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Old 07.10.2012, 08:28
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SBB Complaint: Fined for handwriting date on day pass

To preface, I have been living in Geneva for 7 years and speak French fluently. I regularly use the trains without complaint - just renewed by 3-year demi-tarif (halbtax) this spring, in fact. So I know my way around, but I was shocked by how poorly I was treated on a trip to Zurich from Geneva yesterday:

My husband and I purchased two day-passes from Migros during a special offer, which could be used on all trams, buses, and trains in Switzerland. However, as they were valid for about 3 months from the date of purchase, there were no dates written on the tickets. On the back of the tickets you are told to validate the tickets in a special machine (available at the train station), however if there is no machine where you board you are allowed to hand write the date on the tickets. Once the date has been handwritten, you should not also insert the tickets in the machine to be printed.

In the morning, we took a bus to the station and then boarded the train to Zurich. As there are no SBB ticket validation machines on Geneva buses or ticket vending machines, we wrote the dates by hand on the tickets in case we were stopped by a ticket checker. Once we got to the station, we did not bother to validate the tickets in the machines because of the warning on the back of the ticket.

However, on the train, we were loudly berated by the SBB lady who told us that writing in the date was an offense punishable by a fine of 10 francs each. I argued that since there were no ticket validation machines on Geneva buses, and since we had wanted to use the ticket on a Geneva bus (which is allowed), we were well within our rights to write the date by hand.

She would have none of it and forced us to give her the 20 francs (she had already printed out our receipts before letting us speak), even though she confessed that she knew nothing about Geneva buses (or the availability of SBB ticket validation machines on them) and allegedly called a colleague (via phone) to back her up and then told us that the colleague had confirmed that we were not being truthful (I could not understand what was being said as they spoke in German and in any case we could only hear her side). A few passengers next to us backed us up that there is no way to validate an SBB ticket on a Geneva bus or tram, but she refused to believe anyone and gave me a number to call to contest the fine if I wished.

In Zurich, I attempted to explain the situation to the Customer Service staff of the SBB, but was met with a man who said he could not believe that in Geneva there are no SBB ticket validation machines at the bus stop, and told me that if I was really telling the truth I should speak with Customer Service in Geneva. I told him to call his Geneva counterparts and ask them about the situation there, but he flatly refused saying they would not pick up the phone.

In Geneva, I was told that they do not have a Customer Service office, so now I have to call a number in Bern. Not only will the call cost me about 10 francs since it is a paying number, I am also fairly sure that they will tell me I am lying about the non-availability of SBB ticket validation machines in Geneva buses and bus stops.

In order to make sure that I have my story straight, I have verified for myself (since everyone called me a liar I thought I must be one) that there really is no way to print dates on SBB tickets at Geneva bus stops, either on the old or new ticket machines.

At this point I have little hope of seeing my CHF 20 - after all, how would a customer service officer in Bern know that I am telling the truth about Geneva bus ticket vending machines? (If any EF-ers who don't live in Geneva are curious, I could put up some pictures of the machines in question so you can see for yourself.)

I'm thinking of sending them an email with pictures of the machines attached - would that work, do you think? At this point it is not so much the money; I am just really indignant that everyone I spoke to accused me of lying when they themselves did not know the reality of the situation in Geneva; and the SBB lady in Geneva I confronted refused to intervene and redirected me to Bern.

My only consolation is that passengers around us were quite sympathetic and one lady who was not even sitting next to us was so moved she came up to apologize for the lady's behavior and encouraged us to ask for a refund.
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Old 07.10.2012, 08:36
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Re: SBB Complaint: Fined for handwriting date on day pass

I feel sorry for you and what you had to deal with. My opinion? It is only 20 CHF, definitely not worth the stress. Don't bother.
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Old 07.10.2012, 09:08
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Re: SBB Complaint: Fined for handwriting date on day pass

