Here in Britain, a company called TheTrainline offers train ticket booking. I'm going up to Birmingham tommorow, and so I thought I'd go online and buy my tickets from The Trainline. Simple enough.
I click through the fairly user-unfreindly interface - and find a service which I can take. I investigate further and find it goes from Marylebone, and you can't pick up your ticket from Marylebone using "FastTicket". What this means is that you simply put your card in to a machine, tap in the details which they send you by email, and your ticket gets printed out. It saves you from having to wait for them to post your ticket to you.
You can, though, pick up FastTickets from any train station on their list. Two stops from Marylebone station is Paddington. I wanted to double-check that it was possible to do so, and decided that giving The Trainline a call would be helpful.
So I click 'Contact Us'. No phone number, only email and postal address. I hop off to a whois site and look up thetrainline.com. They've got a London phone number listed for administrative and technical contact. I call it.
It tells me to call a different number. I call that number, navigate through a very complex button-punching system and get nowhere. I try again. Nothing. Then I google for phone site:thetrainline.com and get a few phone numbers I can try. One of the 0870 numbers seems to work, and I get through to someone, get the answer to my question. Then I say that it might be useful to put the phone number on the Contact Us page.
I go back to the website and finish booking my tickets. I've decided to travel Euston to New Street rather than Marylebone to Snow Hill because it's quicker and easier for a few pounds more.
Total time elapsed: about forty minutes. Sorry, but why exactly should it take forty minutes, five phone calls and a WHOIS lookup in order to book a train ticket between London, Europe's largest city, and Birmingham, Britain's second largest city?
If you want to contact someone to ask a simple question and you want it responded to quickly, the best way is to have a phone number. TheTrainline is perhaps the worst service I have ever seen, but they are pretty much the only option. Of course, when I get to Euston tommorow and the machine doesn't work or Virgin take us on a merry tour of the countryside or we've got the wrong type of rain. This shit is so thoroughly annoying...