Friday, January 21, 2005

Customer Service, German Style

When last we looked, our hero had discovered that he had been charged a whopping $400 for a round-trip ticket to Paris, despite having a 25% discount card and a further discount for international travel originating in Germany. Shocked, he wrote a letter to Deutsche Bahn's customer service division, who then suggested he copy the tickets and mail the copies to them for inspection. This he did.

Well, the reply came today, and it's not pretty.

"Based on our conditions of sale our employees compile the needed documents most carefully and our customers are obligated to prove the bought tickets accuracy," it says, setting up the classic "customer is always wrong" defense. "In case there has been a mistake it can be corrected immediately. No complaint can be accepted later." Can you believe that? But it gets better.

After informing me that I can go stand on line again and cash the German end of the tickets in (the others are non-refundable), it continues:

"Because Sparpreis tickets are only possible for the same return route, you have gotten Normalpreis tickets by using the route to Brussels and further with Thalys to Paris Nord. The return will be from Köln to Berlin with Deutsche Bahn. Thalys and Deutsche Bahn tarifs are separate and not always available at the same time. That is why our cleark has offered you that ticket for your requested travel."

Of course, the "cleark" could have pointed this out to me, but she didn't. She's a drone, and expected to behave like a drone. Note that this was presented as being completely my choice, although I was never presented with enough information to alter my decision. The customer is, as always, wrong.

There's a nice kicker, too: "We would be pleased if you would continue to prefer the ecologically friendly travelling by train and wish you pleasant trips on board of our trains." Play on guilt! That always works!

Well, I'm an ecologically and otherwise friendly guy, but I've just been screwed. Next time I have to go to Paris, EasyJet gets my business.

They also never addressed another issue: I fake-booked a ticket on this same route on the website and got as far as where I'd push the button to pay for it. No price was ever mentioned, yet they asked me to okay it so they could mail me the tickets. I asked them what customer in their right mind would buy something for which no price was quoted. They ignored that question.

If you think this is fun, you ought to try to reason with Deutsche Telekom some time.

Meanwhile, beware of doing business with Deutsche Bahn.

1 comment:

Ed Ward said...

Hey, down there it's worse than just the Inquisition: this is Languedoc, where they wiped out the Cathar heretics!

But again, not my history...