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Old 12.10.2008, 10:37
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Best way to complain to SBB

Hi,

I had a night out in Zurich last night - I bought a 24h return ticket from Lachen so that I could get the train back. I decided to get the 01:05 SN8 train back, but someone in our group mentioned that I might need a night ticket. So, why went to the ticket machine and bought a new extra ticket just to be safe, even though I thought my return should cover it.

Anyway, the ticket inspector on the train tells me I don't have a valid ticket for the journey. I explain to him that I'm new to the country and have already paid twice for my journey and couldn't understand what was wrong with my ticket. He said I need a special night ticket, which I have no idea what that is or where to buy it. I did mention that the ticket offices were closed and that the ticket machine should have provided a valid ticket for my journey. He steadfastly maintained that as I did not have a valid ticket for my journey I would be liable to a CHF80 fine.

He then said he could drop the fine to CHF40 if I paid him cash there and then - is this a bribe? Anyway I said no way, and he proceeded to issue me with a CHF80 fine. I took his name and his badge number as I wanted to complain to SBB about the lack of clear information on night trains and the unfriendly nature of the inspector.

I still do not know how I would buy a "special" night ticket from the machines as I did not see an option to buy one. As it was 1am, should the machine not have served me one anyway? Seems very unfair to me.

Any thoughts? What's the best way to complain to try and get the fine waived?

Thanks
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Old 12.10.2008, 10:51
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Re: Best way to complain to SBB

I've had a similar thing happen to me this week and I am still rattled about it and in need of an address so I can vent my wrath!

4 of us set off to Baden and each purchased tickets. Mine was the most expensive as I had no discount card. One of the party had bought her ticket earlier in the day, yet hers was a few francs cheaper than mine. The next girl to the window had a halbtax card, so was charged accordingly. The last one to buy a ticket had a 10 zone card which means she got a discount to Affoltern then had to pay to continue her journey.

As we approached Affoltern the ticket inspector arrived and asked the girl with the 10 zone card if she could see her halbtax card too. She was told she did not have one but purchased a ticket from Affoltern to Baden.

The ticket inspector said if she did not get off at Affoltern, she would be fined for not having the correct ticket. We argued that we could use the ticket in 1 direction and purchase a new one in Baden but the ticket inspector, refused and so all four of us had to get off the train.

At Affoltern the next train was 30 mins away but we waited for it. When it did arrive (late) we were in Oltfingen (sp?) and told to get off as the train was going no further!!

So here we were, stuck in the middle of nowhere... waiting for the train to take us to Baden. Another 30 mins later we got on the train and all in all it took 2 hours to complete a 20 min journey because of the chap that issued the ticket had made a mistake!!

We did not have time once we got to Baden to do what we set out to do and had to swiftly get on the next train back to Oerlikon. We went directly to the ticket office and complained... but the girl said as we completed the journey there was nothing she could do

So 4 of us wasted 20 francs each and missed an appointment through the ticket issuers neglect and we have to stand both the cost AND the time and effort to complain and in the end we got nowhere!!

THis cannot be right, can it? So much for good customer service!
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Old 12.10.2008, 10:54
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Re: Best way to complain to SBB

Ignorance is no excuse. It's harsh but it's how it works.
DON'T buy a rail ticket (if you're not 100% sure of the rules)

Similar story.

If I was you I would take both tickets and the fine down to my local SBB train station and have a chat at the office there, they may lower the fine for you.

What you needed to buy was a Nachtzuschlag ticket. 2.-chf.
As soon as it switches over to the night service on public transport you need to have that ticket.
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Old 12.10.2008, 10:59
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Re: Best way to complain to SBB

I'd start with walking into your nearest SBB office (we have had good assistance at the one at bahnhof stadelhofen) and tell them what happened.

Yes, the $40 cash thing sounds like an opportunist...!

Also, while you are there ask them for a copy of their information brochure in English - we got given 3 or 4 of these (every time we went and asked a question) before someone finally pulled out an English one for us !