I would fight for it, even CHF1. Of course it's not the amount that matters but the fact that they assume you're being dishonest ad not looking at the details of your story.
Several years ago I flew to Geneva and needed to go to Lausanne for the week end. My flight landed on Friday at 22.00 in Geneva and I took the train from Geneva to Lausanne.
At the machine, I saw a return ticket and since I needed to return from Lausanne on Sunday I thought it was the easiest, no need for a new ticket on Sunday. Well wrong of course since return tickets are only valid the same day (not stated on the machine when you take the ticket..)
So I got caught on Sunday for not having a valid ticket, got fined just as if I didn't bought anything even if the agent could see I had a return the was bought on Friday at 22.00 and validated by his colleague at 22.30 anf not return was used...
Conclusion: if they find the smallest reason to charge you they will, even if you're obviously being honest.
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Old 07.10.2012, 09:15
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Re: SBB Complaint: Fined for handwriting date on day pass

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At the machine, I saw a return ticket and since I needed to return from Lausanne on Sunday I thought it was the easiest, no need for a new ticket on Sunday. Well wrong of course since return tickets are only valid the same day (not stated on the machine when you take the ticket..)
Maybeits different in Geneva kanton since in Zurich return tickets are valid for 24hours so they are valid the next day provide it is under 24 hours
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Old 07.10.2012, 09:18
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Re: SBB Complaint: Fined for handwriting date on day pass

To the OP I would fight your case since you will otherwise have a record and next penalty that will go against you.
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Old 07.10.2012, 09:39
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Re: SBB Complaint: Fined for handwriting date on day pass

I would send a letter to them complaining about the case instead of call, normally in the letters you have more space to explain and even add some images if possible. I'm sure they will reply to you.
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Old 07.10.2012, 09:47
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Re: SBB Complaint: Fined for handwriting date on day pass

If I were you, I'd write a letter stating the facts of what happened and send it together with a copy of your ticket via registered post to Andreas Meyer, CEO of SBB. If you have the name of the conductor, mention her name. Also mention that you have tried resolving this at the Customer Services without success.

http://www.sbb.ch/en/corporation/the...eas-meyer.html

Address to send it to:

SBB The Swiss Railway
Hochschulstr. 6
3000 Bern 65
Switzerland

The registered letter will cost you a few francs but it is the principle of the matter that counts. It might stop such conductors being so arrogant and high handed.

Please let us know what happens if you decide to write to Andreas Meyer.
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Old 07.10.2012, 10:00
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Re: SBB Complaint: Fined for handwriting date on day pass

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I feel sorry for you and what you had to deal with. My opinion? It is only 20 CHF, definitely not worth the stress. Don't bother.
thats not the point, its the principle, but some people are happy and accept being walked over.

I had a similar experience where the inspector said my ticket was not valid, it was an open airline ticket that allowed travel on trains via basel/zurich.

He took great pleasure in loudly ranting it was an illegal ticket and i will be fined and this is a warning to others that try to travel with fake tickets and he is calling the police etc etc, the whole carriage was looking by now... I refused to pay his "fine" and calmy denied to engage in further conversation until he became civil.

police arrived at next station where they looked at ticket and by now the online regulations for this ticket - he slinked off into the shadows never to be seen again for the duration of the trip.

i could have said yes boss here is the money, but why should I because someone else doesnt know the regulations.

I do find in general when confronted with the facts they have made a mistake they ignore the result or then make up further false regulations to justify the original
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Old 07.10.2012, 10:35
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Re: SBB Complaint: Fined for handwriting date on day pass

I wouldn't have paid a dime on that train! You should have called the rail police to meet you at the tracks when you arrived in Zurich to handle the situation. You've told them your side of the story and it is their responsibilty to verify the statement.
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Old 07.10.2012, 10:48
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Re: SBB Complaint: Fined for handwriting date on day pass

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I feel sorry for you and what you had to deal with. My opinion? It is only 20 CHF, definitely not worth the stress. Don't bother.
The money is not the point. The OP has been accused of lying and fined by an authority figure who doesn't know their own rules.

