Monday, November 28, 2011

Letter to Dave Leach - Greyhound President and CEO

On November 19, 2011, I mailed a letter to Dave Leach, President and CEO of Greyhound Bus Lines. The text of the letter is listed below:

Mr. Dave Leach
President and Chief Executive Officer
Greyhound Lines, Inc.
P.O. Box 660362
Dallas, TX 75266-0362

November 19, 2011

RE: Change.org Petition to End the $18 Gift Ticket Fee


Mr. Leach:

My name is Shawn Ambrose and I am an Assistant Professor of Business Administration in the Keith Busse School of Business and Entrepreneurial Leadership at the University of Saint Francis, Fort Wayne, IN. The views in this letter are strictly my own, and do not represent an official policy or opinion of the University of Saint Francis. However, under the guidelines and privileges of academic freedom, I believe that in addition to my expertise, that as a faculty member at a Franciscan University, that I have a moral duty to speak out on a business practice that I believe is unfair.

On October 7, 2011, I initiated an online petition campaign asking Greyhound Lines, Inc. to discontinue the practice of charging an $18 fee for third party e-purchase transactions (aka “Gift Ticket Fee). As of the writing of this letter, almost 7,000 people have signed the petition. In my opinion, the Gift Ticket Fee exploits those who are trying to assist a person in need, or to pay the fare for a friend and/or family member to travel. Second, the explanations that the fee is a handling fee and/or anti-fraud measure are not persuasive when critically examined. Lastly, I will state why I believe the Gift Ticket Fee is a poor business practice, and give my recommendations for eliminating the fee.

The Gift Ticket Fee is Exploitive

As of December 4, 2010, the following demographic information was available on your website:

• The average ticket price was $48
• The majority of Greyhound passengers travel to visit family and friends
• Nearly 60 percent of Greyhound passengers travel less than 450 miles.
• Two-thirds of Greyhound passengers earn less than $35,000 annually (Greyhound Lines, 2010)


Based on these data, it is clear that Greyhound targets lower-income customers, based on the fare structure and the preponderance of lower income customers. Given these data, the Gift Ticket Fee, on average, is a 37.5% markup. In addition, for a popular short-haul schedule, the Gift Ticket Fee can exceed the cost of the ticket.

Besides the financial data, the Gift Ticket Fee is a hardship for many families. David Henderson, an advocate for the poor, decided he would purchase a bus ticket to help someone move to another city to get a start on a better life. David’s words speak to the unjustness of the Gift Ticket Fee:

I have always known that being poor is expensive. When I was providing direct services to low-income individuals and families it seemed they would get caught in an endless web of miserable ticky-tacky corporate fees and fines. But my experience with Grey Hound (sic) was the first time I have been directly impacted by a corporate culture that kicks the crap out of poor people, knowing they have no voice with which to complain (Henderson, 2011).

In addition to David Henderson’s account, I encourage you to read the numerous comments about the hardship the Gift Ticket Fee has created for your customers.

The Gift Ticket Fee Does Not Stand Up To Scrutiny

Your company representatives have stated the Gift Ticket Fee covers the expenses for handling charges and is an anti-fraud measure (Swain, 2011). Based on job analysis and statistics from the credit card industry, it is clear that neither of the two reasons stands up to scrutiny.

The Gift Ticket Fee applies to all third party e-transactions, whether the ticket is mailed to the intended user or picked up at the terminal. For a ticket which is being mailed to the intended user, there is no additional work required for the processing of the ticket, since the ticket purchaser is entering all of the information at the Greyhound web site. The ticket is printed and mailed. There are no additional steps needed by Greyhound employees.

When a ticket is purchased for pick-up at the Greyhound terminal, I believe that, while an employee must perform steps to process the transaction, that the steps are significantly reduced for a Gift Ticket which is picked up at the terminal rather than having the buyer make the trip to the terminal. I have listed the steps listed for each transaction in the table on the next page.


Greyhound Employee Steps
Terminal Gift Ticket Transaction (Buyer travels to terminal for purchase)
Electronic Gift Ticket Transaction (Buyer purchases online)
1
Greet customer
Greet customer
2
Enters desired bus schedule
Verifies travelers ID and unique password for trip
3
Enters purchaser personal information
Prints ticket and baggage claim information
4
Enters traveler personal information
Directs passenger to gate – End transaction
5
Verify purchaser

6
Processes payment – End transaction

7
Greet customer

8
Verifies travelers ID and unique password for trip

9
Prints ticket and baggage claim information

10
Directs passenger to gate – End transaction



It is apparent there are more steps needed to process a “Gift Ticket Fee” in the terminal than electronically. Besides the inconvenience of having a purchaser drive to a Greyhound terminal to purchase a Gift Ticket, more labor is needed to process the transaction, which increases the labor cost.

