Metro-North Train Conductor Says 'I'm Sorry' -- 500 Times

Railroad doesn't 'condone' his method of apology

WVIT-TV
Ever been on a train in the northeast? If so, you're probably reconciled to delays, mistakes, misinformation, and a lack of concern. But not on Michael Shaw's train. The 48-year-old Metro-North Railroad conductor takes his job seriously. So seriously that when he inadvertently told people on each of four platforms to wait for a roomy express train that never came, he felt terrible.

Shaw wanted to apologize, according to the New York Times. So he printed 500 copies of a page-long letter and left one on each seat of his train on Monday morning.

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Train Conductor Writes 500 Apology Letters to Commuters







"I was like, 'Guys, just wait. Wait for the next train,'" Shaw told WVIT-TV in an interview. "'Trust me. It's coming right behind us, it's got eight cars. I saw them leaving. They're right behind us.' And then they're all like, 'OK, Mike. Have a good weekend. See you on Monday.'"

He thought he had just done the roughly 100 Connecticut passengers at each of the New Haven, West Haven, Milford, and Stratford platforms a favor. Why get packed into a train when you could ride with some room and only be a few minutes off your schedule? Only the train got cancelled without his knowing it. Another train didn't arrive for 30 minutes, enough to start playing havoc with people's plans.

"I felt like I actually lied to them because I told them the train was right behind us and then I found out later it was actually cancelled," Shaw told WVIT. "It was my fault for not finding out the proper information and getting it to them, so I felt responsible for doing that to them."

Over the weekend, he wrote a letter that, according to the Times, said in part:

I made a huge mistake in telling you, MY/OUR passengers to 'trust me and wait for the express train behind us,' not knowing Metro-North had canceled it.

He then made 500 copies and left one on each seat. (At least one Twitter user posted a picture of a copy.) According to some interviews WVIT did with passengers, his gesture was appreciated and well received.

Well, maybe not universally. Apparently the train line didn't particularly like his action, according to part of a statement reported by the New York Times:

Conductor Mike Shaw is one of the many Metro-North Railroad employees who care deeply about our customers. His open letter expresses the same frustration that customers and employees alike feel about the railroad's recent challenges. While we share his concerns, we do not condone his methods of communicating them.

A spokesperson for the railroad told passengers to depend on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority website for the latest schedule information, not on a conductor.

According to the Times, Metro-North said that it didn't receive a single customer complaint about the letter. Otherwise, things have been rocky. The rail saw a collision and a derailment last year, leading to extra inspections that caused delays. In 2013, Metro-North allegedly had its worst on-time performance since 1990. According to WVIT, commuters have recently complained about crowded cars, and last month a problem left 200 Westport passengers waiting for two hours in 10-degree weather.

It turned out that there was also one more apology left for Shaw. On the Monday 6:52 a.m., he got on the public address system as the train approached Grand Central and apologized -- for a spelling mistake in his letter.


Erik Sherman

Erik Sherman

Contributor

Erik Sherman has written for the Wall Street Journal, Inc, Newsweek, the New York Times Magazine, and other publications. He's a regular contributor to CBS MoneyWatch and Inc.com. Follow him on Twitter at @ErikSherman.

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16 Comments

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jmc35124

Imagine "Metro North Management" making an effort to communicate with their employee who appears to care about the lines passengers.

February 26 2014 at 5:22 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
paxrail

Typical railroad management response to a positive, customer oriented action on the part of a dedicated employee. Most railroad management types have never worked on a passenger train with real, live passengers face to face.

February 26 2014 at 2:52 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
RouteUS66Busload

We're all humans even with the high technology, to error is human. I'm a quick and perfectionists in business, and it's been going good all my life, I give Jesus Christ the credit. 3 recent times I couldn't find an item like a needle in a hay shack, I prayed, "Jesus please help me to find that particular item," then a picture popped up in my head the exact location each time, found them right on target. If I sinned then this gift disappears till I ask for forgiveness and get back on my feet with the Lord and the gift comes back. Watch Joel Osteen TV Ministries on Cable TV if you have any needs to get to knowing Jesus Christ. May Gold Bless you all folks & Goodnight.

February 26 2014 at 2:36 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Joe

It's better than no apology at all... which is what a lot of people would have done. The guy obviously carea about his passengers and the quality of service that he gives to them. MTA is annoyed because he pointed out that they cancelled the train that he recommended. They would have preferred that he said nothing about that.

February 26 2014 at 2:08 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Jim & Jillri

If the man cares, why isn't this commendable? If cooperate office is doctrinally bound and not doctrinally sound, then they lose. Demonstrate one manual that has common sense articulated in it, and I'll show you a unicorn. Don't put people in a decision making authority position just to be set up to fail. A man that has the authority given by higher, to drive around the population at will to promote commerce, and protect all passenger safety, then stand by the man or woman because you have empowered a person (Metropolitan Transportation Authority); now stand up for your employees and give the man a raise, or a bonus. Don't make judgements from the throne unless you understand the battlefield.

February 26 2014 at 1:34 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Brian Workman

Good For Him! Give Him A Raise!

February 26 2014 at 12:44 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
Tannalo

Why are they referred to as "customers"? Passenger trains carry "passengers". Seems like they are being downgraded.

February 26 2014 at 12:28 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
cjcfleur

OMG Everyone in corporate is so afraid of lawyers that they really did not know what to do with an employee that was openly taking responsibility. That letter in the hands of some tired and angry passenger who missed the boat because he missed the meeting becaused he missed the train could cost the CEO a pretty penny if........and so goes the world as it is today. :(

February 26 2014 at 12:10 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
DOUG

As always, no good deed goes unpunished. Be a dick to folks and all is fine, be nice and get screwed. There;s your life lesson for the day folks.

February 26 2014 at 12:09 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
Joebudgie

The Metro-North Railroad officially said "While we share his concerns, we do not condone his methods of communicating them." A spokesperson for the railroad told passengers to depend on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority website for the latest schedule information, not on a conductor. And why didn't they convey the change of schedule to their conductors? P-poor operation. Is every passenger of every train supposed to check the web site before leaving their home or office? Hmm. Is this a 21st century operation or something out of the 1400's? I say they should apologize to the conductor and give him a raise and a promotion for caring more about his customers and the companies reputation than management does.

February 25 2014 at 10:32 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

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