Megabus Might Honor Your Prepaid Reservation, But Only If You Chase The Bus Halfway Across Philadelphia

A Megabus driver claimed that Chris’ prepaid reservation was actually a standby ticket, and refused to let him board unless he met the bus at the next stop halfway across Philadelphia. The driver was apparently worried that the bus would be full after the second stop, but he wouldn’t let Chris ride along to find out.

Chris, who purchased his tickets weeks in advance, tried calling Megabus’ 800 number:

I called the 877 toll free Megabus number listed with 800 information. Calling that number – the one listed on the Megabus site – I got a recorded message stating that “information pertaining to this number has changed.” If I wanted the number, “say yes.” I said yes, and it sent me a text (for which I get charged 15 cents by my carrier). This is the text message verbatim, from 23333:

“Reply Y now to get info on the # you are trying to reach. Locator Svc $9.99/month + std msg fees for 20 lookups/month.

Megabus is a shell company that contracts service to subsidiaries. Chris noticed that the bus driver was wearing a 76 Carriage Company shirt, so he tried calling them next.

The dispatcher apologized for the driver’s claim that he didn’t know how I could call anyone. He offered to send a 76 shuttle that they usually use for hotel guests to get us to 6th & Market, and promised to call the driver’s cell phone to hold the bus until we could get there. He repeated, however, that we still weren’t getting on the bus if there weren’t two empty seats after they filled up at 6th. This is the best deal I could swing after having a several-minute argument with 76 about what the word “reservation” means.

This, of course, also meant that a whole bus of people had to sit at 6th & Market for no reason. The bus driver, we learned from our friends on the bus, led people to believe that we were the hold-up!

We figured that if nothing else, we could get taken back home or closer to home on 76’s dime if this didn’t pan out. The shuttle driver was polite and professional.

As it turns out, there were about five empty seats. We rode that bus to NY, leaving about 20 minutes late. Had the bus been full or just had one seat open, our day – a day that a few people took off from work to enjoy, having booked the trip a month earlier – would have been shot. We also had to jaw at a few fellow passengers who were led to believe that we were somehow making them late.

We don’t expect much from Chinatown bus companies or their competitors aside from a seat, but apparently even that is too much to ask for sometimes.

Megabus megasucks; just take NJ Transit or Chinatown buses [QuizMasterChris’ Trivia Pub Quiz Blog & Infoporium]
(Photo: Wikipedia)


Edit Your Comment

  1. Nick1693 says:

    For me, this is just another reason to (if possible) use Amtrak.

  2. Not Alvis says:

    Amtrak costs an order of magnitude more.

  3. Nakko says:

    What a scam. This is just like how taxi drivers won’t take you somewhere “too close by” if you’re not paying with cash, notwithstanding signs on the interior of the cab saying that customers must be free to pay with whatever the cab accepts.

    I bet it’s similar: the bus driver wouldn’t be receiving cash in-hand from this passenger, so it wasn’t worth his trouble. The driver didn’t consider these people to even be his passengers. Shameful behavior.

  4. mgy says:

    I’ve never been a big fan of the bus companies in the United States. It’s always way too expensive for shoddy service and a dubious schedule. Not to mention that here in the midwest they usually pick up and drop off in the worst parts of a town.

    It’s interesting, then, when I travel to a place like Morocco, where they have the most efficient, clean, and all around enjoyable bus service I’ve ever encountered. All for a few bucks a trip.

    The US has got to get its shit together when it comes to public transport.

  5. TheJinManCan says:

    That’s why, when it comes to traveling, if it straight up doesn’t say, “CLICKING HERE WILL PURCHASE YOU YOUR TICKETS“, I just generally stay away.

    Not saying that Megabus isn’t in the wrong, cuz that’s total bullcrap what they did, anyway. I’m just saying that’s my usual rule when searching, myself.

  6. Triborough says:

    I have heard some good things about their competitor Bolt Bus. Still I’d take a NJ Transit train since you don’t have to deal with the Turnpike.

