Stressful on-board announcements

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Ferroequinologist

Lead Service Attendant
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I remember that voice! He butchered some Pacific Northwest place names but how was he to know how to pronounce 'Clatskanie' ?

As for drivers: at the Gray Line of Portland I knew that the Teamster union agreement would sometimes force me to put the shyest, most withdrawn driver on the City Tour and the gregarious high school teacher summer temp on an airport to hotel transfer where there was little to be said.
Thanks. Why is it so difficult for Amtrak to do something similar - and to adjust the volume? Here is the response I received from Amtrak. I did not refer to any specific employee in my complaint. My comments were entirely regarding the unpleasant tone of the speaker, the excessive frequency of the announcements and the very high volume. Amtrak's response fails to address any of these so I can only conclude that my comments were not listened to:

Thank you for your recent email contact.

Amtrak welcomes feedback from customers, as it helps us to focus our efforts to improve service. We hope that you will accept our sincere apologies for the behavior of our employee and rather disruptive trip versus the calm relaxing environment you should have been provided.

At Amtrak, we recognize that customer service is critical to the Corporation's success as a transportation carrier. We expect every Amtrak employee to treat our customers with courtesy and respect and to perform their duties in a professional manner. We are sorry that your experience was different.

We have entered your concerns into our customer database. You can rest assured that information has been shared with the responsible managers for review and any necessary corrective action.

Once again, thank you for contacting us. We strive at Amtrak to deliver a comfortable and enjoyable travel experience for all our customers. Our guiding principles are to provide a safer, greener, healthier and better-connected passenger rail system.

We look forward to serving you in the future aboard Amtrak.
 

AmtrakBlue

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Thanks. Why is it so difficult for Amtrak to do something similar - and to adjust the volume? Here is the response I received from Amtrak. I did not refer to any specific employee in my complaint. My comments were entirely regarding the unpleasant tone of the speaker, the excessive frequency of the announcements and the very high volume. Amtrak's response fails to address any of these so I can only conclude that my comments were not listened to:

Thank you for your recent email contact.

Amtrak welcomes feedback from customers, as it helps us to focus our efforts to improve service. We hope that you will accept our sincere apologies for the behavior of our employee and rather disruptive trip versus the calm relaxing environment you should have been provided.

At Amtrak, we recognize that customer service is critical to the Corporation's success as a transportation carrier. We expect every Amtrak employee to treat our customers with courtesy and respect and to perform their duties in a professional manner. We are sorry that your experience was different.

We have entered your concerns into our customer database. You can rest assured that information has been shared with the responsible managers for review and any necessary corrective action.

Once again, thank you for contacting us. We strive at Amtrak to deliver a comfortable and enjoyable travel experience for all our customers. Our guiding principles are to provide a safer, greener, healthier and better-connected passenger rail system.

We look forward to serving you in the future aboard Amtrak.
If you used an online form to submit your complaint, then this is the "canned" reply you'd get which most likely is based on fields you filled out and maybe on key words found in your comments.
It doesn’t mean they didn’t listen to you, just means they’re letting you know they got your complaint(s) and will, hopefully, look into them.
 
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railiner

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I remember that voice! He butchered some Pacific Northwest place names but how was he to know how to pronounce 'Clatskanie' ?
He messed up Onawa, IA, too. But in the seventies, he did an impressive job doing duplicate announcements in Spanish, in many locations. He did not do French...I recall the French announcement in Chicago for the thru coach to Montreal being done by a female voice...
 

flitcraft

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I was on a hop-on, hop-off bus in Kuala Lumpur some years back where the recorded spiel system failed, so the bus attendant did a version of the spiel in English, Malay, Mandarin Chinese and some southern dialect of Chinese that I couldn't understand. Also an apology in Tamil that she couldn't do Tamil, apparently--according to the South Indian family across the aisle from me. (Luckily English worked for them just fine...) I can't see Amtrak besting that impromptu performance!
 

Qapla

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My comments were entirely regarding the unpleasant tone of the speaker, the excessive frequency of the announcements and the very high volume.
And while those comments/complaints are completely valid for you - they may have also gotten a comment/complaint from someone who is hard of hearing that complained the announcements were not frequent enough, could barely be heard over the noise of the people talking and thought the "tone" of the speaker was just fine.

We all have to face the idea/fact that not all people see everything the same way.

If they reduce the frequency and volume of the announcements people like me would miss most of them ... since I have hearing issues.
 
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Exvalley

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Speaking of famous voices, I bet almost all of us have heard this woman’s voice.

 

neroden

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I think fewer aural announcements with much better and more informative status displays is the way to go.

