Regional BC Drink Issues

Discussion in 'Amtrak Rail Discussion' started by Anderson, Jan 1, 2019.

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  1. Jan 1, 2019 #1

    Anderson

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    These experiences aren't directly related, but I've now had two bad experiences in the Regional cafe in the space of a week, both focused on the Business Class drinks.

    Experience number one: Last week, I was taking the train home from DC in Business and I go to get a drink in the cafe.  Well, it turns out that the bottled unsweetened tea is a "premium drink" despite costing the same amount as the coffee and the orange juice and not being listed separately, and so isn't included with the Business Class ticket.  I kludge my way around this with a hot tea and a glass of ice, which produces the same result in the end (it might even taste a hair better)...but I'm still bothered by the random, unlisted exceptions to the beverage policy.  I've tried to send in a complaint via the Amtrak website over this (it's an advertising issue, not a frontline staff issue) but the website never gives me any indication of the complaint going through. 

    Experience number two: So, I'm on the Regional back up to DC.  In Business Class again.  I head up to get some food (a ginger ale and a sandwich, to be specific).  I order, I show my ticket as I ask for the ginger ale, but something doesn't process with the cafe attendant (who, as far as I can tell, is new) and she rings the drink up (so it's $11.75 instead of $9.00, which is where I realize something is 'off').  I say "business class" and her response is "I can't fix it, you have to tell me first."  So I cancel my order and leave (it has been a lousy few days and I'm really not inclined to play stupid games right now).

    In the second case, given that there's not a line, I'm a little bit bothered at her ability to void out the transaction but not to do a quick cancel-and-rerun.  I didn't press on this, admittedly (I'm just not going back there...I got about four hours of sleep last night and I'm probably a little grouchy right now), but coming on the heels of last week's unclear labeling mess this is leaving me annoyed.
     
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  2. Jan 1, 2019 #2

    VTTrain

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    The latter is unquestionably horrible customer service.  
     
  3. Jan 1, 2019 #3

    bratkinson

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    As shown on Amtraks' own website, non-alcoholic drinks are included.  False advertising perhaps?  But it should be noted that it does not include the word: ALL.  Which one can only presume allows them some flexibility in -which- non-alcoholic drinks are included, and which aren't.

    I'm unhappy about a number of things in the cafe for BC passengers the past year.  The worst of which being the replacement of Slice/renamed to (Sierra) Mist by ginger ale.  Why they'd replace a Pepsi product when they already serve Pepsi behooves me.  It wasn't BC, but a few months ago, on the Silver Starvation, I wanted the meal 'deal' of sandwich/soda/chips and was told I couldn't have the chips I wanted as they were 'premium' chips.  As I recall, all the various chips were the same price on the menu.  So, the 'premium' iced tea issue must be another of their 'unspecified exclusions'.

    On  the other hand, I would have gotten a free cookie with my free coffee last week, but I reminded the attendant he forgot to charge me.

    Amtrak BC Amenities.jpg
     
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  4. Jan 1, 2019 #4

    pennyk

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    I, too, am disappointed that the unsweetened bottled tea is an included beverage in BC.  However, it is an included sleeper beverage on the Capitol Limited (and I assume on the Lakeshore Limited).
     
  5. Jan 1, 2019 #5

    Anderson

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    "Disappointed" doesn't feel like it's quite the right word here.  "Annoyed" or "frustrated", perhaps.  "Disappointed" is what I feel when I get there and they're out of something (e.g. in situation one, I was disappointed that they were out of ginger ale and went to my second choice off the menu, the unsweetened tea), not what I feel at what feels like a bait-and-switch.
     
  6. Jan 1, 2019 #6

    Cho Cho Charlie

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    Well, that same sentence does start off noting that "specific features vary by train".   :D

    I also remember when BC's free soft drink was simply a warm 1/2 size can of soda, instead of the cold full size cans the same counter sold.    The rational was that the BC drinks came out of a separate, independently kept, stock.

    I do think you should be able to ask the attendant, "which drinks are BC passenger entitled to be severed?"     It might include a nice large "poured" premium ice tea, a "bar mix" ginger ale, or simply be restricted to one of these few mini-cans we got over there.
     
