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Pay three times as much and get zero brain power

If you walk up to the Swiss railways customer service desk and tell them that you're a group of six looking to travel from Zurich to Munich and would thus like to make a reservation, they'll charge you 15 CHF (\~ 9.50€) for a little piece of paper which documents that the guy behind the desk put his brain to use and reserved six contiguous seats to keep the group together. Well, he actually asked me whether that's what I wanted.

If you walk up to the German railways customer service desk and tell them that you're a group of (now) eight looking to travel from Munich to Zurich and would thus like to make a reservation, they'll charge you 28€ for a little piece of paper which documents that the guy behind the desk does not have a brain or didn't bother to switch it on: instead of two adjacent groups of four seats, we got four pairs of aisle seats.

Given that we mainly reserved to minimise the annoyance for the other travellers while we kept up a conversation for the five hours of the journey, it did piss me off quite a bit to have paid three times as much in Germany as the reservation cost in Switzerland and not be able to talk among each other without annoying the others.

This reservation was made two days in advance. You may, of course, think that the train was already full and no space to sit eight was left; however, I did not have to go further than two wagons to find copious amounts of unreserved spaces for eight, which were then, unfortunately, already occupied (of course).

It shames me to expose my peers (I made the travel arrangements) to the crap and blather one has to put up in German railways: the quality of the speaker system is crap, everything is repeated in English by non-English-speaking conductors, and after every stop, we're yet again alerted to the fact that we could be relaxing to high-quality cuisine in the board restaurant, or should watch out for the little trolley passing by and happy to collect our money. Oh, and of course the brainless and often unfriendly service employees.

And all that for a price more than it would have cost the lot of us to rent a van and drive back and forth.

Going by train is my most preferable means of transport, not only, but in large part due to environmental issues. I don't understand why the German government puts this important bit of infrastructure in the hands of imbeciles and lets them overcharge for their low-quality service and their delays.

NP: Mono: Under the Pipal Tree

Update: A guy from Berlin wrote:

The seats you found in the other wagons may as well have been reserved, too. The electronic reservation signs will extinguish about 15 minutes after the train departs from the station. Or, there was too little time between reservation and departure, so you could only get one of the few express-reservation seats.

I am aware of this. However, the train between Zurich and Munich is ancient (part of the way it still has to run on Diesel) and the reservation signs were paper slips. The seats of eight I found were definitely unreserved, especially because I checked immediately after departure.

Update: I wrote a complaint letter, which has been answered. In the response, the company refers to its conditions and claims that it cannot refund the price for the reservations since the reservations had been made successfully by their system, which automatically choses seats, and no delays prevented us from occupying the allocated seats.

They did not even touch upon the actual complaint: that their system failed to sit a group as a group (despite the availability of seat groups for eight) and the employee didn't alert me to the fact that we'd not be able to be together, or else we might not have bought the reservations.

Instead, they end their emails with sentences like "thank you for chosing Deutsche Bahn" and "we are looking forward to keeping you as a customer." Unfortunately, the Deutsche Bahn has a monopoly on rails in Germany, so unless I avoid trains altogether, I have no choice but to travel with them again. However, I will certainly help spread the truth about their (lack of) understanding of service and customer-centric business.

One piece of useful information did come across though: a reservation is €3.50, if bought without a ticket, and €1.50, if you buy it at the same time as the ticket. It's a shame that their own employees don't know about this.