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Date: 06/28/20 15:50
WORST Amtrak Reservation Experience Today
Author: jp1822

I called reservations for a potential trip in August,

After talking to four agents, I absolutely do NOT know what to expect for my Amtrak trip that I booked, if I even do the trip. Would be nice if Amtrak came out with some clear protocol, regarding the below. I know I am in for Flexible Dining for any LD train and accept that. But one agent to the next - different information:

- Is the Superliner Lounge open on the upper level: two no's, one yes, one not sure (at least she was honest!). 
- Is the Diner open at all for just sitting and having the flexible meal at a table, rather than trying to balance it in my room: three no's, one yes. The three no's said all meals have to be taken in your room.   
- Are masks required while walking through cars, at coach seats, in bedrooms? What's policy: two - masks all the time except for bedroom space, one - it depends (wasn't really sure), one - only where masks when moving around, not while seated in coach or while in bedroom. 

It gets better:

- Agent insisted I would be on the California Zephyr while in Car 3000 on my trip from Chicago to Washington DC. I mean after the third time of trying to make sense of this (to make sure I was even booking the reservation properly), I just gave up and said to e-mail me the reservation. 

- Initial reservation "grab" pulled in Car 2730 for my trip from Chicago to Whitefish (connecting from Lake Shore Limited at Chicago). I asked if he could PLEASE find me a bedroom in car 730 or 731, the Seattle section of this train known as train 7. I have a leg injury that presently has me in a cast, and preferred to be closer to the diner rather than the far end of the train. Agent was completely lost in the conversation now. He said I was on train 27, not train 7. I "tried" explaining that train 27 and 7 are the "same train" till Spokane where they split or combine. He put me on hold and and came back to tell me the only bedrooms available were A, and B in car 2730 (for a trip I was trying to book in late August mind you!) and there was no car 730 or 731. Kept asking if he could look up inventory for train 7 for this section. He insisted there was no train 7. So I left reservation as is - room B in car 2730. 

- Before ending the conversation, I asked if he could review the reservation details with me. Typically in my experience, I would get the agent reciting - you are leaving on train #49 out of NYP station on this date, in this car number and this room number, arriving in Chicago on this date, at this time. At Chicago you would connect to train #7 for Whitefish Montana, on this car number and this room number, arriving in Whitefish at this time. Forget it - I didn't get any of that standard info. Just some random gibberish that made absolutely no sense. 

- Frankly I should have known I was in trouble from the start as when I answering when I was travelling and from where to where, all I got was - that will be $197, can I have the credit card number you'd like to book this reservation on. Presuming that was the coach (???) fare, I said that I was looking for a bedroom since this was a multi-day trip. Never asked me what type of bedroom. I had to be proactive in supplying that information. Typically the agents would ask - do you want coach or sleeper, and then bedroom, roomette, or other sleeper option. Not the typical reservation booking experience I was used to at ALL!!! I just ended the call and made sure I had the reservation e-mailed to me so I could follow-up at a later date.  

- Called back to give it another go with the Train 7 and train 27 matter. Hence second call. That person was equally confused and had no idea what I was talking about. Just wanted to swap middle section of trip from train 27 to train 7. Insisted there was no Train 7, OR for that matter a Train 8. I told him to look at my return from Whitefish as  was booked on train 8 for that journey. "Oh, well, that's an error - it's really train 28, sir." I explained that he needed to pick another routing option in the reservation system (even tried to walk them through how it used to be done in the old Arrow system). Explained how the trains split/combined etc. at Spokane. But again, totally didn't' get it, and just let it go, ending the conversation. I remained pleasant and courteous. Wasn't trying to be difficult but as an experienced rider, paying full fare, for bedrooms (the roomette cost was actually only a couple hundred dollar difference), I would like to try to be comfortable for the journey with money being paid.   