Your representatives have also stated that the Gift Ticket Fee is an anti-fraud measure. With an average ticket cost of $48 and a Gift Ticket Fee of $18, the average ticket cost is covered by 2.67 Gift Ticket Fees. In other words, one out of every 2.67 Gift Ticket Sales are fraudulent. This defies logical explanation.

In an interview with the Toronto Star concerning the Gift Ticket Fee, Visa Canada stated that it was unaware of higher fraud rates in the bus industry ( Flavelle, 2011). When one considers that in 2010, online fraud losses were 0.9% (Digital Transactions, 2011), to infer that Gift Ticket Fee online fraud rates are 33% strains credibility.

A Call to Eliminate the Gift Ticket Fee

The Greyhound Gift Ticket Fee is a poor business practice. In my research, I have not found any business that charges a 37.5% markup for the privilege of conducting a third party transaction, including your competitors (MegaBus, Amtrak, etc.). As more people sign the petition and spread word of the petition through social media and other means, I anticipate the mainstream media will continue to cover the petition story. Media which have already covered the petition story include the Fort Wayne, IN Journal-Gazette, Cambridge Day, BusRide.com, and others. Your competitors will surely take notice – and as we move into the Christmas season, your competitors could use the “Gift Ticket Fee” against you.

I urge Greyhound to eliminate the Gift Ticket Fee immediately. The Gift Ticket Fee is unfair to Greyhound customers, not cost effective for Greyhound, and is not duplicated by your peers. I look forward to the courtesy of a personal response.



Best,



Shawn Ambrose, Ph.D.



Enc.: Change.org petition as of 11:45 a.m. November 19, 2011
Change.org petition comments as of 12:15 p.m. November 19, 2011
Screenshot Gift Ticket Fee transaction from Philadelphia, PA to New York, NY
Screenshot Gift Ticket Fee transaction from Philadelphia, PA to Pittsburgh, PA

C: Tim Newman, Change.org
Greyhound: Eliminate the $18 Gift Ticket Fee website

Works Cited

Flavelle, D. (2011, October 27). Greyhound fee angers customers. Retrieved from Moneyville: http://www.moneyville.ca/article/1075834--greyhound-fee-angers-customers

Digital Transactions. (2011, January 18). Online Fraud Rate Drops, But ‘Cleaner’ Fraud Poses a Bigger Threat. Retrieved from http://digitaltransactions.net/news/story/2878

Greyhound Lines. (2010, December 4). Greyhound Facts and Figures. Retrieved November 19, 2011, from http://web.archive.org/web/20101204033120/http://www.greyhound.com/en/about/factsandfigures.aspx

Henderson, D. (2011, February 22). Grey Hound Bus Wins War on Generosity. Retrieved from Poverty Insights: http://www.povertyinsights.org/2011/02/22/grey-hound-bus-wins-war-on-generosity/

Swain, G. (2011, November 7). Greyhound customers bark at $18 gift ticket surcharge. Retrieved from BusRide.com: http://busride.com/2011/11/greyhound-customers-bark-over-18-gift-ticket-surcharge/

10 comments:

  1. Extraordinary. I was online looking for the email of the CEO of Greyhound (David Leach) to complain about exactly this issue, their monopoly over travel in my region and the general treatment at the hands of their representatives. Thanks for this. If there is any way I can also contribute other than sharing around the petition, please let me know. I am articulate, educated active and willing to help.

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  2. Aretaeus,

    Here is my blog entry after a conversation with the CFO:

    http://shawn-ambrose.blogspot.com/search?updated-min=2012-01-01T00:00:00-08:00&updated-max=2013-01-01T00:00:00-08:00&max-results=3

    I ended the petition after five months, but IMHO, Greyhound is a very mismanaged company with zero emphasis on customer service. Management is putting capital into new buses; however, their customer service and ticketing procedures are atrocious. If you want a good read, check out Greyhound's Facebook page.

    Lets stay in touch - I want to keep pressure on Greyhound. By chance, did you have a bad experience with them?

