Bridesmaid Hall of Fame

Two years ago I was a bridesmaid. Everyone agreed: I was a terrible bridesmaid.

I forgot to tell the bride I bought a dress.

When the bride asked me about the dress, I told her I had one and couldn’t be bothered to send a picture of it.

I didn’t plan or host the bridal shower. Actually, I didn’t attend it either.

The bride asked for my middle name and wouldn’t tell me why. I told her. Then I threatened to stop speaking to her if she printed it in a wedding program. At the wedding she gave me a beautiful dish, with my initials painted in gold. Oh.

I forgot to bring my present to the wedding.

I walked into sheva brachos, handed my gift to the bride – who was traveling by subway – and walked back out.

 

Despite my inherently non-bridesmaid behavior, I got a few things right.

I shared my joy with the bride.

I bought a dress in the right color.

I showed up to the wedding bright-eyed and dressed for success, despite working 50 to 60 hours per week in the months prior.

I bought a gift the bride loved.

I marched down the aisle like I meant it. Even though I had never intended, or known I was expected, to walk down in front of 200 people without tripping.

But none of those things would take to me the Bridesmaid Hall of Frame. I deserve a place there thanks to the bride’s sister. She, liked the bridesmaids before her, walked down the aisle with a radiant smile, holding her bouquet steady. At the alter, she pivoted to the left, and lined up in front of me. All the while she smiled beatifically at her family and her sister’s friends. Then, just as the ceremony started, so did her tears. She felt them gathering, and panicked. He mom, standing next to her, had left her purse in the dressing room. The tears were threatening to spill over, which would ruin her makeup and distract from her sister’s ceremony, and she discretely gestured to the rest of the bridesmaids for help. The rest of the wedding party were equally at a loss. I scoped out the room, and saw her salvation. Behind me was a box of tissues. I deftly swiped the box, held it out to her at waist level – hiding it from the audience’s view – and she plucked two out. As the rabbi spoke of the bride and grooms wonderful characters, the sister delicately dabbed at her eyes. I rested easy, having slipped off my heels and knowing that I’d done my duty and saved the day.

 

Happy Anniversary!

 

Breaking Down Negotiations

My first job offer wasn’t for a position I wanted. Thankfully, I had an interview lined up for a different job. I told the initial offer that I needed time, but would get back to them – hoping that I’d get a second, better offer. I did get a second offer, but while the position was more interesting, the pay was worse rather than better.

Knowing that I wanted the job, I told the woman who offered it that while I wanted to accept her offer, another position had offered me a better salary. She didn’t understand – because my phone was broken. There was something wrong with my phone’s speaker so that you could only hear every third word – and that was when my reception was impeccable. So, I repeated myself once, twice, and again until she understood that I wouldn’t be accepting her job offer because I had another offer with better pay.

“So money is the issue?” she asked.

“Yes,” I agreed. “I want to accept your offer, but I really can’t accept a lower salary. If you could even just match it…”

“You really need to get a new phone,” she told me. “I can’t hear you. Listen, though, don’t do anything, I think I can make this work. Can I get back to you?”

“If you could get back to me within the next week, yes, absolutely,” I agreed.

“What?” she asked. “What did you say? It’s hard to heard you.”

“Yes!” I enunciated clearly.

“Ok, I’ll get back to you later today,” she said, and ended the call – to our mutual relief.

She called me back a few hours later and offered me 5% more money. I took the job, and kept the phone. Apparently, a broken phone is one of my strengths in a negotiation.

Grinding Away on Greyhound: Letter Writing Campaign

Part 1 was arduous.

Part 2, more so. Part 3…

A week after yet another disastrous Greyhound trip, the inspiration of my fellow privileged passengers had not worn off. I felt entitled in a way that riding Greyhound had never made me feel before. I submitted a refund request:

Dear Customer Service,

I was informed by a customer service representative that I was due a refund for my bus which did not leave as scheduled, the station managers had no information for the passengers, and a solution was only reached after multiple and sometimes misleading calls to the hotline. I was given reference number #23828; please let me know when I can expect my refund.

Thank you.

Three days later, the response arrived:

Dear Mrs, .

We do apologize for the delay responding youre [sic] E-mail.

