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[Video] Trainline Finally Issues a Refund, But It Took 9 Days and Showed How 'Modern' Systems Fail Travelers

posted by Roy Schestowitz on Apr 11, 2024,
updated Apr 12, 2024

Video download link | md5sum 9ed9efd3df9169ef39dcdc2a441f8df3
Smart is Dumb
Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 4.0

Preview for Smart is Dumb

LAST WEEK I published "When Electronic (or Digital) is Objectively Worse" based on a personal experience, which wasn't the first (the video on the left covers more examples). I wrote about it over one week ago (as of today) and first, the good news:

Refund successful

Your refund is being credited back to the account used to make the purchase. This transfer is normally completed within 5 working days but is dependent on your card issuer.

OK, but how many hours did that take, including a trip to the Post Office? How many communications needed to be made prior to this? How many webforms needed to be filled?

A week ago I wrote: "Now we have two irritated customers, 4 members of staff spending time on it, and maybe another 4 at the customer disservice centre. Total 10 people? How do these companies define "productivity"? Time getting nothing done?"

Total 10 people? Now it's more like 12!

That's really awful and "and that is happening at scale across all industries and yet people (politicians) wonder why productivity is declining," a friend has told me.

So we had to interact with about 10 different people. It's like a big project.

Had the traditional (offline) process been followed, a refund would be issued on the spot (interaction with one person necessary, not 10). Put another way, years ago the issue would get settled at the station or stop, which was always manned (attended by persons with powers to correct things). Just say the train got canceled, get the money back.

Simple, right?

Or maybe, in some cases, pick up the phone, some local person would answer straight away (no voice menus), explain the train got canceled and the transaction can then be undone (rolled back).

But now the goal they have in mind isn't helping customers but retaining the money of customers by making them tired, distracted, miserable.

"Of course," a friend told me. "There was no excuse for the initial failure and even less for their footdragging."

So I wanted to document what happened and do a video about it. I don't discuss my general, personal story as much as the general issue and how "modern" technology fails people, contributing to anxiety and a waste of valuable (increasingly scarce) time.

Here is a message sent to my wife from Trainline a few days ago:

Dear Rianne,

Thank you so much for your email. I hope you are doing great.

I have gone through your query and I sincerely apologize for the inconvenience may have caused to you due to train cancellation. I understand that this may disrupt your travel plans. Please rest assured, I will certainly check the details of the journey and assist you further in best possible manner.

I have confirmed the cancellation in the journey and therefore I immediately requested full refund of 19.20 GBP successfully. As you have collected the tickets in this case I would kindly request you to please send your unused physical tickets back to the Trainline. Once our team will receive the tickets the refund will be processed within 7 to 10 working days or likely to be sooner. And please make sure that you send the tickets back to us within 28 days after that the refund validity will be expired and we won't be able to request refund from our end due to the UK rail industry policy on refund.

PO Box 23972

I would like to inform you that as an online retailer, we Trainline only sell tickets on behalf of the Train Operating Companies. Since we do not manage or operate the services hence on-board issues, last moment cancellations, disruptions or delays of any Train Operating Company are something out of Trainline's control.

However I completely understand the disappointment of unexpected disruptions to travel plans and are committed to assisting you promptly. I really appreciate your patience and understanding with us throughout the process.

I also wanted to provide you with a reminder of the terms and conditions associated with your tickets for future reference. Under the booking reference xxxxxxxxxxxxxx, I can see that you have purchased Advance single tickets for the journey. These tickets give the best value for your money and valid to travel on the specific date and time mentioned on the ticket. These are non-flexible and non-refundable tickets (only refundable in case of train cancellation). These tickets are subject to availability.

I hope the information is useful. Please feel free to contact us back if you have any further query regarding this concern. I'd be more than happy to assist you.

Once again, thank you so much for giving me an opportunity to assist you Rianne,

Warm regards,
Customer service representative.

