I went to this little thing known as BlogHer in Chicago last weekend. I'd originally planned to do a follow-up post on my experience at BlogHer as a first time attendee, until the events of my trip home demanded more immediate attention. Behold the drama that was the Sunday afternoon MegaBus, my friends.
The MegaBus, if you're not familiar, is a low-cost bus service available in select U.S. cities. I'd heard good things and so I thought I'd give it a try for my trip back to Indianapolis from Chicago. It's hard to beat a $21 fare and a 5 minute cab ride from your hotel.
On Sunday morning I showed up at the MegaBus stop just outside Chicago's Union Station. I chit-chatted with another passenger who'd ridden the bus up to Chicago. The bus showed up a few minutes late. We boarded the bus and waited for our departure. I sat a few rows back from the driver, and a few minutes later another woman sat down next to me.
It was a comfortable 74 degrees in Chicago that morning. As we waited for everyone to load themselves on the bus, it was a bit stuffy. The driver informed us that once we started moving, the air inside the bus would cool down. A few minutes later we were off. Apparently, the bus driver was incorrect. The air was on, but it was not getting cooler. Can I just say right here, it was not uncomfortable. A little warm? Yes. A little stale? Yes. Totally manageable for a 3 hour ride to Indy? Absolutely. The driver, however, didn't feel this way, and before we knew what was happening, the bus was pulled over onto the side of the interstate, just past a toll booth with a McDonalds in the median. The driver stated that she "couldn't drive a bus in these conditions" and we'd be waiting on the side of the road until a new bus arrived. The bus erupted with groans. My seatmate was equally perturbed. She'd ridden the MegaBus up to Chicago from Indy, and had been sidelined at a rest stop for 3 hours when that bus had a brake malfunction (at this point I'm thinking I'll take the wonky a/c!).
Things went downhill from there, especially for one particular gentlemen on the bus. He had the misfortune of approaching the driver and stepping in front of the forbidden white line that separates the passengers from the driver. Between that faux pas and his audacity to ask if he could cross 3 lanes of traffic to get ice and water for himself and other passengers on the bus, he'd pushed one too many buttons for our frazzled bus driver. Perhaps if he had stopped there, his story would have ended differently, and so would mine. But no, he had to press on. When he returned to the bus he announced to the other passengers that it was cooler outside, and that we might be more comfortable if we left the bus and sat in the grassy area next to the bus.
I never heard the full conversation between this gentlemen and the driver. That's because, even as close as I was sitting to the driver, he never once raised his voice. Not when the driver essentially told him to do whatever he wanted, nor when the driver told him that she'd had enough of him and that he was not welcome to get back on the new bus.
You read that right: the driver decided that it was within her right to refuse a non-threatening passenger a ride on the bus to his destination. To leave him stranded at a toll-stop just outside Chicago.
At some point either the passenger, the driver, or both, called the police. After sitting on the side of the road for at least an hour, both our new bus and the Chicago police arrived on the scene. We were loaded onto our new bus, and for reasons I cannot comprehend, the gentlemen who only tried to help was left on the side of the road.
As this entire incident was unfolding, I remembered a post I had read on TwiTip about using Twitter to handle travel emergencies. While this was by no means an emergency, I was in shock to see a driver from MegaBus essentially losing her mind and her manners. So I tweeted what I was seeing. My version of the events as they unfolded appeared in these tweets:
There is about to
be mutiny on this Megabus. Air conditioner not working. Bus driver
stopped, wants to wait for new bus. Riders want to GO.
@megabus You have a busful of very upset customers on the side of the freeway in Chicago.
Also? The driver of your bus is losing her mind and starting to tell
people they can't get on the new bus b/c "she's done w/ them"
And now the Chicago police are here. Holy Megabus drama.
We're on a new bus and we're finally moving. Minus one passenger, who wasn't let on the new bus.
Little did I know that my seatmate had been twittering as well. By the time I figured out that PastaQueen was tweeting the MegaBus drama, we were on the new bus and in different seats. She went on to write her own excellent (and much funnier) recap of the MegaBus madness on her own blog, Pasta Queen.
I thought that would be the end of it, but I underestimated the power of Twitter. MegaBus is on Twitter, and they were watching. The next morning they contacted me via Twitter and asked me to send them my contact information. A few hours later I was on the phone with the Operations Manager from MegaBus Midwest.
My main concern was for the passenger that was left behind. I understand that buses break down. As I explained to him, I purchased a $21 ticket. I didn't expect plush, first class service. He disagreed with me, and stated that MegaBus expects to provide their passengers with first class service along with affordable fares. My complaint was not with the bus, it was with the conduct of the driver. What if I had pissed her off? Am I just as vulnerable to be left on the side of the road to fend for myself?
The gentleman from MegaBus was very concerned with doing what he could to rectify the situation. He refunded my fare in full, and provided me with a round-trip ticket to use the MegaBus again in the future. He wants me to give them a second chance, and I'll gladly do it. I'd love to know what happened to the stranded passenger, and what ramifications the driver faced for her less-than-professional behavior. I commend MegaBus for responding to my complaints so quickly, and for being willing to learn more about what happened and how they can make it better.
Here's the lesson I see in this. If you are a company that provides any kind of service? Do it well. The platform that social media sites like Twitter provide to spread the word about your service, or lack thereof, is wide-reaching. The power of the re-tweet can make your slip-up known to thousands, or hundreds of thousands, within minutes. I was vaguely aware of this before, but now I know it for sure. As a customer, I feel that I have the responsibility to Twitter accurately, honestly, and respectfully. I won't bash your company or spew hateful tweets, but I won't let poor service go unnoticed. On the flip side, I won't let excellent service go unnoticed, either. I can just as easily spread some Twitter love.
That's just how @katydid6 rolls.