Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Greyhound Canada cancelled my Buffalo, NY bus schedule, didn't tell me, cost me money and then refused to pay me back...

We've all had travel nightmare stories. I've been mostly lucky in my life, at least when it comes to the airline industry.

This story is small potatoes next to most airline horror stories we often hear about. But I thought I'd share it in the hopes of warning the public about Greyhound Canada, a company I used to respect but will no longer ride. This consumer complaints website about how Greyhound has screwed over other customers doesn't have a story nearly as bad as ours, so I feel compelled to share here.

My boyfriend and I booked return tickets from Toronto to the Buffalo, NY airport to catch a flight to Florida earlier this month.  We had ordered our Greyhound tickets in advance in June. On August 28th, I proceeded to the Greyhound terminal at Bay and Dundas in Toronto to pick up our tickets for the Sept 1st departure bus ride to Buffalo and the Sept 5th return ride back to Toronto.  The Greyhound employee saw our order number and printed out our tickets just fine.

The thing is - our return schedule back from the Buffalo airport to Toronto on September 5th had been cancelled. She didn't mention that to me. Greyhound had all of my contact information as I purchased the tickets online months earlier. They knew we were supposed to be on that 6:45 pm scheduled bus ride back from the U.S. to our home country. But they didn't bother to tell us. 

Fast forward to September 5th. Our flight back from Florida to Buffalo arrived back 45 minutes early so we wandered fairly tired around the bleak Buffalo airport trying to kill time.  Then after 2 hours, we went back to the bus pick-up/drop-off location just outside the Buffalo airport. The clock approached our supposed 6:45 pm pick-up. But as 6:45 pm came and went, no bus showed up. Had we been waiting in the wrong location? No. What had happened?  We had no idea.

I called the 1-800-661-TRIP phone number and got the automatic voice message system and was put on hold. Of course, this being the U.S., I had no roaming phone plan (as I hadn't used my phone for the entire trip.) I patiently waited for a human being to come on the phone to try to find out what happened to our bus ride. No Greyhound employee ever materialized.

After 10 minutes, I hung up knowing I was accruing roaming charges. I left my boyfriend by the bus stop and rushed into the airport to try to use a public phone. I found one inside but could no longer see the bus stop. There I called every Greyhound phone number I could find and couldn't get a single human being on the phone. I was on hold for almost an hour. My frustration grew into anger, which grew into despair.

By now, it was past 8 pm and I wandered back to the bus stop to rejoin my boyfriend. He then ran off to go to the bathroom inside the airport and try out the Greyhound website on his iPad as my iPhone internet connection wasn't able to get any schedule information from the Greyhound site. So I waited at the bus stop wondering what we would do. Would we have to pay for a flight home to Toronto? Would we have to get a hotel room and somehow figure out how to get home the next day?  We were exhausted and we just wanted to get home.  It was quite unpleasant considering we weren't even in our own country.

Finally my boyfriend returned to say he learned that Greyhound seemed to have 8:45 pm bus rides back from the Buffalo airport to Toronto the next night and all nights that week. Perhaps there would be one that night as well (although that day's schedules were gone from the Greyhound site.) Finally close to 8:45 pm, another Greyhound bus showed up. I explained the situation to the American driver who apologized and agreed to take us on the bus to the Buffalo station even though we had 6:45 pm tickets.

At the Buffalo bus terminal, the driver confirmed that Greyhound had cancelled our 6:45 pm schedule, but had not told us. I was extremely angry.

Then the farce got worse. We had to transfer buses at the Buffalo terminal, and then wait almost another hour for a late Canadian Greyhound driver to show up. The terminal refused to shut the luggage section on the side of the bus, leaving it open for anyone to gawk at.  I demanded they shut it, but the terminal staffer said it was the Greyhound driver's responsibility to shut it.  I kept a watchful eye on it, frequently hopping off the bus to make sure no thieves came along to steal our luggage. Finally, the unapologetic driver showed up without an explanation and took us across the border. Then a thunder storm hit Ontario, making the ride even more distressful.

By the time we got back to Toronto at 12:45 am, I was livid. I marched into the Toronto bus terminal and gave the Greyhound employee behind the counter a piece of my mind. He seemed more concerned with shutting me up than apologizing. I asked how Greyhound could cancel our schedule, leave us stranded in Buffalo and not inform us even though they had my contact information. He wouldn't answer. I asked if he cared how it felt to be on hold for over an hour, incurring roaming charges, to never reach a human being while stranded and worried. No explanation. In sad, but true private sector form, he just offered us a reimbursement for our ride from hell. I asked what about the extra roaming phone charges I incurred. He told me I'd have to take that up with upper management. I did.

After some emailing, Greyhound Canada's Vanessa Noriega informed me that:  

"Greyhound is not liable for additional expenses. Unfortunately, we will not be able to honor your request...We hope you will not let this incident deter you from using our services and will give us another opportunity in the near future to prove we can be the most reliable and economical form of transportation to meet your needs."

To which I replied:

"You are able to honour my request but you won't. I will not be using your services again as I am afraid after I buy a ticket, you're going to cancel the schedule and not inform me, and put me through hell because of it, and when I incur expenses to try to find out what's happened, you won't reimburse me. I will be blogging about this outrage and doing my best to spread the message far and wide and make sure Greyhound loses business because of this. I'm sure in the end you will lose much more than $28.01 CDN. Foolish, stupid private company!"

Dear loyal readers, if you have any admiration or respect for me, or if you simply value good customer service and want to send a message to a company that doesn't, if at all possible, please boycott Greyhound Canada. I'll be doing so from now on.

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