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Project Simple #1: Megabus

I don’t want to have a reputation for blog-bitching. This is the tendency for one to only have motivation to write about negative things. Because of this I’ve created a three strikes policy. If a company / service / product pisses me off more than twice, I will write about them simply to educate my fellow entrepreneurs how NOT to run a business. I’m calling it “Project Simple“, as in, if you keep things simple, you’ll have a successful business with happy customers.

This week’s candidate: Megabus

Many would consider city to city bus transit a relatively simple business. Schedule buses, sell tickets for seats on said buses, $$$PROFIT! Peter Pan gets this. Greyhound gets this. Hell even Bolt Bus gets it! But Megabus is a MEGA-PAIN! And as I’ll explain, they aren’t only pissing off customers, they are hurting their bottom line.

1) Overbooking

I booked a ticket to NYC to see a farewell concert for a band I’ve been following. I bought my tickets a week in advance for $40 round trip on the Megabus website. I arrive at Boston’s South Station bus terminal at 12:30pm, for a 1pm bus ride. Somehow, there were more than 100 people in line, for a bus that at most fits 60 people. The bus driver came to the middle of the line about where I was standing and said “You can blame the people in front of you for bringing too much luggage! Everyone in the back isn’t getting a seat on the bus”. They didn’t let me on the bus even though I clearly had a ticket for THIS bus in hand.

2) No Ticket Tracking

We’re in the age of mobile devices everywhere. Merchants have been scanning bar codes for decades, yet Megabus does a visual check of my home-printed ticket to see if today’s date is on it. I strongly believe they do this to backup their illegal “No Refund” policy. They don’t allow me to use my ticket on the bus I’m scheduled for, and when I call for a refund they tell me no refund. If they scanned the tickets of passengers, they would know that I didn’t travel on the bus and therefore deserve a refund.

3) Fees that hurt their bottom line

Being a forgiving guy and believer in flukes – I tried Megabus a second time, to go to NYC for New Year’s. The ride in was just fine and I got only 90 minutes later than scheduled (mostly due to the snowstorm). After a great New Year’s Eve, I headed to 31st and 9th where the buses depart. I got there at 5:25PM for a 6:10PM bus. The bus driver is standing outside the 5:10pm bus to Boston that at this point was 15 minutes late. He repeatedly states “I have 50 open seats on this bus to Boston. If you want to move your 6:10pm ticket to this bus, just pay the women to your left with a credit card”. The cost was $5.00. I passed out of principle of refusing to pay useless fees and went to get a bite to eat. That bus left for Boston late and with roughly 40 empty seats on it.

6:10pm comes around and I am seated on my scheduled bus. Now for this bus, there are roughly 30 extra people trying to get onto the bus and it’s full. These people would have been glad to pay $10, $20, maybe even $30 to get on this bus but there were no seats. Now if only they had simply allowed those 40 seats on the earlier bus to fill up for no additional cost to us ticket holders, they would have been able to sell another 30-40 regular priced tickets.

It’s quite unlikely I’ll ride Megabus again. At least not until they learn how to keep things simple.

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