Rail Europe: What not to do

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For the last few months I have been planning an awesome family travel adventure to Europe.  We will be visiting London, Brussels, Cologne, Paris, Amsterdam, Reims and more. Three generations are going on this trip of a life time and getting it booked has been a lot of work not to mention a considerable amount of money.

In addition to me and my family having a great time it will also be a working vacation because I will be writing several articles for publication right here in this great publication. My goal is to advise as many travelers and potential travelers as possible on the ins and outs of getting to and from and around various European destinations.

In doing so it is my fervent hope that many of you can have the best possible experiences especially when it comes to family travel. Little did I know that I would get my very first lesson in what not to do before we even departed the good ol’ U. S. of A.

In the process of putting our itinerary together I booked and paid for train transportation from Paris to Reims, France. It is a fairly short trip, less than an hour so I booked First Class just to experience that aspect of European train travel.  I was of the opinion that five of us would be taking that train ride but I later learned the my two daughters and one granddaughter would be going to Venice from Paris and that they would catch up with us a couple of days later in Reims.  Oops! I had already booked and paid for the train tickets.

I needed a refund so first I went to their website and found absolutely nothing useful available directly on their website, but there was a “customer service” number so I called. The computer interrogated me and said there would be a call back within an hour or so. Okay fair enough and I got back to work.

About 90 minutes later an agent did call. She asked me for information that simply did not exist on the paperwork that had been provided when booking the ride. Eventually she just gave up and asked for my name. What a novel idea, to actually want to know who your customer might be.

Eventually the customer service agent did locate our file and she then informed me that those tickets were neither refundable nor exchangeable. Well in all honesty that is not the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth because she did say that our granddaughter’s ticket could and would be refunded. For a ticket I paid about $35.00 for I would receive about an $8.00 refund.

Defeated but still trying I then asked if two other adults, not our two daughters, but friends of my wife could use the girls’ non-refundable tickets; would that be possible? Nope! So undaunted I asked another question, well actually more of a statement, “Well, since I can’t cancel or exchange these tickets I guess we will just have a couple of empty seats on this journey” I suggested. Again Nope! We will resell those seats.  Excuse me, I bought those tickets, I paid full price for those tickets and now you dare to resell them forcing me to sit next to total strangers who might even smell bad.

Look business is business and I can fully grasp the concept of non-refundable. I can even to some extent consider non-exchangeable but to apply both in a way that not only keeps my money for services that will not be rendered and then add insult to injury by forcing me to share accommodations with total strangers siting in seats that I paid for and so did they, now that is beyond any rational measure of reasonable.

So with all of that in mind I don’t mind saying that I absolutely do not endorse Rail Europe and/or SNCF (French National Railway Corporation). At least in their booking, refund and exchange policies they are utterly money grubbing, severely non service oriented trash. That’s my opinion and I stand by it. I have been blessed to have traveled our wonderful world having visited every continent except Antarctica and I have never before experienced anything quite this obnoxious. So again I totally reject any future or further business with Rail Europe and/or SNCF. “Viva la France!”

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