Friday 21 January 2011

Confusing for the Old Bloke!

Where's the sense, common or commercial?
[from a contrubitor: adapted]

What do these figures have in common?
As Rolf Harris might say, "Have you worked out what they are yet?    Here's your first clue ...
... and here's your second.
Too hard?   Give in?    They are all the EIGHT fares offered on Stagecoach's website for a journey from Ryde St John's Road (top) to Wokingham (below), standard class and claiming a senior railcard discount.    It is no wonder that the stereotypically befuddled old fogey can only weep with despair.

The three fares highlighted in blue may well be for journeys at times when the senior railcard is not valid (whenever that is) but the web site is somewhat coy about explaining this.   So that leaves a more modest FIVE possible fares for the journey.   Three of them have a "spread" of only £1.30 and they are (all including the senior railcard discount):-   "cheapest standard" single, "off-peak" day return and "anytime" day return.

So why not make it simple and charge £24 for all three?   Commercial reasons?   Hardly - the differences are minimal and pretty usual throughout the fares structure.  This complexity seems to be ingrained in the genetic make-up of the railway industry and it really, really needs some therapeutic treatment.  fbb strongly recommends some powerful marketing emetic or a good clear out with a xyster!

The other two fares are for "off-peak" return valid one month and "anytime" return valid one month.   Once again, the rationale behind a different fare for one day and 30 days is lost in the mists of antiquity.   But the company charges an extra 40% or so for"staying over".  That would be hard to get rid of.
But it gets worse! (Surely not?)  Oh yes, it does.

An enquiry for a 1048 arrival in Wokingham, starting from Ryde St John's Road, reveals high fares because the senior railcard is  not valid.   But, if the canny OAP were to travel to Portsmouth Harbour independently (and with senior discount on the ferry) and search for the same 1048 arrival at Wokingham, but starting from there...

Lo and behold!  The web site offers fares WITH the senior discount.

But the man in the office at Ryde Esplanade says this must be a mistake on the web site.   So, what happens if I book a possible wrong fare on Stagecoach's web site and then get spiked on a spit (or is it "spitted on a spike"?) by a Stagecoach ticket inspector when travelling innocently but "illegally" to Wokingham?

Who is right?

So, the fare depends on when you go, whether your railcard is valid, how long you stay and which bit of the web site you look at; and, possibly, whether the ticket collector has a touch of rampant indigestion having rushed his porridge to get to work on time.
And it's only a couple of years ago that the Association of Train Operating Companies announced boldly to the press that it was SIMPLIFYING fares.   Is this really the best the industry can do?   Or does their dictionary have some weird definition of "simple"?

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