Amtrak employees need an attitude adjustment

Discussion in 'Amtrak Rail Discussion' started by spinnaker, Jul 12, 2019.

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  1. Jul 12, 2019 #1

    spinnaker

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    spinnaker

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    I don't know about the experience of others but the over all attitude of Amtrak employees has gone from bad to worse. The problem exists both on train and at various stations.

    That is not to say there are not some wonderful helpful and pleasant employees out there but for the most part it is a not so pleasant experience when dealing with Amtrak employees.

    One of the areas where they really seem to get upset is when you break one of their rules. Most notably, seating in the dining car.

    On my recent trip on the EB, I dutifully waited at the door to be seated. I was waved through with a group. I don't know if she miscounted or what but when I got to the table, there was no room for me. I moved to the far end of the car was meet by attitude by a different attendant and was seated alone (eventually to be joined by others).

    I noticed that other passengers were meet with similar poor attitude when seating themselves.

    Certainly there are reasons for an attendant to seat you. There are lots of people to seat and serve in a very limited amount of space. Seating needs to be done efficiently. And they do make a number of announcements about the seating but they also make tons of other announcements, it all becomes noise after a while. Here is a simple solution, hang a sign. And if someone sill breaks the rules and seats themselves, politely explain that they wait the next time.

    I do understand that dealing with the public can be a difficult job. Some passengers can be simply intolerable. But I think most people at least try to be a good passenger. And I also understand how annoying it must be when you need to explain the same thing for they 20th time to those otherwise good passengers.

    Amtrak is currently suffering from many ills. I am sure behavior of their employees is not high on their list but still something should be done. Perhaps it is the union that should address the problem. You want the public on your side not against you. They can be your best advocates with just a little bit of effort.
     
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  2. Jul 12, 2019 #2

    Amtrakfflyer

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    Amtrakfflyer

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    You’d think employees whose jobs are on the line would want to put in a good performance, most do, some obviously do not.
     
  3. Jul 12, 2019 #3

    Brian Battuello

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    Brian Battuello

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    I certainly understand the frustration, especially with the dining car staff. I travel long distance Amtrak several times a year, and in general, the staff, especially the sleeping car attendants, are great. They are given almost nothing to work with, and still make you feel welcome and special. On longer trips, I make a point of connecting with the dining car staff and saying something nice, and usually by the end of the trip they are taking good care of me. Of course they should make everyone feel welcome, but they have an almost impossible job.

    My approach is to let the occasional tired/stressed/frustrated staff comment pass by, and enjoy the meals and views while we can.

    You want attitude, try American Airlines these days. I'd rather take Greyhound.
     
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  4. Jul 13, 2019 #4

    PaTrainFan

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    I recently took a 7,000 mile Amtrak trip out west. In can honestly say that 95 percent of the employees I encountered were at least very good to outstanding. One sleeping car attendant had an attitude I could do without, but she performed adequately.
     
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  5. Jul 13, 2019 #5

    tim49424

    tim49424

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    I’ve very rarely experienced attitude problems in my 7 years on LD trains, 13 years overall and over 75,000 miles logged on Amtrak. The only time I can recall having a problem with any staff on board is a SCA within the last year never introduced herself, did nothing through the time I rode with her on the overnight trip and when I got off the train a little after 9 PM told me to have a nice day. No tip for her. LOL Otherwise great experiences all around, sometimes in very trying situations.
     
  6. Jul 13, 2019 #6

    alang

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    alang

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    I have never experienced anything but a positive attitude from Amtrak employees on many trips over the last 13 years.
     
  7. Jul 13, 2019 #7

    anumberone

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    "Bad to worse". Come on now.
     
  8. Jul 13, 2019 #8

    TiBike

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    Luck of the draw. There's been indifferent staff on the Starlight (and the Surfliner to a lesser degree) the past several months, with a relative handful falling into the bad to worse category, and a significant number who try to make the trip a pleasure. I've noticed a tendency at times for low performers to cluster together on a crew (or one bad apple with a strong personality exerts peer pressure on colleagues to perform to his/her low standards). You draw a couple of trips like that in a row, and you might reasonably conclude things are going from bad to worse.

    There are good staff out there, who make the trip enjoyable. The Capitol Corridor seems to have a lot of them – no bad apples, not even any who are truly indifferent. Great people who seem to like their jobs. The Surfliner can be as good, but there are exceptions.
     
  9. Jul 13, 2019 #9

    spinnaker

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    spinnaker

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    But you don't comment on alang's comment.


    So what was you comment not the same? "never anything but positive"? Really?

    Guess I am not surprised of the Amtrak love fest. Or maybe I am just riding the wrong trains and going to the wrong stations?

    Part of my problem at the stations might be because of the bicycle. For some reason it really seems to create problems for some of the employee's at the stations. It is like it is a huge problem for them and it is something they need to handle when there is nothing of the sort.

    I can say I was welcome with open arms at the Portland station in the first class lounge. The attendant there could not have been nicer and more helpful. No problem with the bike at all. The woman even jumped up to offer to hold the door for me.

