What it took to retrieve a lost bag on Amtrak’s Capitol Corridor. [hint: too much effort]


amtrak stations

I commute to San Francisco a few days a week, using Amtrak’s Capitol Corridor line from Davis to Emeryville, then the Amtrak bus connection to San Francisco that stops a block from my office. Wednesday was a normal commuting day, except that I had my carry-on suitcase in tow, as I was flying from SFO that night for a two-day business trip. I almost forgot the suitcase on the train in Emeryville, only remembering it because I happened to select the door to the left of my seat which led me past the storage shelf where I left it when I boarded in Davis. Whew… Crisis avoided.

After I disembarking the train in Emeryville and boarding the San Francisco-bound commuter bus, I placed the suitcase across from my seat in an open space.

Well, I think you know where this is going by now…

Here’s play-by-play of my story retrieving the suitcase after I left it on the commuter bus. Plenty of customer service lessons here from a company that clearly hasn’t thought through “Customer Service” from the perspective of the customer. I have praised Amtrak in the past, most recently during the BART strike in October:

amtrak bart strike

In the end, my suitcase was found and left at a spot where I could easily retrieve it. It only took me 11 phone calls and 46 minutes of phone time over 66 minutes to reach that conclusion. Too frustrating. Should have been 1-2 calls. Most of the frustration was due to a lack of communication system interoperability within Amtrak and how the front line Amtrak agents communicate with customers. Once I reached the back office operations team, the problem was resolved quickly. Getting to them took persistence. A customer should not feel that they put in all the work to resolve an issue.

This was my mistake – I’m the one that left my suitcase on the bus. I just can’t believe that I’m the only person that’s ever done this.

Here’s my phone log of the entire escapade:

amtrak phone log

Here’s the play-by-play:

7:40 – Disembarked Amtrak Bus #3323 at the corner of 9th and Market Street.

7:48 – Sat down at my desk and realized that I left my suitcase on the bus. I initially think this is a nuisance but one that should get figured out pretty quickly considering the proximity to the bus line that runs every hour near my office.

I thought this would be resolved by 1) called Amtrak Customer Service, 2) having them contact the bus driver via dispatch, 3a) ask the driver to either hold the bag for the next loop around and I would retrieve the bag or 3b) take it to Emeryville where I could retrieve from there. I expected 3a to be an acceptable and realistic outcome.

7:49 – Called the Amtrak Capitol Corridor line at (800) 872-7245. The recording told me – “Thank you for calling Amtrak Capitol Corridor. Our office hours are from 8am to 5pm, Monday through Friday…” Now I’m annoyed that I need to wait another 11 minutes and the bus is moving along on its route.

7:50 – Called Amtrak main line reservations line and after six minutes on hold, I talked to a reservations agent that told me that the main Amtrak reservation system was not connected to the Amtrak Capitol Corridor system, and that I’d have to wait to contact Capitol Corridor (CC) when they opened at 8am.

8:00 – Called Amtrak CC line and spoke to Alexis. She told me that there was no way for reservations to contact dispatch at the Emeryville station. I asked if there was a phone number for the Emeryville station. “I know that the drivers are constantly in touch with the station. If we called the station, they could radio to the driver.” She replied – “ No, there is no phone number for that station. We don’t have anyway of contacting them.”

To reiterate, the reservations team is in Oakland, the next town over from Emeryville, and there’s no way to contact that station.

Instead, the agent told me that she could connect me to Customer Service “upstairs” at (510) 464-6995, which I learned after asking, is in the same building as her in Oakland.

I explained to her – well actually, I begged her – “Please understand – I am flying from SFO tonight for a business trip and I really need to have my suitcase. I’m sure you can appreciate this situation.” She told me – “There’s nothing we can do” and asked if I’d like to speak with a supervisor. I declined the invitation and asked her to transfer me to Customer Service.

I was greeted with a voicemail message – “If you’d like to leave a comment, please leave a message.” The recording also offered the Amtrak Lost and Found number in Sacramento. I didn’t leave a message.

8:13 – Left VM on the Lost & Found line. Their recording indicated that all goods found on Amtrak’s Capitol Corridor train would be delivered to Lost & Found in Sacramento. Now I’m really starting to worry that my bag will filter there for no other reason that I’m not able to speak with someone to stop it.

8:16 – Called back to Capitol Corridor reservations line and spoke to another agent. She also said the reservations could not contact stations or dispatch, and suggested that I talk to Customer Service. I explained that I had left a message with Lost & Found, and that time was an issue. She transferred me to Customer Service, where I was greeted with the same recording. I left a message this time.

8:37 – Posted a request to Twitter:amtrak tweet 3

8:40 – I realized another bus would be coming around for next round of commuters a block away very soon. I checked online and saw the next drop off time was scheduled for 8:55am. I walked outside, crossed street and saw the Amtrak bus already pulling over a block away. It was ahead of schedule.

I took off at full sprint and caught the bus driver. I explained my issue and to please call dispatch. He said he would and had to keep motoring along to make his next stops. I headed back to office.

8:43 – I called into the Customer Service line again and Georgeanne answered. A real live human!! Told her my issues and she quickly transferred me to Hubrit Harrington (sp?) in Operations. He took my info and said he would call me right back after contacting Compass Transportation, which is the outside company Amtrak Capitol Corridor contracts for the bus service.

8:50 – Hubrit called back and said Compass would contact me. I asked Hubrit if I could call him back with questions. He said he would be there until 11am, and if I needed to call after, to call back to Customer Service line and ask for Tamika White.

8:52 – Andrew from Compass called me to tell me that the bag has been found and would be left at Amtrak ticket office at the Ferry Building. He gave me his personal cell phone number in case I had any questions.

8:54 – I called Hubrit back to thank him for his help.

9:46 – My awesome wife saw my Twitter post on Facebook. She found the phone number for the Emeryville station that supposedly did not exist: 510-450-1080. Fortunately I didn’t need the number at this point.

11:49 – Ordered an Uberx for a ride to Ferry Building and back.

12:19 – Back at the office with my bag.

Phone numbers: Amtrak Capitol Corridor in Oakland: (510) 464-6995Amtrak Emeryville Station: (510) 450-1080


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