The Great Train Robbery

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Jun 4, 2018
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#1
Amtrak
I do have a consumer complaint, but I doubt there is anything you can do about it except publicize it, We bought round trip tickets on Amtrak in February for around trip to Boston from Roseville CA in July so we could have a sleeping room and avoid all the airline hassles. Now we find out that the dining car is being removed on the Lakeshore Limited between Chicago and Boston, and we will be give some kind of prepared meals similar to airplane meals, which we find almost inedible. The CEO of Amtrak was an airline executive. I was at a fund raiser for my congressman Ami Bera on Saturday, he did not know about this, but considering the nature of the present congress, he probably can not do anything either. We, my wife and I feel we are being cheated, as this trip will cost more than air travel would, but we are going by train to be able to see the scenery and we like to meet other people in the diner.

From Amtrak
"Beginning June 1, Amtrak will offer contemporary meal choices for sleeping car customers, in place of traditional dining car service, onboard the Capitol Limited and Lake Shore Limited trains. Sleeping car customers will choose from a variety of quality, fresh and ready-to-serve meals. Unlimited soft drinks, a complimentary serving of beer, wine or a mixed-drink and an amenity kit will also be offered to sleeping car customers.
Sleeping car customers will have the option to dine at available seating in the sleeping car lounge or can continue to be served in their bedrooms or roomettes.
Reservations for in room dining will be available in frequent intervals consistent with today’s standards and meals continue to be included in the sleeping car fare. A Kosher meal continues to be available with advance notice.
  • Lunch & Dinner: Chilled beef tenderloin, Vegan wrap, Chicken Caesar salad, or Turkey club sandwich.
  • Breakfast: Assorted breakfast breads with butter, cream cheese and strawberry jam; Greek yogurt and sliced seasonal fresh fruit plate."

Basically cold meals, not even as good s airline first class meals.
Now who wants to eat in the bedroom, instead of sitting at a table and watching the scenery, and socializing?
Our fare includes meals, my wife is can not have dairy, the only choice she is given is vegan, which she finds almost inedible, and certainly, not any good choice for breakfast. When she contacted customer service, she was told she could bring a meal on board. Now just how are we to being a hot breakfast on board and keep it until the next morning. I believe we should get a rebate for the difference between the bedroom and the roomette price.

I call this the great train robbery.
 
Nov 20, 2015
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#2
Mr Underwood, I have taken several long distance Amtrak trips(most recently on the Coastal Starlight last month) and I believe that the diner car experience is important to most people who pay for sleeper car tickets. I really hope the cuts don't spread to other lines.

It is unfair for them degrade the level of service after you've already paid for it. Have you asked Amtrak to compensate you yet? On 2 occasions,on the unsolicited advice of the conductor, I have had Amtrak reimburse me for relatively minor inconveniences on trips. I just had to call customer service and ask. So, I would call customer service if you haven't. If you aren't satisfied with their response, then I would start emailing the Amtrak company contacts listed on this site(one at a time, starting with the primary contact). I think you have a good shot at getting some money back for this degradation in service.
 

Neil Maley

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#3
Mr Underwood, I have taken several long distance Amtrak trips(most recently on the Coastal Starlight last month) and I believe that the diner car experience is important to most people who pay for sleeper car tickets. I really hope the cuts don't spread to other lines.

It is unfair for them degrade the level of service after you've already paid for it. Have you asked Amtrak to compensate you yet? On 2 occasions,on the unsolicited advice of the conductor, I have had Amtrak reimburse me for relatively minor inconveniences on trips. I just had to call customer service and ask. So, I would call customer service if you haven't. If you aren't satisfied with their response, then I would start emailing the Amtrak company contacts listed on this site(one at a time, starting with the primary contact). I think you have a good shot at getting some money back for this degradation in service.
I agree. I would request a partial refund as well. Read the information on the company contact page about how to write and then start your campaign.

Let us know how you make out.
 
Sep 19, 2015
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#4
Amtrak has been losing money on food service for decades — it is the tens of millions per year.

I am one of the people that think it is important to have a functioning modern rail system and look at it as a public good. Unfortunately that is not a prevailing thought with many politicians and those that want the Federal government to give less to Amtrak.

There is some talk of there still being a lounge car to eat in but no hot food. And of course there is the ridiculous PR speak calling it an enhanced experience which makes it all the more offensive.
But some of the politicians would say that the rider was not really charged much for the food as it was taxpayer subsidized. I do fear that Amtrak will be cut and cut more, and it is depressing. I only use the NE corridor, which is one of the few profitable lines.
 
