UPDATED 10/6: my letter as appears in freemalaysia today (didn’t see it appears in other media yet)
UPDATED 13/6: i had complained to the public complaints bureau, and the directed my complaints to the public land transport commission, and this commission had replied to me for further details, then said they will take appropriate action. they are quite efficient!
i was in pelntong, johor during the weekend for the society of st vincent de paul national youth convention. no of course i was not there as a participant as i’m no longer a youth. i was there as reporter, to write about the event to the herald and to our SSVP website. there were 9 of us from penang, who took the express bus to and fro.
from penang to JB, i bought the konsortium bus at RM55 per pax. super vip bus (24… or was it 28 seaters). leaving in the morning and was suppose to take 9 hours but it took 10 1/2 hours instead because it stop at puduraya to drop passengers, then it went round and round KLIA to pick passengers. i was told that the bus that goes direct, with no stop, is at RM70 or RM80.
ok no problem with the penang to JB bus journey (except the long hours journey) but oh boy, we experienced lots of problem with the return journey. actually we planned to return on sunday afternoon, so we did thought of buying the return tickets when we reached the larkin bus station on friday evening. however, since the journey was long, we reached late, and someone was already waiting to pick us up, we did not buy the ticket. i did contact a member from johor who said, i can still buy it on sunday! anyway, it was on saturday that i asked for help if someone can dropped in the bus station to buy the tickets for us. well, he went, and we were shocked to learn that he couldn’t get tickets for the afternoon trip. all sold out. so we have no choice but to get the night bus – 10pm, super vip at RM70 per pax.
the tickets (10 – 9 to penang and 1 to butterworth at RM65) were from MAHARANI EXPRESS at counter 14B of the larkin bus terminal well, on sunday, we reached the bus terminal at about 9.30pm, so we went up to the maharani express counter with our tickets to get the bus registration plate number and the platform where we were suppose to wait at. when i handed the tickets to the staff at the counter, he asked a young chap to bring us to another counter, which was about 10 counters away from them. pity i did not look at that counter name but it was manned by an elderly indian lady. this young chap passed the ticket to her and she searched here and there, wrote something, then gave the tickets back to the young chap, who asked us to wait again, while he ran back to the maharani express counter. after 5 mins or so, he returned and handed over the tickets to us. i notice that the seat numbers were a bit different from the original seat numbers when the tickets were from maharani express. this time, the tickets had the name FIRST LINER on it.
ok so we went to the platform and waited… and waited… and waited. 10.30pm bus not yet arrived. 11.00pm no sign of it. 11.30pm… nothing! then near 12 midnight, a man came and shouted “7776! 7776!” (that’s our bus no.). he said those taking 7776 (BKR) to follow him to go across the road to wait for the bus. hmm… first sign of something suspicious… er… second sign actually as first sign was the lateness! 2 hours late! why cant’ the bus come in to the platform area? why must it stop at the road-side?
ok when we were there… we still have to wait… for about 10 mins. when the bus came, to our horror, it was a bas pesiaran (sight-seeing bus) and a 44 seaters bus!! what? we thought we bought the ticket for super vip bus with 28 seats? and an express bus, not a bas pesiaran? what to do, we can’t do anything but to board the bus. a few meters away, the bus stop to pick up some passengers and i notice that one lady who board the bus was grumbling that she thought the bus was a super vip bus but why get this 44 seaters bus. then this elderly indian lady, the same lady we saw at the counter who gave the tickets to the maharani express bus staff, said to the passenger lady “i told you vip, not super vip. got difference there.”. huh! indeed! she had cheated us and just want to justify herself for giving us a 44 seater bus instead. if it is really vip or whatever that is 44 seaters then the fare shouldn’t be RM70, as RM70 is for super vip.
wait a minute… after the 2 hours delay and wrong bus, trust murphy’s law to come in – another shocker awaited us. the bus drivers said they will not stop at penang island, they will stop at butterworth only. this is because they had passengers going further north to sg. petani and alor setar, so from butterworth, they will go straight to sg petani/alor setar. i was shocked and said, this wasn’t right at all. we already paid RM70 for the stop at penang. if they were to drop us at butterworth, it was only RM65, meaning they have to refund us RM5. but of course we prefered not to go down at butterworth, so i told the others (all 8 of them are youth) that we should insist on our rights, we should speak to the drivers and tell them that we paid for stop at penang, so they should drop us at penang.
i told those youth with me that we should speak up and insist on the bus taking us to penang and one of them asked me to take a photo of the bus when it stop. well when the bus stop at… er… think somewhere before ipoh… for passengers to ease themselves, i took a few photos of the bus – the side and the front. the front zooming in on the tel. nos. and the side zooming on the bus company name and address, which is SRI THEVAN TRAVEL & TOURS at jalan gemilang, selangor.
i told the youth that i’m going to speak to the drivers, and they had to stand beside me to support me. unfortunately only 3 of them were with me. one was with me all the time. two were with me now and then. i first approached the older driver and told him i heard you are not going to stop at penang, how can that be when we were told it will stop at penang and we paid for penang fare. he said that the bus counter staff told them to go to butterworth only, and not penang island. he said he didn’t know anything about having penang passengers. i said how can you not know, i think you already ‘pakat’ with them. he went up the bus and then he came down… with the other driver, a younger one. i then said to both of them, in that case, can you give me your names as i want to complain and oh boy!… the younger driver exploded and shouted at me.