  7. Jan 2, 2019 #7

    Anderson

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    Well, and the vagueness is a problem.  When the OBS or conductor say "non-alcoholic beverages" it implies all of them ("select beverages" implies a game of "hide the ball") and "amenities vary by train" with no clarification on the pages for each train is so useless as to be counterproductive. 
     
  8. Jan 4, 2019 #8

    Just-Thinking-51

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    Walking away after the LSA tells you she can’t fix it.  Priceless.  Now she has to fix it.  Unless she try to swap a receipt with another customer, that could get her fired.

    BC biggest complain is how much it varies between regions.  So a hidden list of what items are included should not be a surprise.
     
  9. Jan 5, 2019 #9

    Triley

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    Which is part of the reason I disliked certain conductors making the business class announcement about "free non-alcoholic beverages", because with their wording the make it seem like everything would be included.

    I don't understand why they don't include all options, and I had expected them to do so when we started using revenue sizes for business class.

    I do agree there need to be a list however, or at the very least add the word "select" or "most" to the verbiage. And they should clarify the differences between services as best they can. It wasn't too often I would get folks come up on the Cascades asking about unlimited beverages for business, just to explain that the states had decided they only want to offer a $3 that's valid on anything.

    Anyway, if it ever happens again, don't back down. Tired or not, you obviously did nothing wrong. Even if you forgot to mention it, tough cookies, it can be done in one transaction (though some don't know how to process it in one transaction). I apologize on their behalf. If they are indeed new, things can certainly get overwhelming on some trains, but that's no reason to act the they did.

    I will send you a PM shortly, just out of curiosity.

    The cafes had always had both ginger ale and Sierra Mist...it's not that the ginger ale as put onboard to replace Sierra Mist. Either way, there is limited space onboard, so to bring on new items (I count 4 new beverages), some things have to go (I count 5, but they take more room). Unfortunately (at least in my experience country wide) Sierra Mist was the second least sold drink, barely ahead of Mountain Dew. I'm not surprised both were cut.
     
  10. Jan 5, 2019 #10

    railiner

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    I am curious about why Amtrak, or any food outlet for that matter, would enter into an 'exclusive' contract with one beverage provider?

    I suppose they may get a better price that way, then purchasing from more than one, but if that is the case, why don't grocer's do that, as well? :unsure:
     
  11. Jan 5, 2019 #11

    OBS

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    For Amtrak it is all about price...and the pepsi cola company also owns Lays chips and the Tropicana brand, etc all used as leverage in negotiating prices....
     
  12. Jan 5, 2019 #12

    railiner

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    Okay, that figures, but why don't grocer's do that as well?
     
  13. Jan 5, 2019 #13

    Thirdrail7

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    Grocers act as a general retailers.  In other food outlets and venues, there are hefty "sponsorship" fees that go with the exclusive contract.  A grocer ( a large one in particular) would likely make more from carrying multiple products than they would from a sponsorship.
     
  14. Jan 5, 2019 #14

    cpotisch

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    Amtrak is a pretty huge company, and since they are the only show in town onboard, passengers really don’t have any other options, beyond bringing a Coke onboard themself or not drinking at all. Whereas a grocer pretty much always has other competition, so only serving Pepsi products could cost them a lot of business.
     
  15. Jan 5, 2019 #15

    William W.

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    This is an area that Amtrak really needs to fix. The BC product needs consistency across the board, and the amenities need to reflect the price.

    I don't see why it can't offer similar amenities as short-haul business class on an airline. Complimentary drinks (including one free alcoholic drink) and light snacks seem like a very reasonable and cheap way to make the often significant up-charge for business a better value. I know that the main selling point is that you don't generally have to sit next to children and the Greyhound crowd, but I've seen Amtrak BC cars and they are often close to empty. That's perfectly good revenue space being wasted.
     
