Bad experience on Munich airport train- how do I complain?

Got off the night flight from Boston to Munich, bought tickets on the airport train in Munich from the ticket machine at the airport, following instructions from my handy Rick Steves and the local airport info desk person. Bought a family traveler pass for 17 Euro, the ticket collector on the train told me I should have bought the 20 Euro pass and charged me 80 Euro fine for this mistake!!! Ticket collector was quite rude, would not allow me to pay the difference or buy a new ticket, insisted I give her 80 Euro cash. Treated me like I was trying to sneak on the train without paying my fare (if I was doing that why would I buy a 17 Euro pass and why in the world do they even sell the incorrect passes out of the machine at the airport in the first place?) I was traveling with 2 small kids, my husband, all our luggage, car seats, etc. I was in tears trying to deal with this angry ticket collector and didn't realize that the ticket she gave me showed that I only paid her 40 Euro (I wonder if she just pocketed the additional 40 Euros I gave her?) I have tried complaining on-line to the DB Bahn train company twice and haven't gotten anywhere. Does anyone know of a traveler assistance group or another way that I can try to get a refund or at least an apology?

Posted by Lola
Seattle, WA
5444 posts

What kind of S-Bahn ticket was this? A single trip, from the airport into the city, or a day pass starting at the airport? I don't see a "family" price for either one. Children are € 1,30 for the single ride ticket, and for the day pass, two kids count as one adult. I am sorry to hear of your experience with the conductor, but maybe you entered the information incorrectly for the machine ticket?

Posted by Sam
Green Bay
2276 posts

Here is the complaint procedure from the MVV (Munich Transit Authority). File your explanation and maybe you'll get some money back. I assume you have a receipt. My experience, a number of years ago, was that they employed "bounty hunters", with a badge and able to collect fines on a commission basis. Was the collector a uniformed employee or just a bounty hunter with a badge? My experience is that conductors go from smiling to nasty in a New York minute when they suspect someone of freeloading on the rails. http://www.mvv-muenchen.de/en/tickets-fares/ticket-inspection/s-bahn-urban-rail/index.html My reading of the fare structure is that you should have bought an All-Zone Partner day ticket for 20.40 Euro. That allows 2 to 5 adults traveling together.

Posted by Lee
Lakewood, Colorado
11274 posts

I agree with Lola. What kind of ticket was this? I can find no 17€ ticket on the MVV website. Closest I can come is 1 adult entire network day ticket for 11,20€ plus 2 children at 2,80€ each, for 16,80€. Maybe you were at the ticket counter alone and said it was for you and 2 children, omitting to mention your husband. would not allow me to pay the difference or buy a new ticket I got caught speeding and offered to go back again at the speed limit. You can guess how far that got me. Law enforcement people are so rigid. P.S. The machine does not sell "incorrect passes", but you can chose to buy an incorrect pass.

Posted by Marco
Oxford, United Kingdom
780 posts

Partner day tickets for the entire network including the airport costs €20.40. The only ticket I can find that comes roughly to €17 is a city tour partner card for the inner district. The individual penalty fare is €40 - my guess is that you have each paid this, hence the total of €80. Why do you expect an apology? Did you have a valid ticket and what was it?

Posted by George
Canada
823 posts

I see Meg is making the rounds, she posted the same rant on TA.

Posted by Marco
Oxford, United Kingdom
780 posts

The MVV is relentless on people caught without valid tickets - the phrase 'no excuses' is what they work by. This is the flip side of not having any automated checks.

Posted by Jim
Bern, Switzerland
341 posts

I'm sorry to hear about your bad fortune, but if you get caught with a wrong ticket in most European countries, the procedure is the same - no excuses are accepted. Complain if it makes you feel better, but don't for a minute expect them to take you seriously - they hear too many excuses and get too much abuse to be bothered.

Posted by Philip
London, United Kingdom
1698 posts

This happens in London as well. Many European cities have absolute zero tolerance for fare irregularities on local transportation.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17780 posts

Meg, The same thing would have happened in Italy if you were caught with either an unvalidated ticket on the train or bus, or an incorrect ticket for the premium trains such as the Freccia trains. The fines there range from €40-60 PP, and if not paid on the spot they double and increase from there. I've observed the Conductors in Italy being lenient with some people on several occasions, but most of the time fines are applied. The Swiss are also using the practice of fining passengers with even the most minor irregularities in their tickets, as described in this article: www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-21294241 It appears that you purchased the wrong ticket, so I'm not sure there's any basis for a complaint or a refund. Cheers!

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17780 posts

Meg, For future reference, you might employ the method I often use when arriving in an unfamiliar city. Research the ticket options for transportation from the airport, and make a note of all pertinent factors such as ticket type, cost, etc. That will give you something to refer to when you're standing in front of the ticket machine, tired and jet-lagged, and you'll be less likely to choose the incorrect option. I needed a refresher prior to a visit to Munich last year, and Lee kindly provided all the information I'd need, so I knew which ticket to choose. His website is www.germantravel-info.com/index.htm if you're interested. Another way to avoid problems with incorrect tickets is to purchase at the staffed ticket desk. The staff can usually function in English to some extent, and they will provide the correct tickets for the number of people in the group. Cheers!

Posted by Douglas
Oak Park, Illinois
2386 posts

I too am sorry you got confused and bought the wrong ticket. But the fare collector was doing his job, which is to fine people without the proper tickets. Occasionally collectors will show some leniency, but on trains to/from airports, they tend to be very strict all over Europe. I've seen fines handed out in just about every major city on the airport lines.

