No heat, no bathroom and no compensation for a delayed train


Craig Wisner’s case is one of the most difficult in the business: a “He-said/she-said.” Wisner claims the trip went one way; Amtrak begs to differ. And we’re caught in the middle.

When that happens, our advocacy team is only left with one question: Is this enough compensation?

Wisner was a passenger on the Amtrak 371 from Grand Rapids, Mich., to Chicago — a 4 hour, 11 minute-journey on Jan. 28. But the train wasn’t up to Amtrak standards.

“There were no working bathrooms, heat nor electricity on the train, which is completely unacceptable,” his daughter, Jennifer Wisner, said in an email. “Given the inconveniences caused by this situation and experienced by my father, I’m requesting a full refund for the cost of the ticket, $54.”

What’s more, the train was delayed by about an hour. After complaining, Wisner says her father received “zero” compensation.

Sounded like a nightmare train ride, so I turned to Amtrak for its side of the story. Did it really run the 371 with no heat, no bathrooms, no electricity, an hour late, and brush off a customer with no compensation?

Actually, no.

Here’s what Amtrak said:

Checking the record, we issued a voucher for $25 with an apology because electricity (and therefore lavatory availability and heat) was intermittent between Holland, Mich., and Chicago.

As information, undiscounted adult fares range from $32 to $53 each way. That day’s train arrived in Chicago 37 minutes behind schedule.

OK, that’s a different story. “Intermittent” is not the same as “none” and $25, while it may seem like “zero” compensation, is still almost 50 percent, even if it is funny money.

I reread the correspondence between the Wisners and Amtrak. I have no doubt that they had a less-than-ideal trip and that they felt Amtrak’s response was inadequate. But it did respond:

Thank you for your recent email contact.

Amtrak welcomes feedback from customers, as it helps us to focus our efforts to improve service. We hope that you will accept our sincere apologies for the lack of adequate service during your recent travel. We have entered your concerns into our customer database. You can rest assured that information has been shared with the responsible managers for review and any necessary corrective action.

As a token of our regret for your disappointment, our department has issued you an Electronic Transportation Voucher in the amount of $25.00. The Certificate is being held on file for you until February 17, 2017. The certificates are non-transferrable and may only be used toward the fares of those named on the certificate.

You may redeem your certificate through calling Amtrak reservations at 1-800-872-7245 or through the online process.

Once again, thank you for contacting us. We look forward to serving your travel needs in the future.

This may have seemed like an insensitive response. I don’t know because I wasn’t on the Amtrak 371 on Jan. 28. It might have been unbearable. By “compensation,” the Wisners may have meant a refund, plus something extra for the trouble. I get that.

The only question left to answer is: Did Amtrak do enough?

On one level, yes. It moved Wisner from Grand Rapids to Chicago, as promised. But while it fulfilled its terms of transportation — the legal agreement between passengers and the carrier — did it meet its customer service obligations? That’s debatable.

Then again, are the Wisners expecting too much for a $54 ticket? Some of your reading this will undoubtedly say, “Well, what did he expect — it’s basic transportation.” And that’s a fair point.

So which is it? Did Amtrak do enough for this passenger or did the customer expect too much? I’m actually torn on this one. I believe we have a final offer from Amtrak, but that doesn’t mean we’re done talking about it.

Did Amtrak offer Craig Wisner enough compensation?

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