Have we been neglecting the lower 99 percent?
When we read Arthur Walker’s letter to the editor, a regular feature of our daily newsletter, it gave us pause.
Many requests for our help come from people with money to spend on premium airline seats, cruise ship vacations, resort stays and other “luxury” items.
Who, Walker asked, will stand up for the “truly disadvantaged”? “Will you give the space to the forgotten lower class?”
He reminded us of a Greyhound case from 2013 in which Ankur Singh and ten other passengers were ordered to leave their bus by the driver at Greyhound’s terminal in Des Moines, Iowa, at 4 a.m., one hour prior to opening time. They were forced to wait outdoors, in a January predawn with a temperature of minus 17 degrees, for the terminal to open. And the driver was completely indifferent to their plight.
Singh started a petition on Change.org, a site that promotes grass-roots causes. He received over 90,000 endorsements and the following action from Greyhound, according to Singh:
Mar 27, 2013 –I am excited to share that Greyhound Bus Lines has ensured that all Greyhound terminal and agency hours correspond with bus arrivals and departures, worked with partner carriers to change station hours to fit arrival and departure times, and updated website information about drop-off and pick-up. I’m incredibly excited that Greyhound responded swiftly and thoroughly to my requests and took steps to ensure what happened to me would not happen to their other customers.
Where were we when that happened? Actually, we were one of the few media outlets that reported it.
Walker says that Greyhound’s customer service is backsliding:
Now Greyhound quotes a fare and adds a “fee” of $2.50 to each ticket.
And what’s the service? Nothing. It’s just a hoax to make the fare look lower.
Admittedly the phone information officer does disclose the $2.50, but why have it? To be clear here, I’m talking about a ticket purchased at the station, not online or even will-call — and no reservation.
I think that your readers should be aware of really serious problems that occur to U.S. citizens that don’t have good money for travel.
Greyhound’s terms and conditions of purchase and carriage do not specifically address the extra $2.50 “service” fees. These fees only appear after customers confirm bookings and are ready to make payments.
We agree with Walker about the need for more transparency in Greyhound’s disclosures of its fees.
But Walker makes a good point beyond that: Not everyone can afford to fly, let alone sit in business class. Bus passengers and travelers in the last rows of coach sections deserve our attention too.
And we feel their pain. Although our case files teem with stories of “little guys” with missing refunds, lost luggage and denied insurance claims, we’ve had success stories too. This year, we brought you the following stories of cases that we advocated successfully:
- Can I get a refund for an Airbnb rental in a ‘bad’ neighborhood?
- There’s no smoke in my hotel room, so what’s this $250 charge?
- The technicians damaged my wall, but now they won’t pay for repairs
- I owe Comcast nothing, so why is it trying to collect $537?
If anything, successfully resolving a case in favor of a person of modest means against a business that provided inadequate customer service gives us the most satisfaction that we receive as consumer advocates — and failing to do so causes us the most disappointment and frustration.
So, Arthur, we hear you when it comes to advocating for consumers with shallower pockets. We believe everyone deserves fair and reasonable treatment from businesses, regardless of how much money they have.
Greyhound passengers deserve as much attention and respect as AAdvantage Executive Platinum members do on American Airlines. We’re dedicated to making sure that everyone counts.
Thanks for the reminder.