Likes: krisseye
Jun 4, 2018
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#5
I will be talking with customer service in the morning. We are trying to figure out what the difference in cost is between our first class travel where we prepaid for dining car service and coach. The loss of being able to sit and eat by a window, and getting cheap airline food. At least the airlines try to heat theirs. At minimum they make microwaves available, then we could bring something edible on board, or they could arrange to have hot meals delivered at stops along the route. I was hoping this would be put on Facebook, as Amtrak has been putting page there recently telling us what a great way to travel it is. Congress is complaining because Amtrak loses money, now they have to try and make up for the huge deficit they voted for. Other countries subsidize their passenger railroads. We rode the RENFE in Spain, what great way to go. Three hours Madrid to Valencia, same as Sacramento to LA.

No RR passenger service anywhere world wide is self supporting, but it actually save the country money. No 1, is air pollution. Jet planes are some of the most polluting means of transportation of all. They emit more greehous gasses thatn all the coal burning plants. HSR from SF to LA would reduce vehicle pollution by 33%. It is faster to take HSR 500 miles than to fly. At 300KMH it takes 2.5 hours. To fly it takes about 1.25 hours air time, but at least 1.5 hours early at the airport, then deplaning, and getting to town from the airport and it is three hours with all the TSA hassle. It also saves on highway maintenance costs, the need to have fuel transported by truck or pipeline and here in California along Route 99 which has one of the nations highest childhood COP D rate, it would reduce that. There is more than just money costs, there are social and health costs.

I showed a reasonable rebate of $1000, but I am considering upping it. Amtrak is advertising their trains as a great way to experience the country, suppose you signed up for a cruise ship, and after you got on board, all you could get was KFC, or McDonald's..
 

Neil Maley

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Dec 27, 2014
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#6
I think you are asking for too much money for the portion of your trip. This is an issue on the BOS- Chi portion of the trip which is less than half way. The majority of your ticket cost is for the train and sleeper car. not the food. There is minimal value for the food. If you ask for more than you are entitled to, they’ll not respond favorable.

I wouldn’t ask for more than $100 each for the food. You weren’t getting a 5 Star meal on the train even with hot food. They are still giving you food.

Use our company contacts and escalate your complaint to the Executives at Amtrak.

http://www.elliott.org/company-contacts/amtrak/

I don’t know if you have ever done a long distance train trip but it is boring and it’s hard to sleep. The train jolts back and forth and it’s not a smooth ride. You were wise to get a sleeper car because if you hadn’t you’d sleep very little. The first couple of hours is interesting and then the thrill is gone.

Did you post your complaint on their Facebook page as you said you wanted to?
 
Jan 30, 2018
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#7
With all due respect, Neil, some of us think long distance train rides are wonderful! We have traveled across the USA and Canada by rail and have not been bored. Something new to see out the window every minute.
 

Neil Maley

Moderator
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#8
With all due respect, Neil, some of us think long distance train rides are wonderful! We have traveled across the USA and Canada by rail and have not been bored. Something new to see out the window every minute.
I must apologize and say I find them unexciting - I shouldn’t say it’s boring to everyone- you are right. But it’s a great way to be able to travel and not have to do the driving.
 

technomage1

Verified Member
Jan 5, 2015
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#9
I find trains to be great. You can stretch out and relax vs the hassle of driving or flying, and arrive fresh at destination. That's a personal preference, though.

I'm showing the cost for a bedroom on all trains to be $3190 for two adult travellers with one transfer and $2670 for three transfers. So there is already a wide descrepancy in pricing. What I would suggest is looking to see the price for a like to like booking and the difference for the cost of the ticket you would have booked in regular class. Or you could ask for a partial downgrade and refund.

Alternatively, you could ask for a refund of the tickets and book air, as long as the announcement was made after you booked the tickets.
 
Sep 19, 2015
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#10
I am all for my tax dollars supporting Amtrak and admire many of the European trains. I want to avoid politics but it is hard in cases like this where there is a school of thought which wants the federal government as small as possible and not subsidize Amtrak. I think these cuts are terrible.

I do think 1000 is too much. The average cost of a main course in the dining car is less than $20.

Will there be no lounge area to eat? I have never taken long distance in the US.
 

technomage1

Verified Member
Jan 5, 2015
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#11
I am all for my tax dollars supporting Amtrak and admire many of the European trains. I want to avoid politics but it is hard in cases like this where there is a school of thought which wants the federal government as small as possible and not subsidize Amtrak. I think these cuts are terrible.

I do think 1000 is too much. The average cost of a main course in the dining car is less than $20.

Will there be no lounge area to eat? I have never taken long distance in the US.
According to the announcement there is a sleeping car lounge.
 
Jun 4, 2018
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#12
We have made several long distance train trips, I was fortunate to be able to take the original California Zeypher two times, rode the Super Chief, the City of San Francisco, the Daylight. However the current sleeping cars are not well designed, the roomets are uncomfortable so we reserved the bedroom. I sleep fine on the train. In fact if they had the coaches like they do on the Capital Corridor from Sacramento to San Jose, those are comrtable enouhg to sleep in. Actually the cars could be made lighter and more comfortable, they do not have to be double decker.

