Consequences of not obeying Amtrak employees

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Joined
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Chicago
I’m sorry, Steve, I was just trying to come up with general examples for my post and did not mean to criticize you at all. The PPC just came into my mind as a place where someone’s feet might hurt.

From reading your excellent and enjoyable travelogues, it’s obvious that you are a considerate traveler who deals well with situations that arise.

It can be hard to travel with older relatives. My mother could be so difficult that I would try to look invisible when I was with her. But the joy they get from traveling and being with us is worth it.
Your points are valid. Regardless of what was going on or not going on with the employee our behavior was inappropriate and escalated the situation. It would have been better to just leave. When I traveled the Coast Starlight by myself, I just paid the 10 dollars for the wine tasting and ate the cheese, and enjoyed the scenery. I am not a wine drinker, so I drank it and kept on rolling.
 

Railroad Bill

Buckeye Train Watcher
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My wife & I experienced an Amtrak employee on our first CZ trip from SAC, who certainly did not represent 99% Amtrak personnel. She was assigned as LSA on #6 out of EMY having only office experience. The regular LSA had called off at the last minute and this replacement was told to take the assignment. She was really not a people person and struggled with a train full of summer travelers. It was a sold out train.
As we traveled into Nevada, she constantly made announcements that were incorrect and then yelled at passengers who challenged her statements. The train was also short a cook, which added to the issues at hand.

As a high school principal I am used to dealing with varied situations and tried to talk with her kindly about some of the issues (giving wrong times for meal reservations, closing the SSL in the middle of the day, etc.), none of which would have been a major problem if her attitude had been different. My wife went up to the SSL not knowing she had closed it and was promptly yelled at and told to return to her room or she would call the conductor. So as she refused some friendly advice, finally several passengers got on their phones, called Amtrak and said there was a major problem. Unfortunately, the conductors were either busy with other issues and/or one said it's not his problem. But an insurrection was about to take place and after spending the next day dealing with her same intolerant attitude, Amtrak did act.

At Denver, there were a number of Amtrak personnel who boarded the train, removed her from the train, apologized for the lack of service and thus the issue was resolved. I tried to empathize with her situations. She never should have been taken from a desk job and put in charge of a full train lacking in service personnel to begin with. I always wondered if she lost her job or if other personnel issues led Amtrak to placing her on the train to begin with. Nonetheless, a story that wife & I have always remembered.
 

Widfara

Train Attendant
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The conductor has absolute authority and can remove you from the train. The OBS crew does not have any, but can get the conductor. Then it depends on who they believe, how you handle yourself, and how they are feeling. You really do not want to irritate a conductor.

Almost all conductors are quite professional. On a couple of occasions over many years and many miles I encountered a very few with little tin god complexes. Chances are if you are polite and professional and calmly tell your side of the story, they'll be fine with you. If nothing else, most do not want to fill out the paperwork required when they remove a passenger if they don't have to.

If they find you in an active shouting match with an OBS crew member, though, chances of getting booted off at the next stop are pretty high, no matter how egregious the act of the OBS crew member was that started it. If you lose it, you look like a loose cannon and they'll want you off their train, pronto. And all conductors legitimately consider it to be their train.
On the Sunset Limited WB around Beaumont last year, an extra-board Conductor told me that if I wanted to take off the mask I had to have my door closed AND the curtain closed. Either one would be an acceptable barrier. Both is a power trip. The car attendant told me that they absolutely hated it when she was called for that train as she was really obnoxious. I obeyed because I didn't want to be put off the train, but hey...
 

crescent-zephyr

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Once on the Crescent I was traveling in a Roomette with a friend. The SCA asked if I would prefer to sleep in the unoccupied room across the hall.... so we would have the 2 lowers. I said that would be great. He said " Ok... I'll let you know if I can let you... it depends on which Conductor gets on. There's one guy who'd throw you off the train if you were in the wrong room but if it's any of the other conductors I'll set the room up for you."
 

zephyr17

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Washington State
Once on the Crescent I was traveling in a Roomette with a friend. The SCA asked if I would prefer to sleep in the unoccupied room across the hall.... so we would have the 2 lowers. I said that would be great. He said " Ok... I'll let you know if I can let you... it depends on which Conductor gets on. There's one guy who'd throw you off the train if you were in the wrong room but if it's any of the other conductors I'll set the room up for you."
I know this is getting OT, but back in 1990s my then 10 year old daughter and I rode the Sunset from LA to Orlando. The sleepers were packed between LA and New Orleans with a bunch of people that bought a Rail/Cruise package. After New Orleans, the SCA moves the very few people remaining in the car to Bedrooms. He put my daughter and I in a Bedroom Suite (connecting Bedrooms).
 

