This is the story of the worst Greyhound trip I've ever taken. I've been using the bus lines for over a year, because my job is selling art at anime conventions and I am scared to death of flying. At first it was a great way to travel at a semi-low cost. But the parent company of Greyhound, Laidlaw Inc, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and the bus company is having a hard time making a profit. I've been watching their quality of service basically plummet for a full year now. Stations are getting closed, the staff are harried, rude and incompetent, and the drivers frankly scare me.
Trip: Twin Cities to LA, then back to the TC again. Purpose: Anime Expo, in Anaheim.
First, our driver was so late to KC that the bus we were supposed to be on took off without us. 3 more hours to wait for another one. This put me in Denver so late I missed my connection and my friend had to change her ticket so we could leave together. That bus was late, so when she tried to change the ticket the staff told her that it was ONE MINUTE inside the July 4 "blackout" period when our seven-day advance purchase tickets would be invalid, and that she'd have to get a new one. Luckily, the person who handled Rahn's ticket was human and had mercy on her, and she didn't have to pay another 100 bucks. Denver apparently REALLY likes scaring the shit out of passengers by telling them they have to buy a new ticket (more on that later).
Five minutes out of Vegas, the bus that had been having problems since Denver started to lose power and the air conditioner started blowing hot air. The engine cut out over and over, and the driver had to pull over each time. We went from Vegas to Barstow at 20 miles an hour with the emergency hatches open. The air became boiling and surfaces inside the bus became too hot to touch (WITHOUT direct sunlight). There wasn't even toilet paper in the on-board restroom; Rahn and I had to buy some at a rest stop.
We got to Barstow and left the bus to cool down. I expected an emergency bus change, but the Driver was sure we'd be fine if we just let the bus cool off. When we got back on the road, it was still having trouble but didn't break down again. We got to LA *hours* late, around 11 instead of 8 pm. So far so good, right?
Then the return trip. They had me routed through Albuquerque instead of Denver. Fine, I thought, a new trip. I was bummed about not seeing the Rockies (prettiest scenery ever) but I wanted to get home more than anything.
Between Phoenix and Flagstaff, THIS bus started to have the same problems as the Barstow coach had had. The driver tried everything, including turning off the air, but the bus wouldn't accelerate beyond 15 mph or so. Finally he pulled over and told us we were going to have to call for help. He used his cel phone to phone the station back in Phoenix, who said they were going to send a mechanic and a fresh bus and we'd all be changing over when it arrived, but that as we waited for it to come, he'd try to make as much time as he could. There was no air. They threw the emergency hatches again, but it did no good. There was no wind. It stank. almost no one had brought anything to drink and people were dehydrating. We made it to a rest area and the people with money got drinks, everyone else used the water fountain.
After a long time, we got back on the bus and moved ahead. We pulled over every three or four minutes. Finally the driver told us it was the end of the line because there was no breakdown lane on the overpass, and we were stuck here until the relief bus arrived. Which it should do in about an hour, he said. So we waited.
An hour later, he called again but didn't tell us what was going on. The sun was blistering. Outside was even worse than on the bus, where the AC was at least keeping us from baking. It was still too hot to touch the metal surfaces, though.
From 9 am to 3 pm, we sat in the desert with the driver making increasingly frantic calls on his cel phone. The bus had been sent, we were told, and should already be here.
I drew in my sketchbook and tried to stay calm. A young boy got off the bus with all his stuff and hithchiked away. A couple other people went with him. They probably made it to Flagstaff before any of us.
Around 3, another bus pulled up. This one was mostly full, heading for Vegas via Flagstaff. The driver told us he'd move our bags for us, but he was mistaken. The other driver wanted to be on his way. They crammed us on board. There was only room for 15 people, but I didn't find that out until my OTHER bag (which I'd moved myself) was already in the compartment under the bus. And we were on the way.
The people we left behind were still sitting in the desert, in heat that has killed 18 people this month, waiting for relief that didn't come. When we got to Flagstaff, the driver said we could stay on his coach to Vegas if we didn't feel like waiting 4 hours for another bus. I was dizzy and almost fainted a couple of times in the terminal, shaking uncontrollably. I drank water and ate candy and it got a little better. People were ganging up on the info desk ladies, screaming at them. The ladies finally had to call their supervisors and retreated from the desk to protect themselves. I wanted to ask which would be better--to take the vegas bus or wait for the Albuquerque one. The woman screamed at me, no matter how calm and polite I tried to be, gave me the departure time for that bus and sent me on my way without answering my question. They were hysterical from being abused. It was really ugly.
So I stayed on the bus to Vegas. We arrived at 10:30 that night. I'd spent 24 hours getting from LA to Vegas--normally an 8 hour trip.
We were told later by the driver of the Vegas bus that the reason our relief bus had never shown up was that it, too, had broken down outside of Phoenix.
In Denver, a desk lady told me I would have to buy another ticket and accused me of stealing mine off the floor because I couldn't find the itinerary stub at the back of the bookllet. She had turned her nametag around, so I couldn't write down her name and report her for the way she was talking to me. She badgered me for losing part of my ticket (the driver had torn it in a weird place) and when I finally found the itinerary all she would say to me was "See? SEE?" over and over again. I was such a wreck I let her talk to me like a dog and even THANKED her for helping me. I THANKED her.
The rest of the trip went without a hitch. When I finally got home, all I could do was hide in my room and shake for hours from the stress of it all.
Oh, and that bag I left in Phoenix?
Don't trust Greyhound with your bags. Move them yourself, or watch the handler do it with your own eyes. And if you get forced onto another bus during an emergency stop in a boiling desert of pain, and the driver's in a hurry and tells you your stuff will be sent on ahead to your official destination, DON'T LET THEM HAVE YOUR BAGS.
That was a $120 bag, bought just before the trip to Anime Expo. Now there's a rip down the entire length of the bag (my clothes were spilling out on the floor of the depot when i took the bag off the storage rack), the retractable handle won't come out because the release button was pressed so hard it snapped, and there's what looks like a razor tear on the bottom of the bag itself. Not to mention that the plastic is gouged and pitted like somebody used it for a sled.
And as the depot guy watched me unpack my clothes from the bag (had to leave the damaged item there for fraud prevention purposes) he made comments about the contents of my bag. It was extremely intrusive and made me feel naked. He also gave me a hard time for wanting him to look the other way when I moved my personal items. He actually argued with me about it, saying "It's not like I haven't seen them before."
I'm filling out a damage claim as we speak, and working on a larger letter of complaint about the trip itself. This was just insanity. I'd really like compensation, but I don't want to come off all OMG!LAWSUTE. I just want a refund. Any advice on contacting the right people without being an equally shitty customer?
ETA: I forgot to mention that a patrolman DID show up when we were stranded outside Phoenix. He took 2 people into town for a couple gallons of water and plastic cups, and to refill the smaller bottles people gave them. So at least that was taken care of.