Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Metro: Bullhorning the Elderly since 1976

What do you think of Metro's actions and its subsequent response to the complaint?

From Aru:

My complaint:

Due to the Cherry Blossom crowds, there were Metro employees directing people to file to the end of the platform at the Smithsonian station. However, at about 4 p.m. on April 4, I was traveling with my girlfriend's 73-year-old grandmother, and she was having a hard time walking after a long day. The far end of the Vienna-bound platform was full, so we stopped at the first available bench we could find. My girlfriend's mother was sitting, and both my girlfriend and I were standing next to her. A female Metro employee was standing with a megaphone at the base of the escalator on the Independence Ave. side and, after seeing us at the bench, turned the megaphone on us, telling us to get up and move to the end.

We protested because my girlfriend's grandma really needed to stay off her feet. The Metro employee was having none of it. She kept on telling her to get up and move along, and that there were benches at the end of the platform. We reluctantly moved, and, when we got to the end of the platform, there were no available benches.

My girlfriend's grandmother, who has diabetes and swollen feet, was forced to stand for 12 minutes.

If this employee can be identified (at the time I was too flabbergasted to ask her for her identifying information) I'd like for her to be reprimanded and be instructed to show a little concern for Metro passengers.

Either way, I would like an apology for the way she was treated, and an assurance that the WMATA will take steps to ensure this doesn't happen again.

Their response:

Your email was received by Metro's Rail Transportation Customer Service. The Cherry Blossom Festival always draws large crowds using Metro Rail. The beautiful weather encouraged even a larger turnout. One of the functions of our employees is to keep the ridership moving along to minimize congestion, and be safety conscious. I apologize on behalf of Metro that your party, which included a 73 year old diabetic with swollen feet, was strongly encouraged to move with the flow of the crowd to the end of the platform. Actions taken by our employees are not to cause a discomfort; however, paths must be clear. Congestion during events like this is the result of our valued tourist, and infrequent riders being unfamiliar with the area.

A suggestion for future events of this nature would be to perhaps have this senior in a wheelchair, which would prevent her feet from swelling as much, and provide greater comfort during her entire outing.

Thank you for riding Metro.

Marjorie Strother
Rail Transportation
Customer Service Representative

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Anonymous said...

That is a pretty unsatisfactory response. However, how upset can we really get? Did we really EXPECT more than that as a response? Oh well.

Anonymous said...

I think the most telling thing about this is the back handed non apology apology. We're sorry but...get a wheelchair??? WTF?

This is the MO for pretty much everything Metro. A culture of responsibility is what's needed there more than anything.

David said...

Metro's response here is thoroughly clueless, and shows not only a lack of knowledge, but a lack of sensitivity to mobility-impaired persons. I'm not surprised. As a mobility-impaired rider, I deal with screwball issues with the system all the time.

A wheelchair is *not* the right answer, as DC is only slightly more wheelchair-friendly than the French Quarter in New Orleans, or a third-world swamp. (Specifically: The deep curbs at corners catch the footrests of wheelchairs, dumping the occupant into the street, if they're not wearing a seat belt. Curb cuts aren't helpful, with a barrier like that still there.)

All that said, going to Smithsonian station, for any reason, on a busy tourist weekend, is not the act of a rational being, unless there's some sort of duress involved.

Anonymous said...

C'mon metro. just say you're sorry. no one needs to get fired. just be sorry for once.

Anonymous said...

That ain't no way to do Granny.

Common courtesy and common sense should be basic for Metro workers, but seems to be lacking in a number of them.

Too bad they can't acknowledge that.

Anonymous said...

"just be sorry for once"
FAT CHANCE, you peon!

Anonymous said...

A truly pathetic customer service response. If someone is using the bench, then they're not in the f-ing path of people walking, are they?!

Anonymous said...

Would she have been considered moving with the flow of the crowd had she collapsed? Would they have been required to drag her unresponsive body down the platform to wait upon medical help? This sounds like serious endangerment and a viable lawsuit.

Metro - Are you PAYING FOR the wheelchair you so loftily advise be purchased??

Gods above! LOOK at those quotes on the top right of this page. HOW can those people say words like that with this type of mentality from employees?

Anonymous said...

ATU Local 689.

Anonymous said...

This is how this should be handled:

On behalf of the entire Metro System, please accept our most sincere apology not only for the original incident but for the letter you received from our customer Service Representative, Ms. Strother as well. Neither is the position of Metro Rail. We will not blame “busy times” for a lack of understanding that some of our guests are in need of compassion by our staff.

Since this incident the following has taken place a directive has been sent to all of our Station Manages and all other employees that includes your letter. The directive then reads as follows:

While it is the policy of Metro Rail to move guests along the entire platform during high ridership times, it is NOT the policy of Metro Rail to insist those guests with medical needs do so. Guest safety is a high priority but not to the extent that a guests health is placed in danger.

