Greyhound customer service delivers after bus heads wrong way for more than 70 miles

When the five people who ranged from an R& B singer moving to NYC to seek her fortune– to a young man trying to get to Hartford, Connecticut and his sick grandmother as quickly as possible, sidled up to the Greyhound ticket counter in Port Authority bus terminal in Manhattan, they weren’t itching for a fight. What they wanted was some compensation for their Greyhound induced travel woes.

See, the bus they had taken from Cleveland had arrived two hours late. It’s not unusual for a bus to be late. Traffic, weather and a bus breakdown can occur. Their bus’s lateness was due to driver error. The driver, after a scheduled rest stop, had headed the bus back towards Cleveland for more than 70 miles.

What made this snafu feel worse is that they would have arrived earlier than the scheduled arrival time if it wasn’t for the driver’s mistake. If you’ve ever been on a road trip that has been lengthened by the wrong way, perhaps you’ll recall that jumpy nervous twitch that ensues–the kind of feeling where any moment you could LOSE YOUR MIND.

As written in the previous post, Gadling knows these details because Gadling was there. Here’s the rest of the story. What happens when a passenger does complain? Airlines take notice.

First, as these five people found out from the helpful ticket agent, the place to head to file a complaint is the Greyhound customer service office near the ticket office in Port Authority.

In this non-descriptive office without so much as a plant to pep up the ambiance, was one lone man. Let’s call him John. John, who looked up from his desk several feet from the counter where he was typing at a computer, pleasantly informed this band of travelers who had vowed to complain together while still en-route that the person in charge–let’s call her Rachel, had stepped out for a moment but would be right back.

Indeed, John was not fibbing. Rachel appeared in minutes. Yours truly, this Gadling blogger, taking on the initial spokesperson role, explained our situation to Rachel who lent a sympathetic, concerned ear, looked us directly in the eyes, and passed out complaint forms. As she explained, she’d have to get back to us about any monetary compensation after she reviewed the story. It wasn’t that she didn’t believe us, but there’s protocol.

This is what she was able to do in the meantime:

Hurry off with one of the passengers to help him make an immediate connection to another bus. As they hustled out of the office, she asked the rest of us to please wait since she could offer him help right away.

When Rachel returned, she offered to store the R&B woman’s luggage for free until the woman could get friends of hers to come and help her carry it to her new apartment. They had been at the bus terminal earlier but had to leave to go to work.

As for the man trying to get to Hartford, I’m not sure what Rachel was able to do for him since we left before his problems were resolved. Hopefully, he was able to take the train, something he was vying for.

There was one young woman who started to leave the office in a huff once she heard there was not to be immediate compensation and she’d most likely be stuck for a couple more hours in Port Authority before a connecting bus could get her to her final destination. I cajoled her to fill out the form, explaining that she deserves some compensation for her inconvenience and that she’d most likely get something. She agreed to stay and picked up the pen.

With complaint forms filled out, off my daughter and I went to enjoy our Halloween weekend in Manhattan.

Within eight days, we each received a wonderful letter from Greyhound customer service with a $40 ticket voucher that can be used within a year. (That’s $40 a piece.)

As the letter says, “We want to apologize for the recent inconvenience you experienced while using our service. At Greyhound, we strive to make every trip fast, affordable and convenient…Again, we value your business and thank you for your service. We look forward to seeing you on the road.”

Rachel personally signed the letter.

Is this Greyhound bus rider satisfied? You bet. I’m hopping on a Greyhound with my son in December. With a 21-day advanced purchase and my voucher, the trip for the two of us will only be $172. That’s what I call affordable. And unless the driver heads the wrong way, it won’t take much longer than driving to Manhattan ourselves.

As for my daughter, I may send her to Pittsburgh on a solo trip to visit her cousin who’s going to college there–something I wouldn’t have thought to do otherwise.

Greyhound’s actions made sure we’d keep coming back. It seems to me, that makes good business sense. It doesn’t take a lot to make customers satisfied. Really.

Greyhound bus driver heads wrong way: Where’s a GPS when you need one?

Greyhound bus drivers generally don’t make national news. Pilots who overshoot airports, however, end up having their story told over and over again on about every entertainment vehicle there is. How many places did you hear or read about the Northwest Airlines pilots who missed Minneapolis and didn’t figure out their mistake for 150 miles?

Now, how many of you heard about the Greyhound bus driver who headed the wrong way for more than an hour last week? Yep, last Saturday morning at about 7:14 a.m on October 31st, that’s exactly what happened–a bus driver went the wrong way for more than 70 miles.

