I’m Frustrated, anxious, confused, upset

Illegitimate Fine/ Need Reimbursement

Hello there,

I really need help with my situation. Today, while on the train from Renne to St. Malo in France, my France Rail Pass flex I was confiscated under wrongful assumptions, and I was fined $270.00 under document falsification charges. There has obviously been a misunderstanding, as I have never in my life maintained fraudulent intent; yet I have spent the past few hours trying to communicate my situation and no one will listen to me. I need a reimbursement, and the reinstatement of my pass which I rightfully bought as soon as possible.

It starts here: I bought my France rail pass Flexi on the 25 of April, 2016 for $314.00. Being an American, however, and unfamiliar with the train system in its entirety, did not understand what was supposed to happen in order to validate and continue on my journey. So when I activated the pass by buying a reservation from Paris to Besançon, I assumed it would just work from there. I got on the train, the conductor helped me fill it out, but didn't say anything otherwise. So it was activated on the 7th of May, 2016, the end date was written by a different conductor, and I myself filled out the passport number. And everything was fine. Or so I thought.

When I got off the train from Besançon to Saint-Vit, my ticket got caught in my backpack strap, and ripped right down the middle. What was I supposed to do, other than tape it back together? I taped it together, and in the process laminated the entire thing so it wouldn't happen again. No one told me it was illegal, not until after the fact. At that point, I couldn't take it all off; it would most certainly rip if I did.

So I continued. Each time on the train, I had similar problems; the conductors all looked skeptically at the pass, but no one said anything. Some punched holes in the dates to signify their use, others stamped the validation spot again and again. It was never consistent, and no one ever told me that it was a big problem. I kept a log on the back of the adjacent ticket, understanding of their skepticism. I assure you, however, I have no desire to take advantage of the system, nor did I ever. All I want is to travel as a 19 year old American tourist for 15 travel days in 2 months. That's it.

On the train from Agen to Bordeaux, on the 24th of May, the conductor told me to take the tape off. Taking his advice, I used my pocket knife to slit the tape, gently peeling the strip off the areas where I would need to write, front and back. Using my log, I rewrote the dates under the conductor's jurisdiction, and he said it was good. He gave me the go ahead. I thought, maybe finally the conductors won't be so skeptical; maybe I won't have to be embarrassed anymore! The rail pass, from what I understood, was activated and valid for continuation.

I was wrong, as is evidenced by today's events. The conductor looked at my pass, looked at my passport, took my pass, returned my passport and disappeared with another conductor to another car. When he returned, he said he had called the police and that I was to be arrested in Saint Malo for fraudulent activity and falsification of documents. Of course, I was panicked! I tried in the best French I could muster, there has to be a misunderstanding! I promise the dates are correct, I haven't done anything wrong! He said that if I paid, I wouldn't be arrested, and that if I went through the trouble I would be reimbursed.

So I paid, then proceeded to spend the next two hours defending my case translating across two languages and to several people. They have not listened, at this point; my Rail Pass remains in their hands, and I have not been reimbursed, even though I HAVE DONE NOTHING WRONG. There has been a miscommunication, a vast one, amidst the employees of the train system, and as a consequence I have paid extensively for it.

I went to the Police Station to report the theft of my rail pass; the confiscation was illegitimate, and I have all evidence to support that. They listened to me, and tomorrow morning I will be approaching the train station once again with the presence of an official.

Please help me! I am innocent of all I have been charged with, and I have the evidence to support it. I have the bank records that prove I bought the pass; I have my trip records showing when and where I traveled, and they all match up with the dates listed on the pass. The only thing I do not have is the name of the conductor who encouraged and supervised my taking the tape off. Even so, I believe your extensive systems may maintain that information if needed. Regardless, he will portray the same information I have given you today, and the information I have given to the conductors and railway officials at the Gare de Saint Malo, France.

I'm not a fraud. I'm a 19 year old American tourist in a foreign country who has been illegitimately accused of falsification of documents.

I thank you in advance, and please accept the expression of my most respectful sentiments.

Lórien MacEnulty
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  • Jeff (Official Rep) June 01, 2016 21:30
    Hi Lórien,

    We’re so sorry to hear this happened to you. We are a company based in North America, separate from the actual rail networks themselves. All I’d be able to recommend is for you to do exactly what you’ve already done and communicate your situation to the local authorities. If your order was placed through us and you need a receipt for proof-of-purchase, please let us know. We can be reached at 1-800-622-8600 or 1-847-916-1028. However, it very well may be determined that the conductor was within his rights. The General Conditions for European Rail Passes, as included in the Rail Europe issued pass cover/ticket jacket, does state, "Tampering or altering a pass, as well as use by a person other than the one for whom it was issued, invalidates the pass and authorizes control staff to confiscate the pass and to demand payment of the full fare plus a fine, both payable in local currency".

    Since we are a seller based in North America, I’m sorry to say that we would not have the name of the conductor. For that, you would have to inquire locally at the station itself and let them know the train you were on when this occurred.
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  • Thank you for replying to my commentary so quickly.

    I thank you as well for your extended offer of proof-of-purchase, and accept the offer. I will call as soon as I have the ability to receive this information concretely or in digital form.

    In reference to the name of the conductor under whose advisement I alleviated the tape, there have been advancements on that front. After much frustrating conversation, the woman at the Gare de Saint Malo and myself found him and his name, however he is currently on holiday and will not return until the 14 of July. As it stands, however, the information he will be able to portray is merely verification of the truth I am telling you now: the dates are correct. I have not committed any crime.

    As far as the information conveyed on the ticket jacket, I know full well the terms and conditions that were laid out for me in the contract; I myself accepted them upon purchase. However, as I understood before and presently understand, the qualifications for what can be considered a tampered or altered pass are not written in any place available to me, nor were these conditions laid out for me when I bought the pass. In essence, I was never told that I could not tape/laminate the pass so as to prevent it being ripped in the future. As a result, my actions in this matter, in reference particularly to the lamination of the pass, and the alleviation of the tape to allow for permanent marking of each date (under advisement and supervision of a SNCF employee, nonetheless) were completely logical, and in my mind, legal. Therefore, what else is to be concluded, other than I have been illegitimately charged of a crime I did not commit, and deprived of property that I rightfully paid for?

    It comes to this; I still have not committed the crime. The officer confiscated the pass, and fined me $270.00 under suspicion of document falsification, mere suspicion. Upon charge, I presented concrete evidence (I.e., bank statements, emails, online itinerary, etc.) to pacify the suspicion, and openly display that I did not, indeed, falsify the documents in question. I traveled on all of the prescribed dates, kept an adjacent log of the dates to compensate for the permeability of the tape, all under the assumption that what I was doing was still legal and valid, having not been explicitly told otherwise. The employees of the SNCF that I was given access to refused to look at any evidence, nor take the matter to higher authorities, ridiculing me in front of several people, even to the extent where they refused to talk or respond to me.

    Despite all of this, however, I feel the need to reiterate: I did not falsify the documents. I have not committed any crime. And I can prove it.

    This is why I ask for compensation.

    Thank you for your time, Jeff. I pray that you accept the expression of my most respectful sentiments.
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