A date on a ticket can be a small but important detail. And no place is that more true than in Europe, where dates have a way of getting reversed.
What do I mean?
Well, we in the States might write Sept. 17 as 9/17/12, right? In Europe, it’s 17-09-12.
But what if you’re traveling on Sept. 8, and the ticket says 8/9 – or wait, is it 9/8?
Oh no! When, exactly, is that ticket for?
That’s the problem Victor Strasburger had with his bullet train tickets from London to Luxembourg. (If you think airline tickets have onerous terms, try the European train.)
“I had an invitation in July to speak at a medical conference. I booked my ticket in advance on Eurostar,” he said. “The conference organizers changed the date I was speaking. I dutifully paid a whole lot of money to buy another ticket on Eurostar — my fault, not theirs.”
But when Strasburger made the switch, he got confused. He paid $784 for tickets on July 6th, but his travel date was on the 8th.
“Eurostar’s online system is not foolproof,” he told me. “You are easily confused.”
By the way, I just tried to make a reservation via the Eurostar site. If you tell the site you’re originating in the UK, here’s the date format.
When he showed up for his train in London, he had to buy new tickets – yet again. In effect, he paid for his tickets three times.
Appeals to Eurostar were unsuccessful. The company blamed his glitch on his home computer and the way in which the tickets printed. Here’s the form letter it sent him.
Print at Home tickets are designed to clearly show the dates of travel so as to avoid confusion.
We are unfortunately not responsible for how your home printed renders these said tickets. If the print out was hard to read this is in no way associated with the quality of the PDF sent.
Furthermore, the non-refundable and non-exchangeable conditions associated with your tickets mean we are unable to offer a refund.
Apologies for not being in a position to assist.
Strasburger is disappointed with Eurostar’s refusal.
“I think they’re being needlessly greedy — even more so than U.S. airlines,” he said. “This was a honest mistake, and even if it weren’t, they should at least allow re-use with a penalty fee.”
I agree, this seems like a needlessly harsh response to an honest mistake. I’m not sure how to handle this case, though. On the one hand, Eurostar’s rules are unambiguous.
On the flip side, anyone could have been confused by the European vs. American date format or the confusing printout (take your pick, but my guess is that it was a date formatting issue.)
Should I ask Eurostar to review this case, or is this going to be an expensive lesson learned for Strasburger?