Why I'll Never Ride Amtrak Again

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I had a ticket for a roomette for Train 21 and was waiting in the Metropolitan Lounge for boarding. The call for Sleeping Car passengers was late because when I arrived at the departure doors there were passengers already walking towards the sleeping car and the lead for the group saying "Sleeping car passengers boarding". As I moved towards the platform door it was closed in my face with the Amtrak employee shouting "move to the right and make one line". I told her I was a sleeping car passenger and was ignored. Standing beside the coach passenger line, after 4 minutes I was finally able to get another Amtrak employee to notice my ticket who exclaimed "Why are you here, you should be boarding with the sleeping car passengers" and let me through to the platform.

I proceeded down the platform, past those coach passengers waiting to board, until I reached Conductor Nick. As I neared him he blocked my path and began screaming at me to "go back to the end of the line". I explained I was a sleeping car passenger and he screamed more loudly "I don't care, go back to the end of the line". I tried to show him my ticket and pointed to the sleeping car passengers boarding the cars down the platform. He refused to look at it and screamed if I didn't go to the back of the line he would call security and have me thrown out of Union Station and banned from riding Amtrak trains. I then asked him to call his supervisor, he refused, and screamed again that "Did I want him to call security and have me thrown out of Union Station."

I did not go to the back of the line and I did eventually board the train, but it was my last trip on Amtrak. When I wrote Amtrak about this experience I never got a reply. I used to be a semi-frequent rider, now my hope is Amtrak goes out of business.
 
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crescent-zephyr

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Sounds about right. A few years ago at Washington DC I was denied entry to the acela lounge because I had a Jamba Juice and they "don't allow outside food or beverages" so I went to wait in the regular line. When I showed my sleeper ticket to the gate agent she said "you're supposed to board through the lounge" - it was a total cluster.

No matter who is right or wrong I have found that a pleasant attitude on my part goes a long way towards getting pleasant treatment from even the grumpiest of Amtrak staff or TSA etc. - That's just advice from a fellow traveler, not an excuse for Amtrak's poor customer service.
 

jebr

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Why join to say you're never going to need this forum? (Initial post). Could have posted as guest.
Commenting on this from a moderator perspective:

Guest posts, in general, must contain a question pertinent to Amtrak travel. A post like this would not be allowed as a guest post, as there's no question being asked for AU to answer. Thus, registration would be required to create a post like this.
 

jis

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Though it is also true that Amtrak does have this sort of issue with its staff a little more frequently than at several other transportation establishments in my experience. It really ought to be addressed somehow.
 

Devil's Advocate

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Looks like OP just joined to whine. Why join to say you're never going to need this forum? (Initial post). Could have posted as guest. Obviously has no idea that this forum has no relationship to official Amtrak. I can't believe OP really wrote any kind of calm letter to anyone of importance at Amtrak.
To be fair, the complaints sound reasonable and if you're new to the forum it does look like it might be part of Amtrak. The resemblance is so similar it even had to get special approval to continue as a private concern from someone at Amtrak. People who realize the forum is not part of Amtrak often believe it's a grassroots fan site instead of a for-profit forum. Hard to blame non-fans from being upset by the staff at Chicago Union Station (they tend to live up to their reputation in my experience) or falling for the charade of a forum that in some ways pretends to be something it's not.

Seems like a really weird story. I was going to attribute it to chaos because some of the stations are confusing and chaotic, but I'm thinking this is Chicago and Chicago's station is not particularly chaotic or confusing for me and I tend towards country bumpkiness.
I've seen Chicago staff bark at customers and make serious sounding threats over minor misunderstandings many times. Frankly it comes across as perfectly believable to me.
 
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Barb Stout

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Seems like a really weird story. I was going to attribute it to chaos because some of the stations are confusing and chaotic, but I'm thinking this is Chicago and Chicago's station is not particularly chaotic or confusing for me and I tend towards country bumpkiness.
 

