February 1st, 2010

Shiny Astrolabe

Passing Go

Network rail discount cards are not valid before 10 am. It says so on the posters. It says so on the pamphlets. It says so on website.

I was on the 6:25-ish am bus this morning between the two Stratford stations, and the Guy with the Portable Ticket Machine (GwtPTM) wanted me to buy my tickets then-and-there rather than waiting for the station. Justifying his job, perhaps? In any event, he asked the usual questions. "Destination? Day return?" and then "Network railcard?".

Me: "But they're not valid before 10 am."
GwtPTM: "I think you could use one earlier, but there's a minimum price."
Me: "Really? I would love that. Are you sure?"
GwtPTM: "Maybe you should ask at the station to be sure."

Later, I'm back at Stratford International, a decadently tranquil station with very few customers and lots of service. (This won't last.) It's after 7 pm and, as usual, it's quiet. I go to ask the Guy with the Cash Register (GwtCR) about the tantalizing lure of an improbable Network rail card.

Me: "I was under the impression that Network rail cards are not valid before 10 am."
GwtCR, heartily: "That's right!"
Me: "But the GwtPTM this morning said I could get one for my 6-something am commute."
GwtCT: "You can use them, but there's a minimum charge." *checks out minimum charge for my route-of-choice*
GwtCT: "The minimum charge is £13*. If you bought a Network rail card, you'd save a third on your morning trip."
Me: "Even though it's not valid before 10 am?"
GwtCT: "There's a minimum charge."
(As opposed to what - free trips after 10 am? Not that I've heard of.)

I bought the railcard. It says in clear, sharp letters, "Not valid before 10 am."

I'll find out on Thursday if I've just saved myself large sums of money or thrown away £25. After all, I'll be traveling before 10 am.