It explains everything - how to use the machines, all the various tickets etc.

Oh, and if it helps any, I got whacked with an 80chf fine for being one stop outside the zone. Oblivious - they swooped on my like a pack of vultures - and I sure felt targeted...obviously a tourist! - and the next lady they tried to fine had no ticket at all and wanted to argue the toss (in Italian or French, no less) and they removed her from the bus to continue the argument...I could see them also looking at me and then at her and thinking (well, this tourist who really didn't know any better just copped her fine, and here's a 'local' who is a 'deliberate' fare evader (no ticket at all) and she's arguing with us...now we wish we'd let the other woman off!

You might have luck getting the fare waived with an administration fee (take your tickets to show your 'attempt' at doing the right thing)...some people on the forum have had this happen by taking it to the main SBB office.

ps. please excuse my aussie slang...that's what happens when I get annoyed
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Old 12.10.2008, 12:02
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Re: Best way to complain to SBB

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He then said he could drop the fine to CHF40 if I paid him cash there and then - is this a bribe? Anyway I said no way, and he proceeded to issue me with a CHF80 fine. I took his name and his badge number as I wanted to complain to SBB about the lack of clear information on night trains and the unfriendly nature of the inspector.

I still do not know how I would buy a "special" night ticket from the machines as I did not see an option to buy one. As it was 1am, should the machine not have served me one anyway? Seems very unfair to me.
First off you needn't complain to the SBB since you weren't on an SBB train, you were traveling on a regional train line for the Zurich area (VBZ Verkehrsbetriebe Zürich). Second the 40.-chf. isn't a bribe, it's the fine minus the administration costs, by refusing to pay the 40.-chf. on the spot you've only made things more expensive for yourself.
Please stop and think how silly you're going to make yourself look before you storm into a VBZ office to complain about the ticket inspector doing his job. Your insistence that your ignorance of how the ticketing system works obviously doesn't exempt you from paying a fine.

The following link is the VBZ website (in English):

http://www.vbz.ch/vbz_opencms/opencm...ish/index.html

Here's the point about night trains (5.-chf. surcharge):

http://www.vbz.ch/vbz_opencms/opencm.../ZVVnighttime/
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Old 12.10.2008, 13:06
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Re: Best way to complain to SBB

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Hi,

I had a night out in Zurich last night - I bought a 24h return ticket from Lachen so that I could get the train back. I decided to get the 01:05 SN8 train back, but someone in our group mentioned that I might need a night ticket. So, why went to the ticket machine and bought a new extra ticket just to be safe, even though I thought my return should cover it.

Anyway, the ticket inspector on the train tells me I don't have a valid ticket for the journey. I explain to him that I'm new to the country and have already paid twice for my journey and couldn't understand what was wrong with my ticket. He said I need a special night ticket, which I have no idea what that is or where to buy it. I did mention that the ticket offices were closed and that the ticket machine should have provided a valid ticket for my journey. He steadfastly maintained that as I did not have a valid ticket for my journey I would be liable to a CHF80 fine.

He then said he could drop the fine to CHF40 if I paid him cash there and then - is this a bribe? Anyway I said no way, and he proceeded to issue me with a CHF80 fine. I took his name and his badge number as I wanted to complain to SBB about the lack of clear information on night trains and the unfriendly nature of the inspector.

I still do not know how I would buy a "special" night ticket from the machines as I did not see an option to buy one. As it was 1am, should the machine not have served me one anyway? Seems very unfair to me.

Any thoughts? What's the best way to complain to try and get the fine waived?

Thanks
First, I would recommend NOT complaining. In this country, like most others, that gets you exactly nowhere. You broke the rules, whether you knew it or not, and it's not really their problem that you didn't read the sign on the boards at the main station that I guarantee said you needed a special ticket. They're under no obligation to you to hold the hand - Swiss haven't quite fallen into the "customer is always right" trap that afflicts us in America.

