Following up on my previous post, I want to share one more story of my encounter with DB customer service.
Points redemption experience
Last year I fell in the DB bahn card trap and I’m sure thousands others do as well, each year. Long story short, it was a free 3-month bahn card, I forgot to cancel in time and it got automatically extended for a year. Is this a typical way of trapping customers in Germany? It’s true for all the contract here. Now that I was stuck with a bahn card, I thought why not start collecting bahn bonus points each time I buy tickets. I raked up quite some points and was looking forward to being rewarded one day.
One fine evening I embarked on online bonus points redemption adventure. Since I had to book another night train in future, in exchange for my bonus points, I decided to take a10€ voucher for night trains. I’ve redeemed many rewards online, it’s quite easy. That’s the whole benefit of online systems after all. Amazon for example sends me a voucher code that I can simply enter during checkout and easily redeem for all online shopping at amazon.com.
But DB ain’t no amazon! I selected my preferred reward and proceeded to checkout and once again, DB doesn’t want to give me any code, they want to send it by post, within 10 working days. Can it get more efficient than this?
It could have been so fast, cheap and easy for everyone, instead, DB chooses to print the damn thing on paper, pay postage, move the thing around from I don’t know where, to my place, for no additional benefit to anyone. Besides helping Deutsche Post stay afloat in the process.
I got the voucher and went to DB customer service center at Munich Central Station. After waiting for 20 minutes in queue, the lady took a long look at my voucher, checked for the night train connections and told me it would be 69€ (Munich-Budapest). I said that’s the price I would have usually paid had I booked online myself, what’s about the 10€ voucher?
To this the lady had to ask her superior and came back after few minutes to make the grand revelation. My voucher can only be used for a reduction on reservation charges, not for the ticket prices. Apparently for my connection, price with voucher was same as without voucher. How surprising. They can’t help me further because that’s what the system says. Let’s see how many anti-customer boxes can be checked for DB (based on my own experiences):
Maximum number of strikes in Europe (agreed, there is competition with SNCF) – check
Grumpy, incompetent customer support staff – check
Consistent excuses for delays (Technische Störung) – check
Extra charges for reservation – check
Force travelers to receive online booked tickets via post – check
Fleet usage optimization over traveler comfort – check
However, the issues I’ve raised are not specific to me, these are systematic operational issues at DB. I believe it is possible to make small adjustments that will delight travelers without affecting DB balance sheets negatively. But again, I don’t work for DB. I wonder if Germany will ever allow competition in railways as the UK did, I hope Sir Richard Branson is listening 🙂