Greyhound’s brand of highway robbery

Personally, I had thought the days of “Caveat Emptor” were far behind us. Warranties, insurance, refunds, and receipts–it’s impossible for a corporation to steal from one of the little people these days, isn’t it? I must have gotten too comfortable in this belief though, because this weekend Greyhound decided to show me who really is the boss. After purchasing bus tickets three weeks in advance and receiving a 14-day advance rate of $58 rather than $88, I was feeling pretty excellent about my decision to return to North Carolina over Columbus Day weekend. So there I was, one hour early just like the website advised, standing in line at Gate 6 to board my bus. Ten minutes before the bus was supposed to leave, the line began to move forward.

And eight minutes later, the line stopped. With just two girls in front of me destined for Florida, an apathetic young gentleman informed us that sorry, the bus had been overbooked and we would not be allowed on. I double-checked my ticket. Yes, I was right– this was indeed the 2:35 p.m. bus I had paid for three weeks ago. And it would take me to the 6:15 p.m. bus I had also paid for, but would be impossible for me to catch if I were to wait around for another Greyhound to depart. I questioned the validity of this to the attendant on hand, and received the helpful suggestion that I could leave my belongings on the floor and go off elsewhere for a few hours to mark my spot in line for the next bus.

Another hour’s wait in line to reach the customer service desk brought me the next rude reality: that despite the bus tickets I held in my hand with the exact times printed out that I had paid for and despite the fact that I had simply been unlucky enough not to have been standing in front of the Florida twins rather than behind, I was ineligible for a refund because I had bought my tickets in advance. When has thinking ahead of time paid off so poorly before? Perhaps Greyhound encourages an atmosphere of spontaneity. They surely can’t encourage an atmosphere of anything resembling actual customer service, because I left that afternoon feeling as though I had never been treated quite so poorly by personnel in my life. When I informed them that there was no possible way I could wait for two more hours to take the next bus headed to Richmond, VA, which would simply leave me stranded to wait for whatever was headed to Raleigh, NC, next, I was merely given something resembling a sneer and then a long yawn.

So that was that. I walked out of the Greyhound bus depot two hours after I arrived, $58 poorer, and with no physical capabilities of getting myself to North Carolina that weekend. Those who had made plans for my arrival were let down and had to readjust their weekends, and I had to decide what to do with myself now that I was unable to go.

Next time, I think I might try Amtrak.

-Alison Crowley, staff writer. Photo from Flickr user NCBrian.

13 Comments on “Greyhound’s brand of highway robbery

  1. You are not out your entire amount. I think they have some sort of fee (like 15%) that they keep; but you are refunded the difference. Their website has the form to fill out to receive your money. Have to do it in the mail it seems.
    As for the not being able to get on the bus; once the bus is full, there is not much they can do unless it is a large number of people left that would make it cost-effective to use another bus on the same schedule. Airlines overbook too, though you are treated better as a customer……usually. It is always best to try and travel on a schedule prior to the one you need to get on when there are connections to be made! Often you can get to your connection point, and come across the same bad situation as in this case; a full bus!!
    Blame it on a company and its “bottom line” approach to business……. which, seemingly, is how this company seems to function.

  2. I am a greyhound driver, there is a policy that if a schedule is overbooked a passenger is entitled to a full refund, only if the ticket is for that schedule. there are vouchers for food (at a greyhound station), ticket (next trip) and hotel (if u have a long delay for the next schedule). But like Charlie said “Airlines overbook” even Amtrak overbooks, Tickets are sold on a first come and first serve basis, there is no reservation system (which is stated on the internet) a person or a family of 10 could purchase a ticket to leave on monday for the 4 pm bus and decide they want to leave later that day or earlier, or even leave days, weeks or months later and if they report to the station ahead of you, they will be seated before u.

  3. I have ridden on Greyhound many times, and for the most part I have to agree that the people working there are not really there to “help” you, but they are there to do their job. I think that the thing with grehound is to make sure that you are in front of the line and ready to move so that you can get on that bus.

  4. That happened to my brother on 2 occasions and my sister’s boyfriend. They were both left standing at the bus station with 6 other people who couldn’t understand how they bought a ticket in advance and still weren’t on the bus. So my brother and sister’s boyfriend ended up having to drive an extra 2-3 hours to make the same bus. How is that fair to us? I bet if you weren’t a bus driver and it happened to you, you wouldn’t be too happy about it. Of course you stand up for it because you are the bus driver, but honestly get in the customer’s shoes. Think of how pissed off you would be if you found out that you paid for your tickets a month in advance only to be told at the bus that you can’t get on because its full. Its greedy and selfish. Tell me its not. You’d be lying if you said it isn’t. And he said he couldn’t refund you. That isn’t even right. Amtrak and Greyhound should follow the same type of guidelines as the airlines would. You pay for your ticket and you’re GUARANTEED a seat on that plane.