Rianne was unhappy about this for the following reasons:


I'm not really happy with my recent experience and with Trainline. Please see the points below:

1. Trainline is asking me to send back the tickets that I have printed. Why did you insist on taking the booking reference numbers and shouldn't taking screenshots or taking photos of the ticket be sufficient in this protocol?

2. What is the address to send to, where should I post these tickets?

3. This will cost me money to pay for the post, set aside the time of preparation. Thus Trainline expects me to shoulder the hassle that they have cause me?

You are giving me a lot more work, 4 days after the journey, as you are like the 9th person I speak to already, and you also want me to pay for the trouble

Are you aware that after destroying the holiday for 2 people you also ruins a whole week for two people?

Do you view us as valuable customers or a mere nuisance to tire down?

Also, by insisting I post you the physical ticket you are insinuating that we are presumed guilty? Do you think I am defrauding you? Is that the policy of Trainline? The client is presumed a liar?

4. Trainline didn't even offer to refund the money they charged to print the tickets.

5. Are you aware that you flagrantly try to deflect blame to another company, thus further humiliating the client? The station manager already explained to me where the fault lies and here you are trying to play 'tennis' by pointing at one another and that further exacerbates how the client feels

I could go on and on, but I will write about my bad experience with you and report accordingly.

Unhappy Customer,


Trainline responded:

Dear Rianne

Thank you for your response,

First of all I am extremely sorry for all inconvenience may have caused to you through out the process. However, it is our responsibility to protect the valuable data of our valuable customers and that is why we are only authorized to assist only if our customer contact us using their registered email address. As per the identification and Verification policy, the registered email is required to access the account/booking and so that our team could assist you as per law.

Secondly, I have already mentioned the address in the email that I sent to you. I apologize if I was unable to highlight the address properly in my previous response. Here is the complete address :

PO Box 23972

Lastly, I completely understand your concern that this may cost you money for sending tickets via recorded post. If you wish you can send your tickets via normal post. We only recommend recorded delivery to locate the tickets so that and to ensure that they are being sent to us successfully. However if you wish you can send your tickets via normal post as well. I completely understand that this may have increased your efforts, however even if you have purchased these tickets from other train operating company even in that case you would have to send unused tickets back to them. I hope you understand.

I also understand that you have a concern regarding why booking fee was not refunded back to you. these fees really do go towards improving our products and services. We want to give you great value and hassle-free travel by rail and coach. It’s pretty much our thing. We keep a close eye on our fees to make sure we're always putting your money to the best use.

For more information I have shared this link with you regarding booking fee :

We are not blaming anyone. It's a disruption and it can happen with anyone. We completely understand that there is no fault of yours at all and sincerely apologize for the unpleasant experience you had due to this unfortunate cancellation. Therefore I have requested refund on the tickets for you successfully and assure you that our team will process the refund once they receive the unused physical tickets. It will be credited back to the same payment address within 7 to 10 working days or likely to be sooner.

Once again, thank you so much for your patience and understanding with us Rianne. Please feel free to contact us back if you have any further query. I'd be more than happy to assist you.

Thanks and kind regards,
Customer service representative

And Trainline to me: (after I had stepped in; it was me who initiated the process, but my wife's account was used)

Good Morning,

Thank you for your email and I hope you are doing well.

I completely understand your concern regarding the tickets that you had purchased with us. However, the tickets are under a different email account and to keep your details safe, we request you to kindly contact us using the same email address that was used for the booking in order to assist the query.

As per the identification and Verification policy, the registered email is required to access the account/booking and so that I can help you better.

I hope you understand we have to abide by the policies.

Kind Regards,
Deepali - Customer Service Representative

So we had to speak to about 10 different people, making a total of about 12 (including us) to process what ought to have been a very trivial case. We spent so many hours on this.

In the video above I include some examples of airlines with their notorious practice of "overbooking". They treat people like a bunch of animals or cattle, not like valuable customers.

Mother duck with ducklings, novodevichy, moscow

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