This Greyhound delay left her stranded and she wants a refund

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By Christopher Elliott

After Vivian Pisano experiences a 10-hour Greyhound delay, the motorcoach operator leaves her waiting for a refund. It’s been weeks since her bus trip to nowhere. Maybe it’s time to call a consumer advocate.

Question

I boarded a Greyhound bus from Arcata, Calif., to Oakland, at 9:30 a.m. A few miles down the road, the bus broke down on Highway 101. The driver pulled over to the shoulder. She announced that the radiator had lost water, and contacted her supervisor. That person said help was on the way.

After over an hour, our driver said the company was bringing a replacement bus from San Francisco. Another bus was in Arcata, but no driver was available. Greyhound offered no other options.

In order to be out of harm’s way, the driver was able to pull into the small town of Myers Flat. The passengers were in need of food and water for the long wait. About 1 p.m. the driver announced that the bus from San Francisco — five to six hours away — had left at 12 p.m. This meant that we would not reach Oakland until after midnight.

I had no other choice but to take a local bus back to Arcata, secure a hotel for the night and schedule my return for the next day. This was a very unfortunate and inconvenient experience for me (and for the other passengers). As a result, I had the unanticipated expenses of an overnight stay plus transportation costs the next day.

I wrote a letter to Greyhound asking for a refund, and followed up a month later. I have not received any response. I would like to have the $58 I paid for my ticket refunded, plus the price of staying overnight in Arcata, $108. — Vivian Pisano, Berkeley, Calif.

Answer

Greyhound should have sent a replacement bus for you and the other passengers promptly. Making you wait 10 hours isn’t reasonable. I would have also made my own arrangements for a hotel after this Greyhound bus delay and found another way to get to Oakland, which you did.

Greyhound’s Terms and Conditions of Purchase & Carriage, the legal agreement between you and the company, says that it is not responsible for keeping its schedules. “Carrier is not responsible for delays caused by breakdowns, road conditions, weather or other conditions beyond carrier’s reasonable control,” it says. But, it adds, Greyhound will make “reasonable attempts” to minimize the delays or make alternate arrangements to enable bus travel to your final destination.

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Was this Greyhound delay preventable?

What’s interesting about this clause is that Greyhound is explicitly saying that it isn’t responsible for failing to maintain its buses. In other words, the radiator problem you experienced was preventable by Greyhound, but the company says it isn’t liable. In other sectors of the travel industry, that wouldn’t fly. Airlines, for example, compensate passengers when there’s a mechanical delay. (Related: Is Greyhound leaving passengers out in the cold?)

At a minimum, Greyhound should have quickly refunded your ticket. But I also think you might have asked about a hotel. Its contract promises to make “alternate arrangements” which may include covering your hotel for a night.

I list the names, numbers and email addresses of the Greyhound executives on my consumer advocacy site. A brief, polite email to one of them might have at least gotten you a refund for this Greyhound bus delay. (Here’s our guide to resolving your consumer problem.)

My advocacy team and I contacted Greyhound on your behalf. It agreed to refund your ticket and cover your hotel costs.

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter.

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