We appreciate you taking time to notify us about the inconvenience that you experienced while using our services. We are never satisfied when a customer expresses a complaint or displeasure in our service. At Greyhound Lines, Inc., we strive to achieve a high standard of customer satisfaction and we rely on customers like you to make us aware of those areas that need to be addressed. It is our policy to investigate every situation brought to our attention.

As a gesture of our commitment to you, enclosed is a travel voucher in the amount of $20.00. This voucher can be applied towards your next purchase of a Greyhound ticket or Package Express shipment.

We hope you will not let this incident deter you from using our services, and trust you will give us another opportunity to prove we can be the most reliable and economical form of transportation to meet your needs.

Greetings.

Oscar Ballestas
Customer Care Analyst

I was not mollified and wasted no time in telling Oscar that:

Dear Mr. Ballestas,

I was told by your representative that both I and my sister would receive a refund for this trip. I expect you to make good on that commitment.

Thank you for the response.

With undue speed, I received a response four days later:

Dear Mr. ,

Thank you for contacting our office with your concerns. We sincerely apologize for the delay.

Greyhound Lines Lines Inc., is committed to providing quality customer service and maintaining affordable prices. Input from valued customers such as you and your family will help us with this process. We welcome any comments you wish to share with us, so that we may serve you better.

In the interest of customer service and as a gesture of goodwill, we would like to offer you a credit in the amount of $20.00 At your earliest convenience, please provide us with your credit card by calling our customer assistance line at 214-849-8966, we are open from 5 AM to 11 PM Central time.

We are certain your future experiences with Greyhound will demonstrate our commitment to provide quality customer service, and we look forward to serving your travel needs.

Sincerely,

Ms. Margarita Becerra
Customer Care Analyst

Unamused, I decided to make matters clearer:

Dear Ms. Becerra,

I would appreciate it if you would refrain from referring to me as Mr., or as your colleague did, Mrs., as I have not earned either title – a fact your company is well aware of in my ticket purchasing.

Your message does not address:
1. I was told I would receive a refund for the cost of my trip, which exceeds $20.

2. I was told my sister, who was also on the bus, would receive the same.

Please let me know who I should contact to ensure a full refund for both myself and my sister.

With appreciation.

In the ten days that it took Greyhound to respond, I received a $20 voucher in the mail toward my next ticket with them. I gave up on Greyhound and filed a fraudulent credit charge report with my bank. Then, this email arrived:

Dear Ms. ,

Thank you for contacting our office with your concerns. We apologize for the delay in responding to your request.In regards to your request, as a one time customer service gesture we will issue a refund back to the purchasing account, for your ticket number 85753059, in the amount of $40.50. Unfortunately, without the ORIGINAL UNUSED TRAVEL VOUCHER(S), we will be unable to process your request. Photocopies of your Travel Voucher(s) are not acceptable; we must have the original documents to evaluate your request.

Please forward your ORIGINAL UNUSED TRAVEL VOUCHER(S) along with this letter at your earliest convenience to:
Greyhound Lines, Inc.
REFUND DEPARTMENT 4715
PO BOX 660691
DALLAS TX 75266-0691

Unfortunately, until we receive the concern from the passenger or the purchaser that appears on the ticket with confirmation number 85733755 we will not be able to register this request.

If the passenger/purchaser(S) is unable to contact us via e-mail, please register the complaint by calling or writing our Corporate Customer Assistance Department. Once received, we will register the passenger’s request and they will receive a formal response via mail.
We appreciate your business, and hope that we can serve you again in the near future and hope to provide your future travel needs.

Sincerely,

Yomaira Marquez
Customer Assistance Analyst
I returned it to them with my compliments. Two weeks later I followed up:

Hello –

I returned my voucher to you over two weeks ago. Please let me know when the refund will be issued.
Thank you.
The response informed me that these things take time. Minutes later, I sent out a warning shot:

Please let me know what the timeline is. If that is not possible, it would seem that you were trying to reneg on your promise. In which case, I would take further action.

Thank you.

