business / Business / Customer Service / relationships / Travel

Via Rail: The Least Mommy Friendly Company I’ve Ever Dealt With & Why I’ll Never Travel With Them Again.

Our first trip on the train which went really, REALLY well. Outstanding customer service. Apparently that was an abnormality.

I’m really not one to complain, I’ve worked in the customer service industry and I know how difficult and taxing it can be so I try to take everything with a grain of salt. I believe that everybody has bad days and that one experience shouldn’t be a measurement of the typical quality of service.

That being said, I have a bone to pick.
For those of you who used to follow me at you may possibly recall a small rant I had about train travel and some safety issues concerning my son, how difficult it was to be a single parent travelling on their trains with a small child (since their staff can’t be bothered to help you out when you’ve been told that is what their job is) and a few other things. Well, they’re back at it again and this time, I’ve had enough.

As of today, I will no longer being utilizing Via Rail.
Enough is enough, I’ve had it up to ->here<-.

I’m not the kind of person to call someone out in a public forum and I’ve resisted the urge to blog about it in detail since the first bad experience I’d had with them, just over a year ago, but right now, I need to vent, I need to get it out and I need to just not feel frustrated with it anymore.
Rather than write it all out again, I’ve copied and pasted the exact email that I sent to Via Rail’s Customer Service Department:

To Whom It May Concern:
I have been a loyal customer to Via Rail for many years often opting to utilize their rail services instead of driving my own vehicle or flying when I need to commute within the province and I was always one to give a favourable review on your services and often compliment the customer service of the individual attendants on my trips. 

It is understandable that occasionally there will be some delays in service however, the last few times I have used your services there have been many major issues, including delays, that are going to result in terminating my use of your services.
Last Thursday, as an example, not only was my train late arriving to Fallowfield Station, the attendant seemed to have no idea why, or how long it would take for it to arrive. It was only about 30 minutes late which isn’t a very big deal but as soon as we left and arrived outside of Smith’s Falls we were encountered with yet another delay – a train that had been broken down for 3 hours which, obviously, caused us delays as well, in fact, I arrived just short of three hours late at my destination.
Now, my question is why was there no announcement made at Fallowfield Station and why could the attendant not tell me this ahead of time?
I inquired, many times, about the train not being on time.
If I had known that I was going to be three hours late I would have chosen an alternate method of transportation.
Not only did I miss a very important meeting that resulted in the loss of a client, I was late to pick up my three year old.

On top of being late there wasn’t even enough food to go around for purchase. So between waiting at the train station after breakfast and getting off around 4 I couldn’t even purchase a sandwich or a bottle of water on board the train! Although they did offer a cookie so I suppose that is supposed to make it okay?


I realize that you’ve offered the passengers a credit of 50% of the value of their ticket towards their next travel purchase but the experience just cemented the decision that I’ve been coming to – I really do not want to use your services anymore.
Between last week and the last time I took the train with my son I am completely disgusted with the lack of good customer service. 

The very DANGEROUS incident involving my son happened a YEAR ago and that is what sticks out in my head when I think of via rail – not all of the good experiences that I’ve had with them, just all of the bad ones.
Speaking of that incident you would think that when somebody emails and calls because they have a complaint regarding compromising the safety of a TWO year old that a representative from your company would at least have the courtesy to acknowledge that complaint.
I also think that you need to educate all of your employees on your complaint procedures – when I got off of my train that day my son and I went straight to the front desk at union station to make a complaint about one of your employees taking my child off of the train and putting him on the platform by himself UNSUPERVISED when I specifically made a point of waiting for all of the other passengers to leave the train so that I could get all of my luggage off of the train before taking my son off so that he wasn’t wandering around the platform alone.
On top of that when helping another passenger load their suitcase onto the train one of your employees threw the very large and heavy suitcase onto my son’s carseat, damaging it.
I brought the carseat to the front desk so that they could see the damage right away and told the employee there that I would like to complain about my son being placed on the platform alone and I was told I would have to call or email.
I was furious but I assumed that since a via rail employee said it that it must be true.


