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Olomouc - One Czech company takes a different approach to customers than most other firms. Its name is Czech Railways, and it has millions of customers.
While other businesses try to lure customers with discount offers, Czech Railways has been keeping silent about its discounts. People will not see them promoted at railway stations or on trains.
Passengers can save hundreds of crowns on a single trip in a single day, but they often have no idea about the discount. The cashiers at railway stations will not tell them and sometimes sell tickets at prices several times higher than they could be.
From Bohumín to Plzeň and back for only CZK 390
This could be the text of an ad hanging at the railway stations in both towns, but travellers in neither one of them will see anything like this, nor will the cashiers tell them, although Czech Railways actually has this discount in its price list. The one-day pass that costs CZK 390 enables passengers to travel second-class throughout the country, regardless of the distance. In stark contrast, the full fare from Bohumín, northern Moravia to Plzeň, western Bohemia is CZK 582 for a single trip; a return ticket costs CZK 1,048.
The prices of single trips between other selected Czech towns and cities are also higher than CZK 390: You will get from Prague to Ostrava for CZK 436, from Plzeň to Olomouc for CZK 445, from Břeclav to Ústí nad Labem for 509. The return fares are almost twice as high.
Different stations, the same situation
Three different ticket offices in three different cities: March 10 in Ostrava, travelling to Prague; two days later in Prague, travelling to Ostrava; and March 17 in Olomouc, travelling to Plzeň. The situation was the same. In each case, the cashier sold an ordinary single ticket.
Czech Railways stubbornly refuses to introduce a sales method that would make cashiers sell the cheapest possible ticket automatically.
"The cashier cannot recite the entire discount system to you. Passengers learn about the day passes at Czech Railways' information desks," says a clerk in the Olomouc info centre.
Czech Railways communications manager Radek Joklík confirmed the practice is the same throughout the company's ticket system. "The cashier cannot actively ask all passengers about all the details of their trip and then choose one of the offers," he says.
But cashiers do not have to ask at all. The system could automatically offer the cheapest ticket, which in this case is usually the one-day pass.
Experts have criticised the state-run Czech Railways for the complex system of discounts that passengers find difficult to understand.
"Most people must get lost in it. It would be good to unify and simplify the system," says Jiří Mikeš, former director of the Association of Communication Agencies at the University of Economics in Prague. "Since Czech Railways is a state-owned company funded by our money, it should be far more open to the ordinary passenger."
Adapted and republished by the Prague Daily Monitor.