My lack of salutation must have made it clear that I was serious, because it was a week before Greyhound got up the gumption to respond:

Dear Ms. ,
Thank you for contacting our office with your concerns. We apologize for the delay in responding to your e-mail.
In regards to your request, according to  our records, your documentation was received on 06/28/2016, unfortunately is not uploaded in our system yet. Once we have the information visible in our system, we will process your case.
We appreciate your business and hope that we can serve you again in the near future.
Sincerely,
Yomaira Marquez
Customer Care Analyst
My bank refunded the charge on a provisional basis, and I officially washed my hands of this business. Last week, I received a notice from my bank:
We’re pleased to let you know that your billing dispute involving the credit card transaction with Greyhound has been resolved. The temporary credit we issued will remain on your account.
Success – and a lesson. A lesson not in persistence but in advantage and our changing society. Years ago, when I first rode Greyhound, I never dreamed that that bus line – with its terms and conditions of not guaranteeing a seat in return for purchasing a ticket – would refund a ticket for simply being a few hours late. My fellow passengers, whether we were poor or just on a tight budget, knew we had no other option for getting from point A to point B. So, we took what we could get – Greyhound. There was no reason – and no benefit – to complain about the only option we had.
But times have changed and so have my fellow passengers. Though the very poor still ride with us, the wealthier now do so as well. Rising costs of airfare and better busing options have brought a new class of clientele to Greyhound. I thank my fellow passengers, passengers who believe that they deserve better, for showing me that we can, and must, stand up for ourselves.

Grinding Away on Greyhound: Talk To Me At Midnight

Travels with Greyhound, Part 2:

Don’t talk to me at midnight. Actually, don’t talk to me after 10pm if you want to speak with a rational person. As the night wears on, and my snack levels drop, I become increasingly emotional and decreasingly reasonable. It past 11pm when my Greyhound bus compatriots decided that we were taking matters into our own hands as our departure time came and went without a bus to take us away. They, a higher class of people than usually ride Greyhound – and therefore believed themselves entitled to service for payment – cried out for all of us to flood the Greyhound hotline. In the spirit of unity and getting the hell out of Dodge, I joined in and called them up.

The first person I spoke to was Kevin. Kevin seemed nice. I showed him no mercy.

“How can I help?” he asked. Poor, innocent Kevin, I thought.

“I’m in the Greyhound station and my bus isn’t here.” I declared. “You can tell me when it’s going to arrive,” I added pointedly.

“Ma’am, can you confirm your name and ticket?”

I did.

“So, I’m in Texas at the hotline, I’m not there in your station,” Kevin explained slowly and clearly. “I don’t know when your bus will arrive. You need to ask the people who work there. You can -”

“I’ve already done that,” I interrupted. Raising my voice so that Kevin could hear me over the Greyhound staffer informing the rest of the riders that they had no idea what was going on – or why we were there. “I have spoken to the staff here. They just came on duty. They know nothing.”

“Ok, ma’am,” Kevin tried placating me, “but I can’t help you because I’m not there -”

“But I’m here!” I cried out. “And no one knows, and I have to go home and I don’t know what to do and,” I let my voice break a little as it spiraled out of control, “I need to go and I don’t know how I’m going to get there and if there’s another bus and what I can do and I need to call and no one here can help and they said to call you.”

“Oh, um, I’m not sure who told you that,” Kevin said nervously. “I really don’t know what to do.”

“Can you tell me how I can get home?” I asked in a trembling voice.

“No,” Kevin said carefully. “But you can call -”

“But I already called you!” I cried, with tears in my voice. “I paid for a ticket and now what am I going to do?”

“Maybe you could get a refund? I really cannot help you,” Kevin insisted. Kevin was clearly a lost cause. I decided to wrap it up.

“Do you know the next bus is coming?” I asked, in a business tone.

“No, but you can call the station you’re going to,” Kevin said with relief, now that I sounded like a reasonable person.

“May I have the number please?” I asked in my politest tone. Kevin complied, and I hung up.

I called my destination, and woman who answered told me straight out that she didn’t know the bus schedules, didn’t know what happened to the bus I was supposed to be on, didn’t know the number for customer service. Her tone implied that even if she did know, she wouldn’t tell me, because that was not her job. I hung up with her and conferred with my fellow passengers. A well-groomed man with a leather-grain bag told me that he’d gotten a complaint number from his customer service rep so he could file a claim later, and there would be a record of what had occurred. Determined to do the same, I called back the hotline.

This time, my customer service representative was Ana. Ana greeted me and I demanded a complaint number.

“What is your issue?” Ana asked politely.

“I already discussed this with Kevin,” I informed her.