    My experience at the Chicago (First class lounge) and Seattle station not so much. Last year it was mixed at the first class lounge in Chicago. I was given a hassle by first class employee initially, only to be welcome by open arms by a different employee when I returned the next day. I got downgraded from first class to coach because of a late CZ and no first class the day of my departure. But this employee treated me like I was still first class.

    I would also say that my experience with customer service (on the phone) has always been VERY positive. A reason I am so sad of the closure of at least on e of the call centers.

    Just this year on the EB, in addition to the less than stellar handling of rule breaking, I got the feeling they did not want to be there. Not exactly negative experience there but no where near positive. As already stated, I do understand they have a very difficult job but so do many other service type workers.
     
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  10. Jul 13, 2019 #10

    spinnaker

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    spinnaker

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    Again mixed on that run too. But my experience on that train has been just a few hours to overnight so hard to get a good handle there.. I would say mostly positive with a conductor last year, going above and beyond. I don't want to go into details but the favor he did for me probably broke a number of rules. ;)
     
  11. Jul 13, 2019 #11

    Devil's Advocate

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    I find it hilarious how many members still pretend they never (or almost never) see any poor performance from Amtrak staff. Really? You've really never seen the staff ignore someone or snap at someone over a minor transgression of an unwritten rule? People who criticize Amtrak staff often give specific examples that explain the nature and manner of the complaint while people who defend Amtrak give little more than vague euphemisms of everything always being great or spend their time deflecting any criticism toward some other company for being worse. I'm not sure how that helps make Amtrak look better but I guess blind faith promotes silly reactions. I've been traveling on Amtrak since I was a little boy, so I already know how things work and there is little reason for the staff to snap at me personally, but that doesn't mean I'm blind and deaf to all the times the staff ignores or snaps at other people who did little or nothing wrong.
     
  12. Jul 13, 2019 #12

    Seaboard92

    Seaboard92

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    I remember back in the 90s on my first trip they snapped at my grandmother and me for wanting to eat in the dining car. From the coaches.
     
  13. Jul 13, 2019 #13

    drdumont

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    Indeed, YMMV. I commuted weeky from FTW-AUS for two years, and take an LD trip once or twice a year just for the fun of it, thus I have had ample time to observe. In 30 years or so, I have had a bad experience with ONE SCA. The not lamented Pat who worked the Crescent. Thankfully she was sacked the trip after I rode with her. The SCAs seem to be the most accommodating of all.Some are great, some OK, but on the average, always pleasant.
    Conductors, trainmen, even the chair car attendants are for the most pretty good. They have a ton of responsibility and a lot on their minds. But there's always a smile, it seems.
    Most of the unpleasant experiences I have had have been in the dining car. They seem to have the worst of the lot.
    Don't get me wrong, the vast majority are really great. But I've noticed that we run out of the steaks, but the attendants never do. There's not enough seats, but there are at least 4 tables taken up by storage, attendants seated there, a cash register station set up on the table, and so on.
    I realize that with X attendants they can serve Y seats in Z time. But I'd rather wait at a table with a glass of water or my beverage and watch the scenery rather than standing in the car or worse - being rushed to clear out so the next standee can be served. I'd like to take my meal and enjoy it. Being able to use all the seats would help.
    And even though the service may be pretty good, there seems to be a pervasive attitude that we are intruding on their leisure time.
     
    Last edited: Jul 13, 2019
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  14. Jul 13, 2019 #14

    jloewen

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    jloewen

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    A pet peeve of mine is staff use of dining car and cafe car seats, especially on the NEC. I understand the need for ONE table for their paperwork, etc., but I have found as many as TWELVE seats taken by (2 or 3 or 4) crew!
     
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  15. Jul 13, 2019 #15

    spinnaker

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    spinnaker

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    I thought that was allowed as long as all of the first class passengers have been seated? But even if you did break the rules by being seated early, that is no reason to snap at someone. I can see where it would get a bit old if you were the 20th coach passenger they had to tell that night. But grandma? ;)

    I could never do that job. It is really hard to deal with people with a smile on your face. Especially difficult when you are in the confined space of a moving train. It is one of those jobs that is more of a calling than a job. You really need to love what you are doing just to get by.

    There are plenty of bad passengers too. But I think most people at least try to be a good passenger. And there is never an excuse for poor behavior but passengers are the ones that are paying to ride. As mentioned they can also be your greatest advocate to keep employees working.
     
  16. Jul 13, 2019 #16

    spinnaker

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    spinnaker

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    I am surprised that is allowed. Everyone deserves their break but it should be done outside the pubic view. You would never see this behavior at a restaurant. Easy to imagine that space on a train is at a premium but you would think some can be carved out for a break area.
     
  17. Jul 13, 2019 #17

    OBS

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    OBS

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    Report, report,report all transgressions, with details, to customer service. This way problems can be tracked, documented, and dealt with. It takes time and documentation, but it does happen!
     
  18. Jul 13, 2019 #18

    OBS

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    OBS

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    Quite often, the reason for the clustering has to do with the exercising of seniority. What I mean is, most employees know who the problem people are and do all they can to bid schedules so they are working with other like minded quality people. Thus the rif raf end up all together on a few crews, with the others no one wants to work with....
     