Now, having that said, I was in a very similar situation about 6 or 8 weeks ago. I bought a first class ticket, was sitting in 2nd class, and didn't have the night ticket. The cost difference between classes was more than the supplement, but that made no difference, and I pulled an 80 franc fine.

Fair enough, I wasn't happy, but I understood. When the ticket came in the mail, however, I noticed that there was an email address on it. So I wrote them, explained what had happened and how I knew I was in the wrong, but asking if they could offer me any special dispensation in light of the mitigating circumstances. I got a very friendly email back, and ended up having to pay only 40 CHF.

So I would recommend that approach. Go in humble, hope for the best, and understand that if you lose your cool or act like an ass, it'll probably be noted down in their customer records and you'll definitely get the fine next time, too.

Cheers and good luck,
Lance
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Old 12.10.2008, 13:16
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Re: Best way to complain to SBB

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...words...
To be honest they should really make the Nachtzuschlag malarkey more obvious. I've also fallen for this 'trap' when in a mildly intoxicated state I proceeded to buy a ticket from Zurich HB to Wadenswil, only to be fined by the ticket inspector a few minutes later on S8. I had absolutely no idea what was going on. I strongly suspect that a lot of completely honest people who would never ride without a ticket are fined because someone was a lazy sod and didn't bother to make sure the ticket vending machines quote the required price.

The swiss public transport system is quite clever in its flexibility, but such a system becomes a nightmare if they don't make it obvious enough for people. When I tell the lady behind a counter that I want a ticket from A to B, I fully expect her to give me a ticket that includes everything I need. To me it would be unthinkable if she just proceeded to give me 'half' the deal and then I would get fined. Obviously, the same should apply to the ticket machines.

Edit: I'm not saying that ignorance should be a viable excuse, however, they aren't exactly going out of their way to make this nighttime fee foolproof.
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Old 12.10.2008, 15:00
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Re: Best way to complain to SBB

I got once confused and bought a wrong ticket; the fine was 80CHF.
But in the end I got the money back after asking SBB for a refund, although it was completely my fault.


Keymoo, in case you don't speak German and prefer to hand in the complaint by email, there is a form on the sbb website you can use...
(If you need help regarding the language, please tell me.)
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Old 12.10.2008, 15:07
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Re: Best way to complain to SBB

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As we approached Affoltern the ticket inspector arrived and asked the girl with the 10 zone card if she could see her halbtax card too. She was told she did not have one but purchased a ticket from Affoltern to Baden.
If I understand this correctly this person bought a half fare ticket while not having a half fare card. Did the ticket vendor not ask if she had a half fare card?
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Old 12.10.2008, 15:47
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Re: Best way to complain to SBB

Yes, he asked but she told him she did not have one, only the ten zone card. The only theory we have is that she looked under 16 to him!! Which may or may not be the case but the fact remains that we lucked out due to his getting her ticket wrong!
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Old 12.10.2008, 16:39
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Re: Best way to complain to SBB

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To be honest they should really make the Nachtzuschlag malarkey more obvious. I've also fallen for this 'trap' when in a mildly intoxicated state I proceeded to buy a ticket from Zurich HB to Wadenswil, only to be fined by the ticket inspector a few minutes later on S8. I had absolutely no idea what was going on. I strongly suspect that a lot of completely honest people who would never ride without a ticket are fined because someone was a lazy sod and didn't bother to make sure the ticket vending machines quote the required price.
Exactly. It was very obvious to the inspector I was not trying to evade paying the fare which is what fines are there for. I paid twice for my ticket, with one of my tickets bought just 5mins earlier. I was very surprised to be told my ticket(s) were not valid. Maybe the inspector was just having an off day.
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Old 12.10.2008, 17:59
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I paid twice for my ticket, with one of my tickets bought just 5mins earlier. I was very surprised to be told my ticket(s) were not valid. Maybe the inspector was just having an off day.
How does that old adage go..? "2 wrongs don't make a right". The ticket inspector wasn't having an off day, he needed to see from you 1 valid ticket plus a (5.-chf.) night surcharge ticket. Next time on the ticket machines press *162 to purchase the extra night ticket which will be valid for that night (up to 12 hours).
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Old 12.10.2008, 18:15
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Re: Best way to complain to SBB

To be fair, it is made pretty clear that you need an additional ticket for the night train...it even says it on the board telling you what time the next train arrives.

