RecentlyI had a group of four come in off the 5 p.m. Trailways bus from Indianapolis, booked to Lincoln, Illinois on the 7:29 p.m. train. A woman from the party asked if there was an earlier train. I told her yes, but that the fare would be higher. They opted to wait for the later train. About half an hour later, she came back, saying she had told the reservation agent she wanted to go to Lincoln, Nebraska. It was one of the busiest times of the day, but it was Friday and there were two of us working the ticket counter. I called the Passenger Services desk in Chicago and talked to a supervisor, who agreed to put the group up in a hotel at Amtrak's expense. I gave them a Conductor Carry notice, which allowed them to ride the 6:11 p.m. train to Chicago. After the train left, I rebooked their reservation from Chicago to Lincoln, Nebraska for the next day, and back from there to Indianapolis, and then priced it for the remaining value of their tickets.
Amtrak got them to the right Lincoln, but it would have been a lot easier if the reservation agent in Riverside, California had booked them to LNK instead of LCN. And it amazes me that the agent didn't wonder how a train could get from Normal, IL to Lincoln, NE in 30 minutes.
It's a given that millions of Americans are geographically illiterate. You have to work in the transportation business to find out just how ignorant some of us are--including some of us in the travel industry. When I worked for CIT Tours, the travel office of the Italian State Railways, a travel agent asked for oceanfront rooms in Paris and Rome. Regularly, people wanted to take a train from Italy to France. Asked what cities in Italy and France they wanted to travel from and to, such people were clueless.
Of course, the vast majority of Amtrak reservation agents know the difference between LCN and LNK, or LSV (Las Vegas, NM), LVS (Downtown Las Vegas, NV), and LAS (Las Vegas, NV Airport). But with Internet bookings, there are a lot more errors. While the station I work at is in Normal, IL (subject of endless jokes), it's actually called Bloomington-Normal (BNL). So about twice a year, someone shows up looking for Indiana University at Bloomington.
And just down the track from Bloomington and Lincoln is Springfield. It's no accident that the Simpsons live in Springfield. There's one in nearly every state. Perhaps because of the Simpsons, the Springfield, IL station rarely gets people looking for Massachusetts. On the other hand, I've fixed several reservations booked from Pontiac MI (PNT) instead of Pontiac, IL (PON).
I'm hoping to transfer out of BNL soon, to South Bend, IN. It's the only South Bend in the system. And the Amtrak city code is unforgettable: SOB.