Thursday, October 12, 2017

#SNCF Christmas Train Ticket Wind-Up

#SNCF have excelled themselves today winding up hundreds (and possibly thousands!) of customers wanting to travel at Christmas.

Back in September when I bought my Eurostar tickets (because they go on sale way before SNCF, but that's another story/bone of contention), I signed up for the alert telling me when I could buy my TGV train tickets at Christmas. I wanted to be there at the starting blocks, in time to get the cheap Prem's tickets. I got myself organised. I couldn't fail!

This is the message I got the day before T-day (T for ticket), that got me all excited about the 'best prices' starting October 12:

Very 'clear' information from #SNCF
Ready, steady... hang on, what time is "aube"? Dawn breaks round about 7.30am at the moment. Did SNCF mean actual dawn or pick-a-time-early-in-the-morning?

I got up at 6.45am and dashed to the computer, as fast one can dash still half asleep. The SNCF ticket page was open and ready from the previous night (organised, see?). I clicked on 'Trouver' and... up popped not nice cheap Prem's tickets, but bog-standard pretty expensive ones.

What time, I wondered furiously as I went through the process (whilst grinding my teeth) of buying them, is effing aube?

I set about trying to find out. I sent a message on Twitter and entered into the twilight zone of a 'dialogue des sourds', on their part, anyway.

My question was clear, was it not? Why wouldn't they tell me? Was there a conspiracy afoot to thwart those of us not-in-the-know getting cheap tickets so only the favoured informed few could travel cheap and have enough left over to buy the odd Christmas present? Things didn't improve:

With my frustration levels rising at an alarming rate, I tried putting a message on Facebook, but none of my friends knew what time the tickets went on sale. 

Then I tried ringing SNCF but all their salespeople were on the phone, I should ring back later.

Then I tried SNCF on Facebook. I put a message on their page and up popped a message window. I copied the message into the window and immediately got a link to a Q&A page that is deeply embedded (or so it seems) on the page, not the usual page.

Would I get a precise answer, or wouldn't I?

YES! At last! For SNCF, 'aube' on October 12 is at 6am! And note that this information was only available because Gerry had taken the time to find the page where you ask questions and write the request. Had no one done that, we would all be none the wiser! This is in the age of communication, too. Opaque? It's like getting blood out of stone.

In any case, at 6.50am I was too late! All the cheap tickets had gone. Or had they?

I then started reading messages from irate customers who had been there at 6am on the dot in order not to miss a thing, and already there were no Prem's tickets. What is this 'arnaque', this scammy wind-up? Why get us up in the middle of the night (it's still black out at 6am!) for nothing?

Five hours after my initial conversation with SNCF on Twitter, and after I'd already got the answer I wanted, they kindly deigned to tell me the exact hour, and that all the Prem's tickets had been sold in record time:

I concluded, along with many others, that there had been NO Prem's tickets on certain trains. Or perhaps one or two, and that SNCF had set us up to fail. So thanks, SNCF for a morning of frustration, rage, anxiety, nervous exhaustion, and much time-wasting.

And as an exercise in communication, let me tell you for nothing, SNCbloodyF that it FAILED! If you need further advice, you know where to find me...


  1. I remember trying to book a train to Paris from my local station that was not on the SNCF website. To book it you had to go to the local station where the clerk would do it for you.

    1. Lucky there was a clerk! How strange to have a website and not include ALL the stations.


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