  7. TomCruisesTesticles says:

    What is standby, anyway. Greyhound, Megabus, et al I thought were always first come, first served. What a douchebag driver. Seriously, not only a driver who actually cares about who gets on his bus, but who goes out of his way to see to it that the guy doesn’t get on

  8. Fly Girl says:

    I was a little confused by this post, but it made more sense after I read the OP’s blog… But I still don’t quite get why the part about the phone number text message was included– I don’t think that has anything to do with Megabus…

    I just called the 877 number listed on the website and it worked just fine– 877-GO2-MEGA (877-462-6342). It sounds like the OP called one of those free-411 numbers and they tried to sell him a membership via text– check out the website that the text sent him to. [] That’s obviously a scam, but not a scam related to Megabus.

    It sounds like Megabus lost his reservation, which he obviously paid for/made several weeks in advance. It also sounds like he either had a new or just plain crappy driver, a driver who didn’t feel like making a simple phone call to verify the booking or to clear up the confusion. That’s unfortunate, because it was completely unnecessary bad PR. (Although, the dispatcher did attempt to make amends by getting them the shuttle and having them hold the bus…)

    That driver needs to be disciplined, retrained, or just plain fired. And Megabus needs to serve the West Coast… $13.00 for a round trip ticket?! That’s in-freakin’- credible! Philly to NYC is just about double the distance as Seattle to PDX, and I couldn’t get there for that cheap if I begged-borrowed-and/or stole. Seattle to Portland Amtrak is about $50.00 for the round trip and that’s for the cheapest fare WITH a student discount.

    I want cheap transportation options!!!

  9. Jonbo298 says:

    @mgy: So true on the dropoff point here in Omaha. It’s in a seedier part of town and it boggles me as to why they chose that area.

  10. Desk_hack says:

    @Fly Girl: They used to have service on the West Coast. I live in LA and I was looking into taking them to SF not too long ago, but it looks like they disbanded the routes out here. A shame.

  11. sjmoreau says:

    I actually took the Megabus from Chicago to Minneapolis round-trip 20+ times. Most of my trips were fine except my girlfriend always had problems. There are two stops in Minneapolis and two separate times the Drivers didn’t even stop at the campus of the University of Minnesota to pick people up. When she called the 800 number, she was told the Driver claimed to have stopped at both stops but clearly he hadn’t. No refund, no apology, just standby on the next bus.

  12. Baronzemo says:

    Fly Girl; And Megabus needs to serve the West Coast.
    Desk_hack, I think the major prob is people couldn’t find them tucked behind Union Station…

  13. Fly Girl says:

    @Baronzemo: Sad!!! If they ever made it up to the PacNW, I’d be a customer!!!

  14. koreanforrabbit says:

    I have to give Megabus props. When I was living in Chicago, my fiance lived in Indianapolis, so I took the Megabus to visit him about twice a month for half a year. I never had any trouble booking a ticket (which usually cost between $13 and $15 each way) or finding a seat, and the buses ran right on schedule. The only time we had a serious delay was on one trip when the bus I was on broke down. Megabus quickly contacted a small company local to the area of the mishap, who picked us up and took us to our destination; when I contacted the Megabus customer service department to discuss the trouble we had, they gave me a refund for the full price of the ticket, no questions asked. I still recommend them to friends in the Midwest, and was bummed to find out they don’t offer service on the east coast.

  15. CRSpartan01 says:

    I love this company.

  16. Meathamper says:

    He might as well just walk to his destination….

  17. sicknick says:

    I used Megabus once to go from Detroit to Chicago, and basically, will never do again. There are two stops in Detroit, and we took the Grand Circus Park, near the stadiums, as our stop. No office, or anything, just a sign saying “Megabus!” on the side of the road. We were running late, and I rushed to get down there, park and hurry to what should have been a bus waiting for us. No bus. 2 hours later, we finally get a bus which tells us “I’m not your driver, I have to go to the hotel and pick up your driver.” This was 5 minutes after I got through to the 800 line only to be told that our bus broke down and was still 2 hours away. (yes, very confusing.) In addition, at Friday, 4 o clock Chicago time where the office was, it took almost a half hour of hold time to even get someone on the phone.

    A bus trip that was supposed to be leaving around 3 in the afternoon Detroit time, ended up leaving after 5 o clock. We just stood there, waiting, wondering. One guy missed his connection in Chicago and just aborted the entire trip.

