What Mel Did
What Mel Did - train line and sunset

All the fun of the fare

A little girl fell over in front of me recently spilling a bag of sweets, which rolled one by one into oncoming traffic. Her mother, possibly late for work, tired quickly of the wailing and cries of “It’s not fair. IT’S NOT FAIR!

Not fair her little brother wasn’t being made to share half of his confectionery delights with her.

A commonplace incident, but which stood out for me this week because of that word “fair.” From the time I was that little girl’s age, unfairness is the one thing that can make me cry. Although, I didn’t expect to be crying with the unfairness of it all at a rail station that very weekend.

As is my custom, I had booked a train ticket to London via the Trainline app. On the day of travel, I viewed my booking on the app and printed the page presented. Turns out I had printed the Booking Confirmation page – the only page presented when I viewed the booking on my mobile phone.

Arriving at the train station 30 minutes before my train was due to leave, the ticket guard would not accept the piece of paper presented – a piece of paper which showed time of travel, credit card used and confirmation of name and address. All information I offered to corroborate with my passport, ID, credit cards, address details, etc.

But, no, the rules were the rules and the Booking Confirmation showing confirmation and proof of purchase was not a valid vessel with which to travel – or make a judgement call.

To add to the frustration, the Trainline app would not refresh the page on my phone to show the ticket I had booked, with the unhelpful message of “Unable to retrieve ticket details at this time.”

Ticket Guard No. 1 calls over Ticket Guard No. 2 to show him the app error message AND the wealth of evidence I had to prove I had purchased a ticket.

Ticket Guard No. 2 repeated the “Rules is the Rules” speech a few more times, but then did concede that if I could at least show the Booking Confirmation on my phone (albeit not a valid vessel for travel usually) all would be well on this one exceptional occasion.

The three of us log into the app, confirm again the E-ticket will not refresh, but that the Booking Confirmation page was there writ large as requested, and was identical to the Booking Confirmation page I had printed. #Phew.


The guard reneges on the agreement and will not let me through. With 5 minutes to go until my train is due to leave, they send me to the ticket office to purchase a new ticket – in the knowledge I will now miss my train. It was also known that by missing that train, I would also miss my acting son’s performance.

I try again for reason and the importance of me being on the train we all agreed I had without doubt booked and paid for.


I am made to travail through four more staff members, two of whom understood the unfairness of the situation and one who urged me to make a complaint.

It is not that I am without understanding of the rail company’s position – I heard it enough times to be fully cognisant of that position – and, sarcasm aside, it is a valid position.

It was being asked asked to jump through several hoops for a full 25 minutes and then to have those hooped agreements reneged on. That was the rub.

In hindsight, there was also the option of letting me onto the train in the knowledge I would have to purchase a ticket from the on-board ticket inspector. Still unfair to my mind, but at least I wouldn’t miss the train. But no.

Cue wailing and cries of “IT’S NOT FAIR!”

That said, I must praise the care I was shown by Michael in Customer Complaints, who offered to refund my second £52 ticket without hesitation after hearing the account. I did get the “Within Our Rights Not to Refund” speech, and I may have offered him my house if he wouldn’t (please) finish up with the “Rules is the Rules” monologue.

Like I said, unfairness is the one thing that can always make me cry but – and what that little girl at the top of this missive will soon learn – unfairness is one of life’s rules.

It is one of life’s rules and the price of entry into a world which also has some pretty fair things going for it. That’s the bit we have to hang onto – even if that price involves buying a second bag of sweets and letting the old ones roll into oncoming traffic.


  • On the button as ever Mel. I’m struggling with this right now too (unfairness, not train tickets!)

    • Yep, some subjects get us *right there* no matter what the origins of our hang-ups. I know, for instance, mine is rooted in childhood (http://post40bloggers.com/hang-ups/) but I still feel someone could have made a judgement call on this one – inspite of ‘the rules.’ Have a super Sunday and see you soon. And, of course, good luck with your own struggle. Mx

  • I’m also hypersensitive about unfairness. I’m very pleased that they will be refunding your ticket but what these rules are rules people don’t get is that they are not machines and they either have a jot of common sense or they don’t. Do you remember Esther ransom used to have a Jobsworth award – as in. “It’s more than my job’s worth to let you …..” Sorry you missed your train though.

  • Yep – as my Mother would say “life is not fair” when I wailed “but that’s not fair”. The sheer frustration of an unfair situation that you cannot do anything about, like you, also moves me to tears at times!