Last year I travelled from Glasgow to London for £12.30 in a reserved seat whilst passengers from Preston sat on the vestibule floor having paid full single fare. Most definitely very unfair. So I rarely buy them - not because I am wealthy enough to ignore the offers but because I value the flexibility which silly fares remove.
But when the day's schedule allows, I succumb - as I did for a trip from Victoria to Portsmouth on Saturday 19th June for a mere £2.80. But all did not go according to plan... Whether it was a software failure (web coding sometimes doesn't take kindly to using the "back" button to make corrections) or just a sorry senior moment (!) I realised too late that I had booked for the wrong time - 1202 instead of 1402. Immediately I sent off an e-mail to "Southern" but the wrong tickets duly arrived the next day, namely 12th May. On 13th May a "holding" e-mail arrived promising a reply within 5 working days.
Well over a week later I was offered that opportunity of changing the ticket on-line for £2 or at a staffed Southern station for £10. Neither was a realistic option. So a second e-mail was despatched in which I said I would travel at the "wrong" time unless I received further instructions. The e-mail also included my phone number! No reply for nearly two weeks! Then a reply apologising for the possibility that a reply had already been sent (which it hadn't) and promising a reply within 5 working days. The final reply arrived on the day of travel, a further two weeks later - far too late to do anything - telling me I would have to pay again.
A careful perusal of the documents (illustrated) shows what a confusing nonsense the whole thing is.
The mandatory reservation coupon (above) does not provide reservations!!; it is only "valid with ticket 30321", presumably not valid with the other two tickets bought for my travelling companions (!) and, of course, nothing explains what happens if my connecting train arrived late in London and I cannot even catch the "booked train only" through no fault of mine.
What is particularly galling is that NONE of these e-mails came from "Southern"; they all emanated from "journeycall" - whoever they are.
There must be a better way. How about NOT selling "silly fares" and giving sensible off-peak reductions to all customers at slack weekend times.
What happened on the train? As expected, the ticket collector happily clipped the tickets without even asking which train they were for. Sensible fellow - no doubt he has discovered the hard way that the system is unreliable and discretion is the better part of valour!