    Halfway through the outgoing trip, the driver stops, tells us he is giving us a half hour to get food. I’m sitting in a truck stop, having checked my cell phone as we left, and knowing I had another 5 minutes or so, when a girl who was sitting next to us comes up and says “We had already left. I told the driver you weren’t on the bus.” and we hurry out. I told the driver he had said a half hour and he replies “That WAS a half hour. Go sit down.”

    On the way back, Sunday, the bus was again late by about a hour. We got into Detroit late, and the our return bus driver is in the back tossing bags off the bus. I’m waiting till it thins out, and she’s half thrown my duffel down the small flight fo stairs to the storage area (we had one of the newer double decker busses Megabus has with a small cargo area in the bottom rear) and she’s SHRIEKING “Who’s bag is this! Who’s bag is this! Come get your bag!” so I have to push my way through about 10 other people to get my large duffel and haul it away.

    It was horrible. Lack of communication was the worst part, but simply not sticking to the itinerary was worse for me. I can’t remember the Coach (Coach USA, perhaps?) company that handles them between Chicago and Detroit, but I was told by a few people heading back to call THEM directly next time. You end up paying around 10 bucks more per leg, but they run on time.

  18. skadoo323 says:

    Feel bad for the OP, but I have used Megabus dozens of times and have not had any issues. Their stops may seem a bit sketchy, but the ones I have been to have been in well lit areas where there is a decent crowd of people. Plus for the price you can’t complain. The service I received has been great and their buses are really nice. Their buses offer on board wifi, which is pretty cool. Recently it was interesting to see that Megasbus has double decker buses part of their fleet to accommodate routes with an increased amount of reservations.

    Maybe because of OP’s experience they started added double decker buses?

  19. itsmequinn says:

    I’d like to know whether the OP had a ticket for that specific date and time or for an earlier or later bus. Megabus, unlike most companies is supposed to operate ont he basis of reserved seating for particular times rather than just first come first served. That’s not to say people haven’t been burnt by bus drivers who allowed passengers from earlier times who missed their buses to get on a later bus that was already sold out. However, it sounds to me like the OP has a sad story or missed an earlier bus and assumed that Megabus worked like every other bus company.

  20. DeafChick says:

    @OP: Take the Chinatown or Vamoose.

    They have extra buses on standby if the bus is full and far more reliable. The fare is $20-$25 dollars but worth it.

  21. HogwartsAlum says:


    So true. I rode Greyhound to LA from Santa Cruz and back to go to a convention and they would have left me off in Salinas ALONE, at a CLOSED, LOCKED bus station in the middle of the night, in gang territory!!!!

    I got back on the bus and went to San Jose. The next morning I caught the bus back to SC.

  22. quizmasterchris says:

    @ itsmequinn:

    I’m the OP. Did you read the OP? We had a reservation for that time and place. We did NOT miss anything, NOTHING here was our fault.

    I assume “reservation” means “reservation.”

    I will reiterate for others that you CAN “complain for the price” if the company provides you with no services whatever after taking your money. Had we not been allowed on and decided that the 4 of us would go up together via another route, Megabus would have taken $52 from us in exchange for screwing our entire day. I can’t imagine what getting a refund would be like.

    Why do people hang out at a website called “The Consumerist” to groundlessly attack the consumer at every available opportunity..?

  23. skadoo323 says:

    In such a case if a credit card is used for payment (I think Megabus only accepts credit card payments) can a dispute be requested?

  24. m.ravian says:

    philly to nyc is $20 roundtrip on the chinatown bus last time i checked…and greyhound has lowered their fares to compete. i’ve gotten on the chinatown bus on 11th between Filbert and Arch (though i’ve heard this one has since closed…can anyone confirm? i don’t live in Philly anymore), and never had a reservation. just bought a roundtrip ticket and climbed right on, in some cases, mere minutes before the bus pulled away. i’d highly recommend them.

  25. wooott says:

    Feel bad for the OP, but I have used Megabus dozens of times and have not had any issues. Their stops may seem a bit sketchy, but the ones I have been to have been in well lit areas where there is a decent crowd of people. Plus for the price you can’t complain. The service I received has been great and their buses are really nice. Their buses offer on board wifi, which is pretty cool. Recently it was interesting to see that Megabus has double decker buses part of their fleet to accommodate routes with an increased amount of reservations.

    Maybe because of OP’s experience they started added double decker buses?