode the Amtrak "Coast Starlight" in 2001 from Portland to Seattle. Parlour (what genius changed the spelling from "parlor")Car was nice; dining car a joke for someone who's old enough to remember the Santa Fe "Super Chief". No more. Amtrak is part of a huge regression in travel comfort in the U.S. and abroad.

Despite high gas prices, congestion, global warming and lord knows what other aggrevations, George Bush hasn't had a clue. I wish we could send him back to Texas when his term is up via Amtrak in coach. Bottom line is that it's time for whomever takes over to chuck the whole organization and start over.

No public carrying passenger railroad in the world makes money. Some trains will and do, but for a whole system, no. We need an independent body, legislation with teeth, and someone who understands that they are selling a service. Certainly a number of the freight railroads have let their tracks go to hell, constantly delay Amtrak and skirt around their contracts.

Until we have a rational national transportation policy we're doomed to more of the same. Let's see, the highway bridges are collapsing, airline service and reliability is a disgrace, Greyhound is real "dog", rail travel stinks. Now you understand my "handle". The market is there for rail travel and moving freight off over crowded highways to upgraded railroads is not only cost effective, but helps cut down on global warming.

Will we every wise up? One hopes, and by the way before you gang up on me for "Bush Bashing" I'm a registered Republican. Stand up, speak out and don't take it any more. If you can afford it with our lousy exchange rate, get to France and take the TGV. It is possible to get somewhere with reasonable speed, great comfort and good, if a bit expensive, dining. Am I jealous? You bet!
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StarEmpty StarEmpty StarEmpty StarEmpty Star
Ripped Off
Posted by on
Rating: 1/51
SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA -- We paid for 2 business class tickets from L. A. to San Diego Aug. 30 to Sept. Nothing but disappointment. On the trip out we did not receive lunch. Were told drinks only after 12. We arrived 12:30 and never got a beverage,. It gets worse.

On the way home we called AmTrak before departing our hotel to inquire if we could take the 30'clock instead of the 4 o'clock train without any penalties. We were told by an employee of Amtrak it would be fine and no there would not be a problem to change times. Anyhow, we boarded and got comfortable in our seats, when this very rude women named Brandi, I think, she would not allow me to se her badge, told us to leave and go to coach. We explained we talked with AmTrak and they assured us there would be no conflict. Well Brandi would not listen to us. She insisted we vacate or seats, which costs far more than coach, because the train was expecting to be full and someone else would be in our seats.

Anyhow, my husband, who needs more leg room as he is over 6ft. tall was forced to sit in coach with his legs up to his elbows. This is so unfair, as no one came into those seats at all. We could see since we were in the next car and had a clear view of business class seating. I am a reasonable person and feel we were treated unfairly. What can you do to make this right? Clearly, Brandi has a power thing going on and made us feel helpless. We are seniors who use the train often, but now worry this could happen to us again.

I expect an apology from you, and at best a refund! Most sincerely, Mauren Kwasizur
     
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dan on 2013-09-03:
I hope you sent this to Amtrak not just posting here. Personally I use Amtrak all the time. Business class normally gives you a coupon for a few dollars credit on a snack or coffee. they don't come and serve you. They are flexible in changing tix so not sure about return but it sounds like you should get a credit for the business class portion.
cmthru on 2013-09-03:
Did you show your business class tickets? Amtrak should have issued new tickets for that train as business class is reserved. Pacific Surfliner coach is unreserved seating.

I would recommend you call Amtrak customer service with your complaint. They may not offer a refund but a credit instead.
Ben There on 2013-09-04:
Sounds awful. Most of my friends that have to travel between the two cities for work round-trip in the same day often fly because the train can be unpredictable and the 5 can be gridlocked.
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StarEmpty StarEmpty StarEmpty StarEmpty Star
Terrible Experience That Exceeded All Expectations
Posted by on
Rating: 1/51
LANGHORNE, PENNSYLVANIA -- I and my wife never used Amtrak for long distance travel before and decided to check it out. We took a trip from Tampa, FL, to Trenton, NJ, in April 2013.

The experience proved to be horrifying. Following is a summary of problems and issues during this trip:
o One of the tickets was a for a handicapped person. We were promised special seats for handicapped – instead, we got regular seats but close to toilets, there were no special handicapped seats available on the train
o The seats on the train were very uncomfortable and not very well fit for a 25 hour trip even for a healthy person
o Anti-sanitary conditions almost everywhere on the train. Dirty toilet paper from the restroom lay on the floor of the train car – it got stock to people’s feet and they carried it around - the train personnel did not care and did not clean up
o The toilets were in extremely anti-sanitary condition since we boarded the train and to the end of the trip. Half-way down there was no more water in the toilet tanks for flushing. A lot of the bathrooms were out of order. The smell in and from the bathrooms was intolerable from the beginning to the end of the trip. Nevertheless, the lines to the restrooms were often long because of not too many functioning restrooms available on the train
o When we asked about cleaning the toilets more frequently – our request was met with extreme rudeness from one of the train conductors. This followed up with harassment from the conductor
o Washing hands in the restrooms was an extreme challenge. Forget about brushing your teeth
o Our waiter in the restaurant was very nice but his helper was extremely rude
o Amtrak website promises Wi-Fi and two story train cars – this happened to be a complete lie
o The train ran 1-1.5 hours behind schedule most of the way from Florida to New Jersey arriving to our destination in Trenton, NJ, 50 minutes late
o The trip proved to be disastrous, we are planning not to use Amtrak anymore for our future trips
o We contacted Customer Relations who were not very polite or receptive to our complaint. Nevertheless, they finally issued a $150.00 travel certificate good for one year for travel by Amtrak. The certificate is in my and my wife's name. To cash it in we will have to travel with a handicapped person to the nearest Amtrak station (about half an hour away) - both of us would need to be present - we were informed by Customer Relations

Such a service from a transportation company is fully unacceptable. We used train services in Europe very extensively - we loved it. Amtrak sucks!
     
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jonthethird on 2013-07-25:
As a frequent AMTRAK passenger, I can verify some of the complaints: especially the inability to service the cars except between runs. It should take no more than 15 min to clean the bathrooms, dump the holding tanks, and restock them. But, they fail to do so.
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StarEmpty StarEmpty StarEmpty StarEmpty Star
Bad Bad Service / He** Of A Bad Experience!!
Posted by on
Rating: 1/51
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS -- I would like to state that due 2 employees of amtrax railway service I was able to ride FREE. That's what I said FREE. I went on line to purchase a ticket to leave from Popular Bluff Missouri to Mivchigan-- mind you there is no station attendance to talk to nor receive a ticket from. The original train never made it on time mind u- 8 hrs late the train.

I board the train when it does finally arrive with luggage and a reservation number that I was given when I purchased my ticket on line. movin on down the tracks, long ride, conductor comes alone asking for tickets-tickets please he says. Never do they ask me, so I figure once I get to Chicago for a lay over and transfer to another train, everything would be taken care of then at the ststion. NOT!!!

I get there at 1 A.M. in the morning and it's time to close the station down and there's no record of me ever riding the train--so they say. I was basically was being called a lie. there's no way that just happened they told me. even with witnesses to confirm te train ride, they still say it never happened. To make a long story short I was ut out of the station after I finally got my luggage that was sat and left out by the train tracks. THANK GOD, my medicine was in my shoe bag with my name on my prescription bottle and that when my name was being announced over the loud speaker.

Here I am-- alone with heavy luggage down town Chicago, sitting in a 24 hour McDonald's, waiting for 5 A.M. so the station opens back up. THE so called women that worked that nght at the station were complete WITCHES. excuse my tongue. The one police officer on duty was more than nice- he was HUMAN. my my my//// if tat's the way business is being handled-- AMTRAX-- you people are losing an awful lot of money. I am just one person- what about all the others?? BAD BAD SRVICE--BAD BAD BUSINESS
     
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madconsumer on 2012-07-13:
I have always enjoyed my Amtrak rail service.
trmn8r on 2012-07-13:
I don't believe I understand your complaint. It sounds like maybe you didn't acually have a ticket, and it wasn't discovered until partway through the trip and they put you off the train at that point.

If that is what happened, you do need to have evidence of your ticket purchase.
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