“I don’t have that record, ma’am,” she said in a tone that implied she’d negotiated with plenty of toddlers. I ran through the situation with. She gave me the number, and I informed her that it would function for both myself and my sister, and confirmed that she was unable to help me. She didn’t agree with any of my conclusions, but offered no assistance. I thanked Ana, and we hung up.

The bus arrived within the next hour, after someone on staff confirmed that all of us with tickets were waiting for a scheduled bus – and then rushed to rouse an off-duty driver in Queens to come in and take us away. We arrived a few hours late the next day, all of us in one piece. It was only after the ride, inspired by privileged passengers who believed they were entitled to a refund when service was bad, that my adventures with Greyhound’s customer service began in earnest.

Grinding Away on Greyhound: The Experience

Greyhound Buses and I started off on the wrong foot – and we’ve never put it right. The first time I took the bus, they moved the station. On the up side, they moved it closer to my home. On the downside, they moved it into the jail’s parking lot. The temporary station had no seating, questionable plumbing, and nonexistent ventilation. Thankfully I only arrived an hour before my bus, so I didn’t have to spend much time there. Rather, I wouldn’t have had to spend much time there if the bus had left with me on it.

However, as I learned that day, Greyhound doesn’t guarantee you a seat in return for your bus ticket. They instead offer you the chance to get on a bus. The day I traveled more people, nearly three times as many people, had purchased tickets than there were seats. The company, as a kindness to the rest of us, sent another two buses. But those buses were coming from Columbus, and weren’t ready to go.

I’d like to think that Greyhound was committed to customer service and would do what it took to get us to where we needed to go as soon as possible. However, no one who worked there indicated that that was in any way true. They didn’t apologize the overbooking or their unpreparedness. In fact, they didn’t bother informing us that there would be more buses until over an hour after the first one had left. They didn’t offer any explanation or accommodations, or even an update as the next five hours ticked by. They did announce the buses when they arrived, a somewhat superfluous kindness since the drivers repeated those announcements as well.

Given my finances and destination, for years I had no choice but to ride Greyhound frequently. For all the hours I’ve spent riding Greyhound, I’ve spent nearly as many waiting for it. During those hours, we abandoned passengers talked among ourselves about life, love, and travel. We were united in our travels, but my lack of ain’ts, agreeing tenses, and dearth of contraband marked me as different from other passengers. Even my shirts – left behind by wealthier classmates in the dorm’s laundry room – and skirts from Goodwill, were generally a step up from the outfits worn by everyone else hoping to soon climb those sticky steps and sit in those worn out Greyhound seats.

We may have come from different backgrounds, but we were equal in accepting our mistreatment without complaint. But in the years that I’ve been riding Greyhound, the economy of inter-city busing has changed. Competition has entered the market. Internet booking has become the norm. Social media made it easy to air grievances and receive better service. The world has changed and we’ve all changed with it. We’ve changed so much that when Greyhound left sixty of us stranded at 11pm in New York’s Port Authority this year, the riders rose as one in protest.

The bus had been scheduled to depart fifteen minutes prior when the uprising started. I was sitting on the floor because Greyhound stations don’t provide seats, and I’m not inclined to stand for undetermined periods of time. I had just pulled out my snacks, because with no indication of when the bus would come it was imperative to keep my strength up so I didn’t fall asleep while waiting and miss the bus that way. There was no bus was parked at the door, no driver had ordered us to get our tickets out, and no staff had told us there was a delay. The woman standing next to me, with a sharp haircut and an outfit so nice the thought wouldn’t have occurred to her that floors were made for sitting, asked if I knew what was going on. I didn’t. She asked the next person. He didn’t either, but they struck up a conversation about it. Startled by the expectations that a bus would arrive or depart as scheduled, I perked up – and noticed a distinct buzz. My fellow passengers were talking about the delay, not just with one another, but together.

Together, they sent someone to find a staffer. The representative returned and reported that the staff had just started their shift and didn’t know know that we hadn’t departed. Aghast, the woman in the sharp haircut pulled out her phone to call customer service – and that’s when we all hit the phones, calling up every Greyhound service line we could find. Five minutes later a Greyhound staffer came over to repeat what our own representative had already told us – she didn’t know anything, including whether we even were scheduled for a bus. I, already on the phone with my customer service representative Kevin, cut off his explanation that I really needed to speak with the on-site staff but repeating verbatim the on-site staff’s denial of responsibility of knowledge.

Next time: Talk To Me At Midnight