Monday, October 13, 2008

Its All Coming Back To Me...

I had forgotten what a study in contradictions India is. It is possible to be overwhelmed by the jaw-dropping beauty of something one minute, and the next you can be screaming (at least inwardly...) in frustration because it seems simply impossible to do even the simplest thing. It can be like driving on the freeway in LA, spotting the church where you are late for being the best man at your oldest friends wedding, and... you can't get there from here.

We've been trying for over a week now to book an train ticket from Mumbai to Ernakulum on Dec 6th. Its an epic 36 hour journey, but it is being made even more epic by the India Rail website, which, after forcing you to look in obscure places for information and requiring you to enter all the contact info (including passport number) for all parties travelling into an online form, repeatedly barfs when you finally enter in your Visa card number, thus forcing you to enter ALL THE INFORMATION AGAIN.

So a reasonable person contacts customer service. The exchange so far, has gone like this...
My wife and I have been without success to book passage on a train using your online system. It is simply impossible, no matter what browser we use, or whether it is done on a Mac or PC. Enabling Cookies, clearing the cache, and all the other standard remedies will not stop your system from freezing up when trying to process payment from a via card.

It is of the utmost importance that we book passage from train station CSTM (Mumbai) to ERN (Ernakulum Town) on December 6th/2008, train number 6381, Kanyakumari Express for the following passengers, AC 2 tier class

Robert W. Bailey - Male - 50 Canadian Passport XXXXXXXX - lower berth
Laurel Bailey - Female - 44 - lower berth
Miles Bailey - Male -7 - upper berth
Emma Conde - Female - 20 - upper berth

Also traveling with us is our youngest son, Isaac Bailey, age 4, whom I believe travels free of charge.

Please process our reservation, and invoice us at this email address, and I will be glad to send you our Visa Card number via email to conclude the transaction.
Well, it looked pretty clear to me... 2 days later I get this response....
Dear Customer,

In response to your mail we would like to inform you that as per the status CSTM station is not in ISL of the train no. 6318 even ERN station has also deleted, Therefore we suggest you to please try to book your ticket in other train.

You may book your ticket in below mention trains & please before booking please check the availability of berth/seats or visit / .
So the response is talking about a different train... They also sent a schedule for the wrong train back. So the war of words escalates...
Thank your for your response.

If you scroll down on this message to my original post, you will see that I was referring to train #6381, and NOT train #6318 as you suggest. I am most emphatically trying to communicate the impossibility of booking ANY train via an internet provider in North America using your e-commerce system, and this is the reason for my customer service request from an individual in your office. I cannot book any train ticket online, and require the assistance of an actual human in order to achieve this. Your response below, while being voluminous and detailed, does not address my concern at all, to wit: booking my family using the information at the bottom of this email for a journey from Mumbai to Ernakulum on Dec 6th. I implore you to please re-read my original email, which I am unable to make any clearer in terms of accuracy of information, please book the journey on my behalf, and then contact me either via email, or by phone (Canada code, in order to process my Visa card.

Regards/Robert Bailey
Perhaps my wording was a tad opaque? There is indeed a fine line between comedy and tragedy. At this point, I think that we are kind of dreaming that we'll be able to book this before we go, but we have to try, as hotels are already booked on either end of this trip leg. My biggest fear is that we'll have to go to the train station in person to queue for tickets, and then be elbowed out of the ticket window by 12 year old girl at the last minute. It's happened before...

At this point we are both feeling just overwhelmed with things to do before departure. Despite working at this for several hours a day, the lists of things to do keep getting bigger as opposed to smaller. Our efforts are being complicated by the fact that Laurel's dad's health is failing rapidly, and our energies are being divided between providing family support and fighting a departure deadline

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