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  19. Jul 13, 2019 #19

    spinnaker

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    spinnaker

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    So what is the best way? Just call the Amtrak number or is there a better way?

    I really should have gotten the name of the woman in the first class lounge in Chicago. There is no reason I should be discriminated against just because I have a bicycle. Instead of giving me a hard time she really should have been prepared with reasonable alternatives rather that just "wait at the gate". I should have received the same benefits of any other first class passenger.
     
  20. Jul 13, 2019 #20

    Amtrakfflyer

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    Amtrakfflyer

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    With yesterday’s announcement expect it to get worse.
     
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  21. Jul 14, 2019 #21

    anumberone

    anumberone

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    Darn, I thought Spinnaker was going a tad overboard with the bad to worse, since then it has just got worser.
     
  22. Jul 14, 2019 #22

    spinnaker

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    spinnaker

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    How so? What was the news from yesterday? Was it the eastern dining car closings in the east? Sorry but I have seen very little news in the past two weeks.

    And if it was the closing, more the reason existing employees should be on their guard. It is easy but understandable to lash out over the news but that is the last thing you really want to do. You want passengers to call and complain about the cuts. The last thing that you want is for them to be complaining about you. Why I mentioned the union should address the issue. Management certainly does not care. Complaints on employees are just one more reason for them to make the cuts.
     
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  23. Jul 14, 2019 #23

    NSC1109

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    NSC1109

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    I've been working in the customer service world for six years now. Everything from fast food to hospitality to retail to (technically, given my division's "Airport Customer Service" moniker) the airline industry. I understand how frustrating customer-facing jobs can be. Recently we had someone call our Ops office, convinced that we were at war with China because of the "military jets and helicopters overhead" and why we chose her house because she was a "hard-working, God-loving American". Took 15 minutes to get her off the phone. A quick check of FlightRadar showed a single Envoy ERJ (AA's subsidiary, and not someone we work with, making it all the more ridiculous) that caused the whole affair. Their ground crew got quite the kick out of it.

    During my time with retail, it was always someone new, from shoplifting to arguing over policies that I have no control over, etc. We've had more than one employee who had to go into the back and cry or take some time to vent because our customers have a tendency to be rude and condescending. It's not fun, and a person can only take so much.


    I have had exactly one bad experience with a Conductor on 364 well over 10 years ago. If I remember correctly, he wouldn't let us go to the cafe car despite being well into Indiana. Said it wasn't available to anyone outside of Business Class until we reached MI. Made zero sense.

    I had two "notable encounters" with other Amtrak staff, one was another Conductor on 364 last year (wasn't a passenger) and the second was in 2017 with a Dining Car Attendant on 8. The DCA was loud, brash, and generally didn't have a tact for customer service, but had no complaints otherwise. The Conductor came off as a bit of a jerk after I tried to inform him that the trailing engine had an open door (the Kalamazoo station is between two homeless shelters and I thought that someone was potentially trying to stow away in the engine for the trip to PTH). I'm not 100% sure if it was just because they needed to go and he would deal with it on the fly, or if he thought I was just some foamer (I had my camera with me at the time). I haven't seen that Conductor since.

    All of the other Amtrak staff I've come across have been amazing, both corridor and LD and I don't recall any specific instances where a person was the victim of a baseless tirade from an employee. The closest I can think of is when a Conductor on 8 called out a guy over the train's PA for smoking pot during the service stop at Havre. Didn't do it by name, but said that they saw him and if the DEA agents boarded the train like they normally did there (unsure if true), they would've ratted him out. Thought it was kind of funny at the time, but being older, I've come to realize it should've been handled differently.
     
  24. Jul 14, 2019 #24

    NSC1109

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    NSC1109

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    Does management not care, or does management not know much about what's going on?

    During my time in retail, I was a supervisor for the floor, meaning I basically managed the cashiers and baggers with one or two other supes. After 5 or 6PM, we basically ran the store until midnight close. But we had almost no power to discipline and had little access to information. It is difficult for both employees and consumers to feel secure, happy, and engaged when it appears that no one knows what's happening and not even direct managers have any clue. That's why open and honest communication is so important in today's workplace. Secrets and compartmentalization are dangerous to a customer-facing organization. From personal experience, nothing is more depressing and demoralizing than knowing that changes are coming but you have no idea what's going to happen and your boss is either unable to unwilling to communicate with their people.
     
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  25. Jul 14, 2019 #25

    seat38a

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    seat38a

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    Well, you complain about something too much, history has shown that many corporations, instead of fixing it, will just get rid of it and save money. Now Amtrak is doing the same at least with the Eastern Trains with the dining car. For as long as I've been a member of this forum, one of the biggest complaints was regarding the dining car specifically with the servers. After dealing with couple of a$$&*(#@ dining car staff, on the Coast Starlight and the Southwest Chief, I don't take Amtrak anymore. Over a three year period, I was seeing a downward trajectory.

    I wonder how long it will be before Anderson comes out and say, "People have been complaining about the dining car, blah blah blah, so we decided to IMPROVE it." Kind of like the same excuse given before cutting meals in domestic coach class segments.
     

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