Changing GNER Advance Single tickets that were purchased on-line

Email sent to GNER Customer Relations Department on 29 Oct.

To whom it may concern:-

I’ve been travelling from Durham to London & back every week on GNER trains for over two years. For most of my journeys I book 1st Advance Single tickets on the GNER website. I spend in the order of £400 per month on these tickets. In order to obtain the best price I try to book as far ahead as I can, but inevitably my plans sometimes change and I need to change the dates of a few of my tickets. I sometimes make these changes over the phone, but on a number of occasions it has been more convenient to make the changes at a Travel Centre (either London Kings Cross or Durham).

In general I have been very happy with the level of service provided by GNER. It certainly compares very favourably with my experiences with other Train Operating Companies. Members of staff are generally very polite, friendly & helpful. However, on a number of occasions recently I’ve had very unsatisfactory experiences when dealing with a particular member of staff in the Durham Travel Centre. I’ll call him Mr X.

Last Saturday (27 Oct) I went to the Durham Travel Centre to change a number of Advance Single tickets, but Mr X was very dismissive and said that because I had booked the tickets on-line, he could not change them at all and I should change them by phone. I returned home and called the Web Support Team who changed all but one of my tickets. The one remaining ticket had already been changed once at a Travel Centre (an impossibility according to Mr X). In the past I’ve had problems changing such a ticket over the phone, because the Web Support Team don’t have a record of changes made at a Travel Centre.

I was concerned that I could neither change the ticket on the phone nor at the Travel Centre. I was frustrated that I had previously successfully changed similar tickets at the Durham Travel Centre. So I looked for help on the GNER website and found a page which said the following…

After having read this, if you wish to go ahead with the change and if your ticket is a GNER Advance Single ticket, please either call the web support team on 0870 366 5990 or take your tickets to any manned Travel Centre.

changing-gner-advance-single-tickets

Now convinced that I should be able to change my ticket at the Durham Travel Centre, I returned and talked again to Mr X. He initially said he couldn’t change the ticket because it had been purchased on-line. I told him I wouldn’t be able to change it on the phone, because it had already been changed once at a Travel Centre. Also I showed him a printed copy of the attached page which said I should be able to change an Advance Single purchased on-line at a Travel Centre. He said the problem was that the fare on my ticket didn’t exist on his computer, because it included a web discount. However, I explained that other staff in his Travel Centre had managed to change such tickets for me in the past.

Then he said he couldn’t change it because it had already been changed once. He also had the cheek to ask why hadn’t I changed the ticket to the right date the first time. I explained that my plans had changed twice, but he didn’t seem to accept that as a possibility. I tried to insist that he should be able to change the ticket. After a couple of minutes he said maybe he could change it, but I would have to pay the price of a new ticket plus a £10 fee. This made no sense to me – surely if I was forced to buy a completely new ticket, why would I need to pay the £10 fee which is for changing a ticket.

By this time the lack of consistency in his arguments meant that I started to doubt he really knew what he was talking about. So I asked to see the terms & conditions for my ticket. While I was reading the terms & conditions he suddenly decided that he could change the ticket after all, but only if I paid cash. By this time I was so fed up that I agreed to pay cash, but he made me feel there was something illicit about he transaction and that he had done me a favour.

I got the impression that Mr X wasn’t comfortable in using the computerised booking system. As far as I could tell, it was not that the transaction was impossible, but rather that he wasn’t sure how to do it. However, he was too embarrassed to admit that he was having difficulty. Several times during our discussion, he also tried to sell me a standard class ticket rather than a first class ticket. This seemed strange given that he had no difficulty in remembering other details about my intended travel arrangements, like the date and time. Both the fact that I wanted a first class ticket, and that I had originally booked on-line, seemed to antagonize him. As I’ve already mentioned, I’ve successfully changed Advance Single tickets with other members of staff at the Durham Travel Centre and always found them to be extremely helpful, efficient & courteous.

The whole episode has left me frustrated and confused. Please can you clarify a couple of things for me…

1) Is it possible to buy an Advance Single ticket on-line and then change it at a Travel Centre?

2) Is it possible to change an Advance Single ticket multiple times i.e. once an Advance Single ticket has been changed is the changed ticket exactly equivalent to an Advance Single ticket bought afresh for the new date?

Finally, I’d be grateful if you could give Mr X some training in both the use of the computerised booking system and in how to deal courteously with a customer.

Yours sincerely,

James Mead.