Amtrak success story

Oct 23rd, 2008, 08:47 AM
  #1  
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Amtrak success story

In August, my fiancee and I took the California Zephyr from Chicago to Emeryville, CA/San Francisco. Overall a wonderful experience -- we had a great time and were very glad we booked a roomette. Our sleeping-car attendant was great -- friendly, helpful, and patient.

However, the servers in the dining car were atrocious: rude, surly, unfriendly, sometimes outright hostile. It reached the point at which, on the second day, our sleeping-car attendant brought food to sleeping-car passengers, solely because the servers in the dining car were so bad. They made us and every passenger feel unwelcome as soon as we walked through the door.

I wrote a letter of complaint (and praise where due) to Amtrak. Yesterday in the mail I received an apology and a $100 travel voucher, which I will definitely use.

I don't know if those employees are still with Amtrak, but I'm happy that Amtrak issued a $100 voucher; not all in the service industry would go to this measure. Customer service is so often bad these days that I want to give praise where it's due.
TwoFatFeet is offline  
Oct 23rd, 2008, 08:53 AM
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Dining car personnel expect tips, I wonder how this was resolved?

I was on the same train, and we started running out of food (first desserts, then entrees) on day 2. Did you have enough food on your train?
FainaAgain is offline  
Oct 23rd, 2008, 09:04 AM
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We just took the Zephyr last weekend from Emeryville to Truckee (Lake Tahoe) and returned. Amazingly it was only an hour late getting into Truckee, and actually right on time on the return.

We didn't eat in the dining car, but on the return, when it was filled, I went up to check and he took our name for a second seating -- just three or four tables worth. But when they called our number Lee didn't want to eat -- in fact refusing to go (the Alzheimer's talking). The guy came and scolded us for saying we were going to eat and now weren't, even though I explained the situation. What difference did it make? There were only a couple of tables being taken anyway? I asked him if he wanted to somehow physically carry Lee into the dining car since he wasn't going to go on his own, and the guy stormed off.

The Hebrew National hotdogs from the cafe carryout were really good, though.

Glad you enjoyed your trip TwoFatFeet. I talked with two elderly sisters taking the full trip. They said they asked for a roomette, but only got an "ette" as there was no "room" involved! I thought that was pretty funny. Whichever took the top bunk got no sleep and found it very uncomfortable, but they said if they did it again, they'd go for the larger compartment.

I also had to move away from some girl whom I heard telling others she had been in a regular seat the whole three days and really needed a shower. And how! I couldn't get within 10 feet of her!
NeoPatrick is offline  
Oct 23rd, 2008, 09:10 AM
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"The guy came and scolded us for saying we were going to eat and now weren't, even though I explained the situation. What difference did it make?" - most likely he expected tips after dinner.

"she had been in a regular seat the whole three days and really needed a shower" - I think there is a shared shower for the coach passengers, if not, it's easy to go to a roomette car for it, nobody will care.
FainaAgain is offline  
Oct 23rd, 2008, 09:21 AM
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I have taken this train from Chicago to California several times. The last time (a year ago), it was very delayed and we did run out of food and the service was pretty bad. The sleeping car attendant was helpful when he was around. And, I agree that the dining car service was darnright nasty especially towards the end of the trip when we all were getting hungry and tired. All of that is really a shame because the trip itself goes through beautiful country and could be, with better service, a wonderful experience.
maile is offline  
Oct 23rd, 2008, 09:45 AM
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We never ran out of food, and the train was only 1.5 hours delayed, which was surprising.

I've worked in retail before and my fiancee has waited tables -- we know it's not always easy and fun. But these people took "bad customer service" to another level. I was actually impressed by how awful they were most of the time.

We did not tip on two meals, when they were openly hostile. Other times we left maybe 5 or 10 percent, when they were just adequate rather than hostile. The final meal, they were better -- not overly friendly but they did smile and say thanks/your welcome.

