Does ScotRail really need three months to issue a refund? Robin Wynings and her husband wanted to know. They were disappointed from the moment they arrived at the train station to begin their journey. That’s when they learned that they’d been downgraded on ScotRail from first class to regular service. But although ScotRail promised a refund for their downgrade, the railway repeatedly derailed the Wynings’ attempts to collect that refund.
Downgraded on ScotRail with a switched train
While traveling in Scotland, the Wynings treated themselves to two first class tickets on ScotRail from Edinburgh to Stonehaven. This was an unusual outlay for the Wynings, who don’t normally travel in first class.
They arrived at the Edinburgh Waverly Station to board the train. But ScotRail had switched the train for another that did not have a first class section. A railway employee told them that they could seek a refund of 25 pounds ($33) for their ScotRail downgrade at Stonehaven.
But when the Wynings arrived at Stonehaven, they found that ScotRail’s computer system could not issue a refund. An employee at Stonehaven gave them a paper form to request a refund. The Wynings submitted the ScotRail refund request form before leaving Scotland.
Two weeks after the Wynings returned home, ScotRail emailed them, asking for their banking information. They supplied the requested information, which, says Wynings, contained “personal, sensitive banking information in order to send a wire refund.”
The Wynings received a form email with a reference number for their case. The email contained wording promising a response within “up to seven working days.” But the Wynings didn’t receive a ScotRail refund — or any response to their request.
Three months pass without a ScotRail refund
After a week, Wynings sent a follow-up email to the ScotRail employee to whom she had provided her banking information. The employee responded that he had requested ScotRail’s Finance Department to issue the refund. “They will do so [at] the earliest convenience,” the employee assured Wynings.
Another week passed. Wynings followed up again, but the employee reiterated that he had forwarded her ScotRail refund request to the Finance Department. Fifteen more business days elapsed. But all Wynings received from ScotRail during this period were more form emails.
Then a customer relations representative of ScotRail replied to Wynings. She claimed that ScotRail had been “dealing with higher than normal levels of correspondence.” The representative told Wynings that “[if] you have been dealing with [the] ScotRail Finance Team, then they are dealing with your process.” She asked Wynings to contact the ScotRail Finance Team.
Another customer relations representative asked Wynings to provide her banking information again. Wynings did so. But no ScotRail refund arrived for Wynings.
What not to do when you’re frustrated
Unfortunately, Wynings then sent the following message to ScotRail:
I just spent the better part of my morning badgering the ScotRail representatives on Facebook. I will continue to do so until this issue is resolved. And I will email, file complaints, chat, post, send letters and have all my Facebook friends post over and over until this issue gets resolved. … I am officially tired of apologies and excuses. What I want is a result. I am looking forward to your update as soon as possible.
Wynings was angry that three months had passed since she was downgraded on ScotRail with no refund in sight. Her frustration at this treatment is completely understandable. But this reaction nearly guaranteed ScotRail’s continuing silence. We never advise making threats when trying to resolve a business complaint. The three P’s of consumer advocacy — patience, politeness and persistence — are nearly always your best course of action.
The National Rail Conditions of Travel offers protection to train travelers in the United Kingdom, including ScotRail passengers. It promises that “if you have a first-class Ticket … but when you travel first class
accommodation is not provided …, you may claim a refund.” The passenger must file a refund claim within 28 days of the traveling date.
The ScotRail promise guarantees an acknowledgment of a customer problem within seven days. It also promises a five-pound rail voucher as a goodwill gesture if ScotRail doesn’t reply within seven days. ScotRail must then offer that customer “a full and final response” to the complaint within 20 business days. Wynings contacted Elliott Advocacy for assistance when ScotRail failed to keep this promise.
Our advocate, Dwayne Coward, reached out to ScotRail on Wynings’ behalf. Wynings then received a check in the mail from ScotRail. The check included the downgrade refund and a goodwill gesture of an additional 20 pounds.
Wynings’ case is a reminder of the importance of the three P’s of consumer advocacy — even when they’re not working for you. Abiding by the three P’s may not produce a helpful response from a business. But not abiding by them almost guarantees that there won’t be one. We strongly advise sticking to the three P’s, no matter how frustrating it is not to receive the help you need.
What is the longest amount of time you’ve waited for a business to respond to a complaint? Did the business ever resolve the issue?