Who charges a hefty surcharge — twice — when you buy a ticket for someone else?
The travel marketplace is clearly diversifying: It’s not just airlines, hotels, and car rental agencies that are bilking customers with poorly-disclosed and poorly-justified fees. We can now add Greyhound bus lines to the list of offenders.
Longtime friend of the blog Dave H. writes in with a tale of bus tickets run amok with fees:
[My wife's mom] usually drives the 2 hours from Delaware to us but wanted to take a break this upcoming visit [...] so we bought her a ticket on Greyhound. 62 bucks roundtrip, Wilmington to Newark. (Amtrak was about double that.)
Clicked “purchase”, then *after the fact* learned about their $18 “gift service fee”. So talk about an online bait-and-switch! (Aren’t online retailers required to show a complete grand total before completing a transaction?) And then, only on reading the fine print in the receipt did she learn about another $15 “will call” charge if the traveler is not the purchaser. $33 in fees on a $62 ticket. Undisclosed until after purchase. And of course it’s a non-refundable fare. (And also in the fine print: seats are first-come, first-served, and if the bus is full they’ll just put you on the next bus, so there is *zero* incentive to buy ahead of time.)
Greyhound justifies the $18 charge by asking complaining customers — after putting you on interminable hold, of course — how much would it have cost to wire the money to the giftee? No justification offered for the $15 will-call fee. [...]
We, of course, have options: we’ll dispute the charge with our credit card issuer, who will either open a dispute or more likely simply eat the $80 to avoid the hassle of a dispute. But the target of this predatory business practice — people with no credit cards, i.e., the poor — are just getting milked.
To verify the process, I initiated a bus ticket purchase myself, for the same exact schedule as Dave’s purchase. While Dave is quite correct that the $18 “Gift Ticket Fee” is obnoxious, it is disclosed. Here’s a screenshot from the purchase page. See right below “Please Note”:
Disclosure is okay, but come on: What justification is there for this fat surcharge? Fraud risk? I’ve paid for plane tickets for others, which cost a heck of a lot more than that. And the way the rule is written, a husband can’t buy a ticket for his wife without paying the surcharge. Ridiculous! Disclosed or not, the fee offends.
And the $15 will-call fee? Not disclosed prior to purchase. Clicking for details on the ticket delivery methods would — at a minimum — be a good last-ditch opportunity to mention such a surcharge. Nope. Here’s the in-window popup:
It’s not just the lack of disclosure: It’s the size of these fees. $15 to pick up a prepaid ticket would make even Ticketmaster blush.
And whom are they hurting most here? Greyhound’s business model here is painfully apparent in the customer service agent’s justification of the gift ticket fee. Wiring money is the comp? If Greyhound is using Western Union wire fees as its reference point, then they might as well start offering payday loans, furniture rental, and an in-transit pawn shop.
So don’t reward bad behavior. Until Greyhound finds some pricing ethics, seek alternatives where they’re available. Chinatown buses, Megabus, Peter Pan… anything.