When I arrived home I called as soon as I walked in the door. Do you know what your employee told me?? That my complain was invalid because I hadn’t made it at the train station. 

So not only do I pay to use your services I have to constantly pay for supplementary things as well. Every single time.
I am very tired of this, yes it may just be $30 for child care, or $200 for a careseat, or losing one client but you know what, it could have been the life of my child too. And I was sitting here booking another trip with you guys and all I could think was yeah, it’s only $300 for the tickets but how much extra is it going to end up costing me when the train ride is over?

The more I think about it the more furious I get.
I don’t know how a company can treat it’s customers like this – it is appalling.
They may just seem like little incidents but they really add up over time and they do influence your customers’ decisions on whether or not to make a purchase with you.

What I would like to know is why your customer service representatives do not know your procedures and why they can’t answer even the simplest of questions?


You are losing a very loyal customer.
Good day.

I was actually pretty impressed with how quickly a customer service representative responded to my complaint. I wrote that email on December 8th 2010 and received a phone call back on January 20th 2011.
Much faster than the last time I called and emailed – oh wait, no, I never heard back from them concerning that original complaint.
I hadn’t even included the incident that had really ticked me off – the straw that broke the camel’s back, if you will – the one that sparked the complaint email.

The day after the Fallowfield to Toronto incident I took a train from Toronto to Windsor. Juggling my child, both of our suitcases, his carseat and my purse I couldn’t find the print-out confirmation sheets for my tickets and couldn’t use the self-service kiosk. Instead I had to get in line and pick up my passes from the ticket counter using my photo ID.
Juggling everything while trying to get my ID out of my wallet I was almost relieved when she said she could just check it without me actually having to take it out of my wallet.
She checked it.
Grilled me on my age (no biggie, I understand they have to do that when you purchase a “youth” pass).
Then – she proceeded to pull out every piece of identification, every bank card, student card and credit card.

Just to look.

She asked me why my wallet was so heavy.

Asked why I had so much money in it.

She questioned whether my child was actually my child.

Really lady? Really?

On top of all of this, she wasn’t even nice. She was downright rude. She seemed completely unhappy with her job and all too happy to be a bitch.
Just saying.

After all of this, plus all of the minor incidents in between, I made the decision that I will not use Via Rail for their travel services any longer.
They’ve endangered the life of my child, broken his car seat and never even offered to replace it although if you ask them they did (I’m pretty sure I would have opted not to pay out of my own pocket if they had. Frig.), I’ve lost a client, I’ve been late to pick my child up and had to pay extra childcare fees, I’ve been absolutely starving because they can’t properly stock their cars with enough food for a trip and a lot of other, small but irritating, things.

Which brings me to today.

Last month I spoke to a Via Rail CSR who was absolutely appalled at everything she heard. She was kind, apologetic and in an effort to keep my customer loyalty made me a deal: She wanted me to let her give me a complimentary ticket on my usual route (Windsor to Ottawa) and give them one last chance to prove that they were worth all of the money I’ve been spending on them to commute back and forth.
I declined.
She insisted.
I finally agreed.

She told me to call her back with the dates that I was planning on travelling and she would arrange everything – not to worry about it.
I called, left a voicemail with my travel dates and my preferred departure and return times.

Which brings us right back to today.

I was supposed to leave tomorrow morning.
Supposed to.
Realizing that I still hadn’t heard from her I call her back on her direct line: “Mxxxxxxx Cxxxxxx is currently out of the office for an indefinite amount of time. Please call back.”

I took to Twitter to vent. To say I was upset may have been a bit of an understatement. I am downright angry. Angry enough that I wasn’t the least bit interested in the, clearly, generic apology and request for an email with the details of my trip.

What the fuck.

So, I’ve been waiting around for this imaginary ticket, making plans and actually, for once, counting on Via Rail to follow through with promises that they have no intention to keep, only to find out, less than 12 hours before I had planned to leave, that it’s never. going. to happen.

