BoltBus didn’t get us to New York on time — can we get a refund?

If you follow me on Twitter you probably know that I was almost run off the New Jersey Turnpike by a passenger bus last week. But today’s case is the opposite problem: a bus that never left the station.

Christina Robertson and her husband had tickets on an early morning BoltBus from Philadelphia to New York a few weeks ago. But because of a race taking place that day, the motorcoach didn’t leave until 11:30 a.m. — three hours later than scheduled.

The Robertsons decided to take the train instead, and the BoltBus driver suggested they contact his company for a refund of the $24 nonrefundable fare.

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You can probably see where this one is going, can’t you?

“When I called BoltBus, I was told our two tickets were non-refundable, she says.

Robertson emailed Jim Austin, the BoltBus customer service contact, and received a more detailed explanation, and a denial. (I’ll get to the details in a minute.) She appealed in writing and by phone, but got nowhere. She says she was particularly dismayed that Austin’s voice mail greeting, which says he will not discuss customer issues by phone.

Undeterred, she took her case to a higher lever. She explains,

Because Bolt bus is owned by Greyhound, I wrote [Greyhound CEO] David Leach a certified letter, telling him about my situation.

I explained with $24 at stake it was a matter of principle, not finances. I told him that before I wrote to [the media] I wanted to give Bolt/Greyhound Bus a chance to do the right thing.

I have had no response.

Even though I realize the delay was not their fault, I am amazed that BoltBus and Greyhound would not value us as customers and issue us a credit or refund since we paid for something they were unable to deliver.

So what’s the BoltBus position on this refund? Here’s the detailed response I mentioned before:

We apologize for the disappointment you experienced when using our service.

We are unable to guarantee arrival and departure times. We try to maintain on-time departures and arrivals as best we can, unfortunately due to various circumstances (e.g. traffic, severe weather, road closures, mechanical issues etc.) our buses can experience delays.

I’m very sorry for any inconvenience that your schedule may have caused you, however in accordance with our ticketing policies, we are unable to issue compensation for delayed schedules. You can review our policy on the terms and conditions page of our website.

Except as responsibility may be imposed by law, BoltBus will not be liable for delays caused by accidents, breakdowns, road conditions, weather and other conditions beyond its control, and does not guarantee to arrive at or depart from any point as a specific time.

I would say “case closed” — except for one thing. One of Bolt’s drivers suggested to Robertson that her fare would be refunded, even if it was not refundable. Shouldn’t an employee’s word count for something?

At the very least, shouldn’t BoltBus offer her and her husband credit for the unused tickets?

As for me, I have no problem with bus travel or with BoltBus. Motorcoaches are a far more efficient way of getting around than a passenger car. If that bus had succeeded in knocking me off the road, I might feel differently about it …