How did this traveler miss the Megabus?

When Callie Hogan somehow misses her scheduled Megabus to Minneapolis, her mother goes on a crusade to get her a refund. But are mom’s efforts helping or hindering this case? And how did she miss the Megabus in the first place? 

How did she miss the Megabus?Question:

I purchased a one-way Megabus ticket from Milwaukee to Minneapolis. I was at the station 25 minutes early. When the bus didn’t show up on time, I placed a call to the Megabus customer service station. The representative told me that the bus was running late. Thirty minutes later there was still no bus. So I called back. Another employee said that the bus had departed the pick-up stop on time. I saw several buses, but none were the Megabus.

When I asked him for a plausible explanation of how someone could miss the royal blue and yellow bus, the representative replied that the Megabus no longer supported that route. Apparently, Megabus subcontracts to another company.  When I further pressed him how is an individual supposed to know this, he stated that the information appears on the ticket. Lastly, he told me that the bus would have Megabus signage.

At the very least I am requesting a full refund of my original ticket, the Uber that I had to take to the Greyhound bus station and my replacement Greyhound ticket. Callie Hogan, Minneapolis, Minn.

Answer:

When a customer buys a ticket with a company that is known for its distinct dark blue, double-decker vehicles, it’s reasonable that they will expect that type of bus to appear.

You were waiting for that big blue bus to show up, but it never did.

Later you found out why. Megabus does not directly serve that route. Your bus that day was white. But since no one had informed you of this, it came and went right in front of your eyes.

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This miscommunication caused you to miss the Megabus.

Mom’s advocacy efforts backfire

When I reviewed your paperwork, I was surprised to see that you never contacted Megabus directly about your problem.

Someone else did: your mom.

Unfortunately, your mom’s approach was all wrong even if she was the passenger — which she wasn’t. She wrote many emails to Megabus complaining that you should be refunded, reimbursed for the Greyhound ticket and your Uber ride.

She also made threats that “legal counsel” instructed her to contact the Better Business Bureau to report Megabus for their poor customer service.

In the end, her battle with Megabus went nowhere.

It is likely that Megabus did not make an effort to assist your mom because she was not the passenger. You, as the adult passenger, are its customer. Megabus has no obligation to respond to your mom.

Why first-hand accounts are necessary

Except in rare situations, we also do not advocate with parents for their adult children.

The reason being, that the moms (and sometimes the dads) who contact us often do not have an accurate accounting of all of the facts of their offspring’s case.

This incomplete information makes the problem particularly difficult to advocate. It’s a lot like playing the game “telephone” — with information becoming less and less reliable each time it is shared.

However, when you sent this request for help, you signed the name Callie Hogan. So, despite my hunch that I was actually speaking to mom, I decided to advocate your case.

I will get to the source of my suspicion in a moment.

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I  believed that you were due a refund of your original ticket because of the miscommunication that caused you to miss the Megabus. But I didn’t think that Megabus should also pay for your Greyhound ticket.

But you told me that you thought Megabus should pay for both tickets because of your inconvenience.  I could not get onboard with that request. There is no reason that you should get a free trip to Minneapolis simply because you missed your bus — regardless of who was at fault.

And as we have pointed out many times, when you throw in an unreasonable compensation request to an otherwise reasonable complaint, you hurt your chances of getting a favorable resolution.

With that in mind, I contacted Megabus on your behalf and left out your request for double reimbursement.

How did you miss the Megabus?

Our executive contact quickly responded with some clarification.

Megabus did subcontract your bus that day, but that bus had a placard that identified it as a Megabus. This bus stopped at the Megabus stop and was operating on schedule. 11 Megabus customers were scheduled to be picked up at your stop.

Ten out of 11 Megabus customers were able to recognize this bus as the scheduled Megabus.

Only one customer — you — was unable to identify this bus as the Megabus.

Lastly, our contact pointed out that there is no record of any calls to Megabus from you on that day. The first written complaint came one week after this bus fiasco, and it was from your mom, Susie.

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For all of these reasons, Megabus does not believe that it failed you as a customer. But, as a gesture of goodwill, it will provide you a voucher for the full amount of your ticket.

A fair resolution from Megabus

Based on the paper trail of this case and my conversations with our executive at Megabus, I think it is a fair resolution.

It is unclear why you missed the Megabus. And what is also unclear is who has been contacting me for help — Susie or Callie.

When I compare the email address that your mom used to communicate with Megabus in her many emails and the email address that you have been using with me — I can see that they are the same.

When a parent, with good intentions, tries to help an adult child to advocate a problem that they should be able to self-advocate, it almost always backfires. Most companies won’t even engage with a parent of a customer — with good reason. First-hand accounts are critical in resolving a problem.

Problems relayed through a third party are often unreliable, especially when that third party is a protective parent of an adult child.

So parents, remember, let your children handle their own battles. If the battle isn’t important enough for your busy child to make time for, take your cue from them and just “let it go.”


Michelle Couch-Friedman

Michelle is the executive director of Elliott.org. She is a consumer advocate, writer and licensed clinical social worker who spends as much time as possible exploring the world with her family. Contact her at Michelle Friedman Read more of Michelle's articles here.

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