To purchase “new” tickets tonight it’s going to cost me about $800.
So thanks, Via Rail, for going out of your way to ensure I never use your services again. I could have done without the extra little kick on the way out the door.

So let’s tally it up:
1 $200 car seat replacement + 1 $priceless life of my child + delays + shitty customer service + losing clients + losing money + being over-priced and under-serviced + (now) an entire weekend = one less regular customer for Via Rail.

And just think: All of this heartache could have been avoided with a quick phone call to let me know that they couldn’t follow through.
I never would have gotten so upset and I never would have blogged about it.
But no, they couldn’t even do that and it’s too late to make alternate arrangements.

They’ve tried to tell me, on multiple occasions, that they are a customer service and family oriented company but you know what?
I call bullshit.


4 thoughts on “Via Rail: The Least Mommy Friendly Company I’ve Ever Dealt With & Why I’ll Never Travel With Them Again.

  1. Oh my goodness. Good thing you aren’t on an episode of Undercover Boss … or maybe this should have been. You probably would have been given a year’s pass. Sorry to hear you lost a client, that’s never easy for sure. It’ll be interesting to see if this lady ever gets back to you at all.

    • LOL I wish I had been. I am just so angry.
      It isn’t about a free trip at all – not that it wouldn’t be nice – it’s just about the lack of basic customer service skills of their employees.
      If she hadn’t offered the ticket I wouldn’t have asked for it and I would have planned my trip accordingly – they way things have played out I wasn’t even given the opportunity to do that. I was just left waiting and now I am stuck cancelling visits with friends and appointments with suppliers and printers.
      Why should I use their services when I head to Ottawa to meet with my suppliers and printers every month, or every other month, when this is how I’m treated, you know?

      It’s hard being a self-employed single parent and having to cough up money for services that aren’t worth it – especially when I have to do things like replace an entire car seat after. Car seats are NOT cheap and they didn’t even apologize let alone offer to pay for it like they said they did.

      I’m frustrated and this was the last straw.
      I’m done.

  2. Pingback: Tweets that mention Via Rail: The Least Mommy Friendly Company I’ve Ever Dealt With & Why I’ll Never Travel With Them Again. « Mister Mama, Sir --

  3. Good day,
    The below is my vent on Facebook to Via Rail after a wonderful Customer Relations experience…

    June 11, 2012.
    I travelled from Toronto to Ottawa on January 13, returned on January 15, 2012. Unfortunately, both trips were delayed for nearly 2 hours each way. The travellers were advised that we would be granted 50% off. When I did return, I contacted Via Rail and it was confirmed by a courteous representative named Chris that a $90 credit would be granted and he had inquired if I was a Via Preference member. I confirmed and he suggested that the points could be applied against that account.

    Now planning another trip to Montreal, I have contacted the 888-Via-rail office and spoke with a courteous young lady named Serina who assisted me as best as she could to confirm that I had to travel by June 30th. My travel plans were for July 6th and she stated that Via could extend the credit for one additional month, if needed. My concern was that I could Not apply the points that were generously offered to me for my next trip, the total was insufficient….I needed nearly twice the amount for a one way travel.
    She referred me to Customer Relations (800-681-2361) in order to escalate my concerns. Unfortunately, there was a lack of customer service and a very defensive customer relations ‘supervisor’ at the other end of the line who failed not to take my call personally instead of Hearing the point that I, as a paying customer, was making -> We should be advised of the implications of transferring cash credit to Via Preference points. <-

    Nothing is more frustrating than attempting to express a concern to Via (or any organisation's) Customer Relations and having someone react defensively, when there was absolutely no need to. When asked to escalate, instead of making the effort to HeAr what was being told to him, I was advised that I was speaking to the Supervisor and there is No One else to escalate my concern with. This is what Via Rail considers Customer Relations?

    I would prefer not to have to go to the Toronto Star Probe with concern. All I am suggesting is Full Disclosure concerning how Via Preference points can and can not be applied, when cash credit is involved. I would have been able to make a concerned decision at the time of issue.

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