Saturday, 20 February 2010

A small ticket and mounting troubles

Actually I don’t know what prompted me to buy a ticket for my father in a ticket machine rather than in a civilised way – at newsagent’s or somewhere else. It wasn’t the first time I did it, but for the first time the machine spewed out a totally illegible ticket. The situation took place on Wednesday but I put back taking any action to deal with the flawed ticket until yesterday.

Characters of this drama:
L1 = Lady no. 1, from a Passenger Service Point at Metro Centrum station
L2 = Lady no. 2, from a Polish Mint consumer service office at Metro Świętokrzyska station
L3 = Lady no. 3, from a Central Passenger Service Point at Metro Świętokrzyska station.
BU = the main character, student SGH (predictably)

I decided to head for the nearest Urban Transport Authority “Passenger Service Point”, situated on Metro Centrum station and complain about the illegible (blank) ticket.

BU: Good morning, I bought this funny illegible ticket and I would like to return it and get my money back.
L1: Where did you buy it?
BU: In a ticket machine, at Pole Mokotowskie station.
L1: In a yellow ticket machine or in a blue-grey one?
BU: (after a second thought) In a blue-grey one.
L1: Those machines are not ours (UTA’s), they belong to Polish Mint, they have their customer service office at Metro Świętokrzyska station, complain there, not here.
BU: (a bit confused) Thank you, good bye.

I had some time to waste so I got into the first train that had arrived and five minutes later I was opening the door to Polish Mint’s office.

BU: Good morning, I bought this funny ticket in your machine at Pole Mokotowskie station. It is illegible and I want to return it and get a refund.
L2: It is not our ticket! We cannot take it from you and give you a refund. You should ask Urban Transport Authority for it.
BU: I just left their customer service office, they told me to report to you, because the ticket was printed in your machine so it is your fault.
L2: Alright, we will not give you a refund, but here you have a piece of paper (giving me an A-4 format form full of blanks) and if you wish, please write a complaint.
BU: And what will happen if I fill in all those gaps and blanks?
L2: Nothing, we will reply to it within a week.
BU: But how will you get in touch with me? And how will you give me my money back?
L2: I don’t know, you will get in touch with us, or whatever.
BU: Good bye (or shove it!).

I wasn’t that hot under the collar as you think and marched into another Urban Transport Authority office, located around twenty metres away and obediently queued up, behind other passengers, most of whom were waiting to pick up their new personalised travelcards. I quickly noticed ticket returns are handled just in one counter.

BU: Good morning, I bought this ticket in a ticket machine, it is illegible so I want to return it.
L3: Where exactly did you buy it?
BU: In Polish Mint’s machine, at Pole Mokotowskie station.
L3: I see… (on the phone) Krysiu, what do we do with those illegible ticket, I have another dissatisfied client over there?
Great, did you validate it?
BU: Of course not, if I had validated it, I wouldn’t have come here.
L3: It is unused then, it boost your chances to have your ticket accepted.

Then a woman used a device ticket inspectors use to control tickets and checked if it really wasn’t used.

L3: Alright, here you have your good ticket
BU: But I have already bought such a ticket, I don’t need another one.
L3: That’s a different story, I have to ask my manager.

She headed to a back office and after a minute came back with a pile of papers

L3: Here you have five forms. Please fill them all in and in thirty minutes you will get your refund.

I looked at my watch, then at queue behind me…

BU: Can I get that ticket?

After all that ticket one day will come in useful…

If you think it really unnerved me, you’re far from truth. I found the whole vicissitudes quite hilarious. I’ll tell you more, Urban Transport Authority’s workings are a hundred times better than bureaucracy at my university. Ticket office ladies were absolutely customer-friendly, competent and the standard of treating a client is incomparably better that at SGH. SGH toughens up and such dealings as described above are a sheer pleasure!

After the whole event I attended a lecture in monetary policy given by professor Andrzej Sławiński. It was one of those moments when a teacher prompted thoughts about education system.

Why sometimes you can learn more during one lecture given by an excellent lecturer than during a semester-long course delivered by a dull one?

Why some lecturers can grab students’ attention and make them hang on every word they say for ninety minutes, when others need just five minutes to put students to sleep or trigger a headache?

Why some lecturers talk to the students and others talk their arse off and say nothing?

Why some lecturers require a lot from themselves and from their students and others take the path of least resistance, that is “I’ll pretend to teach you something, you’ll pretend to learn it, at the end of the term I’ll give you good mark and everyone will be happy”?

Why some lecturers can explain complex issues in a plain way and others can confound even simple matters?

Why some lecturers can infect students with passion to explore and encourage them to challenge teachers and others want students to keep their mouths shut?

Why the most knowledgeable scholars often deprecate their wisdom and the mediocre ones put on airs?

And at last, why do dull lecturers prevail and those akin to Mr Sławiński are few and far between?


Brad Zimmerman said...

I would have just given a big ol' in-your-face middle finger to the second person you talked to and walked right the hell out of there.

You're a student, obviously, but even your time must have SOME value. Personally, I feel my time is worth more than a 2,50 PLN ticket (1,25 if you're a student).

Also: the ticket machine IS the civilised way. Queuing up behind several old people who are buying FAKT and a lottery ticket at the pantyhose/toothpaste/candy/newspaper/cigarette/kitchen sink kiosk and watching them counting out their change down to the grosze all while muttering about how much everything costs is the fastest way to insanity and subsequent uncivilized behaviour.

student SGH said...

I did walk out of there, but showing a middle finger wouldn't help much. Such condescending doesn't prove my superiority nor good manners.

The weekly ticket the story revolved around set me back 24 PLN. Dealings took me round forty minutes, so an hour goes for 36 PLN. The reasoning is of course flawed because I didn't earn 24 PLN within forty minutes but claimed it successfully back. And to value my time I'd use cost of lost opportunities, so what I didn't do in the time I handle the ticket.

Outwardly it is a civilised way. But when two machines are out of order and the third print a worthless ticket and gobbles my money, kiosk is more civilised and even faster way.

You can buy a ticket in lots of kiosks in Warsaw where there are no queues and you probably won't get a blank ticket, and even if something goes wrong you can claim your money back immediately, without meandering around offices and meeting indolent clerks.