Eurail Complaint - Eurail Pass Refunds- Strikes
I recently traveled through Western Europe with a group of my friends. All of us are college students and don't have much money to spare, so we looked in to (and ended up purchasing) Eurail Youth Passes. We ordered them well in advance and received them in plenty of time and good condition. Our travel included a mix of airline flights and train trips, so we were not going to use them until about a week into our trip.
When we went to the Barcelona, Spain main train station to have our passes validated and get seat reservations, the agent told us that the French train workers were striking and they had no idea when it would end. Absolutely every train into France was canceled, with the exception of one to Paris (we had just come from Paris and were trying to get to Nice). Fortunately, we had gone to the station the day before we planned to depart (and when our hostel reservation ended), so with some scrambling we secured a place to spend the night.
As soon as we left the train station, I got on a computer to look up what kind of accommodations Eurail made for strikes. I Googled "eurail refunds" and clicked on the first link, which took me to eurailnet.com, a website that sells Eurail passes. On the first page Google linked me to, it specifically stated that a full refund would be made for passes that went unused due to strikes. Although inconvenienced and forced to incur additional expenses, my friends and I ended up fine-- we took a ferry to our next stop. We did not use our Eurail passes at all and had them endorsed "not used" by an Italian railway official, as the Eurail website instructed.
I eventually made it home to the United States, where I promptly mailed off my unused pass to the Eurail refund processing center. I included a letter explaining what had happened, providing my phone number and requesting that the refund administrator call me if for any reason I would not be receiving a full refund, as their website said I would. Over a month later, a credit finally posted to my bank account-- but it was only for 85% of the pass price. After a significant amount of searching-- their website says that the company no longer offers customer service via telephone and only accepts requests via its website (which one of my travel companions did and despite their guarantee of a response within three days, never received a reply)-- I found a phone number where I could reach one. Over the course of four days (and a weekend; they are completely closed Saturdays and Sundays) I was passed around from agent to agent, each of whom would promise me a call back once they had a chance to research the matter and NONE-- I repeat not a single one-- EVER called me back. I spoke with four different agents (one each day, each referring me to the next after I would call them back because they never called me), the last of whom promised me a phone call from yet another agent (which also never happened) and told me that I had looked on the wrong website-- apparently, there are many different distributors of Eurail passes and even though there is only one distribution and customer service center, they would not honor the strike guarantee of the website Google pulled up (despite the fact that it listed their phone number and address as its own and is a licensed distributor of the passes).
Anyways, I know this is a long review, but here is WHAT I'VE LEARNED from my experience: unless for some reason you really have your heart set on using a Eurail pass, skip it. It is not worth the headache and frustration of dealing with them if for any reason something happens with your pass. Their employees are completely unhelpful, unresponsive, and really couldn't care less about your problem. If you must buy a Eurail pass, understand that you will be screwed if the European rail workers decide to strike-- something that the Eurail website describes as "rare" but in reality is quite common, as I was told by the Spanish railway official who informed me of the strike. Apparently, the French especially strike a lot. Their website paints a very different picture than the reality of traveling using Eurail, and if you're hoping for help from their US operations center, don't hold your breath.