Daily moan #18: Southern Railways' 90%-off sale

I haven't had a good moan for a while, so I'll enjoy this one.

Like many of my friends, I was looking forward to Southern Railways' 90%-off sale on 26 May. In my head I was planning trips to Southampton, Ashford, Rye, even London - for the Tuesdays that the Off Beat Cafe would be closed. Come the day, however, and their poor computer couldn't cope with demand and everything ground to a halt - impossible to buy tickets. So, they extended the sale and on 27 May, after many many attempts, I managed to buy a return ticket from Brighton to London: 45p up on the 11.19 on 14 June; 70p back to Brighton at 15.51 - a quick visit to go see the Aesthetics show at the V&A. I opted to receive the tickets by 1st class post and received an acknowledgment by email.

Some days later I received my tickets in the post. But, instead of my return ticket, however I received a day-return ticket from Dorking to London for 22 June! So I emailed them via their online form - twice - with no reply. On 7 June I called 08451 272920 and was told that I could claim a refund - which would presumably be for the 70p - which still left me having to buy another ticket for £5.90. Swizz! I felt cheated! So I sent off a letter of complaint - and as yet have not received a reply.

I did get a reply to one of my emails though on 9 June. I was told I could 'amend my journey' on the website but 'There is a charge of £2 per transaction for changes of journey on Southern services plus the cost of any difference in fare.' Well, there was nothing wrong with my order, it's there in black and white in my account history (and I have the original email to prove it) - it was Southern that sent me the wrong ticket!

Ok, the amounts may seem trivial, but I am complaining more about the level of service. First for the 90% off sale for which their website clearly couldn't cope and on which it was almost impossible to buy tickets, second for their lousy online form that gives no acknowledgment that an 'email' has been received, and third for a customer service call centre that puts the onus on me to claim a refund when it was clearly their fault that I received the wrong tickets!

I use Southern a lot to buy discounted rail tickets and every other transaction has worked perfectly - every time you but a ticket online you get an instant acknowledgement by email - nice reassuring feedback - the tickets usually arrive next day by post - or you can pick them up from a machine at the nearest station (I picked up tickets for my July trip to Dublin from Uckfield, a station I was just passing the other day), so what went wrong?

My faithful Topfield PVR, bought in 2005, is finally on its last legs, it freezes and then I have to wipe the hard drive to get it going again (capacitor problem according to the Toppy forum) so I have ordered a Tivo from Virgin. Now I have had problems with Virgin in the past so I hope I haven't made a rod for my own back!

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