The cost of the meals is the least of it, what they are doing with their cold box meals and no dining, what they doing is making that protion of the trip uncomfortabel and removeing one of the prime reasons for taking the train in the first place, it is a degredation of the experience. I do not know about the lounge car, or what is avilable in it.

Just finished talking to customer service, they did not offer a rebate, we could cancel and get the fare back, they might even give the cancellation fee back. They also said if there is enouhg complaints, management might put the diner back on. So make this as public as possible. I do not know what Wlliott's policy is about making statement about politics but what I see is a congress that does not like public supported transportatoion, htis is one of those theywould like to kill. We also know that in California Southwest Airlines is one of the primary lobbyists behind the move to stop the HSR. HSR would cut a lot of profits from the shorter flights.
 

Neil Maley

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#13
They should absolutely not charge you a cancellation fee if you cancel because they changed what you bought.

I would recommend you write to Amtrak and let them know you thoughts. Take it up to the Executives, and ask turn to refund your cancellation fee.
 
Likes: jsn55
Jun 4, 2018
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#16
They should absolutely not charge you a cancellation fee if you cancel because they changed what you bought.
I would recommend you write to Amtrak and let them know you thoughts. Take it up to the Executives, and ask turn to refund your cancellation fee.[

I will be writing to Amtrack, but as Elliott has said, don't get personal or make threats. I have already told my congressman about it, I will remind him again if few days.

It is really too late to cancel, we are going ot a wedding at Newport Rhode Island and air fares are not discounted this late, besides we want to avoid all the airport hassles. We have also scheduled a stop in Pittsfield MA for a couple of days to visit with a cousin, and go to a concert at Tanglewood. We have not cancelled, but I believe we should get a discount for the inconvenience and failure to provide what we have already paid for. I dis like being political about these things, but Donald1 the Mad President has managed to get the GOP to appoint incompetents and crooks to these commissions. The CEO is an ex airline exec, he and the board will try to find ways to nickle and dime us to penury if they can.
 
Aug 9, 2017
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#17
I have not read the other replies so someone may have done similar research and posted the result here.

My research indicates that according to a schedule (effective May 26th 2018) at https://www.amtrak.com/content/dam/...tables/Lake-Shore-Limited-Schedule-052618.pdf the train will depart Chicago at 9:30 PM. There are very few stops of any duration that would enable a individual to get off the train until Albany-Rensselaer NY at where the train arrives at 2:30 PM and departs at 4:15 PM.

It would seem to me dinner after a 9:30 departure out of Chicago is probably not desired. I did not check when the train gets to Chicago but a layover there and a "larger" meal might be possible depending on the station facilities. So it seems to me that breakfast and lunch are the only meals that are compromised and lunch might be available "off train" while on the Albany layover.

Not impossible in my opinion.
 
Likes: Neil Maley
Jun 4, 2018
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#18
The Zeypher gets into Chicago early enough for us to find a place for dinner before the Lakeshore Limited leaves. However, we will not get into Boston until a about 20:00 (8PM), so will be served a cold breakfast and dinner. On the return trip we will layover two days in Pittsfield MA to visit a cousin, but again the train does not arrive until late afternoon, so will have to do with at least two cold meals, and after leaving Pittsfield, we will not get into Chicago until next day, giving us more cold cheepo meals. That is not what we paid for, when we signed up, on of the advantages was traveling while sleeping, not having to find decent meals along the way if we drove. and watching the scenery go by. We considered that better than driving. We could have flown, but that involves the early arrivals, three plane changes, luggage problems, and even first class is no joyride. We could go first class air for $1000 less, but the train is much nicer.

Just saw this in the NY Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/08/...lights&contentPlacement=5&pgtype=sectionfront
 

Neil Maley

Moderator
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Dec 27, 2014
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#19
Have you taken our advice and started writing to see if they will reduce your price? Obviously, it is what it is - they are cheapening the route. If the food is that important, they give you an alternative - travel further south and then go north on cars that have better dining. I think it's ridiculous on the part of Amtrak and the response from them to even do this is ridiculus, but you aren't going to make them put a dining car back in so you have a choice - ask for a fare reduction or cancel totally and get there another way if you can't deal with the food.

Let us know what happens when you escalate this up the Amtrak executives.
 
Jun 4, 2018
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#20
We have called cutomer service, and I have told my congressman about this, so this weekend I will set about composing a letter to the Amtrak executives with copies to my senators and my congressman. I am not sure if email is good enough or it I should also send a letter by certified mail. Any thought on this?