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Avanti - no WiFi = no food or drink. Why such basic customer service failure?

Marty82

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22 Jul 2013
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55
Currently on an Avanti Super Voyager service. The Shop is closed due to COVID so it's at seat ordering via the Avanti website however you can only order if connected to the train WiFi rather than mobile data. The WiFi isn't working (no IP address) apparently for most of the journey from Euston meaning nobody can place an order.

Who designs a system like this? No attempt by staff to take orders and payments by making their way through the carriages either or by allowing restricted access (one in one out) to the shop. It's how you solve problems in customer service that matter yet a multi million pound railway company and its staff can't even get the basic stuff right.

The fact that platform announcements for the service advertise the shop when it's not available isn't exactly good service or common sense either!
 
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Scotrail314209

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Currently on an Avanti Super Voyager service. The Shop is closed due to COVID so it's at seat ordering via the Avanti website however you can only order if connected to the train WiFi rather than mobile data. The WiFi isn't working (no IP address) apparently for most of the journey from Euston meaning nobody can place an order.

Who designs a system like this? No attempt by staff to take orders and payments by making their way through the carriages either or by allowing restricted access (one in one out) to the shop. It's how you solve problems in customer service that matter yet a multi million pound railway company and its staff can't even get the basic stuff right.

The fact that platform announcements for the service advertise the shop when it's not available isn't exactly good service or common sense either!

"Due to COVID."

Restrictions are gone, it's time to open up the shop again as they really have no excuse for closing it on the Voyagers.
 

24Grange

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Catering on trains has taken a real nose dive in recent years - so much for customer care ! GWR went from a HST buffet car ( with hot food) to a trolley at seat, crisps, beer, cake ( usually no sandwiches) tea and coffee. The trolley if on board doesn't make its way up the aisle as luggage is usually in the way - and is only in one five car unit of a 10 car train. GWR wi fi does work usually. I feel your pain.
 

Nova1

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I understand how it is still having an impact, but hearing companies (not just TOCs) using "coronavirus" and a shrug for a reason for services not being available is getting very, very dull.
 

Bletchleyite

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I understand how it is still having an impact, but hearing companies (not just TOCs) using "coronavirus" and a shrug for a reason for services not being available is getting very, very dull.

Indeed, if the wifi isn't working the fix is for the staff to come round with a pad and pen and take orders.
 

24Grange

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As its been cut down so much across the network recently ( pre covid as well) does catering on trains as a cost base actually make money for the TOC? or is it a loss leader - nice to have sort of thing?
 

Marty82

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Indeed, if the wifi isn't working the fix is for the staff to come round with a pad and pen and take orders.
Thanks - I'm glad I'm not the only one thinking that there needs to be a bit of common sense and initiative on our railways.

Having worked in retail, and hospitality I was acutely aware that people remember the problem being solved rather than the problem itself and that if the till isn't ringing then I don't have a job!

Good question - on busy routes I don't see how it could lose money. If so many airlines in the world can make money from onboard sales then I don't see how a major intercity railway service can't. There's also the customer service aspect if we are all being encouraged to get out of our cars and onto trains for environmental reasons.
 

Mitchell Hurd

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I understand how it is still having an impact, but hearing companies (not just TOCs) using "coronavirus" and a shrug for a reason for services not being available is getting very, very dull.

I agree - I'd complain to Avanti and ask why other TOC's are now doing catering when restrictions are dropped!
 

Journeyman

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As its been cut down so much across the network recently ( pre covid as well) does catering on trains as a cost base actually make money for the TOC? or is it a loss leader - nice to have sort of thing?
The general view is that in and of itself, it loses money, but encourages people to travel.
 

Marty82

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22 Jul 2013
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55
As its been cut down so much across the network recently ( pre covid as well) does catering on trains as a cost base actually make money for the TOC? or is it a loss leader - nice to have sort of thing?
Good question - on busy routes I don't see how it could lose money. If so many airlines in the world can make money from onboard sales then I don't see how a major intercity railway service can't. There's also the customer service aspect if we are all being encouraged to get out of our cars and onto trains for environmental reasons.
 