Devil's Advocate

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Perhaps the person who brought the wrong order was told if there was one more complaint about her, she’d be written up. Perhaps the man in the PPC had twisted his ankle but couldn’t take time off and was standing for the whole day on a hurting foot. We don’t know what a worker is dealing with behind the scenes.
This is great advice for one-off events but when you've seen the same attitudes for decades you realize that's just how Amtrak rolls.

i wish I could kick out any customer that I wanted to and have daddy conductor come and enforce my decision.
An OBS member can't just "kick off" whoever they want to and the conductor will just go along with it.
He said kick out not kick off and I've seen passengers kicked out of the dining car and cafe area more times than I have fingers and toes. In my experience Amtrak staff mainly snap at new and infrequent travelers, usually over minor mistakes and misunderstandings. I have seen this so many times that when first timers tell me "never again" and mention the staff I just nod. No need to explain, I've seen it enough times to know before they say anything. I have never witnessed anyone convince a conductor to do anything about an Amtrak employee who was acting belligerent toward customers. Even if they did that conductor would eventually disembark leaving the employee free to escalate after they left. Using conductors to oversee service staff makes no sense.
 
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Since I seem to have the “problem with authority” gene, I make an effort to always be polite and not escalate things. Definitely better to be on train than off it, no matter the scenario.

These Amtrak employees work very hard and deal with some real pieces of work. Of all the people to give a pass to, it’s them.
 

Bob Dylan

50+ Year Amtrak Rider
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In my 50+ Years of riding Amtrak, I've only known of 3 instances where an Amtrak Employee was "reassigned" due to rudeness and poor Customer Service after many complaints.

1) a Senior Conductor on the Sunset Ltd out of San Antonio who was known for his profanity,yelling and threatening Passengers.

He was transfered to the Texas Eagle between San Antonio and Ft Worth, where he continued his less than pleasant ways, but "Retired" within a Year.

2) a Desk Agent @ the Old Metro Lounge @ Union Station in Chicago who was reassigned to the Ticket processing office which was not Customer Facing.



3) a Server in the CCC on the Texas Eagle who had so many complaints against them was reassigned to the Commisary in Chicago, but later reappeared on the Zephyr as a Coach Attendant.

Most attendants I've had did their Basic Duties but no more than that, with only about 10% Lazy,Rude and/or Invisible.

25% have we been Outstanding but sadly most of these Old Timers are retiring and especially on the Eaglette Route are being replaced by the 10% that are Lazy,Rude and Invisible. YMMV
 
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On the Sunset Limited WB around Beaumont last year, an extra-board Conductor told me that if I wanted to take off the mask I had to have my door closed AND the curtain closed. Either one would be an acceptable barrier. Both is a power trip. The car attendant told me that they absolutely hated it when she was called for that train as she was really obnoxious. I obeyed because I didn't want to be put off the train, but hey...
Whether the curtain alone would be an acceptable barrier is debatable. Perhaps she wanted the door closed as a barrier, and the curtain closed so your lack of a mask would be less noticeable to passers-by. Not necessarily a power trip.
 

Widfara

Train Attendant
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Whether the curtain alone would be an acceptable barrier is debatable. Perhaps she wanted the door closed as a barrier, and the curtain closed so your lack of a mask would be less noticeable to passers-by. Not necessarily a power trip.
Downstairs roomette by the family bedroom, her attitude, belligerent and "I'm in charge here", and the comment later by the attendant. It WAS a power trip!
 

Devil's Advocate

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At the same time, if you keep your composure, conductors will often side with the passenger over the OBS. A few times, I've been involved in situations where the OBS was not only wrong, but belligerent and inappropriate. They summoned the conductor, who always supported me.
In my experience Amtrak conductors prefer to avoid getting involved with service matters and honestly I agree with them. In my view there needs to be a genuine purser (not just a team lead) who is given the tools and motivation to fix small problems quickly and solve bigger problems over time.

On the Sunset Limited WB around Beaumont last year, an extra-board Conductor told me that if I wanted to take off the mask I had to have my door closed AND the curtain closed. Either one would be an acceptable barrier. Both is a power trip.
In fairness to Amtrak they got stuck with a rule that seemed oblivious that sleeping compartments still existed. While you might be right in practical terms Amtrak has to consider the legal ramifications of failing to follow the letter of the law, even when doing so may be annoying and impractical.

These Amtrak employees work very hard and deal with some real pieces of work. Of all the people to give a pass to, it’s them.
Maybe things are worse on commuter trains but out here on the long distance network passengers tend to be calm and relaxed. Those who overindulge are put off and the rest keep going. I've seen passengers act far worse in airports and on planes than anything I've seen them do on Amtrak. SCA's are generally civil if sometimes unmotivated but the way some Amtrak staff treat coach customers is truly offensive to me. That is where most of my irritation comes from.
 

toddinde

OBS Chief
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I’ve been riding trains all my life, and without dating myself, I have a few pre-Amtrak runs under my belt as a child. I’ve seen some rude employees, but I’ve seen far more rude and completely out of line passengers. I’ve never seen a situation where thoughtfulness, respect, and simply refusing to engage with a rude employee, wouldn’t solve the issue. There is no point to arguing with an employee. On a related subject, Amtrak was far better in the ‘80s and ‘90s. The long distance trains had an onboard manager. There were events like movies and happy hour in the lounge. All the western trains and the longer eastern trains need an onboard manager. I ride the Texas Eagle, and they have one person working the food service car serving flex meals and manning the cafe counter. That’s ridiculous, and while the staff I’ve encountered have been great. But that kind of silly staffing would stress anyone.
 

cirdan

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But they also need to follow and enforce the rules and regulations of the business, which can make customers angry and blame the employee for "fighting with them" when they were just enforcing policy.
Of course policy is there to be enforced.

