Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Getting a refund is serious business

I had to get a refund on my train ticket 2 Fridays ago at the Beijing train station. I thought it would be a 5 minute process in a special "returns only" line, and it would have been, had I been able to speak mandarin.

11:00 am - I can't find a special line of any sort that looks like a return only line, so I get in one of the regular lines in the front of the train station entrance where people are buying tickets
11:15 - I get to the window and ask the lady for a return. I had already pulled out my handy dandy mandarin phrasebook and had the glossary open to the word "refund" and showed it to her. She nodded and pointed far to her left and told me "inside inside". So naturally I headed toward the train station entrance.
11:20 - I've passed security at the door and I look around for anything that looks like an office or information booth. Don't really see anything but escalators up, mcdonalds, and a station master's office. I walked to the station master's office and ask them the same thing. Refund in mandarin is pronounced something like "twaytion" so I say that and show her my ticket. She tells me to go to platform 4. It seems weird to me that I would go to a train platform to refund my ticket, but I think "hey maybe you refund your ticket right in front of the train?"
11:25 - I've found platform 4 but there's nothing here that looks like a refund area. There are no booths or offices, just places to sit and wait for your train.
11:30 - I walk back out to the main 2nd floor area and see a huge information booth. I breathe a sigh of relief because the people there definitely must speak english because this is the main train station in beijing and it's a big info booth. Right?
11:35 - After getting cut off in line several times by Chinese people on the go, I get to finally talk to the lady working at the booth and realize my fears are not over. She doesn't speak a word of English. She motions for my ticket. I give it to her and say what I think is the mandarin word for refund and she says to go to platform 2. I'm a little puzzled by her response but I decide to go with it.
11:40 - I arrive at platform 2. I look around again, nothing that looks like a return area. My train was supposed to depart at 12:15, so I know I only have about 30 minutes now before I have no idea whether I will be able to still get a refund on my ticket. I look around at the signs and notice that my train is leaving from this platform. I realize then that she sent me here because she thought I was wondering how to get to my train. So I turn around and head back to the infodesk.
11:45 - this time I decide to just show her the chinese word in the glossary and then looks up and smiles at me because she understands what I need. She repeats the word in a way that sounds exactly the same to me as the way I said it myself earlier! Argh! She motions with her hand to tell me to go back downstairs and to the office. I understand so I say thank you and go back downstairs.
11:50 - I am downstairs looking for an office of any type. I cannot find anything. I finally go back to the station master's office and show them the glossary as well, and that lady motions for me to go outside and around the building to the office. I smile and head out the front door of the train station
11:55 - I find the official ticket office of the train station on the far right side of the building. I laughed and was annoyed at the same time. Why are there 20 tickets in front of the station to buy tickets and also a ticket office to the side where more people are buying tickets??? I didn't get it but I went inside.
12:00 pm- after scanning the different line windows for one that looks like the chinese spelling of refund, I find that the last window says "refund" in big english letters as well as in chinese. That was nice finally. But I couldn't be relieved because there was quite a line and I had less than 15 minutes left before my train departed.
12:01 - I get in line and wait. Chinese people are bothering me like flies on crap. They keep asking me something I can't understand. I keep saying "no" and shaking my head as I usually do to peddlers and beggars when I don't want their attention.
12:04 - finally I understand something about a "ticket" when one of them says the word to me in the middle of their chinese. I tell them I already have one and I'm trying to return mine. They don't seem to understand so I pull out my ticket from my pocket and show it to them. One of the old ladies puts her hand on my wrists and pulls it lowe and closer like she was going to eat it from my hand but all she does is look at the ticket and then leave. At that point I realized what was going on. They were looking to buy tickets and resell them outside as their job. I chuckled when I realized this and showed everyone who was asking my ticket. They all walked away of course as soon as they saw it because the ticket was about to expire in 5 minutes.
12:11 - I get to the window 4 minutes before my train departs. I drop the ticket in the window and the man drops cash for me after scanning it into the computer. I got 44 yuan back, which is like $6.50. The original train ticket price was about $7.50.

I did all that for 6 dollars and 50 cents.

By the way I had all my 2 bags with me the whole time I did this.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

You did good job.
I am not sure Chinese use this but REFUND is 換弗(환불).

November 19, 2008 at 11:36 AM  
Blogger Ben said...

can't believe you put yourself through it for $6.50...I would've said F it just to avoid the headache

November 20, 2008 at 12:36 PM  

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