A small portable booking office for Edmondson tickets
SOME PRINCIPLES FOR SETTING UP AND RUNNING A BOOKING OFFICE - the ticket has several main functions: it is a receipt for the fare and authority for the passenger to travel subject to certain conditions: it enables records to be kept of the cash received and the journeys made and it is a way of guarding against fraud.
STARTING OUT - assuming that the equipment has been obtained, that is to say suitable storage for the bulk supplies of tickets, a rack from which the tickets can be sold and a dating press, the next task is to decide the range of tickets that will be used. For a simple out and back or circular operation there will be need for Adult and Child tickets and, possibly, Family tickets - these have two advantages; if a discount is offered for a standard family of two adults and two children the family feel good about getting a discount and there is an advantage to the operator in only issuing one ticket instead of four, so saving the cost of three tickets and also making a time saving. The disadvantage is that a single adult with several children may feel aggrieved - the remedy is to offer a discount for all accompanied children with the standard child fare only charged to those under 16 who travel without an accomanying adult. So a Discount Child ticket may be needed. It is customary to offer other discounts as well; for example to those over 65, or those holding a railcard or bus pass, students, those registered disabled or in receipt of state benefits, employees or working volunteers of other railways and so on, so there may be need for a Discount Adult ticket as well, or several varieties if different levels of discount are offered. Then it is always to good to be able to offer the select few a Free Ticket. It is customary to charge for Dogs so they will need tickets and if special facilities are provided for the carriage of bicycles, push chairs, prams and so on then they also may attract a charge and therefore a ticket. Then it may be thought a good idea to issue tickets for all day travel which could immediately double the number of issues required. Special occasions may well require special tickets. All that is certain is that time goes on many more types will be needed than at first. More than one station, the option of making single or return journeys or the offer of special accommodation (First Class, Observation Saloons and the like) soon increases the number of tickets required. Almost inevitably there will be circumstances where there will not be a ticket to suit the case (for example, party bookings or rarely requested journeys for which it is not worth keeping printed tickets) and so a book of paper tickets with duplicate counterfoils will be needed.
NEXT the fares must be set and the actual tickets designed and ordered from one of the suppliers. This means that an estimate needs to be made of the numbers required as the cost and trouble of running out of tickets is far greater than the expense of having more than are required. It is now not usual for fares to be shown on the tickets themselves but on a poster or other display near the point of sale.
CONDITIONS OF ISSUE set out the conditions on which the passengers are carried. It is useful to have such a set of rules and copies can be obtained from most established operators. These can then be adapted to the local circumstances and copies kept in the office for the information of staff and passengers.
WHEN THE BULK SUPPLIES ARRIVE they must be checked and put away. A record needs to be kept of each type, the quantity supplied, the serial numbers and location. This can be done in a ledger or on a computer spreadsheet with a separate page for each set of tickets as a note will need to be made of when and how many tickets are issued to which ticket office and the number remaining in stock. This will enable an instant stock check to be made so that new supplies can be ordered in good time.
IF THE SAME KIND OF TICKET IS ISSUED TO MORE THAN ONE LOCATION it useful to use a distinct series for each location but if this is not possible and there is a break in the numerical series a "Break of Series" ticket may be used to allow the clerk to account for the missing tickets.
TICKETS ARE PLACED IN THE RACK in a logical sequence and the description of the ticket written on the label provided as shown in the picture at the head of this page. Tubes vary in height, the commonest holding just over 100 tickets, but in some very busy offices tubes holding up to 1,000 tickets were not unknown
TICKETS ARE PLACED WITH THE LOWEST NUMBER DOWN and VISIBLE. The lowest number is 0000 and this sometimes confuses poeple but it needs to be remembered that the number displayed is the number of tickets sold to date. So if 0000 is shown it means that no tickets have been sold. Do not discard this ticket or problems will be caused later.
AT THE START OF THE DAY check that there are sufficient stocks to hand for the likely usage during the day; check the date in the Dating Press; make sure the cash float is correct.
