Island man’s Facebook rant about BC Ferries goes viral

A Vancouver Island man is taking BC Ferries to task with a very public rant on his Facebook page.

Many Islanders were upset last week after it was leaked that BC Ferries was considering abandoning the Horseshoe Bay to Departure Bay run to avoid paying $200 million in required upgrades to the Horseshoe Bay terminal.

BC Ferries relented only a day later, saying the option was off the table, but it might have to increase fares again to keep the route open.

Sean Smith of Campbell River had some ideas to help BC Ferries save money, so he posted a rant on his Facebook page entitled “Dear BC Ferries.”

Since the post went up on Monday, it’s gone viral. The post has been liked over 3,500 times and shared almost 3,000 times, attracting tens of comments from frustrated users.

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The post from Smith reads as follows:

Dear BC Ferries.

I know that you are having a hard time trying to figure out ways to save money. Please, let me help you.

  1. You are not a cruise ship line. You are a bus.
  2. You are not a travel agency. You are the travel method.
  3. You do not need to advertise. You are the ONLY alternative.

So, with these three things in mind, please consider the following. You need a news stand, not a gift shop. You need a cafeteria, not a restaurant. You don’t need slot machines, you need good WiFi and some big screen TV’s. You don’t need a “marketing department”, you need a full on Social Media and Customers Service department. You don’t need a fancy travel office or vacation planning department, you need plan to keep the actual travel agents informed of what is happening with your ferry service.

I shouldn’t see the BC Ferries logo on the boards at Rogers Arena during a Canucks game, or on a TV commercial. Believe it or not, people really are smart enough to figure out that if there isn’t a bridge or a tunnel to the Islands, then they will have to take a ferry or a plane…..and you can’t get your car into your carry on luggage.

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See. I just saved you millions upon millions of dollars.

You’re welcome.

Smith says he never expected his post to go viral.

“I was reading something over breakfast, and thought I’d write this, and had no idea.. and then I came back three hours later and it had 800 likes on it.”

Smith says he was frustrated over how expensive BC Ferries is.

“It’s so expensive, just for me and my Yaris, it’s $120. I posted this up, totally not expecting anything like this.”

Ironically, Smith’s day job is a social media coach. He says the whole experience has shown him that you can’t predict what will go viral.

“Viral just happens, you don’t plan for it, something you do happens to resonate and you just go,” he says.

Smith did get a reply from BC Ferries; first a canned statement, and then a link to the ferry corporation’s annual report.

“You’ve actually got in your annual report that you’re expecting decreasing numbers of vehicle and passenger traffic .. if you’re expecting it, why wouldn’t you fix it?,” he says.

“This is Business 101 and you just failed.”

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In response, BC Ferries published a letter on their website and Facebook wall Tuesday morning, saying the following:

“Sean, your 3 suggestions are definitely good conversation starters. However, as you know from our personal conversation a few years ago, perception of BC Ferries is not always a reality.

We understand that fare affordability is a big concern for our customers and always look for ways to keep costs down. Some would like us to provide a ‘bare bones’ operation, while others appreciate the comforts available. Some are upset that we offer Wi-Fi at all (complimentary service available at Swartz Bay, Tsawwassen, Horseshoe Bay, Departure Bay, Duke Point and Langdale terminals as well as onboard select vessels operating these routes), others would like us to expand this service. Reality is… the income generated through our gift shops, food outlets, vacation packages and commercial services work to release the upward pressure on future fare increases and align with our effort to keep travel on BC Ferries affordable. Transport Canada dictates the required number of onboard crew. They are highly trained to operate the vessel in a safe manner and to evacuate the vessel in the unlikely event of an emergency. While safety is the number one priority of our onboard crew, some of them also work in the gift shops and food outlets.

A large portion of our operating expenses stems from having to fuel our fleet of 35 vessels. With over 500 sailings a day, we continuously look for ways to reduce our fuel consumption and to operate our vessels as efficiently as possible… again, with fare affordability in mind. Along those lines, we have studied the feasibility of using liquefied natural gas (LNG) and believe that a move to this fuel source would reduce costs and emissions. Our new intermediate vessels are being built with dual fuel capability and we are also analyzing LNG as an option for existing vessels undergoing major retrofits. The cable ferry project is another example of us looking for innovative ways to operate as efficiently as possible.

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Our partnership with the Canucks was discontinued in 2011, however, it is important to note that advertising our vacation packages does help to attract customers who have discretion with their travel choices. These packages promote the many incredible destinations and attractions British Columbia has to offer, with BC Ferries providing the link here on the west coast.

Second to Safety, we strive to provide exceptional customer service. Information on current conditions including traffic at the terminals, parking, webcams, vessel tracking, service notices, etc. is available on our website at and alternately, customers are welcome to call our customer service centre via 1-888-223-3779, 7am – 8pm Monday to Friday and 8am – 6pm on weekends, or reach out through our Social Media channels during the same hours.

You can find additional facts and financials to support that mentioned in our Annual Reports.

Many feel they have all the answers. Not to discredit Sean’s ‘rant’, but he has not said anything that has not been said before. Know that we listen and value customer feedback, but BC Ferries is a complicated business. There are many misconceptions out there and we will continue to work to educate the public on the realities of our business.”

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