Posted by SUSAN
DALTON, MA, USA
64 posts

Wouldn't it be so very nice if the instructions were "clear" to everyone? It's frustrating when you're traveling alone, never mind with children, spouse, luggage, etc. and can't find a person to help you navigate. When people are lined up behind you, you tend to hurry and make wrong decisions. I've seen and read so many of these mistakes that people make - and what I've learned is that I'm going to take as much time as I need to get it correct...and it doesn't matter if people are getting angry because they are waiting behind you - because you'll end up paying in the end. Take your time, and really make sure you are buying the correct ticket, so you don't end up in this unfortunate situation again. And.....always try to help people visiting from other countries to your country.
Sue

Posted by Larry
Elkins Park, PA
575 posts

And expect to be challenged. It is unfortunate but the inspectors will go after those they deem most likely to be able to legitimately collect money from (kind of like scammers and pick-pockets going after obvious tourists). And that includes Americans (recognized by language and jet-lag) arriving and using transport.
When we arrived in Budapest, we boarded the bus at the airport, carrying our backpacks. The bus could not have gone more than 50 meters and a pair of inspectors were on us demanding to see our stubs. Fortunately, we had read the procedures for the Budapest transport system before we arrived, had referenced where and how to purchase tickets in the airport (two 10-packs for the week), and had properly validated them on boarding the bus. I am not sure who was more surprised - us at being checked so rapidly, or the inspectors, who were sure they had a pair to fine.

Posted by George
Canada
823 posts

You're a little out in left field there Larry. I've seen all kinds of ticket checkers on all kinds of trains and THEY check EVERYONE'S tickets - I know Americans are special, but they're not that special.

Posted by Nancy
Bloomington, IL, USA
7682 posts

I agree. When I have seen ticket checkers, they have checked ALL tickets. I am a little curious just how someone could be recognized on the basis of jetlag, as opposed to, say, regular old fatigue.

Posted by Harold
New York, NY, USA
2852 posts

I "third" George and Nancy. In Budapest, the ticket inspectors are ubiquitous and relentless - towards everyone, not just foreigners. There's even a (fictional) movie all about them - Kontroll. In other places ticket inspectors are not quite as prevalent, but they, too, check EVERYONE on the bus or metro.

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
2696 posts

I never thought the "kontrollers" went after tourist passengers whom they thought were most likely not to have a valid ticket on them when they boarded. If that's the case, they must have been disappointed in Austria and Germany in not catching me. True, within two minutes or so they can start checking. If you read the signs prior to boarding, you won't be caught off guard when asked.

Posted by Marco
Oxford, United Kingdom
780 posts

There were 2 adults present - hence the likelihood of 2 penalty fares of €40 each. She doesn't mention her husband paying anything in addition. Although Meg asked for advice, she hasn't been back yet.

Posted by Tom
Hüttenfeld, Hessen, Germany
9130 posts

"(the ideal of the new Europe is the British will be the policemen... and it will be organized by the Germans, and the reality is that the Germans are the policemen....and it is organized by the Italians)." The European Heaven and Hell Joke. The rest of it goes like this- In European Heaven, the French cook the food, the Italians are the lovers and the Swiss make everything. In European Hell (in addition to the above), the British cook the food with the help of the Irish, the Swiss are the lovers, and the French make everything.

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
2696 posts

"...I have seen it happen to me and to others" Looks as though some tourists are luckier than others. As a tourist in Germany as seen by them over the years, I must have missed this experience, or they simply passed me by in displaying "the German character" in a policeman.

Posted by Sarah
Chicago (formerly St. Louis), IL, USA
1311 posts

Here's the version I heard: In heaven, the police are British, the food is Italian, and the Germans run the trains. In hell, the police are German, the food is British, and the Italians run the trains.

Posted by Philip
London, United Kingdom
1698 posts

I've read a similar joke about Canada: with its history Canada could have had British government, French culture, and American drive. Instead, it had French government, American culture, and British drive.

Posted by Sam
Green Bay
2276 posts

American culture? Thank you Canada, for giving us Justin Bieber, Pamela Anderson and all the other pop stars, without whom we know not what we would do. At least you don't have American government.

Posted by Norma
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
3409 posts

Sam, we didn't give you Justin and Pamela, et al. .... we expelled them.

Posted by Larry
Elkins Park, PA
575 posts

To George, Nancy and Harold who questioned my post about being checked on the bus out of Budapest Airport: Out of curiosity we watched after we showed our validated tickets. No one else was checked by them on a bus 3/4 full. AND yes they had valid ID. Seems to me that if you are looking for violators, you target those who look most likely to have done so. And a couple in our situation would look prime for this. Please don't accuse me of "You're a little out in left field".
I was there.

Posted by Sam
Green Bay
2276 posts

I'm shocked, SHOCKED, that there is profiling going on here. Round up the usual suspects!

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
8756 posts

You guys do realize that the OP has never been back since her rant. You are chatting in an empty room.

Posted by Sam
Green Bay
2276 posts

Yes, that's why I love singing in the shower. The natural reverb makes it sound so much better and there is nobody around to throw rotten tomatoes. Hopefully, she set it up to get an email notification every time someone posts.

Posted by Ms. Jo
Frankfurt, Germany
4764 posts

She never came back after posting on Trip Advisor either.

Posted by Norma
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
3409 posts

Ranters seldom seem to come back after the initial burst of anger when the rant does not get support or at least a lot of sympathy from others.

Posted by Fred
San Francisco
2696 posts

Vent or rant..any difference? Treat it as a battle lost is a battle lost.