South West Trains Customer Service.

“Should you be here?”

“Are you staff?”

“Move down the train, this is First Class.”

“You shouldn’t be here should you?”

“Second class is that way”

Just some of the phrases that have been said to me by conductors on my regular train journey rather than the more usual “Tickets please” I would have received had I been in standard.

I may be be a fat old git in a very bobbly jumper, badly bleached hair and with a nose-ring, but here’s the thing . . . I’ve actually paid for that first class ticket and while I really, don’t expect to be treated like a God, “Tickets please” is enough.   I don’t need the scowling and suspicion, I don’t need  – like this morning – to be followed to my seat and intimidated; nor do I need to be checked up on every five minutes . . . yeah, I saw you stand up so you could see me, making sure I wasn’t doing something I shouldn’t have been doing.

This reason I’m in first class is that I suffer from agoraphobia which is coupled with an unhealthy bout of social phobia.   I recently started an MA course in Portsmouth as a way of getting myself back out into the world, but I’m finding the experience a lot more of a challenge than I expected. I need quiet space to gather myself together and prepare myself for my lectures and seminars and a quiet first class carriage, though expensive and out of my normal price range – and massively at odds with my socialist principles – is the only way I can guarantee the quiet that I need to survive the day.

“Tickets please” is enough. Friendly banter works wonders. Suspicion and the assumption that I’m up to no good because I’m not in a suit just stresses me out and angers me; contrary to why I buy a first class ticket in the first place. I get that yes, people do try and get into the first class carriage without paying the extra charge; yes I do understand that it’s the job of the conductor to make sure everyone is safe and in the right place . . .


Going on the offensive from the word go really isn’t the best customer service model, is it?



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