BRITISH COLUMBIA

Man's BC Ferries Facebook Rant Forces Company To Respond

11/14/2014 05:41 EST | Updated 11/14/2014 05:59 EST
CP

A B.C. man's Facebook rant about BC Ferries has caught the attention of the company and sparked discussion surrounding its costs and customer service.

Sean Smith posted an open letter to BC Ferries on Monday, outlining his ideas for how the company could save money. Commuters were upset last week with the news that BC Ferries may axe its Horseshoe Bay-Nanaimo route, diverting passenger to Tsawassen.

B.C.'s transportation minister has since backtracked on the idea, but BC Ferries CEO Mike Corrigan said keeping the route may mean fare hikes. So Smith decided to detail other money-saving suggestions.

"You are not a cruise ship line. You are a bus," Smith, from Campbell River, writes in his post. "You need a news stand, not a gift shop. You need a cafeteria, not a restaurant. You don't need slot machines, you need good WiFi and some big screen TV's [sic]."

He reminds the company that they don't need to spend so much on advertising because "people really are smart enough to figure out that if there isn't a bridge or a tunnel to the Islands, then they will have to take a ferry or a plane."

Smith's status has since been shared over 7,000 times and 10,000 likes. The large social response prompted BC Ferries to issue a response to Sean on its own Facebook page.

"We understand that fare affordability is a big concern for our customers and always look for ways to keep costs down. Some would like us to provide a 'bare bones' operation, while others appreciate the comforts available," says the status, posted to Facebook.

"Reality is... the income generated through our gift shops, food outlets, vacation packages and commercial services work to release the upward pressure on future fare increases and align with our effort to keep travel on BC Ferries affordable."

Do you agree with Smith? Let us know in the comments below.

Read Smith's full post:

Dear BC Ferries.

I know that you are having a hard time trying to figure out ways to save money. Please, let me help you.

1. You are not a cruise ship line. You are a bus.

2. You are not a travel agency. You are the travel method.

3. You do not need to advertise. You are the ONLY alternative.

So, with these three things in mind, please consider the following. You need a news stand, not a gift shop. You need a cafeteria, not a restaurant. You don't need slot machines, you need good WiFi and some big screen TV's. You don't need a "marketing department", you need a full on Social Media and Customers Service department. You don't need a fancy travel office or vacation planning department, you need plan to keep the actual travel agents informed of what is happening with your ferry service.

I shouldn't see the BC Ferries logo on the boards at Rogers Arena during a Canucks game, or on a TV commercial. Believe it or not, people really are smart enough to figure out that if there isn't a bridge or a tunnel to the Islands, then they will have to take a ferry or a plane.....and you can't get your car into your carry on luggage.

See. I just saved you millions upon millions of dollars.

You're welcome.

Read BC Ferries' full response:

Sean, your 3 suggestions are definitely good conversation starters. However, as you know from our personal conversation a few years ago, perception of BC Ferries is not always a reality.

We understand that fare affordability is a big concern for our customers and always look for ways to keep costs down. Some would like us to provide a 'bare bones' operation, while others appreciate the comforts available. Some are upset that we offer Wi-Fi at all (complimentary service available at Swartz Bay, Tsawwassen, Horseshoe Bay, Departure Bay, Duke Point and Langdale terminals as well as onboard select vessels operating these routes), others would like us to expand this service. Reality is... the income generated through our gift shops, food outlets, vacation packages and commercial services work to release the upward pressure on future fare increases and align with our effort to keep travel on BC Ferries affordable. Transport Canada dictates the required number of onboard crew. They are highly trained to operate the vessel in a safe manner and to evacuate the vessel in the unlikely event of an emergency. While safety is the number one priority of our onboard crew, some of them also work in the gift shops and food outlets.

A large portion of our operating expenses stems from having to fuel our fleet of 35 vessels. With over 500 sailings a day, we continuously look for ways to reduce our fuel consumption and to operate our vessels as efficiently as possible... again, with fare affordability in mind. Along those lines, we have studied the feasibility of using liquefied natural gas (LNG) and believe that a move to this fuel source would reduce costs and emissions. Our new intermediate vessels are being built with dual fuel capability and we are also analyzing LNG as an option for existing vessels undergoing major retrofits. The cable ferry project is another example of us looking for innovative ways to operate as efficiently as possible.

Our partnership with the Canucks was discontinued in 2011, however, it is important to note that advertising our vacation packages does help to attract customers who have discretion with their travel choices. These packages promote the many incredible destinations and attractions British Columbia has to offer, with BC Ferries providing the link here on the west coast.

Second to Safety, we strive to provide exceptional customer service. Information on current conditions including traffic at the terminals, parking, webcams, vessel tracking, service notices, etc. is available on our website at http://www.bcferries.com/current_conditions/ and alternately, customers are welcome to call our customer service centre via 1-888-223-3779, 7am – 8pm Monday to Friday and 8am – 6pm on weekends, or reach out through our Social Media channels during the same hours.

You can find additional facts and financials to support that mentioned in our Annual Reports or please feel free to call me directly.

Many feel they have all the answers. Not to discredit Sean's 'rant', but he has not said anything that has not been said before. Know that we listen and value customer feedback, but BC Ferries is a complicated business. There are many misconceptions out there and we will continue to work to educate the public on the realities of our business.

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