Pile them High and Sell them at Twice the Price

One last vignette from my travels. I was in Newcastle train station, attempting to buy a ticket from Carlisle to Dumfries as I only had a return half taking me as far as Carlisle. The conversation went like this

Me: Can I have a ticket from Carlisle to Dumfries please.

Dead-eyed Train Company Employee: That’ll be £9.10

Me: What? Normally it costs me £5.50

D-ETCE: It says £9.10 here

Me: Is that the off-peak rate?

D-ETCE: yep*

Me: is that a single or a return?

D-ETCE: It’s both. Single and return

Impasse while I tried to think of another way to ask the question that didn’t result in an almost doubling of the usual price. Normally I’m a bit of a pushover and hate arguing about prices but this seemed insane. Time passed and I began to wonder if I should just back down and not miss my train for the sake of less than four quid. But fortunately she blinked first.

D-ETCE: Of course, if you bought a cheap day return, that would be £5.50

I can’t even now work out if this was an example of deadpan Geordie humour or just an example of rank incompetence and/or poor IT systems (even the national rail site offers you the cheap day return even if you only ask for a single). I know the supermarkets have been getting some stick about those special offers that actually cost more than the regular price but I hadn’t realised Tesco was running the railways. At least, not yet…

*She lied, I’ve just checked on the National Rail travel site and it’s the anytime fare

8 Responses to Pile them High and Sell them at Twice the Price

  1. The Paper Boy says:

    As you’ve just discovered, it’s the difference between “Off peak” (ie. what used to be a “blue” day/train) and “Peak” (what used to be a white day/train) and “Cheap Day Return” which is something else entirely.

    D-ETCE is not paid to help the customer, rather to serve as many customers as possible and extract monies from all of them. The amount of monies extracted is not the key indicator, number of paying customers is.

  2. disgruntled says:

    Unfortunately coming up with a pricing policy that ridiculous just halves their throughput as even I had to argue with her. I thought the whole cheap day thing had gone with the simplification of rail fares. Clearly not…

  3. Andy in Germany says:

    It isn’t just the staff. A lot of times they have shoddy information and lousy computer systems. There are a number of stories told by staff (and sad people like me who like to ride trains) of staff in the UK using the German Railways website to check train times, as this gives more accurate information than the British websites.
    Which is fine a far as it goes but even the Germans can’t negotiate the British ticketing systems at long range, so they have to use their own company websites for that, hence smegups like this happening all the time.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I would like to think that some person in the company is telling them to charge the highest price, and if no one quierys it, then it is ok.
    I worked on the railway for a good few years, as a guard, and one time sold a ticket from Henley to Wigan via London, it was a first class ticket, and it cost £150 The station at Henley was closed at the time so the man could have got a saver ticket at £25 I almost begged him to buy the cheaper ticket, but he refused.
    Ps This was in 1987

  5. disgruntled says:

    I’m all for cock-up over conspiracy…

  6. ed says:

    Being threatened with arrest by the transport police by a boorish train guard because he didn’t understand the complicated ticketing rules was the last straw for me with trains.

    That was in 1991. I bought my first car and haven’t been on a train since.

  7. emma c says:

    ha ha ha. that is funny .. but strictly speaking, she didn’t lie, surely an anytime fare covers off peak and on peak. helpful it was not. I liked her ‘it’s both’ reply. that would have really thrown me!

  8. disgruntled says:

    Ed – ticket frustrations (and costs) aside, I love travelling by train, I just wish they didn’t sometimes make it so bloody complicated
    Emma – true, although that’s hardly within the spirit of the thing. I was pretty baffled at that point

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