Customer Disservice: The Reality of Stations Without Ticket Offices

Hands Off London Transport has received some testimonials from London Underground workers working at stations where the ticket office has already closed. They clearly show the obviously-damaging impact these closures have on customer service. If LU really wants its customer service to be “world class”, it need to stop closures and re-open ticket offices!

A tourist wanted to buy two weekly tickets on Oyster with a credit card. This exceeded the credit card limit, so the machine would not allow him. Staff suggested splitting the transaction and assisted him to buy one weekly with one credit card. After trying three other credit cards, he bought the second weekly ticket.
By this time, a massive queue for the ticket machines was building up.
The same customer also wanted to top up three Oyster cards with £20 on each. The customer tried to pay with a £50 note, which the machines don’t accept. He tried with three £20 notes, but one was not flat so the machine kept spitting it out. With staff assistance, after about 15 minutes, he eventually topped up. This could have all been one quick transaction at a ticket office.

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A customer with a weekly Oyster travelcard, which had two days remaining, wanted to get her £5 deposit back. At first, the ticket machine said she could not access her refund unless she had a Pay As You Go Balance, so staff assisted her to top up.
Then the machine said that she couldn’t have her £5 deposit back because there were still two days left on her travelcard. The customer was leaving London that day; she did not need the two remaining days’ travel, but she did want the deposit back, to which she is entitled. The customer had to be sent to another station with an open ticket office.

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A customer had £16 Pay As You Go balance.
He wanted to cash in his Oyster to get his balance and £5 deposit back. But if you have more than £10 balance, the machines won’t let you get a refund.
The customer tried to touch in on a gate to deduct some money from his balance, but his Oyster was already capped for the day. He had to leave London that day, although Oyster still had £16 of his money and his £5 deposit.

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When an Oyster card stops working, a ticket office can exchange it for one that works. The ticket machines can only issue a new Oyster with two days’ travel on. The customer then has to use their own money to phone Oyster Customer Services within 24 hours to redeem the full value of the ticket that they have already paid for. If you buy a defective product from a shop, you expect the shop to exchange it, like for like. Why does LU make you wait two days and make phone calls at your own expense?

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When notes are swallowed by the ticket machines, a ticket office can give the customer an instant refund.
With the ticket offices closed, staff have limited access to cash for refunds. LU has improvised a ‘solution’: telling staff to issue refunds from the float safe. This takes a long time. The contents of the safe needs to be counted before any cash can be removed; this needs to be witnessed by a second member of staff, who may not be available. Customers could be waiting 20 minutes to get a refund that they should get straight away.
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