Here’s an exclusive Gadling report that has yet to show up anywhere. Gadling knows because Gadling was there.

What started out to be a slam dunk from Cleveland’s bus station to Port Authority in Manhattan turned into a Twilight zone episode. For the band of riders who were heading to New York for a variety of reasons–like the R&B singer who was moving from Michigan to Manhattan to try to make a living, and the young man moving back to Hartford, Connecticut from Cincinnati, the bus was the cheapest travel option.

For this mother and her daughter, it was certainly the cheapest way for a last minute trip to NYC for a Halloween weekend that doubled as a 17th birthday present.

Each of us were initially thrilled to be on the spillover bus out of Cleveland. When there are too many passengers for one bus, another driver is called for a second bus. Riding on the second bus generally means more room.

When the second bus pulled out of the Cleveland terminal at 2:30 a.m. or so, the passengers, mostly with two seats to themselves, settled in for slumber. The bus’ interior lights were off creating an aura of cozy humanity as the bus headed to I-80 east for the trip straight to Manhattan. With the stop in Newark dropped because no one on the bus was going to Newark, this meant arriving ahead of the 11:15 a.m. schedule. Sweet!

At 6:55 a.m., the bus pulled into a truck stop near Milesburg, Pennsylvania. Most everyone got off in search of coffee and a toilet that didn’t move from side to side. Some huddled together for a quick smoke.

By 7:15 everyone was back on the bus, settling in for more shut eye as the sun began to rise. At 8:30 the dream come true ride ended.

The driver’s “Oh, my god! Oh, my god! I don’t believe this. We were almost there,” paired with her frustrated laughter–the kind of laughter one uses when there’s no other possible response because crying would be just too awful, woke up this Gadling rider. From the vantage point of three rows back from the driver on the right side of the bus, it was clear the driver was talking to herself.

Peering out the window looking to see what was up, the first thought was traffic caused by an accident. Nope. That wasn’t it. The highway was clear.

When the bus pulled off the highway, making a jog along a side road, the thought was another rest stop already?

Nope. That wasn’t it either. The driver swung the bus back onto the highway.

When an I-80 east sign appeared, so did a sinking feeling–and an urge to start moaning, “No, no, no!”

When the “Bellfonte 65 miles” (or so) sign appeared, it was clear what had happened. At Milesburg, the driver headed off on I-80 west instead of going east, thus driving back towards Cleveland. We had driven miles in the wrong direction past the State College turn off in the center of Pennsylvania where we had been before.

Unfortunately, it took the driver over an hour to figure out that she was heading away the wrong way.

We would not be arriving in New York City before 11:15. That’s when we’d be hitting the Poconos just in time for Saturday afternoon traffic.

The R&B singer’s friends who were at Port Authority to meet the bus called her wondering where she was after the first bus showed up on time. They told her that they had to go to work and would not be able to help her with her luggage after all.

By the time the bus pulled into Port Authority at 1:30, more than two hours behind schedule, five people felt steamed up enough to head to Greyhound customer service to complain. That meant filling out paperwork describing the event and leaving contact information.

For Gadling, the mistake meant two less hours in Manhattan. For others, it meant missed connections that ended up costing money and a travel headache they hadn’t counted on. The R&B singer had Greyhound comp her the price to store her luggage until she figured out how to get it to her new digs. When we left the customer service counter, the young guy was still trying to figure out how to get to Hartford and contact the people who were to meet him there. He was hoping Greyhound would put him on the train.

Greyhound customer service is going to let us know if they’ll be any ticket compensation once the incident is investigated. A voucher for future travel on Greyhound would be nice. You never know what kind of adventure you’re going to have when a bus pulls out of a station. I’m thinking about taking my son to Manhattan the middle of December to take in the holiday lights.

As for the ride back, the bus pulled into the Columbus, Ohio bus station right on time–7 a.m. on Monday morning.

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Greyhound travel: A worthy option and travel tips for the ride.

When deciding how to get to New York City from Columbus at the last minute earlier this week, airfares were hefty, even for flights with connections that may or may not happen according to schedule. Fly to New York from Columbus and you’ll see what I mean. Frankly, when tossing in the realities of making my way through airport security, Greyhound was a better option. Last summer I traveled from New York to Columbus on the bus, and I’m still a fan of bus travel.

