SNCF Flash Sale experience

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A letter came from one of our readers, about the perils of using SNCF software. So, if you’re taking advantage of the recently announced cheap tickets, beware, and check your bank accounts.

SNCF Flash Sale experience

I was amused with your article about cheap tickets on SNCF. We decided to take a trip on the Train Jaune this summer and I went on line to book tickets from the Montpellier area. There was a “Flash Sale” for that day only so I tried to take advantage of this. All worked well, including the card transaction, until it came for the electronic tickets to be delivered to me. At that point the SNCF system told me that it could not complete the transaction but I would not be charged and I should try again. This I did – with the same result. I rang customer services who talked with IT and came back – eventually – with an explanation that there was a “bug” in the temporary software which did not cater for “foreign” cards. Mine was a debit card on a Euro account in the UK. They advised to try again later.

This I did, with the same result and, in discussion, was advised to try with a French card. All our French friends were out so I tried with the card of a Belgian friend who lives in France permanently – not realising his card was Belgian. The same experience!

I eventually succeeded with the card of a French friend.

A few days later, however, I noticed that I had been charged for the unsuccessful transactions (120 euros) and, on asking, my Belgian friend had also been charged 60 euros – none of the three transactions producing tickets.

The customer services personnel with whom I dealt on the day I got the tickets remembered the issue and were sympathetic. They talked me through the process of reclaiming the money and I thought all should then go smoothly. How naïve I was!

This all happened 4 months ago. We have still not received any refund. The SNCF departments have been arguing about whose budget this should come out of. They have requested proof of the tickets we did eventually buy (why I do not understand). The customer services staff are helpful and sympathetic but the train wheels turn VERY VERY slowly!

In our experience this is not untypical of French companies. It took us 12 months and much perseverance to get money back from our bank which was their fault. Our ISP completely disconnected our telephone line without a request to do so and we had to pay for a new line, etc which took us 9 months and lots of arguing to be reimbursed for. A local supermarket did not wish to honour a marketing promise advertised on their building – I had to discuss this with 6 layers of management before it was honoured.

Our French friends are amazed that we succeed – they will just give up when told no. Maybe we actually expect customer service as Brits – even though we are in another country.