Friday, April 22, 2011


During my visit to New York City last month I purchased a weekly pass for taking the train from Secaucus, New Jersey to Manhattan. By my calculation, it would be worth the expense due to the number of trips I'd be making.

The problem was that I made the decision based on faulty data. I'd been a little confused by the purchase--and shocked by the amount it cost me--to go from Penn Station to three stops into New Jersey. It turns out that I messed up and purchased the same trip twice, with one good enough to get me as far as Seacaucus, the first New Jersey stop, and another to go two stops more. I thought I'd bought a ticket to Seacaucus and another ticket from that hub to my destination. (In other words, I thought I bought a ticket from A to B and another from B to C. Instead I bought a tickets from A to B and A to C.)

I bought the weekly pass on a Saturday, the first day one could use it, but almost immediately after doing this I wondered if it would be good for rides not originating from or ending at Secaucus. (My train trips would begin and end two stops down the line on Monday and Tuesday.) I stopped into the station's office to see if I would be OK using this weekly pass or if there would be an additional cost for catching and taking the train farther. I assumed so, as that's how New Jersey's system worked, but I wasn't sure in this case.

The transit employee didn't seem all too certain but ultimately said that I would be fine. As the weekend went along, and the more my brother and I thought about it, this didn't seem correct. So, on Sunday night we popped into the office again and asked a different transit worker. She said that it couldn't be used the way I needed to use it and went about filling out the forms and making the copies necessary to request a refund.

She also told me that the weekly pass didn't start losing prorated value until a weekday passed, so she thought I'd be refunded for the entire thing. I had used it four times over the weekend--twice going into NYC, twice returning--and was happy to pay for the trips I'd taken, yet if the refund went through, I would end up benefiting from my obliviousness and a loophole.

It was kind of a time-consuming process to get everything ready to request the refund, not that I minded, as I was otherwise going to have wasted around $20. The transit employee was patient and very helpful--she knew the ins and outs much better than the person I previously spoke with--and I made a point of writing her name down in the event that I got some or all of my money back.

A month after the request was made, a full refund was credited in my bank account. Now I have a letter to write. That employee gave terrific customer service, and I feel like she ought to be recognized for it. Where one of her co-worker's provided me with bad information that would have cost me even more--I would have had to make up the difference and pay a penalty to the conductor--she fixed a mistake I made. Although it was a nice victory to come out ahead--a fact that won't go in the letter--that wasn't what I was looking for. For that, the least I can do is let her superiors know how much I appreciated her efforts.

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