It is expected of all employees to take into consideration a guest’s health issues in the moving of guests to “move along the platform”. Additionally, it is expected that guests with special medical needs not be separated from their family or friends. In other words, do insist that family and friends of the guest move to the end of the platflorm.

Metro employees are NOT to use a bullhorn to harass or intimidate our guests. Employees found doing so are subject to disciplinary actions.

This incident should NEVER have occurred had our staff used basic common sense and good judgment. It is expected that Metro Rail Customer Service not receive a complaint like this again.

I also assure you that Ms. Strother is scheduled for Customer Service training and that a letter such as the one you received will not leave our offices again.
If I can be of any further assistance to you, please do not hesitate to call me directly at xxx-xxx-xxxx.

Anonymous said...

Agree with the person who said you were crazy to even come close to metro on a heavy day, but that said, there was no need to megaphone an old lady

Anonymous said...

Unreal. Unreal. It's almost like their customer service reps just have a madlibs form they fill in with the details of the complaints. Unbelievable.

Anonymous said...

Please, what did we expect. This is some variation of the online complaint form. The minion answering the complaint pulls out a MadLibs sheet, fills in a detail or two about the incident and then uses stock language for the rest. For them, it's all garbage in, garbage out. For folks who've been abused by Metro, it's time to take it higher. File your complaint with Metro, by all means, but copy the TV station and newspaper of your choosing, and your elected officials, and WMATA board members. WMATA grunts and middle managers don't give two $#!+$ about us - as has been document time and again here in this blogspace.

Would even the ATU agree with such a tone deaf response?? (HAHAHA!!)

Anonymous said...

Because Metro elevators work at all times and it's easy to maneuver a wheelchair in the system.....

TheJournalizer said...

Is this legit? This is by far the worst piece of crap PR response I've ever seen. I'd raise hell.

Anonymous said...

I think what's really sad is that this woman readily admits she doesn't know the name of the employee who pushed them along.

All she is looking for is an "I'm sorry," which WMATA could offer as coldly and simply as it wants.

And yet they can't even do that. It's as if they like appearing on this blog.

Anonymous said...

I agree with 10:29. Having a wheelchair in the system would have been even more of a headache for everyone involved. I don't see why they couldn't just let them sit on the bench. I would have refused to move. It's not like they can kick you out.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like something the American Diabetes Association should be alerted about:


Anonymous said...

Are you effing kidding me? Majorie, honey, SHAME ON YOU. Sitting on a bench is not blocking anyone from moving. I am so flabbergasted by metro's idiotic official response, and yet, at the same time, really shouldn't be surprised, as this is yet ANOTHER example of how this system is just plain broken. Its the crappiest corporate culture of any organization I have ever witnessed.

Anonymous said...

the problem with these situations in metro is that the employees feel ever-so empowered to tell people what to do. they give orders that they believe should be obeyed and feel free to mistreat anyone who doesn't immediately hop-to. while that may be the legal situation inside of the metrorail system, it's not helpful customer service.

Anonymous said...

Maybe it wasn't a good idea. It shouldn't be a surprise to you that there were going to be tons of people there.

Anonymous said...

@2:30: I don't think the author was complaining about the crowds - he's complaining about the behavior of a metro employee.

Anonymous said...

Are you serious, Marjorie?!? Asking a passenger to bring and use a wheelchair?? As many people on this blog have pointed out, YOU’VE MISSED THE POINT ENTIRELY!! While it may help Aru's girlfriend's grandmother get around a little bit easier in the future, thus making it only a small part of the solution you did NOTHING to address the IMMEDIATE problem!! Yes, Ms. Bullhorn, it is important that everyone move to the end of the platform, but you try it when you're feeling lousy and see how you feel when you get yelled at through a megaphone.

@ April 13, 2010 2:30 PM: Are you serious?!? You too, are missing the point! Yes, no doubt about it! The cherry blossoms always bring out hoards of people whether they are natives or tourists! There are some people who are willing to "ignore" whatever it is that is not making the well (such as diabetes, a bum knee, etc.) to make sure everyone is enjoying the family outing. To tell them that it’s crowded and that they shouldn’t go is ludicrous! A better suggestion would be there are other blossoms in other parts of the Metropolitan area to view. If Aru’s family is a local, I’d like to make the suggestion of see some blossoms where it’s not quite as crowded. There was in an article about this in WaPo. Sure it’s not the same as seeing them at the Tidal Basin, but it’s only a suggestion.

UnsuckDCMetro, you’re too kind to call this post “Bullhorning the Elderly”. Perhaps you should have called it “BULLYING the Elderly”!

Anonymous said...

The point is that woman, elderly or not, is an American. It is her God-given right to ride Metro without expecting harrassment. There was no reason to ask an elderly person to move from a sitting position. In fact, her having to move, slowly no less, only made the "flow" worse, not improved. The bullhorn employee is an idiot, a moron, and a socially inept humanoid.

