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Patrick Svitek | The Journal Gazette
Shawn Ambrose, assistant professor of business administration at the University of Saint Francis, tries to deliver a petition protesting Greyhound’s $18 gift ticket fee to a station agent Friday morning.

Protest targets bus-ticket fee

Greyhound charges $18 for online buys

– He says senior management won’t return his phone calls. The CEO never replied to his lengthy letter. And he’s been blocked from posting comments on the company’s Facebook page.

Yet those setbacks failed to deter Shawn Ambrose as he marched into the downtown Greyhound station Friday morning and presented an 8,007-signature petition protesting the company’s $18 gift ticket fee, which is collected every time a bus rider buys a ticket online.

In the station’s parking lot beforehand, Ambrose said he was not sure how he would be received; he had not forewarned Greyhound Lines Inc. representatives about his mid-morning visit.

“They may know, they may not know, but that’s OK,” he said before entering the station terminal, where a ticket agent told him she could not accept the physical petition per company policy.

The assistant professor of business administration at the University of Saint Francis said his mission to abolish the fee is far from over, adding he would “take a couple days off, enjoy the Christmas holiday and get back to work on this.”

The bus line’s gift charge first caught his attention a few years ago when he bought a Greyhound ticket for his daughter to come home from college in Virginia.

“I saw the gift ticket fee, and I found it to be egregious, to be honest with you,” he said, adding he has been able to afford the $18 fee.

“At the same time, I realize there are other persons for whom that isn’t an option. I think people are really tired of being nickel-and-dimed to death.”

Greyhound officials have maintained the gift ticket fee serves a dual purpose: combating credit card fraud the company incurs and making up for handling expenses.

In comments recorded for his YouTube channel Friday morning, Ambrose dismissed the company’s claims as poor excuses for exploiting low-income passengers.

About two-thirds of Greyhound passengers earn less than $35,000 annually, according to Ambrose.

Greyhound spokesman Tim Stokes could not confirm that number Friday but did say company leaders have received Ambrose’s Nov. 21 letter to CEO Dave Leach.

In that letter, Ambrose states that the rate of credit card fraud and the amount of labor required to process a ticket do not justify the high fee collected by Greyhound.

“They are aware of it, and they’re evaluating all the processes available at the time,” Stokes said of Ambrose’s letter.

“They’re taking a look at it,” Stokes added when pressed about whether the gift ticket charge was specifically included in that assessment.

In the meantime, Stokes recommended customers buy their gift tickets at stations to avoid the online charge.

Stokes said he could not comment on whether Ambrose has been barred from posting on the company’s Facebook page because Stokes is not responsible for managing it.

The website Ambrose used to start his petition in early October, Change.org, catapulted to the national stage a week earlier, when Molly Katchpole in five days gathered more than 150,000 signees against Bank of America’s $5 monthly debit card fee.

On Nov. 1, just as Katchpole’s petition crept past 300,000 signatures, Bank of America announced it would no longer pursue the controversial charge.

Change.org senior organizer Tim Newman compared Ambrose’s progress to that of Katchpole, saying the gift ticket fee petition “has shown that clearly it resonates with people across the country.”

As of Friday afternoon, Ambrose’s petition was listed under a banner reading “What’s Next” beside the Bank of America success story on Change.org’s website.

psvitek@jg.net

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