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UPDATED AT END
It happened one hot, sunny Bank Holiday Sunday. I had a mission and there would be no rest until it had been completed. I sat back in my chair and took another sip of coffee, all the while looking warily at the screen of my PC.
Now, don't get me wrong, I've had missions before, the most notable being little brother's innocent request that I pick him up 128Mb Ram and a leather reclining chair! That however, is another story for another time. For now, I had to do something much, much worse: I had to book coach tickets................ONLINE!
It would be my first online transaction and I was scared.
The MSN search engine gave various choices but I plumped for National Express as I have travelled with them before and found their services wholly reliable. With nerves jangling I clicked on the link and within a minute their site had fully loaded. So far so good, I thought.
A quick glance at the available options confirmed that booking on line was possible and I was about to bite the bullet and do just that when something interesting caught my eye. You see, I'm a sucker for freebies and here, much to my surprise, was something free. All I had to do was register with National Express and I would be signed up with Argos Premier Points. For every £5.00 spent with National Express I could get 50 Premier Points and these can be saved for money off at Argos. In less than a minute I was the proud owner of a 16 digit Argos Premier Points Account and my day was made. So far, so better.
I looked at my coffee cup and saw it was empty. I knew I could put this off no longer and with some trepidation I clicked the box that said, believe it or not, BOOK ONLINE. Then the questions began.
First things first: When do you want to go, from where do you wish to travel and where would you like to end up? This wasn't even a challenge, even for a virgin online booker like myself. I quickly typed in 3rd August, Glasgow and London Victoria, in that order and on pressing enter I was taken to another screen giving details of 8 possible times for both outward and return journeys. The information given was clearly presented and easy to understand and before you could say "peas" I had picked the journeys I wanted and was clicking enter with abandon. Within 20 seconds I was taken to the next screen where it was possible to amend mistakes etc but I didn't have to as I was now an expert in online booking. I simply approved the price of my trip and went to the next screen to enter my payment details.
I could have paid by either credit card or Switch and I chose to use the latter. The entries were easy to make, the layout of the screen being easy to understand, and I chose to have the tickets delivered by 1st Class mail. I then pressed enter for the final time and waited for the booking to be processed.
As this was happening I was advised that this may take a few minutes and in the meantime the server may time me out. I was about to worry about this when the message on the screen told me not to as I would get a confirmation email if the booking was confirmed. I didn't worry. Then I was told (in huge red letters to boot) that I should resist the temptation to refresh the screen as this would result in a double booking. I resisted.
So, how did my mission end? Well, I got my confirmation on screen and by email within 2 minutes or so and I wasn't timed out! The cost for 2 adults was only £56.00 return and this compares well with other companies and very favourably with the railways. All in all my mission was a success and so impressed was I with this online malarkey that I was soon onto the Haburi shopping site looking at the bargains to be had in Calvin Klein underwear! As they say, that's another story for another time. In the meantime I await the arrival of my tickets. I'll let you know when they arrive and if they don't.
It was 9th May, 3 days after booking. Tickets arrived on schedule. All dates correct. What can I say, I'm impressed!!!