They Say "Go Greyhound", I Say "No Greyhound"
KINGMAN, ARIZONA -- Okay, I’ll admit it….over the course of my 50 plus years, I have made some pretty stupid decisions. My focus, or lack thereof on education in high school and college, bad career choices early on and don’t even get me started on my first two marriages. Often times, some of my bad decisions have been financially driven; you know to save a few bucks. I can’t think of any decisions more idiotic than the adventure I experienced this past weekend. The following story I am about to share, believe it or not, is completely accurate.
With only a few days notice, I needed to travel to the Salt Lake City area from Kingman in Arizona to pick up a vehicle which had been loaned to a family member. Because of my job, I travel a lot by air and knew that booking a one-way flight on such short notice was probably going to be pretty expensive, also taking into consideration the fact that my wife would have to drive me to the airport in Las Vegas to catch the flight making it a round trip drive of over 200 miles for her which certainly added to the decision process. Still, I looked into flight options and at the time, a one-way fare was much more than I wanted to spend.
I looked into Amtrak which has a stop in Kingman but the schedule, the amount of transfers and the cost wasn’t making this option very attractive. Then, I proceeded to check out Greyhound which also has a stop located here in Kingman. The bus fare, even on such short notice was reasonable. My wife told me “I really don’t like that idea, have you ever taken Greyhound before?” I said “No, how bad can it be?” Trust me when I say it is really BAD!!!!
Disregarding my wife’s warning, I went ahead and booked the ticket. The schedule indicated that I would board the bus at the stop in Kingman with a departure of 5:25pm on Friday evening and after making one transfer in Las Vegas and a few stops along the way, I would arrive at my destination in Provo, Utah at 5:55am Saturday morning. Travel through the night, get some sleep, pick up the vehicle when I arrive and make my way back to Kingman getting me home around 3:00pm that afternoon, this should work great! Wrong!
On my day of travel, Friday, June 21st, I spent some time checking out the Greyhound website, reading information for first-time travelers, the new fleet of buses equipped with power outlets at each seat, on-board Wi-Fi, and thinking this was going to work out pretty well. I looked up the address of the bus stop and did a search on Google Maps to find the location which happens to be right where two large truck stops are just a few miles from my house. I knew right where this was and assumed it was one of the truck stops as that would make sense. I did have a couple of questions though so I sent an e-mail to two different Greyhound customer service e-mail addresses that I could find, it is now Monday, June 24th and I still have yet to receive a response.
The information on the website indicates that you should be at the bus stop prepared to board one hour prior to the scheduled departure time. My brother-in-law J. D. drove me over to the address listed which turned out to be the McDonalds located between the two trucks stops…interesting!
That Friday evening, we arrived at 4:15pm, well ahead of the scheduled time. Looking all over, I found nothing that referenced Greyhound until I noticed a small Greyhound sign hanging 15 feet in the air below the golden arches. J. D. and I sat in the truck waiting for the bus to arrive; the schedule indicated that Kingman was a meal stop so I expected the bus would arrive around 5:00. Well that time had come and gone, same with 5:25, the scheduled departure time. At 5:35, I got on the phone to call customer service to first make sure I was in the right spot and second to find out where the bus was. I am positive I was connected with an outsourced call-center in the Far East. The individual on the phone was very difficult to understand and at the same time he could not understand me. Frustration was starting to build while at the same time it was almost comical thinking about what my wife had said. What I could make out from the customer service agent was that the bus was delayed due to weather and that if it does not arrive within the next hour, I will have to catch the bus that departs Kingman at 5:30am on Saturday morning.
6:30pm rolled around and still no sign of the bus so I called the customer service number again. This person could not tell me where the bus was and suggested that I call the station in Flagstaff to see if they have any information as this was the stop prior to Kingman. The agent in Flagstaff had indicated that the bus was running late and had just left there 30 minutes ago. Flagstaff is approximately 150 miles from Kingman which means the bus is not going to arrive for another two hours, meanwhile I am supposed to be making a connection in Las Vegas on a bus that is scheduled to depart at 10:00pm. I called Greyhound Customer Service again telling them that my bus was not going to arrive in time to make my connection in Las Vegas and asked that they reissue my ticket for the bus that departs Kingman on Saturday morning, I will just go home and come back to catch that one. The agent said, “I’m sorry, we can’t do that”. I then asked to speak to a supervisor and after being on hold for 15 minutes I was connected with Leif, agent number 4919 and supposedly a supervisor. I told him that because their bus was late, I was going to miss my connection and that the next bus departing Las Vegas for Salt Lake City was not until nearly 8:00am Saturday morning and asked if they were going to put me up in a room in Las Vegas to which he responded “I’m sorry, we don’t do that”. Am I supposed to stay in the bus station for eight hours? Receiving no resolution whatsoever, including a refund on the ticket, I decided to wait it out.
The agent in Flagstaff was off a bit as the bus finally arrived at 7:30pm. Turns out the Greyhound bus stop in Kingman is a gravel and asphalt parking space behind one of the truck stops and next to McDonalds dispelling that mystery. When the driver got off the bus, he announced to all of the passengers that Kingman was a meal stop that they will be there for 30 minutes. I asked the driver if there was anyway that I was going to make it to Las Vegas in time for me to make my connection that departs at 10:00pm. He apologized and said he was delayed in getting the bus in Phoenix and that it was overheating climbing the hill from Phoenix to Flagstaff causing him to be way behind schedule and that we won’t make it to Las Vegas until about 11:00pm. The bus by the way, was not one of these new buses described on the Greyhound website.
