September 28th: I order two tickets from Eurostar.com. I get the 16:05 train from Brussels to London on Oct 16th, and the 16:56 train for my return on Oct 18th.
October 6th: I decide to check some stuff and find out that the amended schedule currently in use due to the fire in September has changed to include basically all trains again - but not mine. Following directions, I mail Eurostar support with the info they need to exchange my tickets for ones on trains that are running, and get an automated reply warning me that they are experiencing high loads so I should allow for a maximum of 14 days reply time. They also ask me if I can PLEASE not call them unless it is really important because of the high loads. It's past 9pm BST, the time the line 'closes', so I decide to call tomorrow, disregarding the message.
October 7th: I call Eurostar and after no more than three minutes I have exchanged my tickets for the 14:53 train outbound and the 16:30 train inbound. Or at least that's what I'm told. Shortly after this I check the website for booking details and the times are unchanged. I send another mail asking for a confirmation of the change but am once again reminded that they will not reply soon. By this time it is again past 9 PM BST, so calling is out of the question.
October 8th: I call Eurostar again and ask for the person on the other end of the line to confirm that my tickets were exchanged. I get told that this is not the case, but I can turn up at the station regardless, as long as it's an hour before the train leaves, and I will be able to get onto the trains even though my tickets are registered to other times. This sounds awkward, so I call again, deciding that I will just ask for a ticket exchange again and pretend I didn't call about it before. I am now told that, because my tickets are non-exchangeable (translation: cheap) they cannot be exchanged by this person I am being helped by right now, and that the people with sufficient privileges to exchange these tickets work until 8 PM instead of 9 PM. (I can exchange the tickets in this case regardless of ticket type because I am forced to do so in this case, instead of choosing to do so myself.) I am asked to call again the next day. I decide to try once more but am now told that the line has closed and see the clock just passed 9pm again.
October 9th: I call for the fourth time, this time at noon (4 PM) and am put in the queue. The advantage of calling in the evening becomes obvious when it takes ten minutes before I get someone to take my call. This person exchanges my outbound ticket but tells me that my new inbound trains of choice (14:53 and 16:30) are now fully booked so I can't exchange my ticket for that one. I am subsequently told once again that I can just turn up at the station an hour before the train leaves and I can get on regardless. Having heard this for a second time now, I'm satisfied and I can also see the new time on the details page for my booking now. However, when I take a look at available tickets for that day I find that while tickets for the 14:53 train might not be available anymore, tickets for the 14:34 (barely 20 minutes earlier) are still up for sale on the site.
I call again, for the fifth and final time, and after 8 minutes am put through to the same guy as the previous call - entirely by coincidence of course. I tell him that I want to change my inbound train to the 14:34 train and meanwhile get a clear explanation about the 'turning up in time' suggestion made twice by now. Apparently they are running extra services which are not on the schedule, which operate on a first come, first serve basis. These are not overbooked trains, but extra trains. Why the hell they're doing this instead of just running the other trains from their schedule, I don't know, but I didn't care enough to ask. My inbound ticket is exchanged, and the change is reflected on the website. Asking about my tickets showing different times, I get told that I can just check in with these tickets and they will be able to see my changed times on their system.
Just to make sure, I'll be carrying a printout of the booking details from Eurostar.com with me, which show the changed times, in case I run into trouble, but I'm not expecting too much.
"The ships hung in the sky much the same way that bricks don't."
- Douglas Adams