When is an e-ticket not an e-ticket?

When you buy it for the Oxford Tube. It took me a while to figure that out though, what with the whole ‘Click here to buy your e-ticket’ thing, and the fact that what was delivered to my inbox was called an e-ticket.

Now when I buy ‘plane tickets, or indeed, other bus tickets, and they are prefixed with the magic ‘e’, it generally means I don’t need a bit of paper because what I have purchased is a genuine ticket entitling me to travel. I might need the appropriate credit card, but I don’t need a print out. Because it’s 2011.

Not with Oxford Tube, though. Of course, they don’t tell you that you need a bit of paper until after you have paid for the alleged e-ticket, at home on Sunday morning, when there is no printer within reach. Post-purchase, the website is very clear that one must print out a piece of paper, although without giving any explanation as to why. Thus one assumes, in passing: (a) that the person who designed their e-commerce system is an absolute moron; (b) user testing is an entirely unknown concept; but, more importantly, (c) that Oxford Tube simply haven’t bothered to update the website since the advent of the smartphone, but it’s all right because no one prints anything out anymore. Then the ‘e-ticket’ arrives by email, and pretty much confirms point (c) because it just says that you have to take it with you. The pertinent information on the e-ticket is date of travel and ticket number, so ‘Great, it’s just proof of purchase, I won’t need a print out’, I thought.

I waved my phone at the ticket man.

Ticket man: ‘No, you have to print that out so we can exchange it for a ticket. We have to treat it as a cash sale.’

Me: ‘Eh? But, I’ve already paid. This is an e-ticket’.

Ticket man: ‘Yes, but you have to print it out so we can give you a ticket.’

Me: ‘But it is a ticket. It says e-ticket.’

Ticket man: ‘You have to print it out for our records, otherwise we don’t know that ticket number got used.’

Me: ‘???’

I still don’t know what information, exactly, was needed, because all anyone would say is ‘You need to print that out.’ Since there wasn’t a printer to hand at Thornhill Park & Ride, I ended up buying another ticket. In retrospect, I can only assume that Oxford Tube are desperate to track that everyone who buys a ticket actually uses it, and that the system for tracking ticket numbers is entirely manual. What I had bought, it turned out, wasn’t an e-ticket at all. It was a number I could exchange for a real ticket. My understanding of the entire purchase had been fundamentally flawed.

Ticket man: ‘Oh, but you can get a refund on that ticket, because you haven’t used it.’

Me: ‘The website says no refunds on e-tickets.’

Ticket man: ‘You haven’t used it, though, so you can get a refund.’

Me: ‘???’

Really, I haven’t had the heart to phone Oxford Tube and try to navigate the doubtless serpentine logic behind why I can or cannot get a refund. Life is too short.

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4 thoughts on “When is an e-ticket not an e-ticket?

  1. Emily Barton

    This probably isn’t what you want to hear, but I am so happy to discover that traveling around England hasn’t changed much since I first started doing so on my own (back in 1979). Efficiency is not the name of the game. I secretly believe that good stories are what it’s all about.

  2. Kaiser Fernandez (@livingmanila)

    The very reason why I am reading this blog after searching google. Apparently I’m about to buy the oxford tube ticket. But it says print, I don’t have a printer and its almost 12mn Saturday. So I guess, thanks to your post, I’ll just buy the ticket on the bus tomorrow? Thanks

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