Not cool.
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Old 07.10.2012, 10:58
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Re: SBB Complaint: Fined for handwriting date on day pass

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I feel sorry for you and what you had to deal with. My opinion? It is only 20 CHF, definitely not worth the stress. Don't bother.
Thank you - I know I have already spent more time thinking about this than I probably should given that it's only CHF 20, but if I say nothing this lady will feel justified in her actions and I will not have made my point about being right and having been punished unfairly.

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I would fight for it, even CHF1. Of course it's not the amount that matters but the fact that they assume you're being dishonest ad not looking at the details of your story.
Several years ago I flew to Geneva and needed to go to Lausanne for the week end. My flight landed on Friday at 22.00 in Geneva and I took the train from Geneva to Lausanne.
At the machine, I saw a return ticket and since I needed to return from Lausanne on Sunday I thought it was the easiest, no need for a new ticket on Sunday. Well wrong of course since return tickets are only valid the same day (not stated on the machine when you take the ticket..)
So I got caught on Sunday for not having a valid ticket, got fined just as if I didn't bought anything even if the agent could see I had a return the was bought on Friday at 22.00 and validated by his colleague at 22.30 anf not return was used...
Conclusion: if they find the smallest reason to charge you they will, even if you're obviously being honest.
Thanks for sharing your story and encouraging me to keep fighting. Indeed, the most painful thing was being told by everyone that I was not telling the truth.

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To the OP I would fight your case since you will otherwise have a record and next penalty that will go against you.
In fact, the SBB lady also threatened me with this, but I was careful not to give her my name or demi-tarif card (the special offer ticket did not require one) so I am sure my record is clean. Still, I will fight my case since I know I am right and I would like them to acknowledge their mistake.

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I would send a letter to them complaining about the case instead of call, normally in the letters you have more space to explain and even add some images if possible. I'm sure they will reply to you.
Thanks for the advice. You are right about the letter, I can also compose my thoughts better this way. I have taken pictures of the Geneva bus ticket machines today and I will print them out to accompany the letter.

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If I were you, I'd write a letter stating the facts of what happened and send it together with a copy of your ticket via registered post to Andreas Meyer, CEO of SBB. If you have the name of the conductor, mention her name. Also mention that you have tried resolving this at the Customer Services without success.

http://www.sbb.ch/en/corporation/the...eas-meyer.html

Address to send it to:

SBB The Swiss Railway
Hochschulstr. 6
3000 Bern 65
Switzerland

The registered letter will cost you a few francs but it is the principle of the matter that counts. It might stop such conductors being so arrogant and high handed.

Please let us know what happens if you decide to write to Andreas Meyer.
That is a wonderful suggestion, and I will write to Meyer and let you know what happens. Normally I would hesitate to send good money after bad (i.e. cost of registered mail) but I am curious to see how this would turn out. I need to run an errand in the post office on Tuesday, anyway, so I'll do this at the same time.

Unfortunately I was too rattled at the time to write down the name of the conductor, but I am sure they can trace it if I specify which train I was on.

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thats not the point, its the principle, but some people are happy and accept being walked over.

I had a similar experience where the inspector said my ticket was not valid, it was an open airline ticket that allowed travel on trains via basel/zurich.

He took great pleasure in loudly ranting it was an illegal ticket and i will be fined and this is a warning to others that try to travel with fake tickets and he is calling the police etc etc, the whole carriage was looking by now... I refused to pay his "fine" and calmy denied to engage in further conversation until he became civil.

police arrived at next station where they looked at ticket and by now the online regulations for this ticket - he slinked off into the shadows never to be seen again for the duration of the trip.

i could have said yes boss here is the money, but why should I because someone else doesnt know the regulations.

