Tuesday, April 17, 2018

And summer travel

Coming back at spring break, the conductor on Amtrak (who knows me a little bit; he's frequently on, he's a good friend of Martha at the station where I get on) said to me, "Girl, you should be in the rewards club; you travel enough"

(And yes, I'm not going to comment on the "girl" part other than it doesn't bug me; it seems a common Southernism, he's probably older than I am, and I do look younger than my calendar age, so it doesn't bug me)

And I thought - yeah, I should use some of those points I've built up.

I had no idea how many. I had over 60,000.

But, because Amtrak changed their website about the time my old .netcommander address died, I had lost the link between who I was and my reward account.  I tried NUMEROUS times to do a password re-set and it never sent the e-mail, despite my specifying my new address, my campus address, etc. Well, today, I decided: I'm home for the afternoon (bad allergies made worse in the moldy building over on campus), so let me try calling in to see if I can fix it.

Observation 1: I think it got harder to do stuff over the phone when phone trees were born. I first tried to work through "Julie" (the robot that does the Amtrak simple phone stuff), got transferred to an agent. Explained I wanted to use my points and she asked for a PIN. Which I didn't have, because I hadn't been able to log in for several years - since before they changed the set up.

So, fine, I get transferred to one of their "Rewards" agents.

Understand, the phone-people at Amtrak are a VERY mixed bag. Once in a while (sometimes when you need it most), you get a gem who can help you (I remember one time when there was a cancellation looming and I just wanted to get a roomette on the next train I could get home on, because I can't DEAL with the noise and crush of humanity in a crowded coach any more, and the guy I got was able to do it for me in thirty seconds, and told me "We're not going to do the usual surcharge-for-change because this was an emergency at our end") but other times you get someone who seems bored with their job, bored by life, and profoundly disinterested in being any kind of help.

So I am apprehensive - and one of the reasons I hadn't used points before was because it was so much easier to just buy the tickets online (and usually, my dad would reimburse me the cost, anyway).

But I decided to give it a try. I got a woman named Lavinia who was both cheerful and helpful and apparently used to people less knowledgeable about the system than I - she seemed pleased that I had pencil and paper to write stuff down, and was near my computer. She walked me through the password change (and yes, it's one of those stupid "one capital letter, one lower case letter, one number, one character" so I used one of the nicknames used for Applejack* and a number and an exclamation point)

(*Yes, I use variants on Pony names for passwords sometimes. Easier to remember than the usual letter-salad some experts recomment)

And she booked the ticket for me and asked me if it was OK for her to use the 20,000 points it would cost. Well, since they're not doing me any good anyway.....so she booked the ticket, gave me the reservation number, and then "Oh-oh. Looks like the computer froze. Give it ten minutes and if the ticket's not in your inbox, call me back"

I groaned inwardly but decided to trust Lavinia, and anyway, I had the reservation number, which is really what you need.

But two minutes after hanging up, her computer must have unfrozen, because there was my ticket, in my inbox, as promised.

I'm delighted: it's a free trip, and I even have roomettes both ways. (I decided I better book SOON. I have no idea how fast the early-summer roomettes fill up given that some people are traveling then.

(And I have a lot of points left. I probably won't be able to use them at Thanksgiving: blackout dates. Though maybe for the trip up, I don't know. We now get a week at Thanksgiving - at the expense of the old Mid-Fall break, which itself was nice, but for people who need to travel to be with family this is better)

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