One advantage to bus travel was being able to leave at 11:25 p.m. Because it was a last minute trip, I had much to do before heading away from home for a few days. There wasn’t a flight that fit my needs.

Before embarking on a night bus, however, there are a few items to consider. Here are some tips to having a more restful, relaxing and enjoyable ride.

  1. Bring a neck pillow. Yes, I know a neck pillow looks sort of dumb, something that Mike could josh about in SkyMall Monday, but the one I brought along made a difference to how well I was able to sleep. Whether you’re in an aisle or a window seat, it works well.
  2. Bring socks if you’re wearing sandals. It feels good to slip off shoes. When my feet started getting cold I put socks on and was glad that I had them.
  3. Bring water. Unlike the airplane, you can buy water beforehand and bring it with you without a hassle.
  4. Bring something for listening to music. Sure, this might be obvious to most you Gadling readers, but I’m not a person who plugs into music. For this trip, though, I scrounged around the house for a portable CD player, bought a new pair of earplugs and grabbed some batteries along with a couple of CDs before I left the house. I only listened to a CD when I wanted to go to sleep. It helped relax me.
  5. Bring an apple or two. Apples travel well. Fresh fruit on a bus trip feels healthy.
  6. Bring a lightweight blanket–like maybe one you took from an airplane, by mistake. Or a shawl. The shawl I had was lightweight, but it helped give me a sense of comfort.
  7. Bring a few snacks. Even though you can buy snacks at rest stops, you may not find what you feel like eating and the rest stop may not have power. When we stopped in Pennsylvania, the electricity at the rest stop was out so I couldn’t get some of that yummy machine coffee I was so looking forward to.

Things to keep in mind:

  1. Keep your toothbrush and toothpaste handy in your carry-on bag. Brushing your teeth in the morning at the breakfast stop helps you feel fresh.
  2. If you do bring your toothbrush and toothpaste into the breakfast stop bathroom, don’t forget them there. Particularly if they are with your makeup bag. If you do that, be glad it wasn’t your money that you left behind. I know I’m glad.
  3. If the bus driver tells you not to get off the bus because it’s a quick stop, don’t get off the bus. One man got off in Newark, New Jersey and was left behind. People on the bus told his wife to tell him to take the Path train in order to meet up with her in Manhattan.If this happens to you, the Path train is on the second floor of the Newark terminal. At least, that’s what I heard.
  4. If you are stuck waiting for the transfer bus, like in Cleveland, Ohio at 3:00 a.m., for example, take the opportunity to people watch and be glad that there wasn’t enough room for everyone on the first bus. If you are on the 2nd bus, you might be lucky enough to sit by yourself. I was.
  5. And, best of all, enjoy the scenery as you roll by. Think about what it would be like on a wagon train. At least you have air-conditioning and a cushioned seat.It could be worse. You could be stuck in an airport wondering when your connecting flight will ever take off.
  6. One more thing. Even if you do put your bag under the bus, you can keep track of it since you are the one to transfer it from one bus to the next. After you pick it up after the luggage handler has set it next to the bus, put your suitcase in the line for the gate, chat with one of the people standing in line along with you, ask “Would you mind watching this for a second?” and then go to the bathroom. Everyone does this. At least they did in Cleveland.
  7. If there is an artist in you waiting to come out, release the muse. Look at these lovely sketches of people at the Cleveland bus terminal by Emily R. Feingold that I just came across.

I’ll be heading back to Columbus on another night bus tomorrow. Because it’s a bus ticket, as long as I’m heading from New York to Columbus, I can go on whichever bus suits my schedule.

Not a bad deal for $169 round trip, the cost for a last minute ticket. If I had purchased it a week earlier, it would have been cheaper.

Taking Greyhound: a Gadling bloggers experience in the Twighlight Zone

As much as I liked being on a Greyhound bus riding the open highway with my son, who stretched and balled up Silly Putty between new York City and Columbus, Ohio, finding out how to actually take the bus was not the easiest.
Mind you, I’m a seriously traveled traveler. The process that led to our bus ride almost did me in.

Here’s how you play the game, “Getting on a Greyhound, and Welcome to the Twighlight Zone.”

Round One: Who is On First and What your Ticket Says Doesn’t Matter: At the Adirondack Trailways bus station in Kingston, New York after searching out bus schedules online.

Me: “I’d like to buy one adult one way bus ticket and one child’s ticket from New Paltz, New York to Columbus, Ohio. I think there is a bus that leaves New Paltz at 8:20 a.m. It arrives in Columbus about 11:30 p.m.”