-  Third attempt at calling back - I now called the Amtrak Guest Reward department to add my guest reward number and apply the ARP discount. "Sorry we don't have a discount code for ARP." AND Amtrak never did. Very stern, and very abrupt. Said I must have been confused with an airline reservation I had booked, and I was calling Amtrak. Clearly, this conversation wasn't going too far, so I dropped that call. 

- Finally after getting home and to a computer to confirm there was bedrooms available for date I would be on train 7, I decided to go for a fourth round of a call back. First though, I asked the agent a question - how long has she been an agent with Amtrak? She said over two years and was pretty experienced. I guess she knew where this conversation may be heading.....Told her my train 27 and 7 dilemma. She fixed that and moved me to car 730. No problem. Actually, she first asked what LETTER bedroom I preferred, and then what car number I preferred, just so she could better respond when she went to look up the inventory! BINGO! She fixed the reservation - car 730, room C (fine, not A and not a long walk to get to "services" on the train - compared to 731 or 2730 in case I did still have a cast on my leg at time of journey). I asked if she was in a US call center and she said YES. Told her about the CA Zephyr item with car 3000. She confirmed I was on Capitol Limited's Car 3000 - and even reviewed the complete reservation with me as was the norm I had been accustomed to. So I gave her the last challenge of the NARP/ARP discount code....she applied it....no problem! Or she applied some 10% discount to the reservation.

Just an FYI - the last person I spoke with I reached by calling the priority number of the Guest Rewards Select Plus program.....This was a night and day experience with the reservation agents that I had in the past. It was pretty obvious that there'd been changes. Yes, I know Amtrak has outsourced its "call center" - but I guess there was no training provided. And I find it interesting that on the last try I finally got an experienced agent.   

If my trip comes to be in August, and I feel comfortable to travel, I will give it a go. If things get more challenging or COVID-19 has resurgence, affecting a trip to Montana or train travel in general, I will simply cancel and go another time. Not my first time in this rodeo for a trip to Montana and the Glacier National Park area. Would like to get some R&R in before the Fall. My friends in Whitefish tell me things are "pretty normal" out there and they haven't been too affected. Nonetheless, you never know. I am hearing that others may look for more remote and secluded locations to head to later this summer - National Parks particularly.  

I did ask at the Lodge I am staying at - do they require masks, what was general protocol, etc.? I felt the agent knew I was calling from the East Coast. She hesitated and then said, generally, "face coverings are recommended where social distancing is not possible." They are expecting at least a 30% reduction of travel to Glacier Park areas this year and there's not many services that will be open in the Glacier National Park area (no red bus jammers, no bus tours, limited camping, etc.). East side of Glacier National Park is basically closed (may not open at all this season) and the "Going to the Sun Road" may or may not open this season.

My trip is largely to get some R&R, visit with friends in the area, and get some work projects complete that can be done remotely. The Lodge I typically stay out is open at this time, and offering full services. It's not going to be the typically vacation trip, but it's "something" for 2020.   



Date: 06/28/20 16:08
Re: WORST Amtrak Reservation Experience Today
Author: joemvcnj

You think this was one of the min-wage rookies in Florida ?

Posted from Android



Date: 06/28/20 16:13
Re: WORST Amtrak Reservation Experience Today
Author: BigSkyBlue

Don't torture yourself...HUCA.  HANG UP CALL AGAIN.  When it becomes clear that the phone rep is clueless, as was the case here, just hang up.    Then call back.  You will probably get a much better agent, as you did here.  This situation is not limited to Amtrak.  Airlline, travel agents, car rental, etc. can all be infested with a poor phone agent.   BSB



Date: 06/28/20 16:20
Re: WORST Amtrak Reservation Experience Today
Author: jp1822

joemvcnj Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> You think this was one of the min-wage rookies in
> Florida ?
>
> Posted from Android

Sure they didn't oursource beyond Florida? I hate to even say this, and I don't mean this with ANY disrespect, but two of the agents I could hardly even understand - very thick foreign accent. Again, I say that with all due respect. Experience and job training was SEVERELY lacking! 