  5. I am a greyhound employee and I feel obligated to let people know of the double hit that greyhound takes when it comes to this problem. I have people coming to me all day complaining now that they can no longer use thier ticket for any trip of the year, since now you may travel only on the selected date of your ticket, but any time of that day. I also have the complaint that we cannot guarantee the seat of any bus from our depot, here in Merritt. Now how can greyhound make both sides of this argument happy? There is no way… Either there is exact date and schedule ticketing, to appease those wanting gauranteed seating, or there is no enforced rule, and those who do not know the date of travel are made happy.

    I have been yelled at for both sides of this argument, so I don’t really care which way they decide to go, I would just prefer that they choose one, that way someone is happy at least.

  6. This happened to my husband who was on leave from the military. Both him and another marine were starnded due to an over booking even though both of them had made advance reservations.They had arrived hours ahead of time ( this was at an airport), then when the bus arrived late they were told it was full. They could try a city bus to another station and they might be able to get them back to base. They were also told there was a 4am bus (there bus was 7:30pm it arrived at 8:15pm) that they could take I searched the scheduale online and there was no 4am bus. There however was a 6:30am bus. My husband and the marine were due to report at 7:15am. Luckily a friend drove over 2 hours to pick them up otherwise they would have been charged AWOL. Not very fair on greyhounds part. They were not helpful and refused to help or refund his ticket. Never again will he use greyhound. I’m not saying military should get preferential treatment but, it was handled poorly and a better attitude by staff would have been greatly appreciated.

  7. Best to board at a major bus depot, and be there to get in line at least two hours early. To change the date or time schedule of a seven day advance there is a fee of $15… the destinations, however, cannot be changed. Greyhound is but a shell of what it used to be. Most towns in the USA are no longer served, and of those that are the bus depots have been moved out of the center of towns to be next to the freeway… for the convenience of Greyhound, which is an inconvenience for the customers.

  8. I just dropped a friend in Orlando to Gainesville she paid for the last bus 2:45 Min then she was told, “The bus was full” and we would not be allowed on before the bus was to leave. She had to go back in the station told to wait inline when she asked the person at the desk what was going on they “said oh the bus has left would you like to take the next bus?” This was at 6:30PM today & is the last bus to Gainesville until 8:45 tomorrow I have to go to Germany & I waiting for an airplane at MCO. As she Payed cash at Orlando greyhound she was offered a refund that this person who is the driver had said “policy that if a schedule is overbooked a passenger is entitled to a full refund, only if the ticket is for that schedule. There are vouchers for food (at a greyhound station), ticket (next trip) and hotel (if u have a long delay for the next schedule).”
    The only thing offered to her is a refund that is it no vouchers no hotel this is over 12 hours until the next bus I would call that very long delay I feel sick I can not help her & have been waiting on Greyhound’s customers service line for 45 minutes this is truly robbery & I will never understand why Greyhound thinks that what there doing is going to work in this economy I know if a bus is full and it is the last of the day at only 6:30P.M that Greyhound can’t afford a 1/2 full bus at 8:30P.M (or pick up their phone) I am a CEO of a company that is only 45 people but I know better then to treat customers in way I am doing very well. I hope the CEO at Greyhound can see this will end people taking a Greyhound for all but the very very last resort knowing they have no way of even be sure of what Greyhound tells them. They will only make it about one to two years then Greyhound’s VP’s will be forced out of a job even if there lucky and bought. My 2 cents try to fix what you can Greyhound as you’re a hated company in 2009

  9. here I’am at greyhound in Stockton, Ca. at 1:22 AM not a very safe place to be the terminal is closed and I am outside on my computer after being refused seating on my 12:05 AM bus to Phoenix, Az (via LA,) due to overbooking. Hows responsible for my safety out here? yes thay have security somewhere! Next bus suppose to arrive at 4:20 AM (NOT…) Will greyhound refund my money? are they suppose to? Is my 4:20 bus ride now FREE? what about FOOD vouchers? what about my time. maybe a law suit is in order. Does anyone know a good lawyer? Someone feel free to drop me a line via my email nowcecil@

  10. It seems a lot of people have every right to be very angry. Similar story here – my daughter has a mid-term today and was going to already be rushing it to get to the depot 1/2 hour early, but when she went to pick up her ticket the guy told her that if she wasn’t there at least an hour early she wouldn’t get on the bus due to overbooking. No options if she misses the bus – it’s a 7 hour drive and we don’t have a car, and there’s no other bus the same day. So her only option is to miss her mid-term or miss coming home for Thanksgiving.

