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Strategic insights
Train Ticket Robbery

Written by on May 1, 2005

A friend of mine had to take the train from one place to another at 5:11am. I bought a ticket the night before because mornings are not a particular good time of day to be thinking - at least for some.

Now the problems started. The ticket I got had a departure date stamp (remember, it was the night before). Worried by this, I asked the employee if it could be used the next morning.

She answered:
- "No, you have to buy a ticket the same day as you are leaving - or before 4:00am" (that is before the first train that day).

Feeling a bit upset I asked:
- "Okay, could I get a refund, so I can buy another tomorrow morning?"

She answered:
- "No"

- "WHAT!!!"

She said:
- "You can try the daily ticket office (they open 3 hours after the train leave), but I do not think that would help either".

I said something about kicking the ticket machine to obliteration, and left.

Morning horrors

The next morning (at 5:00am) I bought a second train ticket for my friend, semi-confident that the staff at the daily ticket office would make more sense.

4 hours later I was back at the train station to get my refund (for the first ticket). I explained the full story and they answered...
- "No"

- "No?"

Ticket woman:
- "We do not refund tickets"

Me (in a short burst of HCI):
- "Might it not be a good idea then, to tell people that before they buy a ticket - and for how long the ticket is valid?"

Ticket woman - pointing at a printed note taped to a wall inside the daily ticket office (next to a bunch of similar looking notes):
- "Read the sign"

Me (still in HCI mood):
- "But, how should I be able to read that, when the office is closed during the night - and 25 meters (82 feet) from where I bought the ticket - Trough a locked door?"

The ticket woman looked at me with an expression on face that I could only interpret as "We got you, sucker".

Pointless effort

3 trips to the train station, 2 tickets (DKK 281 / $48 each) and a lot of pointless discussion is what it took to get my friend on the train.

All because I did not know anything about departure restrictions, and that I did not possess superpowers so that I could have looked inside the daily ticket office. Not to mention not having Sherlock Holmes like abilities to actually know where to look in the first place.

The train company in question is DSB (the national train company of Denmark). And DSB just robbed my ticket, probably feeling quite happy doing so.

BTW: On DSB's website they state that they want to help people get a refund if you do not use the ticket. You can contact them the same day as the departure date. Which in my case was impossible since the normal ticket office was closed during the evening.

This is bureaucracy at its finest.

What they should have done

  1. Refunded the ticket (of course)
  2. Added the departure date on the confirmation screen, so I would not be in this situation in the first place.
  3. Allowed me to change the departure date, so I would not have wasted the trip going there.

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Thomas Baekdal

Thomas Baekdal

Founder of Baekdal, author, writer, strategic consultant, and new media advocate.


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