Today the SEPTA token booth “non-worker” couldn’t tell when the next southbound Broad Street Spur would come. I asked, “do you know if there are scheduled times or do they come every so many minutes or just when they come?” She got all loud and responded, “now how would I know that?” It actually made me laugh out loud! I didn’t bother to reply, “because you are [the one] inside the token booth!”
The non-token booth is possibly the most aggravating aspect of being a Subway or El rider; a person is required to accept cash fares and to sell and accept paper transfers, but does not sell tokens or any other fare instruments, nor do they seem to be able to tell the confused rider the most basic information. This seems to be a setup for frustration and crushed hopes. The most visible of all SEPTA frontline employees, and the most findable, can not help with the most basic of customer service tasks. No wonder that local message board regulars have dubbed them “booth trolls”, whether that is for their resemblance to mythic creatures or internet pranksters. Rev. Caine probably has a leg up on the average harried commuter or confused tourist in terms of ability to retain equanimity in such trying circumstances.
This raises the question: whither the booth workers, come the Fall and NPT? With NPT bringing fare vending machines to every Subway and El station, and the end of paper transfers, the booth troll may be an endangered species; they will have no functions left to do. Such is the price of progress. Hopefully, if SEPTA allows the booth workers an opportunity to transfer to other jobs in the agency, they won’t be customer-facing, unless intensive customer service retraining is required.