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Old 13.10.2008, 01:36
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Re: Best way to complain to SBB

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To be fair, it is made pretty clear that you need an additional ticket for the night train...it even says it on the board telling you what time the next train arrives.

It's much clearer here than in other countries but perhaps less forgiving. In Japan if you have purchased the wrong ticket, you can't get exit the station as the gates on the machine where you must insert your ticket when leaving the station won't open. There is a lot of ringing of bells and everyone nearby knows you have a problem. So you march over to the fare adjustment machine where you insert your ticket and hopefully the problem is solved by feeding money into the machine and your ticket is replaced with the correct one which you then use to exit the station.
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Old 13.10.2008, 15:23
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Re: Best way to complain to SBB

I'm not going to judge whether or not you were in the right.

If you are just trying this on, don't, because you can only make things worse for yourself.

If you do have a genuine case, go to the SBB service desk at Zürich HB and explain the case to them. This happened to me once and they filled in a form for me which was submitted to some sort of "ombudsman" for such matters. I had missed a special train which had left 10 minutes too early and SBB claimed it had been announced that way although my copy of the flyer had the later departure time on it. They had given me an updated schedule in the train on the way out but I hadn't realised this was actually any different to the original one they had given me. I was eventually awarded some travel vouchers in compensation, but only after having been to see this official several times to explain the situation over and over again. But again, if you don't have a genuine case then I advise against trying it on.

On the matter of ticket inspectors, I am aware that their attitudes can be very arbitrary. I have often seen people get away although they didn't have the right ticket because they put on enough of a whine. The worst I saw was one African guy who made out he couldn't speak a word of German and could only speak broken English and didn't have any money on him and begged them on his knees and in tears not to check up his address or identity because he was in the country illegally and he would be sent home and tortured. Only minutes before he had been speaking perfectly fluent Swiss German on his phone. That sort of thing can make you feel stupid for being honest.
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Old 13.10.2008, 16:15
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Re: Best way to complain to SBB

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First, I would recommend NOT complaining. In this country, like most others, that gets you exactly nowhere.

wrong! a mate from germay, with german car and plate got flashed speeding, did not receive the issue in letter/written form. 6month later he immigrates through kloten customs n gets busted with a 600CHF fine. he told them (police) he didnt get any info. they said: pay or chäschtli/jail next time you enter.
he left ZH back to Munich n wrote a letter to verkehrsamt explaining the situation. 600 dropped to 150CHF. its a slightly different case but approaching smoothly and a bit soft might have an impact. at least you can try.
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Old 13.10.2008, 16:30
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Re: Best way to complain to SBB

I also did it twice this year.

My only two fines this year.

one when coming with rain from Uster to Zürich, I didn't see the 80Kmh sign and was sure that it was a 100 Kmh road, a flash got me.

I wrote to the police explaining, they fined me anyway. It was my fault anyway and I am aware that not seeing the sign is no excuse.

second, I forgot to put back the Blue Zone parking slip at the windshield. As I have a convertible, it could fly away when driving open, so I usually remove it and put it back when parked. This time I forgot.

I was parked at my front door, so the fine had my address on it. I wrote to the police explaining it. They forgive me and cancelled the fine. But warned me that if I forget it again I'll have to pay the fine.
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Old 13.10.2008, 16:33
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Re: Best way to complain to SBB

When my parents were over for our wedding, they were hit with a CHF 80 fine for not having the correct ticket on the S Bahn. The inspector appeared to be enjoying taking advantage of my parents. I had the pleasure of meeting the little sod one evening on the train on the way back from Pfaffikon. An odious, obnoxious little scut of a man. I am sure that he remembered as I did my best to be as polite as possible and and as intimidating as possible. I was rather hoping to make him cry!