Too many announcements do not necessarily mean more people will pay attention. Often it causes people to more aggresively tune out all announcements into background noise, and consequently has exactly the opposite effect of what the Conductor is trying to achieve.
Yes. The Western Transcons often have long repetitive chatter about when the cafe car is opening and closing -- and they don't just announce it, they say it three times, and in a long-winded fashion. This could be handed with a short, clear announcement "The cafe will be closing at 1 PM and will reopen at 2PM. Repeat, the cafe will be closing at 1 PM and will reopen at 2PM." But instead they NATTER. Some of the conductors are equally bad, but usually it's the cafe car attendants. Too much chatter and everyone starts aggressively tuning out the announcements.

On the LSL, if an announcement came through, it meant SOMETHING IMPORTANT HAD HAPPENED. Most were simply "Poughkeepsie. Next stop Poughkeepsie. Exit from cars 1, 3, or 5" (or similar). No unnecessary chatter.
 

Seaboard92

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I was on a hop-on, hop-off bus in Kuala Lumpur some years back where the recorded spiel system failed, so the bus attendant did a version of the spiel in English, Malay, Mandarin Chinese and some southern dialect of Chinese that I couldn't understand. Also an apology in Tamil that she couldn't do Tamil, apparently--according to the South Indian family across the aisle from me. (Luckily English worked for them just fine...) I can't see Amtrak besting that impromptu performance!
I actually think that should be some form of a requirement or at least something that qualifies you more for customer-facing jobs with Amtrak. For instance I speak fluently in English, German, and Russian. If you have two people of the same background applying for one job except one person speaks a foreign language I think they should be awarded the job. I also think Amtrak should be more like the airlines and offer education opportunities to staff members who want to learn a foreign language. We are living in an increasingly global community where people are constantly traveling. It is likely especially on the more scenic routes like the California Zephyr, Coast Starlight, and Empire Builder that you are going to have foreign tourists using those trains. I think it would be beneficial to have staff being able to speak different languages. Preferably with a mixture of languages. Trains like the Sunset Limited, Texas Eagle, and the Coast Starlight could definitely use Spanish speakers, just like the Adirondack definitely needs French speakers.

I do think there is a need for German, Mandarin, Korean, Japanese as well because all of those societies contribute largely to global tourism. It would be really nice if you could mix each train with all of the languages as well to have a mix of spanish, and other countries.

For instance my girlfriend's family wants to take the Empire Builder to Glacier National Park but other than me, and Viktoria herself no one else speaks English. Which means both her and I would have to translate everything to and from them.

If I was working a trip and I knew I had people who spoke languages that weren't English and I had knowledge of them I would happily make announcements for them if there was a large group, or on a personal level with them in their language. That's good customer service.
 

Willbridge

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I actually think that should be some form of a requirement or at least something that qualifies you more for customer-facing jobs with Amtrak. For instance I speak fluently in English, German, and Russian. If you have two people of the same background applying for one job except one person speaks a foreign language I think they should be awarded the job. I also think Amtrak should be more like the airlines and offer education opportunities to staff members who want to learn a foreign language. We are living in an increasingly global community where people are constantly traveling. It is likely especially on the more scenic routes like the California Zephyr, Coast Starlight, and Empire Builder that you are going to have foreign tourists using those trains. I think it would be beneficial to have staff being able to speak different languages. Preferably with a mixture of languages. Trains like the Sunset Limited, Texas Eagle, and the Coast Starlight could definitely use Spanish speakers, just like the Adirondack definitely needs French speakers.

I do think there is a need for German, Mandarin, Korean, Japanese as well because all of those societies contribute largely to global tourism. It would be really nice if you could mix each train with all of the languages as well to have a mix of spanish, and other countries.

For instance my girlfriend's family wants to take the Empire Builder to Glacier National Park but other than me, and Viktoria herself no one else speaks English. Which means both her and I would have to translate everything to and from them.

If I was working a trip and I knew I had people who spoke languages that weren't English and I had knowledge of them I would happily make announcements for them if there was a large group, or on a personal level with them in their language. That's good customer service.
Even a minimal ability with a foreign language can be useful in transportation work giving directions or in an emergency.
 

daybeers

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Even a minimal ability with a foreign language can be useful in transportation work giving directions or in an emergency.
Would have come in handy when I was on a Northeast Regional in February that had an engine that was having traction control issues. Was at 50% power Bridgeport, CT-NYP. As we were waiting (over an hour) for another engine in NYP after they had over an hour's notice we'd need one, I was walking up and down the platform. Ran into a Russian woman who didn't speak much English and couldn't understand the announcements which weren't even that informative to begin with. She had a google translate app open so I spoke into it and we were able to communicate that way. Then eventually they came overhead that another Regional was originating in NYP in about 10 minutes, so I went and found the woman and helped her to the other track. Staff was just hanging out in the cafe car. 🙄🙄
 