Ticket Person, clicking away with her snazzy polished fake nails at the computer keyboard. Cheerful: “Sure. But, I’d take a later bus so you’re not in New York City as long.

Me, happy that she’s on the ball: “That sounds fine.”

Ticket Person, handing me tickets-still perky: “You’ll go through Cleveland and get to Columbus at 3:00 a.m.” (This is a paraphrase.)

Me, now, a bit irate: “Three in the morning?! No. I don’t want to go through Cleveland. I want to go through Pittsburgh. There’s a direct bus that leaves New York City at 11:30 a.m. I saw the schedule online.”

Ticket Person: “The online schedule is wrong.”

Me, attempting to hand back the tickets: “But, I don’t want this schedule. I want a direct route. I don’t want to go through Cleveland.”

Ticket Person, clicking away again: “There’s a 5:50 a.m. bus from New Paltz that gets you to the city in time to take a bus to Pittsburgh.”

Me: “But, I don’t want to leave that early. And what do I do now that our tickets say we are going through Cleveland and not Pittsburgh?”

Ticket Person, off-handedly.: “What the ticket says doesn’t really matter. Your ticket is from New Paltz to Columbus, so you can take any bus there. You don’t have to go through Cleveland.”

I leave the bus station, tickets in hand, confused, not sure at all which bus to take.

Round Two: Someone Knows What’s What.

Later at my dad’s standing in his kitchen. I call Adirondack Trailways to see what’s what. I don’t trust the ticket person in Kingston at all.

Me: “I’m calling to check on a bus schedule between New Paltz, New York and Columbus, Ohio. I just bought tickets in Kingston and they are not what I wanted. Is there a bus that leaves New Paltz at 8:20 in the morning with a change in NYC and a direct route to Columbus that stops in Pittsburgh for an hour? We would get to Columbus about 11:30 at night.”

Phone Ticket Person, after checking the schedule: “Yes, there is.”

Me: “The person in Kingston told me that bus didn’t exist and the online schedule is wrong. She said it’s often wrong.”

Phone Ticket Person: “The schedule is updated regularly.”

Me: “Here’s the problem. The tickets I have say we’re going through Cleveland and leaving New Paltz after 9 a.m. Plus, I have Trailways tickets. What about the switch to Greyhound?”

Phone Ticket Person: “That doesn’t matter. The tickets are good for any time and Trailways is the same company as Greyhound. The bus driver will let you on the bus to Pittsburgh. Ignore the Cleveland portion.”

Me: “Great!” Not one hundred percent confident, but willing to go with it.

We took the 8:00 a.m. bus out of New Paltz without a hitch. Problems not over yet. New Paltz busses to the city are frequent in the morning.

Round Three: At the Port Authority information booth you get misinformation.

Me, after snaking around through throngs of people and a stop to two separate bathrooms on two different floors. That’s another story:

“Where is the gate for the bus to Columbus, Ohio?”

Information Person: “Which city are you going through?”

Me: “My ticket says Cleveland, but I want to go through Pittsburgh.”

Information Person: “You need to change your ticket, otherwise you need to go through Cleveland.” (She directs me to the Greyhound ticket office.)

Round Four: When You Eventually Get Ahead

Me, trying not to get frustrated: “I have a ticket to Columbus that goes through Cleveland but I want the bus that goes through Pittsburgh. I was told I need to change tickets.

Counter Ticket Person: “No. That ticket is fine.”

Me, relieved, but not confident: “Great! Where do I catch the bus?”

Counter Ticket Person: Gate 70

Me: “Great! I want to purchase preboarding passes.” (Preboarding passes allow you to get on a bus before others.)

Counter Ticket Person: “I don’t sell those. I just give information. You need to stand in the next line. “(She is sitting next to the person who can sell me the preboarding passes.)

I move over two steps to the next line.

Me, showing my tickets: “I’d like to buy two preboarding passes for the bus to Columbus.”

Other Counter Person: “I can’t sell you preboarding for Trailways tickets. Those aren’t our tickets.”

The first Counter Person, leaning over: “Yes, you can. Trailways is Greyhound.”

Other Counter Person: “Oh. It is?” She’s stumped and really doesn’t know how to sell the prebarding passes so the other person shows her what to do and then hands me two of them.

Round Five: When Signage is Clear as Mud
The sign above the door to Gate 70 doesn’t list Columbus as a destination. Cleveland is on the sign, but Pittsburgh is not. None of the other signs say Columbus either.

