Bus does a runner
A cheap trip on a Naked Bus has left two teenagers stripped of thousands of dollars of electronic equipment.
NakedBus.com advertises its bus services as having the cheapest long-distance fares in the country.
But one angry dad says the company is cutting corners on service.
Bryce Gosnell says his children’s 20-minute pitstop in Rotorua has turned into a month-long battle with the company and its operator, Pavlovich Coachlines.
Carl Gosnell, 13, and his sister Taylor-Ann Kirk, 12, travelled on the bus heading from Manukau to Feilding on their way to spending Christmas in Wanganui with family and friends.
The Papakura teens say they had "a bite to eat" at Rotorua’s I-Site tourism centre where the bus stopped for a 20-minute break.
But when they looked up from their food the bus had disappeared.
"We asked the cafeteria lady how long have we been here and she said about 15 minutes," says Taylor-Ann, a Rosehill Intermediate School student.
"So we ran out and looked and it wasn’t there and then we waited for a while and it didn’t come back.
"So we went to the information centre and we talked to the lady and she said the bus had left ages ago."
The pair were upset the bus had left without them. But their thoughts immediately turned to their carry-on bags, which the driver had told them to leave on the bus.
The bags contained two portable PlayStation consoles, two iPods, a digital camera and two cellphones.
"I felt sad because I knew they would be stolen," says Carl, a year 9 student at Rosehill College.
A staff member at the information centre contacted the bus company and asked that the driver find and
secure the children’s gear.
An hour later, after calls to their grandfather David Gosnell in Wanganui, the children were booked on the next InterCity bus to Bulls.
They arrived safely but the same can’t be said for the $2500 worth of property left behind on the Naked Bus.
David and his wife made sure they met the Naked Bus when it arrived and asked the driver about the children’s bags.
"He immediately hopped out of his seat and started looking for their gear and he came back with one bag that was empty."
The second bag was also found empty.
The driver apologised, David says.
But neither he nor the children’s father Bryce were prepared to let the matter lie.
Bryce says in a phone discussion with Pavlovich Coachlines operations manager Peter Farland and the driver he found them to be "totally unremorseful".
"Mr Farland basically said their bus driver was not at fault for anything and that we weren’t going anywhere in the conversation – they’d made their point that they weren’t responsible yet absolutely refused to listen to my side of the story."
Mr Farland says the driver did all he was required to do by waiting the alloted 20 minutes at Rotorua and another 10 minutes for latecomers.
The driver also looked for the left luggage at the next stop but couldn’t find anything.
"We’re obviously just going off their word that this electronic equipment was in these bags, keeping in mind the driver does not know which bags belong to which customers when they’re carrying it on to the vehicle themselves."
Mr Farland says the driver deals with 80 or more passengers getting on or off the bus each day.
Timetables are strict and are monitored through a cellphone checking system which links with the Naked Bus computer system. It shows the bus left Rotorua behind schedule because the driver had waited five minutes more than normal, Mr Farland says.
And it’s clearly the passenger’s responsibility to board the bus after a rest stop, he says.
But Bryce Gosnell believes the company is responsible for the theft of his children’s gear and its customer service has been "appalling".
"Anybody else in the service industry would front up and deal with a situation like this when it arises but Naked Bus don’t care."
He has asked Naked Bus for an apology and to refund the children’s fare and pay for the InterCity fare. He also says it should pay the insurance excess of $150 for the stolen items and $50 compensation to the children.
The family is now considering taking the matter to the small claims court but Bryce says at the end of the day "the gear doesn’t matter as long as the kids are okay".
Mr Farland says the company always cares about its customers and is "more than willing" to engage in the court process.