Further correspondence with National Express

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A couple of weeks ago I sat down with a bottle of wine and drafted this measured response to a run-in with a ticket inspector that same morning. A reply, apparently usually provided within five working days, does not seem to be forthcoming, which may suggest that they have not taken my concerns entirely seriously. I feel another email coming on.

Dear National Express,

I am writing to draw your attention to some small deficiencies in your ticket inspector training programme.

This morning (Friday 2nd September), I boarded the 8.48am train from Walthamstow to Chingford, tapping in on the platform before boarding. I distinctly noted that I had done so this morning because I had to ask a fat man who was texting to move slightly so that I could get to the machine.

Imagine my surprise therefore when the ticket inspector on the train scans my Oyster card then tells me I have not tapped in. I tell him that I definitely have, and that it beeped and turned green, and that if it isn’t showing up it must be a problem with the machines at Walthamstow. This is my polite way of telling him that he is mistaken. However, for this particular gent, who for purposes of ease we will refer to as ‘Mr Customer Service 2011’, politeness is evidently a bit over his head. He tells me ‘The machines are fine – you are the problem’. Quite unpleasant, I think you’ll agree.

Clearly I am not a fare evader. I am over 16, I don’t have a can of super-strength lager in my hand, and don’t try that story they always have about trying to buy a ticket but there being no-one in the office. Mr CS2011 sees none of this. This is his Wyatt Earp moment.

So we play one of those childish games where I keep repeating ‘Seriously, I definitely tapped in’, and he keeps saying ‘No you didn’t’, effectively branding me a liar.

Enter a second ticket inspector, who we shall refer to as ‘Ticket Inspector’, due to his ability to perform his job. Ticket Inspector scans my card and says to me ‘This looks fine, sorry about that’. A nice man, I think. However, Mr Customer Service 2011 immediately seizes the card back, and proceeds to have an argument with Ticket Inspector, which he loses. Sullenly, he thrusts the card back into my hand without looking at me and storms off.

The thing about doing absolutely nothing wrong is that, while mistakes do happen, it’s always nice to get an apology when they do. If, on finding my house had been burgled, I went out onto the street and brickbatted an old lady before deducing that it wasn’t her, I would say sorry. I don’t see what makes employees of National Express any different.

The more pressing issue is that this is the second time this has happened to me with the same inspector, which would suggest that he is perhaps not totally familiar with the single piece of equipment that he uses to carry out his work. I’m sure it is a complicated tool, and you can probably use it to find your nearest branch of Wagamama and scan for radiation, but if you can’t use it to tell whether someone is a fare evader or not then either the gadget or the user isn’t a great deal of use.

Seriously though, this man needs some training, or he needs a job more suited to being a moron, because every day he’s probably scamming people on your trains. I realise this makes money, but it’s not great for your reputation, as is his lack of ability to deal pleasantly with other humans.

Are these guys on commission? If not then why do they behave this way? If I wanted to pay people to insult me, I would hire a dominatrix, who I imagine would be more attractive than Mr Customer Service 2011, and better value for money than the train services provided by National Express.

Interested to hear your thoughts,

Joly Braime

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