I do find in general when confronted with the facts they have made a mistake they ignore the result or then make up further false regulations to justify the original
Agree with everything in your post; I really like that you stood up for yourself and refused to pay. I would have liked to do the same but without the Geneva ticket machines in front of me I could not prove to her that there is no ability to print SBB tickets. In fact, since she went on and on about how I must be lying, I started to doubt my story myself - I don't take the buses in Geneva often and I knew they had started introducing new ticket machines that I hadn't looked at too closely. Now that I have solid proof (pictures of these machines) - I am more prepared to stand my ground.
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Old 07.10.2012, 11:22
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Re: SBB Complaint: Fined for handwriting date on day pass

I see all your points.

The reason why bringing it higher is clear and well, you are right. I guess it is just the tired me talking.
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Old 07.10.2012, 11:47
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Re: SBB Complaint: Fined for handwriting date on day pass

Dear oddoneout,

I've bought one of those ticket and I'm intending to use it to visit an EF member near Neuchâtel in a few weeks. As I'm in Geneva I'll need to use the tram to get to the train station and had intended to do exactly as you've described, writing the date on the ticket by hand, (after 32 years here I think my french is up to understanding the instructions too!).

Husband has suggested you contact;

a) the TPG (either the Rive or Bachet offices, to confirm the fact that their machines don't accept that type of ticket),

b) the Migros, after all, they issued the tickets and should be aware of the ticket machine situation in Geneva! In person where you bought the ticket is probably best, following up with a letter if they can't help..

You're quite right, no machine here will validate those tickets, the original machines did, as the multi-trip tickets were strips of cardboard that removed a sliver of card and date stamped the card at the same time; but they disappeared about twenty years ago.

Last edited by Anjela; 07.10.2012 at 11:51. Reason: Addition of TPG office names
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Old 07.10.2012, 11:52
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Re: SBB Complaint: Fined for handwriting date on day pass

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Thank you - I know I have already spent more time thinking about this than I probably should given that it's only CHF 20, but if I say nothing this lady will feel justified in her actions and I will not have made my point about being right and having been punished unfairly.



Thanks for sharing your story and encouraging me to keep fighting. Indeed, the most painful thing was being told by everyone that I was not telling the truth.



In fact, the SBB lady also threatened me with this, but I was careful not to give her my name or demi-tarif card (the special offer ticket did not require one) so I am sure my record is clean. Still, I will fight my case since I know I am right and I would like them to acknowledge their mistake.



Thanks for the advice. You are right about the letter, I can also compose my thoughts better this way. I have taken pictures of the Geneva bus ticket machines today and I will print them out to accompany the letter.



That is a wonderful suggestion, and I will write to Meyer and let you know what happens. Normally I would hesitate to send good money after bad (i.e. cost of registered mail) but I am curious to see how this would turn out. I need to run an errand in the post office on Tuesday, anyway, so I'll do this at the same time.

Unfortunately I was too rattled at the time to write down the name of the conductor, but I am sure they can trace it if I specify which train I was on.



Agree with everything in your post; I really like that you stood up for yourself and refused to pay. I would have liked to do the same but without the Geneva ticket machines in front of me I could not prove to her that there is no ability to print SBB tickets. In fact, since she went on and on about how I must be lying, I started to doubt my story myself - I don't take the buses in Geneva often and I knew they had started introducing new ticket machines that I hadn't looked at too closely. Now that I have solid proof (pictures of these machines) - I am more prepared to stand my ground.
Be sure to save the receipt for the registered letter and ask them to pay for that as well.
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Old 07.10.2012, 12:05
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Re: SBB Complaint: Fined for handwriting date on day pass

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Dear oddoneout,

I've bought one of those ticket and I'm intending to use it to visit an EF member near Neuchâtel in a few weeks. As I'm in Geneva I'll need to use the tram to get to the train station and had intended to do exactly as you've described, writing the date on the ticket by hand, (after 32 years here I think my french is up to understanding the instructions too!).

Husband has suggested you contact;

a) the TPG (either the Rive or Bachet offices, to confirm the fact that their machines don't accept that type of ticket),

b) the Migros, after all, they issued the tickets and should be aware of the ticket machine situation in Geneva! In person where you bought the ticket is probably best, following up with a letter if they can't help..