    Shawn

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    1. drivers not making the "announcement" about loud music and or cell phone use, when I asked for him to make the announcement, he told me to "shut up", that he was trying to get people to where they were going-I said, but....and he crossed over from the left hand lane all the way to the right hand lane, pulled off the road, and asked me if I wanted him to call the police and get my ass of the bus. Yes, that is exactly what he said. I proceeded to move right behind him, because of the load music. He was driving 80 mph and coming within inches of semi's on the right side that those people moved to the left side. I did call the driver safety number and told them about this and they said someone would contact me....that was Feb. 2012. I was also told that their locked at 72 mph. Well, I clearly saw 80.
      Another driver telling me that he would not accept my ticket, I had it out of the blue holder, but it was not how HE liked it. I had the same driver prior and he never had an issue then. Must have been having a bad day.
      The stench from the toilet often will make you gag, it is so awful.
      I do belong to the Road Rewards, sometimes I did not log in and so I wanted to get credit for those trips. I have spent hours calling the call centers to no avail. Why? Because they are located in Columbia and Guatemala. The only why you can get an English speaking person is to call corporate and specifically ask for the American call center.
      First, 3 weeks ago, I made a copy of my missing rewards and thought perhaps the "nice" person at the desk could possibly assist me during her down time. She took the copy, wrote down the road rewards number. For the last 3 wks, I have been checking my account, still no update. This person was never there either. Finally, I received an envelope with a letter stating "In regards to the list that you left with me for credit for road rewards earns.
      I am unable to assist your request; I have been told the Road Reward holder has to contact Greyhound Customer Service at 214-849-8966. I'm sorry for the inconvenience and getting back to you. Enclosed please find the copy of your list.

      (not signed) I am assuming it is from the person that I gave it to.

      So, I took it upon myself on the 16th of March to call CS. I spoke to a Ms. Evans and she stated that she would be happy to help. I gave her all the confirmation numbers. I was placed on hold and told, one moment please, for nearly an hour. Finally she asked, "is there anything else", I stated no, thank you fro your time. Today is Friday the 20th and they still have not posted. I have like 26 trips. I called CS, and got S. America again. I hung up and called another number and got the states. I asked to speak to speak to a supervisor, I did, I explained the situation, he said that he did not NEED to assist me and that this call did not warrant a supervisor and that he's got people to do that! Thank you Mr. White, supervisor #2242. I have left two messages with Ms. Smallwood, an executive in CS to no avail. I am just so irritated. I dread using GH. What does make me feel a little better is that I am not the only one whom is so discontent. Thank you for letting me vent. Oh, and by the way, if A.B were to come on board and try GH, would it be the same for you or I? I think not. There would be 3 other people perhaps and the bus would have been disinfected inside and out prior to boarding.

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  3. I have had nothing but problems with Greyhound. I have been using them for the last 6 weeks commuting from one city to another, which is an hour and a half ride. I will admit that if you book in advance, it is possible to get a round trip ticket for $2. However, during my Monday-Friday commutes, there has been only ONE driver whom is cordial and professional.

    Let it be known that the majority of these drivers are rude and haven't a clue about safety. I shall list the complaints that I have given to the district manager at a location in the midwest, however, he is no longer there. These complaints include;
    driver texting while driving all the way to destination and arrived nearly 30 minutes late.
    drivers taking up the first 4 seats and stating that I cannot sit there, if there was an individual whom belongs to the ADA, I would be happy to move.
    driver stating that IF I was going to continue to sit in the front seat, behind him, that I could not use my cell phone.
    driver (female) telling me that I could not sit there either, and aggressively blocking me with her arm as I stood up to get off bus, waiting for her to leave. Mind you others said they had experienced her "military" attitude prior, as well.
    driver eating all the way to destination-but first sitting down and eating his first sandwich prior to leaving.
    driver not asking a woman to leave the front seat closest to the door to allow an individual with a disability to sit closest to the door, the woman would not move. The driver stated that the woman whom had a disability could sit next to the woman whom did not in the same seat.
    continued...

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  4. If you want additional Greyhound Corporate Contact Info, check out my FB page:

    https://www.facebook.com/pages/Greyhound-Eliminate-the-18-Gift-Ticket-Fee/303037359729408

    Thanks for your comments!

