The London Tube System says that the Customer Is NOT Always Right

I’m writing about it even after four months since the situation occurred because it really bothers me. My fiance and I stayed in Hounslow during our two-week holiday in London. It’s a working class environment and is not particularly pretty but we chose it because (1) the hotel is very clean, has great service and is affordable, (2) it’s 10 minutes away from Heathrow, (3) the hotel is close to a local commercial street with a lot of shops for anything we might need when not sightseeing, and, most importantly for Chris, (4) the hotel is two short blocks away from the nearest tube station. Chris, having Multiple Sclerosis and needing a cane sometimes, doesn’t need to get tired even before we start our daily trips so the proximity of the station to the hotel is a big relief to the both of us.

The whole vacation was almost perfect. Almost because one incident caused me to blow my top in the Hounslow Central Tube station which I found mildly embarrassing but was very amusing for Chris.

(from Transport for London)

To get around London, it’s important to have an Oyster card. One can load it in machines in the station and use it for trains, the tube, and buses. Just touching it on the scanner whenever one enters and leaves is so convenient. I got both of our Oyster cards from Heathrow 5 while I was waiting for Chris to arrive from Philadelphia. The initial price is 20 pounds each. The card had 17 pounds of credit which means the card itself costs 3 pounds.  For the first week, I didn’t have a problem with my card but Chris did. Every other time he tried to use it, it would have an error or fail to register. It was as if there was something wrong with the card itself. Normally, it shouldn’t be a big deal even if we occasionally had to wait for someone to assist us. Getting his card off his wallet from his pocket and balancing himself while managing to hold on to the cane and all his stuff AND doing all of this in 3 seconds because of the long line of commuters behind him was a struggle for Chris and having to repeatedly encounter errors was frustrating. So I told him that, perhaps, we can ask for help and they can replace the defunct card and transfer his credit to the new card. Easy as pie, right? WRONG.

When the guy in Hounslow tested it once, sure enough, he didn’t encounter an error. I informed him that it wasn’t always the case and half the time, Chris would be inconvenienced with it. So I requested a change of card since, thinking that we actually bought the Oyster card just a week ago, there wouldn’t be a problem with replacing it with a new one. He told me that he couldn’t do that. We started arguing, softly at first until we both got annoyed with each other. I asked him why he won’t help us because I’m telling him that something is wrong and I’m not complaining just for kicks when I could’ve spent the holiday minutes doing something else. I mentioned that the customer is always right. You know what he said? “That’s not true.”

M#therf#cker!!! I couldn’t believe it! It’s not as if Chris and I are the types who are fond of griping and complaining. It took a week of tolerating the problem before we decided to say something about it and even then, we went through the right channels by going straight to the station. I saw red and instantly gave him a brief lecture on Customer Service. It’s just his luck that I used to work for Dell Sales and I’m currently working in a reputable hospital. In spite of it, I still pleaded with him to assist us and requested to have the card changed. Heck, I wouldn’t have minded paying a fee! He wouldn’t budge. I think this was when I forgot being Asian-polite, grabbed Chris’ cane, waved it in the air and accused the station attendant of being discriminatory to disabled people. Chris grabbed me and took me away from the booth. I was fine leaving at that note since I knew that nothing would have persuaded the guy.

By the time we were on the train, we were both laughing hard. Chris couldn’t believe I played the disabled card since he, the disabled one, doesn’t even mention it! He was so amused that his always-polite, always-civil fiancee picked a fight in public and threatened a man with a heavy wooden cane. I reasoned that I’ve never seen in-your-face horrible customer service in my life.

  1. First, the guy refused to help us with the problem. The solution was so simple and we were willing to pay 3 pounds (the price of a card) if they asked us for it.
  2. We were not screaming, incoherent customers. We went to him, told him about the problem, and politely asked for assistance.
  3. He told the customer that WE WERE WRONG.

It gave me the impression that he wanted to just sit there all day, do the basic stuff he has to do for the job and not exert any effort for anything else. As a ticket attendant, he faced people everyday. Customer service is an integral part of his job. When I worked in sales, I knew that I would never get a high close rate if I sounded bored or if I was mean so I made an effort to be friendly and, most of all, helpful.

London Transport Service, is this the type of person you’d like to keep in your company? 😦


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: