It looks as if I am going to get the money back for the unused Paris-Calais railway tickets after all.
Yesterday, I set out to chase the matter up and started by looking up SNCF on Google. (Just another indication of how the Web – and Google – have become a solid part of our lives.)
The site at http://www.sncf.co.uk is just for booking tickets so I clicked the link for “special requirments”. This, unfortunately, takes you away from SNCF to a company called Rail Europe which apparently acts for SNCF in Britain. The obvious thing to do was to look at their contact page to see if I could spot an email address or telephone number with a description that corresponded to my problem.
Right at the bottom of the page, as though they are shy of letting you see it, is a “Contact Us” link. None of the numbers seemed to be appropriate for what I had in mind. Nothing daunted, I selected one and dialled it. You will not be surprised to learn that I found myself in a queue, with a robot voice telling me that they were “currently experiencing high demand” and suggesting I try the Web site.
The cynic in me reckons that “high demand” is code for “We’re too miserly to employ enough staff to deal with the normal level of phone calls so we use a queueing system to deter people from calling us”. OK, consider me deterred – after all, there’s no point in getting a refund only to spend all the money on the phone obtaining it.
My next move was to call Eurostar, because they, after all, got me into this mess in the first place, though I do recognize that a lorry bursting into flames in the Tunnel can hardly be regarded as their fault. The pleasantly-mannered woman I spoke to was pessimistic: “I think you will have to claim this back on your insurance”. I insisted, in a pleasantly-mannered way, until she finally conceded “Well, you could email Eurostar customer care and make your case.”
Armed with a rather unpromising-looking email address – email@example.com – I sent off a carefully worded missive, saying that I had throughout followed the advice of Eurostar staff and thought they they should therefore pick up the tab. They agreed: I received a very polite and apologetic email saying that if I would just fill in the attached compensation form, they would refund the money into my bank account.
As of this writing, I still have to complete the form. It has to be returned to an address at Waterloo and as I have to enclose my SNCF railway tickets, I think I will take it down in person rather than risk posting it.
I have to say that I find this level of service unusual. Can you imagine any British railway company apologizing for an incident such as this? When I last tried claiming compensation for the very late arrival of a train, I was dismissed with a curt “It was due to circumstances beyond our control and therefore we are not required pay compensation”. For now, at least, Eurostar seems to be operating to an ethos that used to be common but which has largely disappeared from the business scene these days.
Of course, I haven’t actually got the money yet. Let’s hope that the promise is fulfilled and my good opinion of Eurostar maintained. I’ll let you know.
The picture at the top? Oh yes. I saw this supermarket while I was in Paris and guess what it made me think of? Are you reading this, ED? That’s right, it made me think of ED – le cheval qui parle, so this is a little tribute to that blog and its author. If you prefer to read ED in English, you can do so here.