    If you buy a ticket for a certain time it should be honored as long as you’re there at least 1/2 hr before departure. If you have an open-ended ticket you can ride stand-by. I don’t see why that would be a problem. The way they do it now is bullshit. Leaving people stranded in dark places alone at night is not a good business model. Too bad they have a monopoly.

  11. Same here. Arrived an hour early (as instructed) to board a 10:15 trip from Columbia Missouri to St. Louis, where I had already purchased an Amtrak to Chicago. When I sauntered up to the desk I was shocked to be told that I was the 7th person overbooked, and that I would have had to have arrived 90-120 minutes early in order to get a seat. They offered to let me on the next bus in 5 hours, but I explained that I had a connection in St. Louis and would not be able to make that. The response was “too bad.” seriously, not even joking. I asked then if I could get a refund and was told in all certainty that I could NOT get a refund, as “no seats are guaranteed and tickets are non-refundable” and that it was MY fault for not showing up an hour earlier than the hour early Greyhound told me to arrive. I explained that I fully understand why they would/should not have to refund if I had cancelled, but could not understand how the have the right to effectively cancel the ticket on me and NOT give me my money back. Yes, airlines and hotels overbook, but when they do they don’t keep your money. I fully understand not being able to get a seat, but not getting my money back is another issue. Greyhound – never again.

  12. I purchased a round trip ticket home for the fourth for 458 dollars and some change. the trip home was decent for me, but most every stop there was at least two people left stranded in the middle of nowhere. i was due out on a bus last monday the 8th. Showed up an hour early and knew before i could get my bags out there was a problem. the clerk informed me the bus was overbooked and would jot have any seats open for two days. on the third day she said there was six open seats, and if i paid 20 dollars to reissue my ticket i would be giaranteed a seat on that bus. stupid me- i paid the woman after she reaffirmed my reservation. i show up an hour early, the bus shows ip an hour late, and its overbooked. A different clerk tells me its first come first serve and they cant prevent overbooking. (but they can tell you how many seats are left?!?) he said to “come everytime there was a bus headed north. Its the only way your gonna get on.” i have since spent three more days waiting and im now totally broke. i have been offered nothing. last night the bus showed up and four people got off the bus. a young woman informed the driver her bag was under the bus and he snapped ” well i dont know where it is. do you? Hurry up im going to run late.” is it not his or the porters responsibility to handle that? With respect?? He then slams the hatch and says he canonly take two peopel and grabs the two people closest and literally about shoved them on. Come to find out thos two passengers had only been there 10 mins before the bus. six of us were left outside at a closed gas tation in a rainstorm. to elderly people were finally given a ride 45 miles in the wrong direction amd given a motel till the next bus. i am now told it will ne another three days till seats are open. maybe. i calles my boss to infoem him, again, and he said if im not back for work thirsday to find a new job.thanks greyhound! Even if i get a seat i wont be there till thursday nigjt around8:30. Sorry, but **** your policies, absolute subpar customer service, and your cheatin theivin ways!!! I am at a loss for kind words and have no idea where to start to get compensation, if possible. i have been saving all fuel, hotel, and food receipts. I am staying with a friends friends friend since i csn no longer afford motels- i have 13 bucks for food. Not to mention i most likely am unemployed with all my tools truck and trailor 1500 miles away. also my original ticket said the return cost was 229 and the one i have now says its 177. What the?!? Explain that. sure would be nice to have that extra cash rigjt about now. thanks for not having a charcter limit on this site for rants like mine. i waited for 50 minutes with customer service for greyhound to be told i cannot complain until i have completed my travel. hahahaha!! Had to throw a fit somewhere. if anyone has any advice as to how to get somehwhere with this mess, please let me know! There should ne a class action lawsuit or something.

  13. I almost had a bad experience with Greyhound. I purchased non-refundable tickets from Ann Arbor to Chicago, Chicago to St Louis, and St. Louis to Kansas City. My return tickets were Kansas City to Des Moines, Des Moines to Chicago, and Chicago to Ann Arbor. I was the last one on the bus in Ann Arbor. About 6 people behind me did not make it on. At a stop, I asked the bus driver what options were available to those people in Ann Arbor. She informed me that they would have to catch the next bus, 4 hours later. I was horrified when i realized that could have been me. I realized I could have been stranded in Chicago, or St. Louis, or Des Moines with no hope of a refund, and a real possibility of missing my connections. I boarded the bus in Des Moines at 11:30 PM. If that bus had been overbooked, I would have been stranded in Des Moines in the middle of the night with no hotel, the terminal closed, and no hope of a refund. I had no idea that Greyhound overbooked their buses, and I would never have put myself at risk like that had I known. The good news is I made all my connections, but knowing what I know now, I will never ride a Greyhound bus again. Too risky.

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