  16. Jan 5, 2019 #16

    Anderson

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    Let us also not forget that a grocer doesn't have a "captive market" the way Amtrak does.  Excepting a few special cases (mainly ALB, PDX, WAS, ABQ, and DEN on the respective trains), there's generally not enough time to nip across the street to a 7-11 (or even into the station) or order something to be sent to the train.  Exceptions abound, yes, but those are the main "quirks".  So if you want food/drink on the train, you've got what's on offer and you can take it or leave it.  And in most cases, Amtrak is also a "take it or leave it" situation as a whole if you want to take the train (and few folks will refuse to take the train solely on the Coke-v-Pepsi fight).

    Your local grocer doesn't have any of these leverage points.  Speaking to my area, if Food Lion doesn't have Coke, I'll go to Harris Teeter (or Wal-Mart).  And if I go elsewhere over my choice of soda (which isn't hard to envision folks doing), then there's a good chance that I'm taking a large slug of my (theoretical) household shopping, if not all of it...so for some households, refusing to carry both brands of soda could easily lose them $100-200/week for larger households.  That's something you simply don't want to do.
     
  17. Jan 5, 2019 #17

    Anderson

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    It depends greatly on the route.  On the VA Regionals, those cars can be packed with some regularity once you get north of Richmond.  The other problem is that in a lot of cases, Amtrak is stuck wrangling with states on the product.
     
  18. Jan 5, 2019 #18

    wwchi

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    My business class on the Michigan trains is almost always sold out.  And yes, with kids too (some of which are ignored by their parents while they play all over the floor in that car as if it's their own living room unfortunately).  I, like many others are often trying to work, and like Business Class for it being generally quieter and more spacious.  That and the earlier boarding is what make it for me.  Don't care too much about the free drink or newspaper, but agree it should be consistent!
     
  19. Jan 5, 2019 #19

    VTTrain

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    Because people would shop somewhere else.  Grocery store customers expect variety.  Restaurant customers don’t.  Also, the grocery store would lose revenue since they lease the shelf space to both Pepsi and Coca Cola.  
     
  20. Jan 5, 2019 #20

    PVD

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    Exclusive beverage contracts are very common. Just about every stadium, arena, or major restaurant chain has one.
     
  21. Jan 6, 2019 #21

    Artrina

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    Grocery stores make money from product placement, meaning they sell space on shelves and the people that pay more get more shelf space, more shelf space at eye level etc...
     
  22. Jan 6, 2019 #22

    bratkinson

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    'Cheeburger!  Cheeburger! Cheeburger!' ..... 'No Coke...Pepsi!' ..... 'Cheeps!   No fries!'

    Even Billy Goat Tavern (in  Chicago) (the basis for numerous Saturday Night Live' skits in the '70s) was/is/always has been an exclusive contract with some company.

    Exclusive contracts have been around for many years.  The primary basis is that it offers lower costs to the retailer(s).  Check your car and home owners insurance.  If bought through the same company, regardless of agent, there's a 5-10% discount for getting both coverages through the single source.  Why don't retailers stock either Coke OR Pepsi?  Because those that prefer the other brand would shop somewhere that sells those products!  And having the entire (rolling) marketplace, lower costs = less loss (not more profit, as in grocery stores.
     
  23. Jan 6, 2019 #23

    Cho Cho Charlie

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    This is a topic that comes up often on Cruise forums.    There is always someone that claims if they dare to drink the wrong brand of soft drink, they will immediately have seizures and collapse onto the floor with violent convulsions, that will continue for the rest of the cruise or their attorney shows up.   Yea, right. 

    While we all might have a brand preference, the reality is that Pepsi and Coke are still both colas.   Mug and Barqs are both still root beers.    7-Up and Sprite are both still "un-colas" (re-read the word now using a deep Jamaican accent).   Crush and Fanta are still both orange sodas.

    I am sure that Amtrak looks at it, the same way that other businesses do, we offer our customers a good variety of soft drinks; one cola, one root beer, one "un-cola", and one orange soda.
     
  24. Jan 6, 2019 #24

    VTTrain

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    I drink Pepsi and Coke interchangeably.  I’ve never understood the hype over the difference.   
     
  25. Jan 6, 2019 #25

    cpotisch

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    I definitely prefer Coke, and I think the difference is reasonably distinct, however I just don’t drink enough soda to care. I think most people can survive going without Coke for a day or so.
     

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