Lonestar648

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This summer, the Met Lounge announced for us to board, but they were late in doing so, either because they were busy or because the crew was late notifying the lounge. Anyway, since the Coach mob had been released so even the Red Caps couldn't get past the Coach boarding doors. The Gate person instructed us to wait until the platform cleared some and it was safe to walk along. After waiting 15 minutes, the Conductor radioed he was missing most of the Sleeper passengers, he was ready to depart. Next we were hustled down the platform to our sleepers. No one was rude, just a case of the right hand not knowing what the left was doing and vice versa, plus not one really cares. There is not a check off by the gate staff that the Sleeper passengers have arrived and are walking past the coaches before releasing the Coach passengers to race to get a good seat.
 

wwchi

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I too thought this was Chicago Union Station as the people who work near boarding (at least my train - south concourse) are rude as can be. I have been a regular on the Michigan trains for over 15 years, many of those workers have been there the whole time and yet do you think one of them even smiles or says hello and recognizes me? I do that - one day I joked with one of the guys and smiled at him and he just glared at me...REALLY? The conductors however are another whole story - they're great, and they love their regulars. So yeah, this story could totally have happened in Chicago sad to say.
 

RSG

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Seems like a really weird story. I was going to attribute it to chaos because some of the stations are confusing and chaotic, but I'm thinking this is Chicago and Chicago's station is not particularly chaotic or confusing for me and I tend towards country bumpkiness.
It is a really weird story and I'm just not buying some of the details. This is especially true when presented in a "I'll never buy your product again!" format. There's an airline I haven't flown on in 30+ years, except for reaccomodations, but I never say I won't fly them, simply that I don't fly them, as at some point in time I may have no other option should I wish to travel between two points.

Chicago Union Station is well-known for its legendary lack of customer service as it relates to its operator and primary tenant. Still, it's a bit uncommon for everyone to be complete jerks at the same time. (In my experience it's a few employees who are consistently bad actors.)
 

Devil's Advocate

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It is a really weird story and I'm just not buying some of the details. This is especially true when presented in a "I'll never buy your product again!" format. There's an airline I haven't flown on in 30+ years, except for reaccomodations, but I never say I won't fly them, simply that I don't fly them, as at some point in time I may have no other option should I wish to travel between two points.
Saying "I'll never buy/use whatever/whoever again." is an extremely common phrase of exasperation where I live. I'm not sure what you're trying to get at with "won't vs. don't" but it honestly sounds like semantics to me.

Chicago Union Station is well-known for its legendary lack of customer service as it relates to its operator and primary tenant. Still, it's a bit uncommon for everyone to be complete jerks at the same time. (In my experience it's a few employees who are consistently bad actors.)
In my experience it's common for Amtrak service to seem fine when everything is operating smoothly...only to snowball into barking orders and shouting threats when anything gets out of sorts. Once things start rolling downhill it's exceedingly rare to see Amtrak staff reverse course once they've formed an assumption about whatever mistake they think you've made or command you've misunderstood. Chicago in particular seems to have a serious problem with escalating small issues into major disputes.
 

crescent-zephyr

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CUS staff should be required to visit Toronto and Montreal to witness how VIA does it (re: Canadian and Ocean) with much larger sleeping car loads. None of this nonsense would be tolerated as a reasonable way of doing business.
I encountered equally unfriendly staff at Toronto when boarding the Canadian. The lounge staff were nice.
 

Devil's Advocate

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I encountered equally unfriendly staff at Toronto when boarding the Canadian. The lounge staff were nice.
The station staff in Vancouver held sleeper lounge passengers in a gated pen until all the coach passengers had passed and boarded. By the time they opened the gates to release us the train staff were closing and locking doors and we had to run to the few cars that remained open at the opposite end of the platform. Keep in mind that this is a much longer train and platform than you ever see on Amtrak. That experience was a complete mess that seemed focused on intentionally penalizing sleeper customers. I'm not a snobby type that thinks everyone else should be forced to wait for me, but I also don't think I should be held back while other people are taking their sweet time walking down the platform. No explanation was given and the customers who tried to ask what was going on were ignored with a huff and a smirk by a woman who had the expression of someone chewing on a lemon peel.
 
