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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

"Bussing it" - Another story told in tickets

This isn't the first time, but I seem to have this utterly pointless fascination for tickets that I receive as I go through my day. I've posted about tickets of different kinds before,  but I've often wondered about the reason for their existence, i.e., why do I need a ticket for a parking lot that is not responsible for my vehicle? Anyway, here is another set of tickets from a business trip that required me to travel to Kollam (Quilon) to visit our "sister concern" as people say, to find out what and how they were doing things differently to get more business, seeing as to how we were both franchisees of the same franchise.

Amazingly enough, most of the inter-city buses, and even some of the local ones have adopted the use of those little handheld billing machines to generate tickets. This allows the conductor to make his way up and down the length of the bus and hand out neat, crisp, little rectangles of paper with wonderfully printed information on them. See for yourself.

Now, the ticket you just saw was what I got when I boarded the bus at the Thampanoor Bus Stand in Thiruvananthapuram. Turns out, however, that if you want a seat on these buses that take you from one city to the next, you have to have a "reserved seat", and that's where the next ticket comes in.Well, technically, and as it says on the top, it's more of a coupon than a ticket. But, you need to get to the counter and get yourself a ticket to reserve your seat because otherwise, even though you may already be seated comfortably, someone somewhere along your journey can ask you to "kindly get out of [their] seat." That seems to be the logic, anyway. I find it hard to believe that would ever happen, because this system is so counter-intuitive I'm surprised it works at all. Maybe I'm missing something, but other than it being another opportunity to make some money, there is no reason for any sort of transportation service to give you one ticket to travel, and another to keep your seat.

Don't you just love tickets with instructions on the back? Especially those tickets with instructions that are in a large enough font to be read without glasses, and which stick to the bare essentials. 

Number 3 says it all. But you won't believe the number of times I've seen hapless passengers ask an annoyed bus conductor why they have to relinquish their seat when they just paid for a ticket to their destination. The worst part is, I've only made this trip like three or four times in the last six months, and even then I've seen more than a couple of cases of people being asked to get out of their seats, or thinking that they had found the cheapest bus service around, paying only 2 bucks for a 40-buck journey.

Here's the return ticket, printed out much in the same way as the first. You'd think that "computerization" and "upgrading" of earlier systems to one that operates on a more centralized network would lead to a product that is "standardized" in all respects. Surely you can expect this from a bus ticket you got on a bus from Thiruvananthapuram to Kollam. But, contrary to popular belief and logical deduction, this isn't the case. See if you can spot any differences between the earlier ticket and this one?

Well, firstly, it appears to be cheaper if you travel back to Thiruvananthapuram from Kollam. Then, and this I thought to be particularly curious, where the first ticket has a bit of a mathematical calculation going with the (Full - 44) + (Cess - 1) = INR 45, the second one chooses to let you know about the additional tax, for education if I'm not wrong, in a little parenthetical reference directly above the fare amount in extra-large, boldfaced font. It's not a whole lot of difference, but why does one machine print out tickets one way, and another another way? What's with the negligible levels of inconsistency, and how far do these inconsistencies run? I guess most importantly, why is cheaper one way, even though it's the same bus and we're going the same way as which we came?
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