I had a moment this evening, a little one, where my frustration peeked when I went to book my train tickets for next week. I try not to book with The <insert mode of transport>line because they are explicit in their charges of a booking fee and a credit card transaction fee. Of late I’ve tried to book with First Great Western, the train provider on my route. I’m not completely sure that it ever works out any cheaper, my hunch is that they sometimes roll the associated fees into the fare and hope you won’t notice, but I used to give them that because their booking process just felt cleaner than the other service.
Except relatively recently FGW redeveloped their website booking system. I’d been very fortunate until the end of last year to be in a position which afforded me Rachel, an angel sent from heaven, who was employed as my shared PA. It took me a while to become truly dependent on Rach but eventually I gave in to my inner-working class guilt and decided to allow her to organise my life, and she was great at it. No longer did I have to worry about booking train tickets, or finding the best fare (because I’ve got an almost compulsive obsession when it comes to finding cheap travel), this was all looked after for me. Right now I’m cursing that I allowed myself to indulge and develop such dependency, and I’m also cursing First Great Western for their changes. I offer you the background in case it is just me being mardy, and to legitimately allow anyone to call me on being precious if I am the only one with issues!
So what happened I hear you ask….the following screen grabs indicate what happened (don’t worry you don’t need to be able to read them, although if you click and zoom you probably can, they’re just indicative):
2. Enter details and you’re presented with this screen. The top boxes are possible fares, the bottom boxes train options. Given I specified a time I think two or three train options, four at a push, would suffice – there are only three options within two hours of the time I specified.
At this stage I now know (from talking to awesome Ollie who mans the FGW twitter account) that if I select the fares I’m interested in the fares according to each train will be displayed.
3. Taking Ollie’s advice this is what show’s up.
However, having no Rach in my life, and until this evening no Ollie either, I have simply selected the train I wanted – after all I’m motivated by getting to London in time for work. So let’s start again:
4. Bizarrely on this occasion when I went to book a return it only gave me one window to complete (as though I wanted a single) – I suspect this is a minor bug because I returned to the booking page from within the programme. Anyhow I enter my details having hit refresh to fix that.
5. This is what happens if you pick by train – the only indication of what fare is available is the feint grey line around the box – none of the pink colouring used earlier, and it’s not easy to spot.
6. This was the screen once I’d checked out – this is really just to draw attention to the overlapping frames, minor, but again not the sleek experience I’d hope for.
All of this is intended as feedback for First Great Western because I don’t think it’s possible to make clear in a tweet. At this rate I may just go back to the other provider, depending on whether my feedback is acted upon, a gauntlet thrown down by @JamesMB.
Ollie who was on the @FGW twitter account was awesome, and James was quick to acknowledge how good he is too, so let’s see if the rest of FGW respond with the same customer facing skills. Watch this space, I’ll keep you posted!