August 15th, 2006


Dear Amtrak

Dear Amtrak Customer Relations:

I have always been a train lover until my recent trip with Amtrak. My girlfriend and I needed to go from my parents in Harrisburg to an important conference in Boston which is why I chose a train which would arrive at 8 pm giving me plenty of time to sleep before the next morning. I also had a large backpack, a suitcase and a laptop while my girlfriend had a heavy suitcase and a small backpack. We decided to go with Amtrak to experience a little bit of luxury (as opposed to Greyhound) as well as avoid having so many stopovers that Greyhound would have made us take.

After Philadelphia, on our way to NYC, our cabin's air conditioning stopped working. Then, after changing trains in NYC, we also had a cabin without air conditioning. That did not bother us too much, but it certainly was already not the “luxury” I was expecting in Amtrak. Then, we got to Providence. We were told that a few trees had fallen on the tracks due to a storm and that we would be moving shortly. Then we were told it would be around a half hour.

An hour later, we were told to change to a commuter train, so with all of our luggage, we navigated our way through the station to the elevator and eventually got on the train. Upon getting on this train, we realized that my girlfriend's fanny pack had been stolen (along with her medication, wallet with $200 and camera including our precious memories of our trip)! After waiting another half hour in a non-moving train, we finally started moving and reached the city of Sharon. There we were all told to leave the train and wait for a bus. This is a hardship, but still understandable, due to the trees on the tracks. Here we waited for another hour for the busses without food or drink.

Next, the busses arrived and we got in and they took us to the University Park Station of Boston. But, the bus did not drop us off at the station, but down the road a bit, so we all had to walk a good five minutes with our heavy luggage just to get to this other train (which was also not air conditioned) and we felt we were going to sweat to death. Then we finally arrived in Boston South Station at 2:30 am (!!) where our friend had been waiting hours to meet us. Finally, we waited a half hour for a taxi, since the subway was no longer running (apparently Amtrak had not told them we would be arriving late, so taxis were not waiting).

Normally I am a very tolerant person, and my love of public transportation lets me keep my temper when something goes wrong. But, it clearly shows me that something in Amtrak administration is awry when we have to change from a bus to a train. This could not have been due to the storm! Both my girlfriend and I arrived exhausted and I missed half of the first conference day due to this misadministration.

Since we live in Germany, we will not be able to use a voucher and we demand a full refund due to the unnecessary hardships we experienced during our long trip. I called Amtrak customer service and talked with Carol (reference# 1303480) and was told we had to write a letter and send our ticket stubs to get a refund which angered me even more. In conclusion, we suffered a six and a half hour delay for a four hour trip and had nothing to eat or drink between 1 pm and 3 am. This treatment of customers is utterly unacceptable and we demand a full refund.

Charles Smith