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wwchi

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The station staff in Vancouver held sleeper lounge passengers in a gated pen until all the coach passengers had passed and boarded. By the time they opened the gates to release sleeper passengers the train staff were closing and locking doors and we had to run to the few cars that remained open at the opposite end of the platform. Keep in mind that this is a much longer train and platform than you ever see on Amtrak. That experience was a complete mess that seemed focused on intentionally penalizing sleeper customers. I'm not a snobby type that thinks everyone else should be forced to wait for me, but I also don't think I should be held back while other people are taking their sweet time walking down the platform. No explanation was given and the customers who tried to ask what was going on were ignored with a huff and a smirk by a woman who had the expression of someone chewing on a lemon peel.
That doesn't seem right to make the highest paying passengers wait the longest to board (and then be rushed). I do know at CUS they are so inconsistent. They do have a procedure, but it's so haphazard and is confusing to a lot of people who don't travel much. When they try to ask a gate attendant for help they are often ignored or just responded to not very helpfully. It would just be easier if they explained that they are going to board Sleeper/Business First, followed by Seniors/Active Military, then families, then general boarding. The anxiety I see on people's faces because they are afraid they aren't going to get on the right train, or get a seat or whatever is silly because it's solvable by just stating/posting the procedure and then following it. Which, IMO, should include Sleeper/Business boarding first.
 

RSG

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Saying "I'll never buy/use whatever/whoever again." is an extremely common phrase of exasperation where I live. I'm not sure what you're trying to get at with "won't vs. don't" but it honestly sounds like semantics to me.
Yes, I also live in an area where that is popular and where people will readily tell you which businesses they are happily not patronizing and why and since when. I also tend to hang out on portions of the Internet where outrage is a common denominator and users regularly add businesses to The List of dead-to-me enterprises.

My philosophy is more one of benign neglect than active non-participation. I've lived through boycotts [of a geographic area] and have seen the detrimental impact, usually by people and groups who had no clue as to the realities of the situation, other than they were outraged and told they should participate by not participating. As such, I don't officially boycott anything.

To illustrate, the nearest Applebee's to me has been poorly managed almost since the day it opened and much of the staff (and often, management) has an attitude similar to the average Amtrak employee at CUS. As such, I don't go there on my own and haven't for years. But if friends or family members want to go there, I will serenely accompany them. It definitely won't be my first choice but my dining companions will make it tolerable. Unlike some, I won't complain about what a bad choice it was and how awful everything is nor engage in any other passive-aggressive see-I-told-you-so behavior. The exception to this is in regard to health or safety issues, in which case I would inform the bearer of the invitation of why I must decline the invite.

That's the difference between "don't" and "won't".

In my experience it's common for Amtrak service to seem fine when everything is operating smoothly...only to snowball into barking orders and shouting threats when anything gets out of sorts. Once things start rolling downhill it's exceedingly rare to see Amtrak staff reverse course once they've formed an assumption about whatever mistake they think you've made or command you've misunderstood. Chicago in particular seems to have a serious problem with escalating small issues into major disputes.
Totally and completely agree.
 

RSG

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What I don't want is being rushed to board.
That's the biggest issue. If you're transporting luggage, you can only move so fast. Often staff will act as though they are operating commuter trains rather than intercity passenger trains.

At unstaffed stations, I've been yelled at for not being in the proper place to board and told I have to walk most of the length of the train to board at an existing stop, thus causing the dwell time at the station to exceed the average length of the station stop when it would have been quicker for the train to pull up to where I (and occasionally other pax) were already waiting.
 

Seaboard92

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The Canadian in Vancouver reference I can answer. The train is split on Tracks four and five. Track four has three sleepers, the coaches, and other cars. To leave on time it pulls into the throat early to back on the main cut.
 

Qapla

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I have never been to CUS ... however, I will mention that, in Palatka, a small country station, I have seen the coach passengers get boarded first. This is because the coach cars are right behind the engine. Heading south the train stops just short of blocking US17 (the main road running south through Palatka) - which puts the coach cars at the station platform area. Once coach is boarded, the train pulls forward, blocking US17 entirely, while they position the sleeper car(s) at the station platform area and board the sleepers.

This seems to be better than making either group trek down a gravel parking lot to reach their door(s). It also seems better than passing the platform to load sleepers first and then having to back the train up to board coach.

When heading north they basically do the same thing except that they have US17 blocked while they deal with coach and then pull forward to deal with the sleepers, thus clearing US17.
 
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