Monday, August 9, 2010

Deutsche Bahn has a lot to learn !

I was at the station waiting in queue at the Deutsche Bahn (Germany Railways) ticket counter. A Chinese guy with a huge rucksack came running and he was puffing and panting and he came to me and before he could open his mouth, I decided to save him some trouble and asked him to go ahead in the queue. He was still breathless when he got to the counter and I could hear him explain to the lady in hurried gasps that he forgot to bring the print-out of his online ticket but he had the ticket reference number and the credit card he used to book the ticket with and he asked her if she could print it for him**.

The blonde woman at the counter just looked at him with no expression and said ‘Nein. Nicht möglich’ (no, not possible) without the slightest regard for his condition (he was still panting and it looked like his train was going to leave in a few minutes). I was so annoyed at her indifference that I left the counter and decided to come back another time when a slightly more considerate person becomes available. I observed the guy then run towards the train, approach the TTR and come back with a dejected look on his face. He was still a little out of breath; I felt really bad for the guy and the least I could do was offer him some water.

He told me that he asked the TTR if it was ok to travel without the printout if he can show the ticket as a .pdf on his laptop. Apparently the TTR refused in a very German I-will-stick-to-rules-come-what-may manner. He went on to explain that the next train was only 1.5 hours later and he would have to spend at least 60 euro for a new ticket (not to mention the current one being a complete waste since he will not get any refund) and this 1.5 hour delay was going to jeopardize his onward journey. The guy woefully adds that he has been using Deutsche Bahn for 7 years now on a bi-weekly basis. For this treatment of a long-time customer, all I could do was sympathize with him and wish him luck.

For all the efficiency the Deutsche Bahn boasts of, they could make this process simple:
- by allowing people to print tickets out from the ticket machines using the reference number (by charging a small fee, they can make sure that people use it only occasionally and not all the time)
- by allowing people to show .pdf with a valid id (at the cost of a fine, if this will incur extra administrative work)
- and finally by making their employees behave with some basic human courtesy even if they are incapable of providing “friendly customer service” (customer service in general is extremely poor in Germany when compared to India or the US. To be fair, their definition of customer services is providing something for a fee and not a tad bit more).

With more and more trains failing to live up to the ‘German punctuality standards’ and with such customer service, the Deutsche Bahn is definitely not going to make more money by simply offering discounted prices.

**For those of you not familiar with the procedure, the online ticket usually has a 6 digit reference number using which you can access the ticket at anytime before your journey and you always have to have an id (the credit card or a rail pass) to go with it

Photo copyright: The collage is mine but the photo with the TTR is from google search
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