Many of the other passengers didn't tip at all and were also mortified by the service. If the meals weren't included in the first-class fare, we wouldn't have eaten more than one meal in the dining car.

Truth be told, they didn't seem to care about tips. Clearly there was no fear of punishment or retribution
TwoFatFeet is offline  
Oct 23rd, 2008, 09:46 AM
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""she had been in a regular seat the whole three days and really needed a shower" - I think there is a shared shower for the coach passengers, if not, it's easy to go to a roomette car for it, nobody will care."

Interestingly, Faina, I witnessed our sleeping-car attendant turn a coach passenger away at the first-class shower. Told her that the showers were for sleeping-car passengers only. I'm not sure how common this is as it was my first trip in the sleeping car.
TwoFatFeet is offline  
Oct 23rd, 2008, 09:56 AM
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"I talked with two elderly sisters taking the full trip. They said they asked for a roomette, but only got an "ette" as there was no "room" involved! I thought that was pretty funny. Whichever took the top bunk got no sleep and found it very uncomfortable, but they said if they did it again, they'd go for the larger compartment."

NeoPatrick: Yes, the "roomette" would be uncomfortable for the elderly. Most of the older folks on my train were in the larger compartments. We're in our late 20's and don't mind "roughing it" so to speak, so the roomette was perfect for us.
TwoFatFeet is offline  
Oct 23rd, 2008, 10:59 AM
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I'm not sure how they do it in the West, as the trips are longer, but any Amtrak trains I've been on (Northeast corridor only) have no shower for coach passengers, and it's made pretty clear that only sleeping car passengers should be in the sleeping car area. There are also little signs on the shower doors, just in case you should be in doubt.
persimmondeb is offline  
Oct 23rd, 2008, 02:41 PM
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I'm on this train next month and hope the service has improved by then. We did the Coast Starkight a couple of years ago, LA to Seattle and other than being 5 hours late the service was OK.
boom_boom is offline  
Oct 23rd, 2008, 03:08 PM
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Regarding the showers. When the smelly girl mentioned it she was talking to two guys who had done the full trip also. One of them said he went to see about taking a shower and an attendant said he could "arrange it" for $25. He turned it down. I'm not sure if that was a train policy or a way for an attendant to make some extra cash. And I understood it was kind of hard to go to the front of the train from the dining car if you didn't have a room or sleeper.

Where the multi restrooms and a larger "changing room" were on the lower level of the coach car, there were no showers.
NeoPatrick is offline  
Oct 23rd, 2008, 03:42 PM
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Hmm... maybe I remember a different train?
FainaAgain is offline  
Oct 23rd, 2008, 04:15 PM
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Hi TwoFatFeet

Glad to hear you enjoyed the California Zephyr; wasn't some of the scenery gorgeous? I'm sorry to hear about the dining car servers, but that's really something that Amtrak reimbursed you for that. Don't let it turn you off of the dining car on trains always... in my experience, I've found servers historically somewhere between not-sociable to jovial, but nothing that bothered me especially. Talking to the other passengers in the dining car is sometimes a highlight of these long-distance trips. And on occasion, some attendants, even dining-car-folk sometimes have been interesting to talk to.

Best wishes, Daniel



Daniel_Williams is online now  
Oct 23rd, 2008, 04:56 PM
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Faina, although there are other trains from Emeryville towards Chicago (I'm not sure how far they go), the Zephyr trains we were on -- both of them -- were pretty much identical. They each had three sleeping cars behind the double engines and a baggage car, then the dining car, then an observation car with a cafe downstairs, then three coach cars (maybe just two?) that had all the seats upstairs and some baggage room and multiple restrooms downstairs. Basically all seating was very high up, as the cars are essentially all two levels.
NeoPatrick is offline  
Oct 23rd, 2008, 05:18 PM
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Daniel, yes, we love train travel and will continue to go on long-distance trips with Amtrak.

I'm sure our experience in the dining car is extreme. A coworker went on the same trip the week before we did, and he reported that the dining service was totally OK.
TwoFatFeet is offline  
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