Date: 06/28/20 17:05
Re: WORST Amtrak Reservation Experience Today
Author: masterphots

As BSB said about this can happen with phone agents everywhere.  One rule I have is if a guy answers I hang up and call again.  My years of experience with airlines,  mostly American, has shown women are far nicer to deal with and usually more knowledgable.  And with AA,  due to FF level, when I use their dedicated reservation number, there is seldom a wait of more than a minute or so and the agents are usally extremely competent.  Luckily 90% of what I need can be done on-line.



Date: 06/28/20 17:38
Re: WORST Amtrak Reservation Experience Today
Author: engineerinvirginia

I prefer to deal with actual people, but when it comes to making any kind of reservations I do it online...and phone in ONLY if I have to cancel...for in that case I might get some cancellation rule or other waived by asking politely....ya never know....I did have a non refunadable reservation in Davenport IA for a show at a theater there.....Coronavirus cancelled that affair...so I called the hotel and cancelled....I didn't get a refund, because I was never billed in the first place....for an earlier date change had moved me from non refundable to pay on arrival...so again...ya never know. 



Date: 06/28/20 17:39
Re: WORST Amtrak Reservation Experience Today
Author: dtoeppen

I second the recommendation to hang up immediately once stupidity is detected. Life is to short to deal with dumb cubemonkeys.



Date: 06/28/20 18:51
Re: WORST Amtrak Reservation Experience Today
Author: njfrn

Agreed, though this post wouldn't have been nearly as entertaining if the OP had hung up. Unbelievable what damage Anderson did to this organization in such a short time, though it helped that it was already compromised when he started. 



Date: 06/28/20 22:01
Re: WORST Amtrak Reservation Experience Today
Author: wa4umr

The last time I used a live agent was just about the time they started using the online option.  The agent I talked to was very nice and very knowledgeable.  The trip involved 3 legs for 4 people with 2 different types of discounts.  She got everything right the first time and the trip was great.   I've been able to do everything online since then.  I understand your need to talk to an agent.

The company I retired from now is about as bad.  I retired from AT&T.  If you call now, you probably won't get someone stateside.  They change centers from time to time also, so if someone in India gains a little expertise, they then contact with a company in the Philippines.  It doesn't really matter a bunch because the agents go by a script.  If you have already removed the power and powered the device back up, the only thing they know to say is "Unplug it for 10 seconds and plug it back in."  Basically, if you can read and speak something similar to English, you can do the job after learning how to navigate the computer and the scripted software.  It's a shame.  The center where I worked had 30-year employees that actually had an understanding of the circuits and how they worked.  

John



Date: 06/29/20 03:23
Re: WORST Amtrak Reservation Experience Today
Author: sums007

I forget now:  when callilng is there this:  "This call may be monitored for training and quality purposes."?



Date: 06/29/20 08:05
Re: WORST Amtrak Reservation Experience Today
Author: jp1822

sums007 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I forget now:  when callilng is there this: 
> "This call may be monitored for training and
> quality purposes."?

NO - I was looking or waiting for that on the third call back............



Date: 06/29/20 08:19
Re: WORST Amtrak Reservation Experience Today
Author: GenePoon

As mentioned in another thread: Amtrak isn't a business, it's a social welfare bureaucracy.



Date: 06/29/20 08:39
Re: WORST Amtrak Reservation Experience Today
Author: jp1822

It was a little pathetic that the first agent just gave me a price of $197 to go from NYP to Whitefish, MT. No nothing on the phone about - is it a coach seat, two night journey; there was none of the usual "intro" to give any sense of context about Amtrak train travel. I am not expecting to get an advertisement from the agent, but something would have been nice - I don't care how much they are being paid or if they are a rookie! To strike out three times before getting someone that could make sense of things - that's a new one on me (or at least never that bad).

