You have been warned: this is petty and basically gratuitous. However, somewhere, under all that fundamentally unjustified sense of entitlement, there may be something other than me venting spleen. The Friday before last, the ninth, I came back from my holidays in The Hague via Brussels on the Eurostar. The train was delayed because of SNCF industrial action which prevented the member of staff who was supposed to join the train at Lille, and thus provide the requisite number of staff for travelling through the tunnel, from doing so. It left Brussels about forty minutes late, at about five past nine, and eventually got into London at around ten past eleven, roughly an hour and ten minutes late. Understandably, I wasn't best pleased about the train being late: I'd been looking forward to getting back to my mum's, where I was staying, and perhaps having a little glass of something before going to bed, which it was really too late to contemplate doing by the time I got there, and hanging about in train stations is hardly my favourite occupation. It was annoying: I'd purchased the tickets on the understanding that I'd be taken from A to B by this method in this time, and that hadn't happened, something which was both irritating in the sense that it disrupted my plans, and in the sense that it was actually a rather exasperating experience to live through.
I asked about compensation both at Brussels and London, and was told that because the cause of the delay was industrial action with which Eurostar was not connected, no compensation would be given. I emailed the company when I got back, and although I was again denied any compensation, I was given a different reason: that the train wasn't over an hour late, which either depends on a perverse understanding of what it is for trains to be late, where trains are late by the amount they are delayed when they leave, not when they arrive, or is simply false. I emailed them again, and politely got told to bugger off again. Eurostar aren't going to give me compensation, basically, and having read their conditions of carriage, under their conditions of carriage, which I presumably must have accepted when I bought the tickets, I'm probably not entitled to it. It doesn't make me feel any better about it though, that they came up with two different reasons for doing so, one of which was more or less a blatant lie. Likewise, it's hardly a sweeping endorsement of their customer care policy that it seems to amount to a blank refusal to compensate at all unless the Chief Executive, giggling maniacally and stroking his big fluffy white cat in a disturbingly suggestive manner as he does so, orders that trains be delayed so that he can experience the visceral thrill of his limitless power. I say seems because all that I can work out from the conditions of carriage is when they won't compensate, and I can't find the compensation policy referred to in them on the website, which, being suspicious and somewhat vindictive, I feel justifies me in conjuring up James Bond villians for my own and hopefully public amusement.
So, a warning. Although I really like Eurostar's service when it runs smoothly, and have in the past chosen it over flying - don't get me started on flying, and particular, f*cking airports, places whch make supermarkets on Saturday mornings look like palatial, genteel institutions of unruffled mutual beneficience - on more than one occasion, I won't do so again, and would urge others to do likewise, because Eurostar doesn't care about you. As long as they didn't deliberately bugger you about themselves, they're going to deny that they have any responsibility to compensate you for their failure to deliver the service you paid for, and even if they did, it's only if you're actually over an hour late that they'll do anything. I think that's fairly crap, especially when compared with what BA did when they were crippled by secondary picketing, by people who weren't their staff, in support of strikers involved in a dispute which, again, had little to do with them, which was to give everyone their money back. It's not earth-shattering, it's not particularly serious, and it probably won't make any difference to Eurostar at all, but it strikes me that the main reason that BA did give compensation was because of the poor publicity they would have got in the event that they didn't, so it seems sensible to think that Eurostar might respond in much the same way. On, and pre-emptively, I warned them that I'd publicize my displeasure were they to fail to assuage it.