Seaboard92

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Would have come in handy when I was on a Northeast Regional in February that had an engine that was having traction control issues. Was at 50% power Bridgeport, CT-NYP. As we were waiting (over an hour) for another engine in NYP after they had over an hour's notice we'd need one, I was walking up and down the platform. Ran into a Russian woman who didn't speak much English and couldn't understand the announcements which weren't even that informative to begin with. She had a google translate app open so I spoke into it and we were able to communicate that way. Then eventually they came overhead that another Regional was originating in NYP in about 10 minutes, so I went and found the woman and helped her to the other track. Staff was just hanging out in the cafe car. 🙄🙄
Exactly why I think there should be an incentive for people who speak a foreign language. If it was me I could have easily helped her but that's because I speak the language. Amtrak has historically had a large issue with announcements either being vague or even making them at all. I do think we need to improve on that. I'm not surprised they were hanging out in the cafe car instead of walking around checking on their passengers.

My theory is if I'm the OBS person, or the conductor, or really any job. My customers are my flock and I am there to serve them. And I believe being visible is the best way to do my job. So that if they have a question it can be answered.

Russian is not actually a difficult language to learn it has a lot of loan words from English and German which isn't that surprising. The alphabet takes some getting used to but it isn't that hard. The staff doesn't need to be fluent enough to have a conversation about how ones day is (If you ever say Kak Dela (English spelling) to your Russian friends/family just expect you are going to hear every detail of the day) you just need to be good enough to handle orders of food, announcements, and safety issues. It's not rocket science and it isn't hard. Now I do think we should give an incentive to people to learn a language be it a pay raise of some sorts. I know the airlines pay a bit higher for LOD flight attendants.

The Northeast Regionals might have the most international of all of the system trains to be honest. You have every nation represented at the United Nations in New York, embassies in Washington, and I want to say Boston might have a few consulate general for some countries as well. Couple that with the fact Washington, and New York are two of the largest tourist centers on the east coast you have a line that is ripe for international tourists, and international business. It would be great if Amtrak's staff could help make a good first impression of the United States for our foreign visitors.

I would probably write an essay more but I have a class early in the morning from the St. Petersburg State Transport University at 9 AM Eastern. The world's largest railroad oriented university.
 

flitcraft

OBS Chief
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Messages
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I have a class early in the morning from the St. Petersburg State Transport University at 9 AM Eastern. The world's largest railroad oriented university.
Who knew?? Not me. What is the curriculum like? I assume it's po-russkie only...(sorry no Cyrillic on my keyboard).
 

railiner

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I actually think that should be some form of a requirement or at least something that qualifies you more for customer-facing jobs with Amtrak. For instance I speak fluently in English, German, and Russian. If you have two people of the same background applying for one job except one person speaks a foreign language I think they should be awarded the job. I also think Amtrak should be more like the airlines and offer education opportunities to staff members who want to learn a foreign language. We are living in an increasingly global community where people are constantly traveling. It is likely especially on the more scenic routes like the California Zephyr, Coast Starlight, and Empire Builder that you are going to have foreign tourists using those trains. I think it would be beneficial to have staff being able to speak different languages. Preferably with a mixture of languages. Trains like the Sunset Limited, Texas Eagle, and the Coast Starlight could definitely use Spanish speakers, just like the Adirondack definitely needs French speakers.

I do think there is a need for German, Mandarin, Korean, Japanese as well because all of those societies contribute largely to global tourism. It would be really nice if you could mix each train with all of the languages as well to have a mix of spanish, and other countries.

For instance my girlfriend's family wants to take the Empire Builder to Glacier National Park but other than me, and Viktoria herself no one else speaks English. Which means both her and I would have to translate everything to and from them.

If I was working a trip and I knew I had people who spoke languages that weren't English and I had knowledge of them I would happily make announcements for them if there was a large group, or on a personal level with them in their language. That's good customer service.
Go to an airline employment site...they have priority for those with various second languages. Sometimes, they are only hiring specifically for that ability...
 

Ferroequinologist

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Jan 18, 2016
Messages
293
I actually think that should be some form of a requirement or at least something that qualifies you more for customer-facing jobs with Amtrak. For instance I speak fluently in English, German, and Russian. If you have two people of the same background applying for one job except one person speaks a foreign language I think they should be awarded the job. I also think Amtrak should be more like the airlines and offer education opportunities to staff members who want to learn a foreign language. We are living in an increasingly global community where people are constantly traveling. It is likely especially on the more scenic routes like the California Zephyr, Coast Starlight, and Empire Builder that you are going to have foreign tourists using those trains. I think it would be beneficial to have staff being able to speak different languages. Preferably with a mixture of languages. Trains like the Sunset Limited, Texas Eagle, and the Coast Starlight could definitely use Spanish speakers, just like the Adirondack definitely needs French speakers.

