Redbus.in: Make it Your Experience. NOT!
Posted June 7, 2008on:
If you really look at what is driving most of the sustainable internet businesses – starting from Seventymm, Storrz to Canvera, its in the ability to handle the logistics involved behind it flawlessly. If you want a grander example to learn from, understand learn from the multi-million dollar backoffice processes that Amazon.com has in place to process all their orders. The rule is very simple. You get paid simply because you can dissolve some of the complications of the customer. Most folks don’t have time and would be more than happy to trade money for time and effort saved.
So I’ve been hearing about redbus.in for quite sometime now. Its been three weeks since I have had a new born nephew and I have been meaning to go visit and finally thought I’d take this weekend to do that. A trip to the temple city of Madurai and back should be all that was warranted. I checked for bus tickets in a few places and everyone had tickets but all their offices are in Vadapalani – which essentially means 45 mins travel there and back just to get the tickets. It suddenly dawned on me that there was redbus.in and i decided to give it a whirl.
I selected the cities, the time and it spewed out all the results. Selected a bus in the timing that I wanted, and was very impressed with all the layout, the simplicity and all. Set the number of tickets to two (had convinced my sister that getting tickets was a piece of cake), and they had plenty of options. Since my credit card had expired and I am waiting for the new card to arrive, I asked them to deliver.
Two Minutes later: I get a call from a bangalore number, a lady on the other side asks me if I had booked a ticket. I confirm. She keeps trying to change the bus timing from what I had chosen to an earlier time. I reconfirm to the time I wanted. She asked what seat number I wanted and offers me two seats at the back of the bus. Redbus.in allows you to select seats and I said I am fine with 17 and 18 “as I had picked in the first place”. fine she says and all is well. She said by 2pm I can expect the tickets at my doorstep. I genuinely thought that trying to meddle with bus timing and seat numbers was their way of confirming if i was serious and if I was the same guy who made the booking – even thought to myself that that was a smart was to confirm.
Ten minutes Later: Get an SMS confirming that two tickets from Chennai to Madurai is booked and will be delivered by noon.
Reaction: Pleasant. Impressed.
2pm Today: I am waiting for the tickets and it hasnt shown up today. I call back the same number from where I got the confirmation since all the three numbers that’s listed on the site seems busy. Either they are taking too many orders or too many complaints. By now I am leaning more towards the latter. The same lady picks up and I tell her my situation and am wondering when I can expect the tickets. She hands it to a manager (bad sign when someone cant handle a simple query). I had my confirmation number that the site gave me when the booking was done and kept it all ready – Imagine me in the same demeanor and readiness as i am when usually calling a travel agent.
The Manager gets on the phone and asks for my name and the travel end points. Doesnt even care for the “confirmation number”. Asks where my delivery address is. I say its in Adyar – pretty much the heart of the city. He says that no one delivers there, and because they couldnt deliver, they didnt book the ticket at all. Then he goes on to say how the ticket is still available and I could book it online. I visit the site and it doesnt allow me to book anything for today, only tomorrow. I tell him that, and he goes on mumbling that it does and does. I mumble back to him saying that Parveen Travels to whom they are giving seats to has their on e-ticketing facility and why would I ever want to come back to redbus if this was the case. The only issue with Parveen is that I need to go to their office on the other side of the city to collect the ticket.
I realize I am exactly where I started off, with the same problem statement. Except that I am one day delayed, and might not get tickets anymore this weekend to go, and my sister is going to give me a piece of her mind for dragging her through this.
A pretty site, a couple of SMSes and a call is not going to cut it. What you essentially are solving is the logistical issue. And if you cant solve that, you should just shut down and crawl back into your hole. Thats for whoever is listening. Wouldnt recommend this nightmare for anyone – except for those I truly hate.
7:00pm Saturday: I get a call from Mayank the head of Marketing, mentioning that he saw the blog and he asks what he can do to help – even offers to email me the ticket that I can take a print out of and head to the bus station. Given that the bus station is a 45 min drive from my place, and the bus was scheduled at 7:30pm, I was already on my way – no way to gain access to a computer nor a printer. Plus, a relative of mine runs a bus fleet who decided to rescue me by getting me two tickets in his bus that was heading to Madurai. All it took was a call and asking to hold two tickets. Worked fabulously.
7:30pm Saturday. I get an SMS from redbus.in saying that the ticket was canceled. I assume that Mayank must have closed the open booking. Fair enough.
3:00pm Sunday. I get a call from a fella who claims that he is in my office to deliver the ticket. I am in Madurai at this point. I ask him to take a look at the ticket and its date. He says its …”Saturday”. I get the two second silence – I am hoping that he realized what went wrong – and said that he couldn’t deliver it on Saturday for some reason. I had zoned out at this point and was not very much in a pleasant mood to take excuses. I said, thanks for the effort and hung up.