DURING THE DAY make every effort to charge the correct amount and give the correct change. A simple cash register that records the number and type of each ticket sold, the total, the cash taken and the change given and with the facility to give a receipt if requested by the passenger can be really useful. More sophisticated systems will also allow payment by credit or debit card. Otherwise a chart of the commonest combinations of tickets will prove a boon to the busy clerk. Keeping the fares simple also helps: if not using a cash register that can give discounts it is a mistake to to stick to precise percentages. Tickets are dated as they are issued. This may be on either the face or the back. If dating on the face, care needs to be taken to use the end that is not numbered.
AT THE CLOSE OF BUSINESS check the cash taken and prepare the float for the following day. If a credit/debit card machine is used the appropriate end of day procedures need to be followed and the voucher showing the day's takings added to the cash amount. The precise amount of cash taken should be banked or accounted for with any surplus or loss noted and, if possible, the reasons for it recorded. It is not good practice to keep any surplus cash back to use to make the books balance when there is a deficit as it encourages slack working and can facilitate fraud.
THE TICKET BOOK is then completed. This needs a heading showing the date and office (where there is more than one), and a line for each kind of ticket showing the Opening Number and Closing Number, the number sold, the price per ticket and the total due, with totals at the foot of the page for the number of passengers, the amount of cash due, the amount of cash taken and total cash. Every paper ticket sold will need to be recorded individually. Other records may also be kept such as the numbers of adults, children, discounts, dogs etc. These records may be kept manually but a simple computerised spreadsheet is a great benefit and can be made to carry forward to-day's Closing Number to become to-morrow's Opening Number and also allow for any break in series that may have occured, any tickets that may have been cancelled, perhaps because they have been issued in error or withdrawn from sale for some reason.
THE DATING PRESS is prepared for the next day by changing the slugs, making sure that the new slugs are placed the correct way up and in the correct order in the press: it is well to check this on a spare ticket and some offices have a special stock of blank tickets for this purpose and other times when a spacing ticket will come in handy. After doing this, check if the print ribbon needs to be re-wound. It winds from the lower reel to the upper so when there is only a little left on the lower reel it must be re-wound until there is very little on the upper reel. Careful attention to this will ensure a long life for the ribbon. Once a year or so the press should be cleaned and the moving parts oiled. The type slugs should be kept neat and tidy and replaced when worn.
THE TICKET RACK is checked and any new tickets required added from the bulk stock, not forgetting to make the appropriate entries in the stock list and being aware of the possible need to order new supplies.
CHECKING AND CLIPPING TICKETS It is important that some-one other than the person who sold the tickets does this if at all possible. Rules need to be set out and obeyed for ticket checking: these should cover when and where the checks are made (before boarding or on the train) tickets are normally clipped on the lower edge without destroying any vital information but some may be printed with special places to be clipped according to the direction of travel, time of day or suchlike. Check that every passenger has the appropriate correctly dated ticket, and, if in doubt, ask. Parents sometimes understate the age of their children to avoid paying for those who have just turned five or just become liable to pay the full fare and young adults may pretend to be even younger than they are. It is rarely a good idea to insist on payment of an excess. Quite apart from the hassle of having to do this by using the dreaded Paper Ticket Book, the extra revenue is not worth the loss of goodwill and a comment such as "You'll have to start paying for the children one day" ... or "It's quite nice to be treated like an adult rather than a child don't you think" may win the day. People can get on a train without a ticket for all kinds of reasons but in a heritage or tourist environment it is unlikely that there will be serious attempts at fraud but it is often as well to check the ID of people claiming free or cut price travel. Others may have simply not realised that their three dogs need to be paid for or that they had not left grandma at home. Make the check a pleasant experience for the passenger, giving any extra information needed, times of return trains, location of the various facilities and so on, and it can be an enjoyable part of their day.
AT REGULAR INTERVALS once a week, monthly or annually an audit of the whole system should be made be some-one not involved in day to day operations to make sure that everything is in order, to suggest any improvements and address any problems.
Subject to revision - all comments welcome.