I do think there is a need for German, Mandarin, Korean, Japanese as well because all of those societies contribute largely to global tourism. It would be really nice if you could mix each train with all of the languages as well to have a mix of spanish, and other countries.

For instance my girlfriend's family wants to take the Empire Builder to Glacier National Park but other than me, and Viktoria herself no one else speaks English. Which means both her and I would have to translate everything to and from them.

If I was working a trip and I knew I had people who spoke languages that weren't English and I had knowledge of them I would happily make announcements for them if there was a large group, or on a personal level with them in their language. That's good customer service.
Don't forget PennsyIvania German for the growing number of Amish passengers! :) Seriously, I don't know where you're going to find people who speak all these languages to fill Amtrak positions. Americans have enough trouble with the English language as it is.
 

Seaboard92

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Go to an airline employment site...they have priority for those with various second languages. Sometimes, they are only hiring specifically for that ability...
I'm well ahead of you there I have interviewed for UA, AA, and LH multiple times. I'm debating applying for SU just to try it.

Don't forget PennsyIvania German for the growing number of Amish passengers! :) Seriously, I don't know where you're going to find people who speak all these languages to fill Amtrak positions. Americans have enough trouble with the English language as it is.
That is true my girlfriend is an immigrant and she speaks better English than my dad it's hysterical to me.
 

Willbridge

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It is actually relatively easy but then I've always been a good student. Right now I'm taking my Russian language courses. After that I'll probably attempt railroad management as a masters degree.
Just don't remind them that Col. John Stevens and his team taught the Russians how to dispatch the Trans-Siberian -- in the middle of WWI and the Revolution and with a division of Czech soldiers fighting their way home the long way via Siberia.
 

Willbridge

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I'm well ahead of you there I have interviewed for UA, AA, and LH multiple times. I'm debating applying for SU just to try it.
SU used to have a great slogan: "First in the skies of Siberia!" I don't know what became of that marketing director, but it was when Japan Air Lines got permission to fly Tokyo <> Moscow.

I'm reading a "clean" reprint of Carl August von Gablenz' account of his 1936 pioneering flight for Lufthansa between Berlin and China through the Pamirs (not over them). He mentioned planning connections with joint Russian-German airline Deruluft and joint Chinese-German airline Eurasia. They had to supply their own radio network and weather stations. All of that was scrambled within one to five years.

Back to the thread: I'm reading the place names in German and they sound different than in English and then it hit me that neither version might match the local pronunciations!

Lufthansa flight attendants used to have a trick for being able to greet most boarding passengers in the correct language. They had complimentary newspapers in the jetway and the people were greeted in the language of the paper that they picked up. That didn't work with everyone, of course, and would be harder to do now, but it was a clever touch.

As for Amtrak, I remember helping a couple in Denver who only spoke Spanish. I could do enough to get them headed up to the sleepers. Then I tipped off the conductor, thinking that he or a crew member might be able to help them further. Instead he glared at me and said "If they want to live in the United States they'd better learn English!" I never knew if they wanted to live in the United States or not, but they were paying for first class travel.
 
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Cal

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As for Amtrak, I remember helping a couple in Denver who only spoke Spanish. I could do enough to get them headed up to the sleepers. Then I tipped off the conductor, thinking that he or a crew member might be able to help them further. Instead he glared at me and said "If they want to live in the United States they'd better learn English!" I never knew if they wanted to live in the United States or not, but they were paying for first class travel.
My god, those people just make me sick. It's funny though, as Spanish was spoken on now-US soil before English, and the US has no official language...
 

Seaboard92

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The newspaper trick is really ingenious I never would have thought of it like that. It doesn't work for everyone but it works well for a good portion of the passenger load. I wish we had a better attitude towards foreigners here in the USA. I can think of someone near and dear to my heart who is dealing with all of the anti-foreigner sentiment right now and it breaks my heart in two.
 

Ferroequinologist

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Jan 18, 2016
Messages
293
The newspaper trick is really ingenious I never would have thought of it like that. It doesn't work for everyone but it works well for a good portion of the passenger load. I wish we had a better attitude towards foreigners here in the USA. I can think of someone near and dear to my heart who is dealing with all of the anti-foreigner sentiment right now and it breaks my heart in two.
 
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