It was now 8:00pm, the meal stop was over and the driver asked everyone to get on board. As the seating is first come, first serve, I had to wait until all of the current passengers got on board before I could. The driver was actually a really nice guy and the only positive thing about this experience, I wish I had taken his name but as the level of frustration was at what I thought was its peak, I was not thinking about offering any pleasant comments. He told me before we boarded that one of the front seats was open. We got on the road a few minutes past 8:00 heading to a stop in Bullhead City, dropped off a couple of people and headed to Henderson on the outskirts of Las Vegas. The stop here appeared to be an abandoned convenience store, absolutely no lights whatsoever and as the driver described, not the best neighborhood in the world. A woman and her young child were going to get off the bus and the driver asked if their ride was here. She said that he was on his way and driver told her that he could not let her off the bus if her ride was not there. She stayed on and got off with everyone else when we reached the Las Vegas Greyhound Station, yes an actual station around 11:00pm.
It must have been an anomaly, but the bus that I was supposed to catch in Vegas for Salt Lake actually left when it was scheduled at 10:00pm. I proceeded to the ticket/customer service counter to have my ticket exchanged for the 7:55am departure. After waiting in line for 30 minutes, wow can you imagine that, other people having issues with Greyhound, I told the agent I needed my ticket exchanged for the morning bus. That will be $20. What?!?! You are going to charge me $20 because your bus was late forcing me to miss the connecting bus? We got that squared away and he issued me a ticket for the morning bus.
My wife called to let me know that she used her points with Marriott to get me a room in Las Vegas for the night. Good thing too because the Greyhound station in Vegas was absolutely disgusting and very crowded. I took a cab to the hotel and planned to be back to the bus station by 6:45am. Caught a few hours of sleep and returned to the station by my targeted time. Now I am out additional $30 for cab fare and my wife used points to get me a room when we could have used those points for a nice getaway for her and me.
Returning to the bus station, there are people camped out all over the place and the line to board my bus through door #2 was already a mile long. Knowing the buses only hold 55 passengers, it was going to be close whether or not I would even get on. The line was not organized in any fashion either and being right next to the entry for the ticket/customer service counter, I constantly had people bumping into me with their luggage. By 7:30, I was expecting we would be boarding very soon and I could hopefully get on my way. The scheduled departure time of 7:55am had come and gone and at approximately 8:15am, an announcement was made over the P. A. System that the bus to Salt Lake is now delayed by two hours only adding to my frustration level and a new topic. Why is there no e-mail or text communication from Greyhound letting ticketed passengers know of delays? Word was traveling around the bus station that Greyhound was waiting on drivers, seriously are you kidding me? The communication is lacking terribly. When a bus is getting ready to board, no P. A. announcements were made, no indications of bus 1234 is boarding through gate #4, etc.
At about 10:30am, some Greyhound employees started grabbing the checked baggage from those waiting in line. A man standing a few spots behind me and who had been there nearly as long as I had was asked for his checked bag for Salt Lake City. He said I am not going to Salt Lake City, I am going to Phoenix. The agent told him his bus departed about 15 minutes ago. Obviously he was not a happy person, again no announcements of which bus is boarding through which gate!
The two hour delay actually turned out to be closer to three hours as boarding time started close to 11:00am. When the door was finally opened to begin boarding, the already unorganized line became a made rush and people that were behind me all of a sudden were at the front of the line. When I finally reached the door, the driver was counting the tickets to see how many people he already had on board, luckily it was only 44 by that time so I was able to get on. Oh, by the way, another old bus without Wi-Fi, power outlets or leather seats. Funny, as I looked at the 20 or so buses parked at the station, probably 75% of them were the new buses touted on the website. All of which were just sitting there.
We were on the road shortly after 11:00am and based on the schedule I had printed, if we were following the time allotment, I should arrive in Provo at about 7:00pm which we did. This now forced me to stay another night and fortunately family located 30 minutes away provided a nice dinner and a couch for me to sleep on. I jumped in the car Sunday morning and was back in Kingman Sunday afternoon, a full day later than I should have.
The entire trip, I was making mental notes in my head of the complaint letter that was going to be written and since I was getting absolutely no help from Greyhound Customer Service in any of these matters, I needed to find a way to contact those at the top. Your website provides the names of the company executives in the about us section and ironically, when doing a search for CEO David Leach, one of the first things that popped up was the CNN article about Alec Baldwin being removed from an American Airlines flight in December of 2011 and his quote regarding flight attendants “have made flying a Greyhound experience”. While I can certainly understand what Alec Baldwin was trying to convey, I find it unlikely that he has ever travelled on a Greyhound bus. He has no idea how bad a Greyhound experience really is.
I also find it ironic that Greyhound CEO David Leach makes the following statements in a letter to Mr. Baldwin regarding the comment made:
"I'm the first to admit that Greyhound has had some challenges in the past, so I understand that you probably were basing your comments on that alone. But we've made so many changes in recent years to significantly improve the travel experience," Leach writes.
"My guess is you've never traveled with us, but I ask you to give us a try for a number of reasons and see for yourself that we're really a great way to travel."
Leach then touts the hundreds of new buses the company has added to its fleet as well as the extra legroom, leather seats, power outlets and free Wi-Fi.
"I think you especially would find the latter two amenities exciting, because we don't require our customers to turn off their electronic devices ... ever. You could therefore play 'Words with Friends' during your entire trip and nobody would give you any grief over it," Leach tells Baldwin in the letter.
He also reminds the actor that Greyhound carries more than 17 million travelers a year and asks Baldwin to become one of them.
"I invite you to meet with me in New York and we'll take a trip to Boston so you can see first-hand what a great ride Greyhound can be," Leach writes.
If this is the new and improved Greyhound, I can’t imagine how bad it used to be.
To Greyhound CEO David Leach and to Mr. Myron Watkins, Vice-President of Operations, I will make it my mission to tell anyone and everyone I can about my experience with Greyhound.