(our conversation were in bahasa but i’m writing here in english).
driver: why you want to know our names? if you want to complain, you complain to the bus company which you bought the ticket from.
me: yes but the company sent your bus and sent you, so i need your details too.
driver (angry): you don’t know how to listen ah! where did you buy the ticket from? from that company so it has nothing to do with us. why need our names.
me: for complaints i need full details lah. if no full details, they won’t act.
driver (raising voice): we have nothing to do with the bus company. their bus broke down, our bus is the replacement bus and they never said to go to penang.
me: ok. let’s say i believe you. you have nothing to do with the bus company but to complain against the bus company, the bus company sent you, so i need details on your side too. look, i’m a reporter, i can report you, write to the media (taking out my malaysiakini CJ name card).
driver: who cares if you are a reporter or police or JPJ! you have no right to complain against us. do you know i can sue you?
wahh… he’s frightening me eh. all the while, while he was arguing, the older driver just kept quiet.
me: you don’t understand. i’m not complaining against you but the bus company but to do that, i need the bus details.
and i forgot what else he shouted here and there, and me too raising my voice here and there… to one extend that R, one of the youth who was with me all the time (but never spoke a word) try to restrain me. haha. did i sound fierce i wonder. well after a while this young driver walked away. R was talking to the older driver in tamil. then i said to the older driver “at least, you let us change bus somewhere near butterworth, the bus take us to penang, while this bus we are on straight to alor setar.” but he pretend the didn’t hear me. then when the younger driver came back, both of them were standing in front of the bus, with their back facing me. i quickly take the opportunity to snap a photo of them. R then told me to snap a photo of the bus name and details found on the side. actually i had already snapped that but never mind, since the drivers are around, i said maybe good to snap it again. well i did… then suddenly the younger driver came up to me and shouted:
shouting driver: hey! what are you doing eh? why are you taking photo ah?
me: why shouldn’t i take photo. this is a bus. i’m a passenger ‘makan angin’. a lot of time passengers take photo of the bus they traveled in.
i didn’t know what else he mumbled and mumbled. this time as he talk, R said to me “ok already lah. since you got the info already, enough” meaning asking me to shut up, not to argue with the driver anymore. well, yes, i let him speak this time, without interrupting him or argue back. i heard him mumbling something “if you tell nicely, maybe we can arrange transfer of bus.” and i think he was also huffing “get down at butterworth!” before he boarded the bus.
ok lah, so end of drama… starring yours truly here. lol. i was surprised myself that i can argue with the driver. well for one thing, i know i have back up (the 7 young boys and 1 young girl, though only 3 boys were with me) and since there were 10 of us going to penang, they should stop at penang for us.
well the reason i dare to argue with him was also i was told that i have to stand up for my rights. after getting to know many activists and participating in many forums, rally, etc by NGO, i learned that i must stand up for my rights. then the part about me telling him i’m a reporter – i learned that from my fellow CJ (citizen journalist lah, not chief justice), vijay. i remember once when i was in KL for the malaysiakini’s 10th anniversary dinner, it was him who gave me a lift. while inside the car, i grumbled to him that a taxi driver at corus hotel, wanted to charge me RM20 from corus hotel to tune hotel, while when i hailed a taxi, it was only RM6 or son. so i told him luckily i did not take the RM20 taxi but vjiay said “tell you what. next time, you take it. then you tell him to issue a receipt for the RM20 fare, then you tell him you are a reporter and you want to take photo of the receipt and his taxi. i bet you, he will ask you to get lost.”
ha. see? it’s good in a way to inform “i’m a reporter’ to sort of scare the cheater a little. and you know what? i think when the younger driver saw me taking photo of his bus details, that was the breaking straw for him. maybe he was suddenly afraid that yes i will really complained/report him… that’s why in the end, i get my way – the bus did stop at penang! earlier he was saying something about the originals bus was ‘rosak’ so the counter bus company sent their bus instead and their bus was a replacement – i’m sure that was a big bluff. you see, we got the bus regn. no. 7776 at 9.30 and the bus arrived at midnight… how can it be that 2 hours before they know the bus was going to ‘rosak’. all alone, they already planned to use this 44 seaters bas pesiaran.
another thing… after we boarded the bus, a staff came to collect the tickets from me. i then asked him what about giving me back the ‘keratan’ (counterfoil ticket) so that we have the tickets with us, to show we are going to penang. he said “no need. never mind, we know.” i replied “you know yes lah but then without the tickets, we and others won’t know.” ahhh… now after the bad experience, i realise that he purposely want to take back the tickets so that we don’t have proof that we are going to penang. i notice one passenger who was going down at butterworth, the staff did not take his ticket. (that’s why you see, from the photo album, i have the ticket and can take a shot of it).
ok so although the bus did finally stop at penang but i can still make a complain since it came late and not the super vip bus we were promised. (and the decision to stop at penang, only came about after i argue with the driver!). maybe i will write a letter to the media.
(more photos of the bus will be up later… either here or at facebook) UPDATED – photos up!