Bishopstone

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Are on-train staff able to switch off (and on) the WiFi, and if so, is this ever done to manage demand for At Seat ordering services?
 

tiptoptaff

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Good question - on busy routes I don't see how it could lose money. If so many airlines in the world can make money from onboard sales then I don't see how a major intercity railway service can't. There's also the customer service aspect if we are all being encouraged to get out of our cars and onto trains for environmental reasons.
Airlines pay their staff a pittance.
 

zero

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3 Apr 2011
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Can they even take payment if people can't connect to the system?

I think I was on an LNER train recently where they said the connection was not working so they could only accept payment in cash... I may be misremembering though
 

tiptoptaff

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Can they even take payment if people can't connect to the system?

I think I was on an LNER train recently where they said the connection was not working so they could only accept payment in cash... I may be misremembering though
The card readers require Internet connection, whether by WiFi or 3/4/5G. So if there's no signal, they can't take payments.
 

LNW-GW Joint

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The fact that platform announcements for the service advertise the shop when it's not available isn't exactly good service or common sense either!
Are the refreshments still "delicious"?
It's a while since I had the pleasure of hearing those announcements.
 

zero

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The card readers require Internet connection, whether by WiFi or 3/4/5G. So if there's no signal, they can't take payments.

Yes. But my two paragraphs were unrelated to each other.

It was suggested that the catering staff on this Avanti train could walk through and take orders manually, but I was wondering if that would be possible as I got the impression that you have to order and pay through the web shop, meaning that as the wifi was not working it would not be possible to pay? (I have not been on an Avanti train since they became Avanti so I don't know how it works)
 

whoosh

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Good question - on busy routes I don't see how it could lose money. If so many airlines in the world can make money from onboard sales then I don't see how a major intercity railway service can't. There's also the customer service aspect if we are all being encouraged to get out of our cars and onto trains for environmental reasons.

Any tax experts in? Feel free to confirm or correct my understanding on this:
Food on a train is the same VAT rate, I believe, as 'dining in', (a luxury) as opposed to 'eat out/takeaway' (eating food as a necessity) when you buy from a shop in the street or on a station. I don't know how food and drink are taxed on aircraft as they often are in different country's airspace so there may be an exemption from tax so that they are different to trains.

This situation is certainly unhelpful when on board train buffets are competing with the shops on stations. The train company has to give more of the price of it's refreshments to the Taxman, and struggles to compete on price as well because of the tax added to the initial price.




Something that has irritated me is the amount of time taken to 'stock take' on trains. Some years ago, I remember driving a train from Nottingham to St Pancras (a class 170 with a buffet in the centre coach), and there was an announcement that I could hear in the cab, that the buffet was now open as we were approaching Leicester (almost half an hour into the journey). Then after leaving Bedford there was an announcement that it was closing to stock take before arrival into London (with half an hour still to go).
Getting ready and packing up was therefore about one hour of the trip. Or to put it another way, nearly half the 2 hour 15 minute end to end journey at the time.
I can't understand why it's often so inefficient.


I know of no occasions when this happened at any company I worked at, but I have heard of certain locations elsewhere in the past where staff took their own stock in (which they'd bought from a Cash & Carry) and sold it at the railway prices, with them pocketing the difference. Standard class customers purchasing bottles of wine and it being marked down as a first class passenger (so complementary) and the money being pocketed.
Sadly, I daresay some, "Catering doesn't make any money, there isn't the passenger demand for it," decision making over the years by Management has not taken the figures being skewed by such goings-on into account. There was probably a lot more demand than they thought!
 

py_megapixel

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Indeed, if the wifi isn't working the fix is for the staff to come round with a pad and pen and take orders.
They should allow orders from mobile data, so at least some people could order. I know the WiFi system is designed so that it automatically detects which train you are on, but it's surely not beyond the wit of man to put up stickers with the unit number inside the carriages and have people type that in (it's only 6 digits!)
 

JamesT

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25 Feb 2015
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How do you propose they do that?