"Thank you, you'll be on the Lake Shore Limited on overnight for the first night, change in Chicago and continue on overnight via the Empire Builder till your arrival on this date." Some pleasantry would have been nice. Amtrak Reservations was not always like this. I'm sorry. And if you are looking to build a brand and even a service - this is not how you answer the phone to book a travel reservation. Amtrak's also gotten some free hand outs of green stuff that plenty other businesses didn't get. I also understand that the call centers were recent victims of downsizing and outsourcing. Leadership manages and sets that tone though to make it successful. The airlines do better.

Not knowing current protocol in COVID-19 situations right now - totally get the sense that Amtrak's not even informing its own employees about what's going on or how to deal with things in a universal way, let alone reservations. Some plain old good business and customer service to win a passenger over could go a long way. And to the extent I could've booked the reservation myself - would have been happy too. It's just that the reservation involved booking four bedrooms on the complete round-trip journey and I am not getting stuck with Bedroom A or the sleeper that's closest to the locomotive's horn if I an avoid it. Is that what I really want for $3K+. Like so many, I work hard and long hours. I also don't mind indulging from time to time either. 



Date: 06/29/20 09:13
Re: WORST Amtrak Reservation Experience Today
Author: BoilingMan

This sounds like the Florida call center- outsourced.  The other one is in (I think) Philadelphia- still Amtrak.   I booked a trip from San Pedro to Santa Barbara last Friday.  The agent insisted the San Pedro-LA bus portion was not Amtrak's, and had to be paid for separately.  It's not- it's a Thruway Bus and the billing is seamless.   (I'm a pass rider and the whole trip should be covered by my pass)  I didn't argue, I just paid the $15.   At LA I asked the agent about it.  She sighed and said, "Florida".
SR

The point here is to acknowledge the problems with Florida, not sympathy about $15 (which was promptly returned-  don't cry for me  Argentina!)



Date: 06/29/20 10:27
Re: WORST Amtrak Reservation Experience Today
Author: Lackawanna484

Getting rid of call centers is a high priority for many companies. Put the process on the app, and let the customer do the work

Posted from Android



Date: 06/29/20 11:12
Re: WORST Amtrak Reservation Experience Today
Author: joemvcnj

Does anyone know what hours and days the Florida call center is in operation ?

Posted from Android



Date: 06/29/20 12:57
Re: WORST Amtrak Reservation Experience Today
Author: BoilingMan

Both centers should be 24/7/365.
SR



Date: 06/29/20 12:58
Re: WORST Amtrak Reservation Experience Today
Author: BoilingMan

Both centers should be 24/7/365.
SR

Posted from iPhone



Date: 06/29/20 13:46
Re: WORST Amtrak Reservation Experience Today
Author: milwrdfan

I just wish that when making sleeper accommodations online, that there would be an "expert" mode that would allow the selection of specific rooms, rather than just a random assignment.  One can select specific seats online for an airplane reservation, so why not be able to select specific sleeper accommodations as well?  I recently ordered tickets for a 2-train trip with roomettes on both segments, but once I placed the reservation I needed to then call "Julie" to get one of the room assignments changed for personal reasons.  I've never ridden in a lower-level roomette, and wanted to try it out to see how it was for noise and riding comfort compared to the typical upper level roomette/bedroom I usually reserve.   But I do have to say that the agent I talked with did know what to do with my request, and handled it promptly and courteously with a minimum of fuss.



Date: 06/29/20 14:33
Re: WORST Amtrak Reservation Experience Today
Author: alan2955

I think that’s extremely insulting to the many people who work at Amtrak that try to do a good job in spite of ignorant management, and some deadbeat union workers too. The pay isn’t that great for a job that requires you to be away from home for days on end. But the incompetence there is indeed widespread and deep. Most of it is rooted in poor management. The call-center issues he is describing are the result of management trying to pinch some pennies with no regard for the end result. You could say the same thing about GM Putting out awful cars in the 70s and 80s to the point they trashed their reputation and ran the company bankrupt. Amtrak is not unique in these antics.

Posted from iPhone



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