CHICAGO, ILLINOIS -- Last summer my wife and I rode the Amtrak "California Zephyr" from Chicago to Glenwood Springs, CO. We purchased round trip tickets for a Sleeping Car Bedroom at 1-800-USA-RAIL using a credit card. We had no problems buying the space and our boarding passes were waiting for us at Chicago Union Station. We asked for a room on the 2nd floor in one of 3 Sleeping Cars on the CZ, and that's exactly what we got. Meals in the formal Dining Car were included and the food was great.
We arrived at Glenwood Springs a bit late, we had already ordered lunch. We were shocked when, after we got off the train, our waitress ran out of the Dining Car with our hot lunches and cold drinks, forks, knives, etc., etc. We ate at a picnic table under a big tree at the beautifully restored depot. Our rental car arrived at the Depot and we had a great 4 days in the beautiful town, nestled in the mountains by a creek dotted with rafts and canoes.
Our return trip came all too soon, but the ride back was great, not a hassle, but a fun part of our vacation. The crew in our Sleeping Car and Dining Car were all friendly and helpful! We arrived back in Chicago "on time" (well 8 or 10 minutes early to be exact). We're planning a trip to L.A. this winter, on the Southwest Chief, in another sleeper. Hopefully we'll see some snow...even if it delays us a bit.
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 your 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.
Once 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 ** 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.
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 somehow 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.
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. Read the story: 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 whose name is ** 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 embarrassed in front of the other passengers, since ** 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 ** removed us from. When I asked ** 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 ** 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. ** 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 ** 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 suitcases. 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 gone when we got to our destination. Amtrak has no consideration for its 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 bundled 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 **. Again the air was turned way up and it was freezing at night.
Earlier in the day an elderly man asked ** if he could turn the air down since it was cold on the car, ** was almost rude to him and told him that he couldn't and wouldn't turn it down. That evening I asked ** to turn down the air, it was too cold to try to sleep, again grown men were bundled in blankets wearing hoodies. ** 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 ** 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.
ST. PAUL, MINNESOTA -- The Empire Builder experience? The conductor took my suitcase. When I detrained (delightful word), I asked her where it was. She said it was at the baggage claim. I walked all the way to the other end of Union Depot and waited for my suitcase, which never showed up. The man at the baggage claim said he never got it and I better run back because it's still on the train. Why he couldn't radio anyone to make sure the train didn't leave without my suitcase I have no idea. I ran back. The guys at the gate needed to be explained to. They let me go handle the situation myself. The conductor in question didn't even recognize me when I told her what happened.
We slowly tracked down the bag she had taken from me, hidden from me, and sent me on a wild goose chase after. When I asked her for an explanation, she threw me off the train. I've always preferred to travel slowly, by train, at least twice a year. Now, never again. You've alienated me forever, Amtrak. Goodbye.
HOUSTON, TEXAS -- My wife and I have taken the trip from Houston to New Orleans and back for a long weekend every year for the past 6 or 7 years. It is a relaxing (usually, if no loud kids) trip and we always enjoyed it. One of the big benefits was the free, ample parking at the Houston Station.
Well, needless to say, that has all changed. Now only 5 long term parking spaces at the station, otherwise you are on your own now. Why this change? Apparently, we don't have top security clearance to get an answer. Sadly, this will be our last trip on Amtrak. Over the past 6 years, we, too, have noticed a decrease in attentiveness and service (on top of the parking issue). Also, Amtrak's inability to reestablish service on the Sunset Ltd. to Orlando has been very disappointing.
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 I'd 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 15 min 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 ** 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 hang up 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 ** and **, at the time I was issued these vouchers (** and **).
I was not told that I had to use them w/in 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/in a year to extend the credit for another year. The other reservations could not be found apparently (** 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 (**) 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 and R would not help, could not find the reservation. She did not know why I was never given credit for ** 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.
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 own 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.
I paid for a trip for my parents to come visit me in California. Although, the actual trip was good, it was not the trip that they had problems with. When I went to the LA Station to see them off, I immediately went to the Concierge to find out about getting my parents wheel chairs and they said they did not have any but for them to sit in the assisted waiting area. We were the first ones there, we sat down and waited. As we waited I had spoken to several Red Caps trying to find out when their train was going to be there considering it was so loud we could barely hear the announcer.
Everyone that I spoke to said not to worry we will come get your parents when it is time for them to board. Every time I saw them come over on the Tram I stopped them and asked them if it were time for them to board. Every time I asked they replied not yet but we will come and get them when it was time. When the time finally came no one came to get them I just kept asking until the redcap told me it was their train. Everyone started loading on the trams people that were not ever in assisted waiting were loading on. These trams were for people whom could not walk all the way down on their own.
I watched many people get on that were not even waiting they just walked up and got on. When I finally started walking up to the tram to help my parents get on they shooed us back in a line. At that point I was really upset. My parents' carry-on luggage was in the line where they were standing my mom stepped back away from her briefcase and one of the assisted helpers bent over picked up the bag and tossed it approx 5 ft to the tram. It had a (brand new laptop in it that I gave them for Christmas in it) I placed a claim against the gentleman that threw it on the tram and that was 01/04/09 it is now 06/26/09 and I am still battling with the Customer Relations.
(**) she has been adamant about me sending my original claim and repair estimate to her. The original was sent to the LA Station as I was instructed. I keep telling her I do not have the original. Then they told they needed me to have the laptop repaired and send them the receipt.
Once again I did this and yet they are still telling the documents are not sufficient for the claim. I can't believe that I am having so much trouble over $350.00 dollars. That was the total amount to have the laptop repaired. Not only that they are trying to tell me that it was our fault because this should have not been carry on. I'm curious why they advertise they have internet connection if you can't bring your laptop on the train. Please give me any suggestions of whom I can contact at Amtrak. **.