Panicked, thinking that we are destined for travel hell after all, I quiz passengers waiting in line to find out the scoop. After deductive reasoning, and after chatting with a woman standing in line who works for Greyhound, I decided that the bus would be going through Pittsburgh and the people going to Cleveland would change buses in Pittsburgh. Why the sign didn’t say Columbus since that was where the bus was heading, I have no idea.

Also, there isn’t a special place to stand for passengers with preboarding passes. We hang near the front, but not in line. When the driver opens the gate doors to take our tickets, I tell him about the preboarding passes and we cut to the front. There is only one other woman with children in line with preboarding passes.

Because there isn’t a designated spot for preboarders, I feel as if we look like we are cutting in line, but once we are on the bus with our pick of seats, I don’t care. I earned them.

*Sure enough, the Cleveland portion of the ticket was ignored. We were allowed to go to Pittsburgh and arrived in Columbus at 11:40, about 20 minutes late. (see post on how the trip went.)

Jebb’s shot is of the Trailways bus to New Paltz.

Taking Greyhound: A Gadling blogger’s thumbs up experience (mostly)

As airline fares go up, or your favorite route gets canceled, don’t push aside the possibility of taking Greyhound. I’m serious. This summer, due to high airfare costs, I traveled with my six year-old son to New York from Cleveland, Ohio on the train. (see post) We bused it back to Columbus because that was more convenient.

Although the train had a bit of panache, and felt like a grand excursion, (it doesn’t take much to please me), the bus was good enough for getting home. Fun even.

For my son, Greyhound was an adventure that was almost as wondrous as the train. Our one-way tickets from New Paltz, New York to Columbus cost $180 total. (Children’s tickets are 40% of adult fares.)

Advantage of bus travel:

  • I didn’t need to know our exact travel date or departure location until last minute. Although buying a bus ticket early can save a few bucks, it’s not so much money that you need to plan ahead. I shuffled our travel plans a few times and enjoyed the flexibility instead of being held to a travel date and time.
  • We took loads of snacks and drinks on the bus without problems.
  • There wasn’t a fee for the first checked bag for each of us. I carried our bags to the bus myself so there wasn’t a chance of our luggage going to the wrong destination or being left behind.
  • Upon arrival we didn’t need to wait at baggage claim, but snagged our suitcases right as we got off the bus.
  • My husband could meet us right at the bus so he was able to help carry our bags, a big help since our son had fallen asleep and had wobbly legs.
  • I was able to read to my son, read my own books, and enjoy my son’s company.
  • There were three rest stops and one dinner stop which broke up the journey. Rest stops were about every three hours.
  • The service plazas where the bus stopped had a variety of food, generally much less expensive than airport eateries. We bought lunch to eat on the bus at one service stop and ate dinner at the Pittsburgh bus station. The meatball sub was actually pretty good.
  • We could watch the scenery go by. Granted there’s not a lot of variation with highway travel, but there is a sense of movement.
  • We did not have to go through security.

Disadvantage of bus travel:

  • It took us 12 ½ hours. If we flew it may have been half that long, but then again, with a delay or a canceled flight, it could have been the same.
  • Changing buses in Port Authority in New York City is a pain if you don’t know what you’re doing. In general, airport signage is easier to follow. (Part 2 tomorrow.)
  • Bus stations are not as snazzy as airports.

Tips for bus travel:

  • Because there are various route options, check carefully beforehand so you don’t end up arriving later than you want, or making unnecessary detours. We were almost routed through Cleveland which would have been STUPID. Very STUPID.
  • If you can purchase priority seating, do. For $5 extra for each ticket, we were able to board the bus first at Port Authority in New York City. This meant we were able to get first dibs on the seats. This option is not available at all stations.
  • Sit close to the front of the bus. If you sit too far back, you’ll notice the bus’s movement more. Also, sitting close to the front meant we could look out the bus’s front window.
  • Bring a lightweight jacket, sweater, shawl or some sort of cover-up. The air-conditioning can feel nippy.
  • A neck pillow can help you sleep more easily.
  • Wear slip-on shoes. Taking shoes off when seated feels more comfortable than leaving them on.
  • When you get off at a rest stop or for dinner, leave your belongings on the bus in order to save your seat.

What we didn’t have which I didn’t miss, but would bring the next time just in case:

Something to listen to music.

What we did have that lasted just long enough:

A laptop so my son could watch a DVD until the battery became too low.

What my son played with most:

Silly Putty