When we have visitors we explain to them the need for having the correct tickets as they show little mercy and treat tourists and locals alike.
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Old 13.10.2008, 18:25
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Re: Best way to complain to SBB

I'd just like to say that it's not just us foreigners that have been having problelms, but the Swiss too! It was even discussed in Kassensturz - a swiss consumer program back in June. If things haven't changed though, the SBB are obviously making too much money fining people to want to change the machine prices.
If I were you I would take your tickets to your local station, and calmly and friendly explain what happened. At the worst you'll have wasted 10 mins and still be stuck with the fines (which I'm afraid were actually given to you correctly).
To all of you complaining about the condutors, I'm afraid they're just doing their job. I remember sitting in a tram at midnight on one of my first Christmas eves in CH (the real christmas day for the Swiss) and watching a ticket conductor give a young couple fines because they didn't have any tickets. At first I was so angry, but then I realised the poor guy working and getting yelled at wasn't the one to blame, but his managers who came up with the idea of sending him out at such a time - and no doubt was enjoying his Christmas with his family not thinking about business! And at the end of the day the SBB were paying for someone to drive the tram so that I could drink alcohol and still get home without having to pay an absoult fortune on a taxi, so people could still pay for a valid ticket.
A note for the future though - SBB are going to revise their ticket prices again next year - this time there will be different prices for rush hour times, and after 9am. After a lot of critisism they are claiming the after 9 ticket will be cheaper, and not the rush hour ticket more expensive. I will believe this when I see it - and otherwise we will be buying a second car instead of a new GA (General year ticket) for my husband!!!!
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Old 13.10.2008, 19:14
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Re: Best way to complain to SBB

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I'd just like to say that it's not just us foreigners that have been having problelms, but the Swiss too! It was even discussed in Kassensturz - a swiss consumer program back in June. If things haven't changed though, the SBB are obviously making too much money fining people to want to change the machine prices.
If I were you I would take your tickets to your local station, and calmly and friendly explain what happened. At the worst you'll have wasted 10 mins and still be stuck with the fines (which I'm afraid were actually given to you correctly).
To all of you complaining about the condutors, I'm afraid they're just doing their job. I remember sitting in a tram at midnight on one of my first Christmas eves in CH (the real christmas day for the Swiss) and watching a ticket conductor give a young couple fines because they didn't have any tickets. At first I was so angry, but then I realised the poor guy working and getting yelled at wasn't the one to blame, but his managers who came up with the idea of sending him out at such a time - and no doubt was enjoying his Christmas with his family not thinking about business! And at the end of the day the SBB were paying for someone to drive the tram so that I could drink alcohol and still get home without having to pay an absoult fortune on a taxi, so people could still pay for a valid ticket.
A note for the future though - SBB are going to revise their ticket prices again next year - this time there will be different prices for rush hour times, and after 9am. After a lot of critisism they are claiming the after 9 ticket will be cheaper, and not the rush hour ticket more expensive. I will believe this when I see it - and otherwise we will be buying a second car instead of a new GA (General year ticket) for my husband!!!!

Everybody has to work unsociable hours from time to time. And as in every job , there are pleasant and unpleasant people that have to be dealt with.

However some people, once they are in uniform seem to think that they can treat the rest of us mere mortals as they like, as though the uniform, SBB ID and ticket book confers them special powers. Like thugs they revel in their new found status. I am all for fining fare dodgers, but in the cases cited above, the inspectors should exercise a little discretion and in the case of tourists they should show leniency. In the case of my parents, they are approaching 70 years of age and are as honest as the day is long; the little sh1t of a conductor revelled in belittling them and was seen to chuckle at my parents expense. I did have the good fortune to meet him and accidentally walked into him with a hard shoulder.

I use the trains on a daily basis and normally have my ticket inspected on each journey. On the whole, the inspectors are reasonably polite but there is one fellow who is a miserable bar steward and seems to spend an inordinate amount of time checking individual tickets. I am always polite to him which seems to rankle him even the more.
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