It's powered by 4G. You can't get that underground

You can if you put equipment in the tunnel. Either a leaky feeder or distributed antennas which run to a base station outside of the tunnel. There’s an install on part of the Jubilee line already and a contract was recently signed to roll out across the whole of London Underground. If the funding was there, no reason you couldn’t do the same in the Severn Tunnel.
 

plugwash

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If so many airlines in the world can make money from onboard sales
Airline regulations require a minimum number of flight attendants depending on aircraft capacity. Generally these people double up as the catering/sales staff, so their salary is already covered by the regulatory requirement and doesn't come out of the catering/sales budget.
 

island

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Any tax experts in? Feel free to confirm or correct my understanding on this:
Food on a train is the same VAT rate, I believe, as 'dining in', (a luxury) as opposed to 'eat out/takeaway' (eating food as a necessity) when you buy from a shop in the street or on a station. I don't know how food and drink are taxed on aircraft as they often are in different country's airspace so there may be an exemption from tax so that they are different to trains.

This situation is certainly unhelpful when on board train buffets are competing with the shops on stations. The train company has to give more of the price of it's refreshments to the Taxman, and struggles to compete on price as well because of the tax added to the initial price.
On-train food and drink sales are indeed treated as dining-in; this currently means they are subject to VAT at 5% for everything, except for alcoholic drinks which are 20%.

International trains can charge 0% on everything. The same rules apply on board planes, albeit planes are probably more likely to be international than trains.

As for takeaway sales at the station, it's 20% for cold drinks and alcoholic drinks, ice creams, confectionery, crisps or similar snacks, 5% for hot food and hot non-alcoholic drinks, and 0% for other cold food.

Confused yet? :D
Something that has irritated me is the amount of time taken to 'stock take' on trains. Some years ago, I remember driving a train from Nottingham to St Pancras (a class 170 with a buffet in the centre coach), and there was an announcement that I could hear in the cab, that the buffet was now open as we were approaching Leicester (almost half an hour into the journey). Then after leaving Bedford there was an announcement that it was closing to stock take before arrival into London (with half an hour still to go).
Getting ready and packing up was therefore about one hour of the trip. Or to put it another way, nearly half the 2 hour 15 minute end to end journey at the time.
I can't understand why it's often so inefficient.
I agree; I've often made this point before.
 

Bald Rick

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Airline regulations require a minimum number of flight attendants depending on aircraft capacity. Generally these people double up as the catering/sales staff, so their salary is already covered by the regulatory requirement and doesn't come out of the catering/sales budget.

And it’s a captive audience, packed in to a small space, for a minimum of an hour or so (usually), and often more. Unlike a long distance train which is much more spread out, and most of which make calls every 20-30 minutes or so with a good degree of turnover.
 

whoosh

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3 Sep 2008
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That must have been a long time ago. Processes have improved since then!



It was then. Less so now.

Good to hear, I would hope technology has improved things!

Airline regulations require a minimum number of flight attendants depending on aircraft capacity. Generally these people double up as the catering/sales staff, so their salary is already covered by the regulatory requirement and doesn't come out of the catering/sales budget.

Yes:
"How can they bring in even more money, whilst they are required up there?"
"Sell more drinks!"
"But the punters just fight then. There's got to be something else!"
"Got it! ....Lottery tickets!"
On-train food and drink sales are indeed treated as dining-in; this currently means they are subject to VAT at 5% for everything, except for alcoholic drinks which are 20%.

International trains can charge 0% on everything. The same rules apply on board planes, albeit planes are probably more likely to be international than trains.

As for takeaway sales at the station, it's 20% for cold drinks and alcoholic drinks, ice creams, confectionery, crisps or similar snacks, 5% for hot food and hot non-alcoholic drinks, and 0% for other cold food.

Confused yet? :D

Er....yes! :D
 

24Grange

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7 Jan 2021
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Baldock
Yes - I always tell my son to buy food and drink before he gets on the train - apart from the "hit & miss" availability at all. The prices can be excessive.

Talking about profit for the TOC's - full restaurant service ( china, tablecloths loads of smiling white coated staff " yess sir.. Yes madam"...) are seen on dusty youtube videoes in the days of yore, for all the big 4. Did they all lose money and were only there for " show" and publicity and encourage the public to travel? The non appearance of the trolley, the closure of the shop " stocktaking" are really not designed to encourage you to sign on the dotted line for your ticket!
 

James H

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25 Jun 2014
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444
"Due to COVID."

Restrictions are gone, it's time to open up the shop again as they really have no excuse for closing it on the Voyagers.
Restrictions might have gone but covid has not gone. Companies are right to continue to take precautions and not behave as if it's business as usual
 

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