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Touts get the better of travellers at KL Sentral

19 May, 2008

GOOD service is the key to a successful business. However, bus touts operating at the KL Sentral Bus Terminal may have taken their jobs a little too seriously to the extent that their services border on harassment.

Y.S Tan, who was on her way to the Low-Cost Carrier Terminal (LCCT) on Sunday morning, said she was harassed by a group of touts offering tickets for both the Skybus and Aerobus services.

Touts get the better of travellers at KL Sentral
Cash transaction: There are no ticket counters.

"I was coming down the escalator with my luggage and, before I could catch my breath, a group of men wearing red and yellow t-shirts got in my way and one of them rudely grabbed my bag.

"They were literally shouting into my face to go with them. It was annoying and a little scary," she said.

Tan is not alone, as over the past few months, StarMetro had received numerous complaints from the public regarding the boisterous touts operating at KL Sentral terminal.

A Star reader, Melinda Yong, had recently written about her unpleasant experiences at KL Sentral during the Labour Day holiday.

She said: "As we were going down the stairs with our hand luggage, we were 'welcomed' by a group of men in yellow t-shirts cajoling us to board their bus.

"They offered us a cheaper fare of RM8.

"However, before we could make up our mind, one guy had already grabbed my husband's bag and put it inside the bus!"

Yong had written that she was told that the bus would depart at 7am.

However, according to Yong, the bus did not depart at the scheduled time and she and her husband had to wait another 20 minutes for the bus to be filled.

Touts get the better of travellers at KL Sentral
Waiting game

On top of that, it took slightly more than an hour to reach the LCCT as it made a detour to drop off some passengers.

Commuters at KL Sentral have complained of being harassed by touts all the time and some even fear for their lives.

StarMetro visited the area recently and witnessed the situation.

It was obvious that both the Skybus (red buses) and Aerobus (yellow buses) had to resort to some aggressive marketing strategies to attract passengers as they both operate at the same spot with the same schedule.

Apart from shouting and screaming, they have also left passengers fuming when they grab luggage and haul it aboard their buses.

Some were even spotted blocking the exit of the escalator, trying to get customers and causing congestion in the process.

K. Selvi said anyone carrying a big bag would be approached and it was annoying.

"We are not shouting or disturbing anyone," a Skybus staff member, who identified himself as Yogeswaran, countered.

"We are informing and educating – it's very loud here so we have to be a bit loud," he added.

However, it seemed obvious that he was shouting to drown out the yelling of his competitors.

An Aerobus staff member reiterated that they were only informing customers about the schedule and were not harassing anyone.

"We have to work harder to convince people. They think we are not the official bus because we don't carry the AirAsia logo," he said.

Both companies, however, insisted that they departed on time and were always on schedule.

They said each had a boundary and they were not allowed to go beyond the boundary.

Touts get the better of travellers at KL Sentral
Come aboard: The public being greeted by Skybys employees near the escalator.

However, the minute the photographer was out of sight, the touts were back in action and were seen crowding the escalator area again.

Skybus Ventures Sdn Bhd owner Chris Thiagarajah, who operates the red Skybuses, believes in letting the customers do the choosing.

"We do not pay our staff any special incentives for bringing in customers because we tried that before and it did not work.

"We are a service provider and since we are the official bus operator for AirAsia, we have a reputation to maintain," he said.

Aerobus operator Mohd Faiz Ng Abdullah said he would prefer it if there were only one ticketing agent operating both the buses and was also agreeable to the concept of letting the customers decide.

"We only shout if they (Skybus staff members) shout," Faiz added.

Both operators, however, denied that their employees were aggressive and rude.

Meanwhile, Semasa Sentral Sdn Bhd operations manager Hazman Zulkipli said the station would be stationing at least two enforcement officers at the site to monitor the situation.

"It is the operators' responsibility to monitor their staff. We merely come up with the rules and regulations," he said, adding that Sentral is planning on drawing a boundary line between the escalator and the location where the buses are parked.

"There has to be about 20ft gap where the touts are not allowed to encroach.

"Only two employees from the bus company would be allowed to be stationed at the spot.

"We don't want a situation where there are too many people hanging around," Hazman said, adding that those who break the rules would be given a warning and if they continue to do so, would be fined and barred from working there.

This article is a verbatim copy of the original article from The Star.

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