The Devil Is In The Inconsistencies.

CHICAGO–It’s distressing when a problem is identified and an appropriate solution is apparent but, for one reason or another, the solution never gets implemented … so the problem doesn’t go away.
If you travel on Amtrak enough, after a while and little by little you become aware of a problem: inconsistent service by the on board crews.
It’s hard to say this is a problem because most of of service you get is acceptable … good enough. There’s nothing really wrong and therefore raising the issue seems like nitpicking.
Take sleeping car attendants, for example. I would assume they are all trained the same way. They all learn the prescribed regimen: how the equipment operates, how to make up the berths and handle emergencies — all their duties and responsibilities. But, little by little, with thirty or forty long-distance trips under their belts, they quite naturally start doing little things their way.
For example, there’s the orientation for passengers–what the buttons and knobs in the sleeping car accommodations are for, where the lavatories and shower are located, and something about the dining car routine. Some car attendants do it face-to-face, one room at a time; others do it over the P.A. system, once for everyone. Some just poke their head into your room and say, “Let me know if you have any questions.”
Some car attendants tell you to leave your curtain open in the morning when you go to breakfast so they’ll know to make up your bed while you’re out of the room. Others will wait until you tell them that you’re ready to have the bed put up.
Some–the really good ones–will tell you that they’re traveling in roomette #1 in case you need something during the night. Others don’t.
Some come around as you’re approaching your destination and ask if you need help with your luggage. Others do not.
Attitudes vary (probably a better word is demeanor). Some are genuinely friendly and out-going; others are more business-like, even reserved.
The fact is, it’s rare to find a car attendant who does a really poor job or has a bad attitude. But all that said, I find myself noticing the inconsistencies more and more. Allow for individual personalities, by all means, but shouldn’t the actual tasks be carried out pretty much the same way by everyone?
This, of course, all goes back to the fact that because of cost-cutting, there is no one person who is formally in charge of the on-board crew. Each individual employee is essentially left to do his own thing. With the good crews, peer pressure is what maintains the basic standards. But it’s not the best way to run a railroad.