Anonymous said...

Put Grandma's old ass in a wheelchair? That's supposed to cause less congestion? Wait ... I'd like to see Grandma get one of those Rascal scooters with a big plow on the front and have her roll down the platform like a demon on crack. Now that would be some funny sh*t to watch, especially if a bunch of Metro employees got in her way.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't have moved. and certainly would have welcomed the confrontation.

Anonymous said...

Not surprising, but sometimes fellow riders are just as rude/clueless. It would be interesting to know if someone allowed her to sit down once she boarded the train. I have been on trains where blind passengers with guide dogs end up standing because young, perfectly healthy and "seeing" passengers sit in the seats reserved for seniors and those with disabilities - and yes, they notice the blind passenger (hard not to with a dog thrown in for good measure)! Rudeness in the metro system appears to be contagious - it starts with the metro employees, facilitates general rage among passengers, who then pass it along to one another.

WashingTina said...

Wow. I don't know why I'm ever surprised anymore. The upshot of this is, "It's your fault for not taking proper care of the elderly diabetic with swollen feet. We wash our hands of responsibility." Nice job Metro, now you know why you are pretty universally maligned.

Anonymous said...

Honestly, if 12 minutes is such a big deal, she should have been in a wheelchair. All. Day. Otherwise, suck it up, buttercup.

Anonymous said...

We are conditioned to obey "authority figures", even if their only authority is a megaphone or a reflective vest, and even if it obviously hurts others.

And people in authority rapidly lose empathy for those "below" them.

This incident is like the Stanford Prison experiment and the Milgram experiment all wrapped into one.

Anonymous said...

I dont understand why the entire metro system in general sucks at providing benches. Ive had to wait 19 minutes where both (thats right, only two) benches were taken. I sat on the floor of course.

Anonymous said...

i fully agree with metro's response. the family didnt have to walk ALL the way down to the end to find another bench. they could have stopped somewhere in the middle. if those benches were occupied they should have asked someone else to get up and not have taken no for an answer.

the alternative answer is they shouldnt have moved at all. what is the metro employee going to do? call the cops on a grandmother?

if my 75 yo father was as tired as this grandmother we wouldnt get on the metro with a huge crowd. we'd find a taxi and if one wasnt available, we'd take a long rest before getting on the metro again.

Anonymous said...

Two sentences telling us how you dragged a diabetic old woman around downtown -using mass transit no less- and the rest of the message explaining what big assholes Metro is for not parting the sea and giving you exclusive treatment?
There is a bigger asshole in this story.

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 9:53pm

Yes, that asshole would be you. Thanks for playing. Oh, and is that your bag?

Anonymous said...

Agree with 9:53. Suggesting a wheelchair might be a bit blunt, but it is fantastic advise that the whiner should have considered.

Anonymous said...

The story doesn't say that anyone "dragged a diabetic old woman around downtown." I would assume the lady in question wanted to go see the cherry blossoms, which is perfectly within her rights. Handicapped people in wheelchairs, with guide dogs, with canes, etc., have a right to use the system. So I can't see why a more mildly handicapped woman doesn't have just as much right to use the system, even if she doesn't actually need a wheelchair but just needs to move more slowly and rest more often than other people. In fact, as others have suggested, putting her in a wheelchair would not have lessened the congestion or moved the crowds any faster, since a wheelchair typically takes up the room of several standing people. Accommodating this woman's disability by letting her sit and rest was not only the right thing to do, but the common-sense thing as well.

Anonymous said...

An old lady in the metro on one of the highest traffic days should have taken a taxi. I personally am young, 23 but have a broken foot. And it is hard to move around in the metro, and people don't move for people with disabilities, this is not the metro's fault. Its the tourists! Take a taxi since part of the metro is being able to walk distances, and if you are not able too, take a taxi!

Anonymous said...

Anon @ 3:44:

It's great that you as a 23 year old have the ability to pay for a personal taxi to chauffeur you around town, but did you consider that maybe this family couldn't afford the $15+ a taxi may have cost, and instead opted to take the vastly less expensive public transportation that their tax dollars already go towards? If there is one thing worst than saying she should have a wheelchair it's that she shouldn't be using it at all!

Anonymous said...

If you don't have the $15 for a taxi, you can always call Metro Access and they'll pay someone $100 to drive you around for your $1.50 fare.

Anonymous said...

Why not tell the Metro employee with the bullhorn NO. "We're staying here, thanks." What was she gonna do, have you arrested for deciding to sit on the bench you were already sitting on?

And why is the writer plaintively asking if someone can be identified, without information to help in that process?

Folks: get a spine, stand up for yourself (or sit down, in this instance) and TAKE NAMES if dealt with rudely.

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