Here is another train story: In January I finally bought a reduction card for dutch trains, because I use trains in the Netherlands all the time. I bought it at the station in Eindhoven, where I ended up with some spare time because of just missing a train. I was given a temporary card because the real one containing an ID photo could not be done immediately. I was a little surprised when I heard that the expected time frame for delivery was going to be about three months (I received my german Bahncard within a week, also containing a photo). I never really had a closer look at the temporary card and was therefore taken by surprise one evening last week, when a conductor told me that it had expired and that I should contact the NS about my card. The next morning I had to take an early train again and of course there was no time to contact the NS in the meantime.
Again a conductor noticed that my temporary card had expired (I had been using the card for a while after the expiration date without anyone noticing). She stamped my ticket and said: “You’re not getting your card back, it has expired”. Since this card was my only receipt, I insisted on getting my card back – as a compromise I offered that she could de-validate it. When she just ran off I went after her, demanding that she would give me back my card. She freaked out threatening to call the police. I told her that this was exactly what I was going to do, if she insisted on keeping my card. When I asked for her name or employee’s ID she refused to give it to me (so far I thought this was a french speciality).
To make a long story short: I let her go with my card after we had agreed on involving the police. 5 minutes later another conductor (the supervisor) showed up. excusing himself and giving me back the card. He told me that he knew that there was a delay with the delivery of reduction cards and that not all conductors had been informed about it. He politely asked to see my ID and explained that the temporary cards are often passed on when people receive the actual card. That is of course no surprise.
But that the NS doesn’t seem to be able to install a system where they don’t need to give out thousands of temporary cards in the first place is a bit surprising. 3 months and a delay on top of it? Get real!
After all the Netherlands are the self proclaimed country of pragmatism and efficiency and unlike the french SNCF which is famous for poor service the NS has been privatized.
Oh yes, did I mention that one can’t use the card during rush hour? Of course I found out after I had bought it, the person selling it to me apparently didn’t think that this was an important detail.