You're quite right, no machine here will validate those tickets, the original machines did, as the multi-trip tickets were strips of cardboard that removed a sliver of card and date stamped the card at the same time; but they disappeared about twenty years ago.
Hi Anjela,

Thanks so much for your message and your suggestions. The funny thing is that the lady who fined us was exceptionally aggressive: on the way to and from Zurich, at least three other conductors looked at our tickets and none of them commented on the handwritten date (i.e. they didn't ask if we had already been fined for that grave offense!). Every one of them was fine with it.

Anyway, whether you should take your chances with writing the date by hand is up to you... you might meet a nice conductor who will not bat an eyelash, or you might meet ours...

That episode ruined our whole day and while we bravely tried not to let it get to us by remaining on the train to Zurich, once we got there we found we were no longer in the mood to explore and turned around after less than an hour. Six hours on the train, wasted, not to mention feeling robbed and humiliated the whole time. Ugh.

I shall follow up with your suggestions of speaking with the staff at the TPG (I live close to the Rive office) and the Migros (can't remember exactly which one we got the tickets from, but they all sold them and the tickets are clearly branded Migros so I think it should be fine just to go to the nearest one).
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Old 07.10.2012, 12:10
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Re: SBB Complaint: Fined for handwriting date on day pass

Rather worried about simply writing on it to be honest, given what happened to you!

Hopefully you'll get an answer before I need to use it...
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Old 07.10.2012, 12:26
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Re: SBB Complaint: Fined for handwriting date on day pass

I actaully got lucky once. I was new in Switzerland and bought a daily pass. By mistake I sat in the 1st class on SBB train. When the ticket checker came, he checked my ticket and told me that I am in the wrong class. He told me that he won't fine me but I need to be more cautious next time.

Later on I was informed by co-workers that I got lucky. He could have fined me 100 CHF. Most of the time SBB ticket checkers are ruthless.
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Old 07.10.2012, 12:28
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Re: SBB Complaint: Fined for handwriting date on day pass

I agree with those that say write a letter. Don't waste your money calling them.
I wouldn't bother to send it registered just yet though. Send it regular mail for the first letter.

Be firm, formal and polite. Also tell them exactly what you expect from them. Give them your account number if it's a refund you what. It could take a while, but don't give up. If you don't get a response send the letter again.

Sorry you had to fight with them.
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Old 07.10.2012, 13:18
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Re: SBB Complaint: Fined for handwriting date on day pass

Thanks for sharing your experience. I can only understand a bit of french and noticed that on the back of the ticket it mentions we can validate by hand if the machine is not working. I've purchased the multi-pass and have run into several situations where the machine won't punch the ticket. I'm worried now that we'll get fined anyways.

I guess it's better to just buy the monthly passes so there's no worries.

In your case, lucky it's only 20 chf. Wouldn't too much about it.

Still can understand your frustrations.

Cheers
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Old 07.10.2012, 13:23
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Re: SBB Complaint: Fined for handwriting date on day pass

I have noticed a similar incident happening to one of my friends. This guy had just landed in Zurich airport and we took him to the SBB counter to buy a "monthly" Zurich Zone 10 ticket. Before him, another friend of mine renewed his monthly and then we bought his.
But we did not notice that he was issue the ticket on the customer ID of my friend (the counter guy forgot to change the ID).
After couple of weeks we were checked in the S-Bahn and this guy was caught because "he was travelling on someone else's ticket" and was fined (No fault on part of the ticket inspector though)
He was issued an invoice to pay.
Next day we took that invoice to the Airport counter and explained the matter to the same guy who issued the ticket.
He understood his mistake and cancelled the fine then and there.
We were lucky that he was brave enough to admit that it was his fault and we didn't have to go through the process of calling/writing to the SBB.

But, this things happens and you have to accept uit. But at the same time do all the calling and writing to resolve the issue. Its not about some CHFs, but its about the principal.

I wish you all the best and yes, you should also claim for all the cost you have incurred to resolve this.
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