    Shawn

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  5. Hey Shawn,
    Yes I had a very bad experience with them. To make a long story short, they would not honour their web price with me. I believe there was a technical glitch in their purchase portal that would not allow ANY of my credit cards to go through even after several DAYS of trying with several different cards I use frequently. I could only obtain that price if I could get my card to go through on the site and otherwise I was to contact their tech services. Summing it up, they tried to charge me in total nearly $100 for a ticket that was $45 online without any attempt to reconcile. Bait and switch? Very shady. I was extremely frustrated after several days of making attempts and was further frustrated by a recalcitrant representative. I ending up paying just a few dollars more to take the train and not deal with them. To add further insult, I realized that they have a government-sanctioned monopoly along this particular route that explains their unwillingness to compromise. I will be logging a formal complaint outlining the entire incident with them, likely referring to others, such as you, who have filed similar complaints.
    Shane

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  6. Mr Leach I rode on your Greyhound bus this past weekend (6-29-12) and was really knocked for a loop when I experienced the absolute worse experience beginning in Chattanooga all the way to Chicago Illinois. We rode on your new bus (6 months old) the smell from the toilet was horrible, the entire bus smelled like a an old outer house, urine that made you sick of the stomach. Having to pay the prices and ride as if you were in the toilet for over 800 miles is an aweful way to travel. The bathrooms at your stations were worse the only one that was halfway clean was in Kentucky. I will NEVER ride another greyhound again. Go on Undercover Boss and see for yourself. Oh! those working for you had the worst attitude from the drivers to the station clerks. Our whole trip was ruined because of this experience going and coming home, if I could have afforded to fly home we would have. I rode with a scarf over my nose praying that a police car would not pull up alone side of us and see me and think I was holding up the bus. Word of mouth is your worst advertisement regarding this matter. gghoney9@gmail.com is where you can find me. Thank you for allowing me this opportunity to vent.

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    1. I was on-line trying to find a way to contact the CEO Mr. Leach, as my problem at best is one of certain complications. I've read the comments listed above and find them all to be very disturbing. I guess I have a view from the inside since I was an operator, driving out of the east coast for several years for Greyhound. In the begining I was a part-timer, still working the streets as a police officer, until my retirement and then I went full time. Even as a driver, it is almost impossible to contact the powers to be. A lot of drivers are burnt out, they feel used, and most do need additional training in the area of customer service... just knowing how to talk to people is a lost art for some. My problem started around mid-night one summer night, when I recieved a call-out from Greyhound Central Dispatch, advising me that I was to report to my home terminal for an assignment. I advised dispatch that I had not yet secured the DOT required amount of rest (10 hrs.) before I could accept a drivivg assignment. I was assured that the assignment was a non-driving one...I would be riding the bus along with 6-10 other drivers approximately 10 hours to our destination, where we would then secure the rest necessary to drive schedules coming back to our home terminals. We'll, we got almost half the way and each driver was called into service because of the heavy number of riders at a major HUB. I slept the four hours on the bus, so I had the sleep necessary to accept the assignment to drive. For the sake of time constraints I will tell you that I was two hours away from my destination when the unthinkable happened. The bus was struck on a major highway, and there was lost of life. I was able to get the bus off the highway without rolling it over and once I freed myself from the dashboard, I was able to open emergency windows. I could tell that some of the passengers had listened to my spill about emergency evacuations, because in all the chaos that ensued, I was able to get everyone off safely. I was in rehab for years, light duty for a year, and workers comp for 4 years. I constantly worked to get better so I could go back to work. I lost a vehicle to repossession, my home was nearly lost to foreclosure, I lost my wife and my relationship with my children has been distant. I went through two therapist, I've been hypnotised and took a host of medications that left me dazes and confused at times. But while this was going on, the union continued to take out my dues and at no time, did one rep approach me and ask " how are you buddy, you did a great job out there, we care about you". With all that going on workers comp settled with me just in time to save my home, but the company refuse to put me back to work. I've been actively trying to get back to work and I was advised that as part of my settlement, the company has the right not to put me back to work. In all this, I have not forgotten the lives that were lost and changed that day, so I am truely blessed and I know this. It was hard not being able to reach out to the families of those lost just to express my heart felt apology, but the company would not allow it, feeling that such compassion would be an admission of some wrong doing, even though I was cleared by investigators and eyewitnesses. I would like to go back to work, I enjoyed driving for Greyhound and I assure you if you had ever rode with me, you would have enjoyed it. I treated all young girls as if they were my sisters, older ladies as my mother, young men as brothers and older ones as my dear old dad. I had fun on the job and I made the trips enjoyable. Even as I stood on that major highway at the scene of a terrible life altering event, I had several passengers tell me, "you did good, it's not your fault, you're the best driver I ever rode with". And for me, right now, that's all I got. May the God of Abraham bless the rest of your trips.

      The Best Driver on the East Coast
      Exodus51@bellsouth.net

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  7. Hey Shawn-come and join the campaign! #dobetter #baddog #refundthebus #floodthebus http://bit.ly/14F1IZH

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