Another another bad user experience from Amtrak

By | June 22, 2021

Great news, y'all. You get two "Why is @Amtrak service so terrible?" stories in one day! How exciting! (See the last installment at #TrainTwitter 1/

I'm taking the Acela home tonight, so I figured hey, what the heck, I'll use one of my upgrade coupons to hop into first class and enjoy unbridled Acela hedonism. So I tried to upgrade my trip in the app. Instead of a upgrade, I got an incomprehensible error message. 2/

I guess I'll try upgrading on the web site instead of the app. Nope! Another incomprehensible error message, coupled with an instruction to call Amtrak for assistance 3/

I call Amtrak and wait on hold for 10+ minutes and finally reach an agent. She looks up my account and tells me I have no coupons available. That's odd, I respond, I had a coupon available 15 minutes ago when one of them failed to apply properly. 4/

A more detailed analysis reveals that the coupon has been marked as used even though it was not applied successfully. She puts me on hold and then comes back and says she has restored the coupon and upgraded me, but then she corrects herself. … 5/

"You bought this ticket on a saver fare," she says. "Saver fares can't be upgraded with coupons." OK, fine, I say, but it would have been nice if the app and web site had told me that rather than displaying incomprehensible errors and stealing my coupon. She agrees. 6/

She says she's restored the coupon for me to use on some future trip. I say thank you and goodbye. After getting off the phone, I look at my account on the web and the coupon hasn't yet been restored. It finally shows up again about 10 minutes later. 7/

Call me naive, but it just doesn't seem to me that "User tries to upgrade fare that can't be upgraded" is an obscure, unanticipatable use case that couldn't have been tested and handled properly. 8/

Please, @Amtrak, your customers are begging you: hire good UX designers. Hire good QA engineers. Listen to them. Fix the the problems they identify. Get better at this. Delight your customers so more people will take trains. Save the environment, save the world. Thank you. 9/9

Originally tweeted by (((Jonathan Kamens))) (@jikamens) on June 22, 2021.

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One thought on “Another another bad user experience from Amtrak

  1. Anonymous

    If their fare structure and rewards program wasn’t so complicated, it wouldn’t be so hard to get the IT right.

    My suggestion: forget all the Saver, Value, refundable, price bucket crap. Lower the prices and make all corridor trains unreserved. Run enough service so trains don’t fill up, even on peak holidays.

    The train should be the PRIMARY means of transport between big cities. Turning people away with high fares, sold out trains, reservations that need to be booked months in advance rather than showing up whenever, horribly complex refund/change rules and fees, and infrequent service is a big reason why there are so many cars spewing pollutants and smashing into each other between Boston and DC.

    Could you imagine if your drive on the Mass Pike cost $150, and had to be booked weeks in advance for a specific time, and if you were 1 minute late you’d lose the money and have to wait hours for another reservation unless none were available at all? Why should train riders be treated like that for trying to choose the most efficient and least harmful means of transport?


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