But sometimes the policy is written by people up there in the ivory tower who don't really understand what is happening down in the salt mine.

Smart employees, however, will interpret the rules with some creativity and common sense. That is, if the customer is reasonable.

I once had a boss who said, it's always better to apologize later but keep a customer than it is to stick to the rules and lose that customer.
 

basketmaker

Lead Service Attendant
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Brighton, CO (DEN but FMG-Preferred)
In all my years of travel (and that includes being a flight attendant) I can only remember one instance in which a crew member was blatantly rude to me (and others). And that was a Conductor on the CZ #5 I was boarding at Fort Morgan, CO (FMG). They were running about 2 hours behind and she demanded that all boarding passengers board a coach. Well I had a sleeper and was well aware that I would board my car. But I went ahead and wrestled my bags aboard the coach and found a spot in the overflowing baggage area. I figured I'd go ahead and go into the diner and eat breakfast enroute to Denver (DUS). Well she saw me get up to move and start towards the diner. She stopped me and yelled to get back to my seat and she would tell me when I could move. On arrival at DUS she told me to grab my bags and go back to whatever sleeper I was assigned. That was really the only time that I have had with a surly front-line employee. Either flying or rail travel. And as a flight attendant never had a customer get out of line or be a pain in the backside. I am also a strong believer that "the customer isn't always right".
 

Deni

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Most conductors I've seen over the years are pretty good about maintaining their composure and treating people fairly.

A story I've shared on here before I think is an example of a conductor handling a situation with both tact and compassion. Back in the 90s and early 2000s I rode the Empire Builder between Seattle and Chicago on a regular basis. This is when the train still had the smoking compartment on the lower level of one of the coach cars, which often became a party room for all of us degenerates. I still smoked, drank, and drugged back then so I spent lot of time in that room on trips.

In the summer of 2000 I was returning from working a summer camp on the east coast and was hanging out with a couple of young hippy guys from Montana who I had met on the LSL from NYP. The party in the smoking room got started right away from pulling out of Chicago and was going strong the whole trip. Lots of drinking was happening and even a lot of open weed smoking mixed in with all the cigarette smoke. By the second day it was just getting wild in there. At some pint one of the hippy guys and an older lady (like late-50s) who obviously had had too much to drink pulled out some glow sticks and were dancing around the room with them. I got out of there because it was getting a little too crazy.

A little while later the conductor came up to the coach with the hippy kid and told him to sit in his seat and not to get up until we got to the next station. Conductor was obviously angry and stern.

Turns out that they had broken open the glow sticks and all of the liquid and been flung all around the smoking room, was all over the walls, ceiling, floors, windows. The older drunk lady had to be carried back to her seat (in the accessible lower level seating in the next car). The conductor informed them they were being put off at the next station.

After a little while the hippy kid went and talked to the conductor and offered a deal. He would go down and clean up the mess, then go sit in his seat until it was time to get off at his stop (both he and the lady were getting off at one and two stops past the one we were approaching). The kid was genuinely concerned about the lady being put off at a place far from her home in the condition she was in.

The conductor agreed at that's what happened. The room was spotless after that. I always thought the conductor handled it so well. He would have been completely justified to boot them off the train but he wasn't interested in messing up anyone's life to punish them.

I saw that same conductor on the EB probably a year later and brought up the story and we had a good laugh. At the time he said it was the most messed up thing he'd had to deal with on the job.
 

Deni

Lead Service Attendant
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Spilled glow liquid? He should count himself lucky then. Conductors have to walk the train to look for damage after collisions with pedestrians and vehicles.
It's possible he said it was the most messed up passenger situation he ever dealt with. It has been over 20 years since that conversation, so it wasn't an exact quote.
 

Ryan

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Off looking for his sense of humor
Spilled glow liquid? He should count himself lucky then. Conductors have to walk the train to look for damage after collisions with pedestrians and vehicles.

It's possible he said it was the most messed up passenger situation he ever dealt with. It has been over 20 years since that conversation, so it wasn't an exact quote.
Indeed. The aftermath of trespasser incidents, while gruesome is a known and recognized part of the job.

I can see dealing with... whatever that was... being described in a superlative manner due to the unusual and unexpected nature of it.
 
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