The Last Bus To Scroogeville

This is my second contemptuous post on corporate crassness in a week. The victim of my ire today is NationalExpress. The UK intercity coach service, who operate a near monopoly on cross country travel by bus. I bought me and Mrs P a pair of return tickets to London for just before Christmas. The 23rd and 24th to be precise. Unfortunately, I accidentally booked the wrong time for the return leg. I wanted 3pm and not 8pm. Different times have different prices, you see. But the 3pm and 8.30pm buses were the same price, and I got temporarily fixated on getting the tickets at the right price, not the right time.

Surely it’s no big deal. I mean, you just phone up and get it changed, right? There’ll be an exorbitant service fee, that’s to be expected. This is a large company. You expect to be relieved of an unreasonable amount of cash for having the cheek to inconvenience them. I also rather expected to be told that there’d not only be an exorbitant fee, but that they’d charge me the standard rate. I’d purchased what they call Funfares. And the Funfare tickets were still available on the website. But I kinda knew that they’d not simply swap my existing Funfare tickets for an alternate pair of Funfare tickets. That would be too simple.

I wasn’t, of course, disappointed. They wanted a total of £29 to change my tickets for a bus that runs five hours later. I could just go and buy a brand new pair off the website for £17.50. My gripe here isn’t so much that there’s a service fee. They have to employee someone to answer my call and change those tickets, after all. My gripe isn’t really about tickets coming with terms and conditions either. There have to be terms and conditions. My gripe is with the anti-customer mindset of these corporations. The bigger they get, the worse they get. With few exceptions*. Company policies are based not on providing excellent customer service, but on squeezing as much as possible from their customers pockets. That’s the be all and end all of it.

That’s not how it should be done. When I called up, my tickets should have simply been changed to the desired time, a small charge taken by card, and another happy customer left satisfied by their service. Why should it be done that way? Because the damn tickets are still available at the Funfare price, because it’s not a difficult thing to do, because I am a customer, because my business is valued, because they have a genuine desire to be the best at what they do and because they can do all this and still make a fair and reasonable profit.

Sadly, the way capitalism, or at least corporatism, has evolved in the 21st century, business is about getting as much money as possible for as little as possible.  The excessess of capitalism aren’t really much different, in principle to communism – the majority being kept at a subsistence level by an unelected majority, indentured to products, services and employers, and with an acceptance of mediocrity and dissatisfaction. Thus, I accept I must travel with National Express and expect mediocrity and be dissatisfied. I didn’t bother forking out the £29. Nor £17.50 for new tickets. Aational Express have left me dissatisfied, and not for the first time. I’ll do more travel by train. Who’ll be equally mediocre and unsatisfactory.

 * One of the exceptions that springs to mind is Amazon. Brilliant company. They were born with a massive bent on providing great customer service in their battle to overcome potential shoppers distrust of shopping on the web. It’s an ethos that’s stuck with them. It’s what they’re known for. It’s what has helped them be the success they are.

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