Q: I boarded a Greyhound bus from Arcata, California, to Oakland, at 9:30 a.m. A few miles down the road, the bus broke down on Highway 101. The driver pulled over to the shoulder. She announced that the radiator had lost water, and contacted her supervisor, who said help was on the way.
After over an hour, our driver said the company was bringing a replacement bus from San Francisco. Another bus was in Arcata, but no driver was available. Greyhound offered no other options.
In order to be out of harm’s way, the driver was able to pull into the small town of Myers Flat. The passengers were in need of food and water for the long wait. Around 1 p.m. the driver announced that a bus from San Francisco – five to six hours away – had left at 12 p.m. This meant we would not reach Oakland until after midnight.
I had no other choice but to take a local bus back to Arcata, secure a hotel for the night and schedule my return for the next day. This was a very unfortunate and inconvenient experience for me (and for the other passengers). As a result, I had the unanticipated expenses of an overnight stay plus transportation costs the next day.
I wrote a letter to Greyhound asking for a refund, and followed up a month later. I have not received any response. I would like to have the $58 I paid for my ticket refunded, plus the price of staying overnight in Arcata, $108.
Vivian Pisano, Berkeley, California
A: Greyhound should have sent a replacement bus for you and the other passengers promptly. Making you wait 10 hours isn’t reasonable. I also would have made my own arrangements for a hotel after this Greyhound bus delay and found another way to get to Oakland, which you did.
Greyhound’s Terms and Conditions of Purchase & Carriage, the legal agreement between you and the company, says that it is not responsible for keeping its schedules. “Carrier is not responsible for delays caused by breakdowns, road conditions, weather or other conditions beyond carrier’s reasonable control,” it says. But, it adds, Greyhound will make “reasonable attempts” to minimize the delays or make alternate arrangements to enable bus travel to your final destination.
What’s interesting about this clause is that Greyhound is explicitly saying it isn’t responsible for failing to maintain its buses. In other words, the radiator problem you experienced was preventable by Greyhound, but the company says it isn’t liable. In other sectors of the travel industry, that wouldn’t fly. Airlines, for example, compensate passengers when there’s a mechanical delay.
At a minimum, Greyhound should have quickly refunded your ticket. I also think you might have asked about a hotel. Its contract promises to make “alternate arrangements,” which may include covering your hotel for a night.
I list the names, numbers and email addresses of the Greyhound executives on my consumer-advocacy site. A brief, polite email to one of them might have at least gotten you a refund for this Greyhound bus delay.
I contacted Greyhound on your behalf. It agreed to refund your ticket and cover your hotel costs.
Christopher Elliott is the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine. Read more at elliott.org, or email email@example.com.