As much as I love my career and have even used the hashtag #BestJobInTheWorld for some of my Social Media posts, there are days when it is easier to love than others. There was a week early last year that had been one of those “If anything can go wrong , it will” weeks…and I spent a ridiculous time putting out fires, fixing other people’s mistakes and battling unbelievably poor customer service issues. One of the most common questions I am asked by prospective clients is “WHY should I use a travel agent when I can just book my own trip online?” Well, that week I came up with at least three new responses for you! I thought I would share just three examples of battles I have fought in just one week on behalf of my clients: 1. The missing hotel reservation – I had a family of 9 departing one day for an Alaskan Cruise to celebrate Grandma’s 90th birthday. She generously wanted to treat her 4 children and their spouses (and a few grandkids) to this “Bucket List” experience as a gift to them and to herself. A lifelong dream. On my advice, they all flew into Seattle from different parts of the country the same day and spent a pre-cruise night to avoid any last-minute travel mishaps before boarding their ship in the morning. Hotel reservations (4 rooms) had been made for weeks and paid-in-full. As a policy, I always re-confirm my client’s reservations and attempt to VIP them with the hotel staff….when I contacted this hotel, guess what? No record of their reservation! After I peeled myself off the ceiling, I spent the better part of a day on phone calls with various levels of management within the system tracking down the broken link in the reservations chain. Finally all was well and I ended up with new confirmations sent directly to me by the hotel manager….which I then forwarded last-minute to my clients. They had no idea that this was going on behind the scenes, but can you imagine if I had not reconfirmed their reservation and they had just showed up at the hotel and been told there was “no room at the inn”? Not acceptable, and it won’t happen on my watch if I can possibly avoid it! 2. The mysterious price increase – This one got on my last nerve! New clients, who found me on LinkedIn, are wanting to travel to the Dominican Republic in July for a family vacation on a pretty strict budget. They had found a very low-rated property online that fit their budget and asked me about it. I did not want to risk putting my clients at that property and found a solid 4-star alternative that came in under budget as well. It took a little time for the clients to make sure they could get vacation approved and they decided to pull the trigger. I contacted the tour operator, was verbally quoted the same price, and gave the reservation agent all the client info, as well as the credit card number to pay in full for the booking. When the reservation agent attempted to complete the booking, her computer system “refused” to confirm and – to make a long story shorter – they said that while we were on the phone completing the reservation, the price mysteriously rose by $700! Really? Again, not acceptable. The price was quoted by the reservation agent, agreed upon by my client, and I gave them every piece of necessary information (including full payment) to finalize the booking during the same phone call. I am still fighting this battle…all the way up to the Senior Business Development manager of the tour operator and will not give up. Prayers are welcome! 3. The deceiving “2-for-1” advertising gimmick - Several travel suppliers (including one European River Cruise company who advertises heavily on TV) have come up with the marketing strategy that consumers love a “deal”…even on an expensive, luxury vacation. So they greatly inflate the “regular price” of their cabins and then offer a “2-for 1” savings…which sometimes brings the price down to something that actually is palatable for most travelers. A little bit deceitful, in my opinion, but I am not a Marketing or Advertising executive. The problem comes when the ads infer “Great 2-for-1 savings…cruise for $3600”. What they don’t say is that the $3600 is AFTER the 2-for-1 discount and is per person and NOT per cabin…and that there are several hundred dollars of “taxes and fees” tacked on in addition. Sure, it probably explains it in the fine print, but who reads all that stuff, right? I have to be the bearer of bad news to the consumer, which of course makes me partially responsible in their minds and makes it hard to regain their trust. I am all for transparency in advertising like the airlines are mandated to do. Cruise lines should follow the same rules! So, the next time you ask yourself “Why should I use a travel professional when I can book this myself online?” , think about how YOU would feel if one of these situations happened to you….and you didn’t have me in your back pocket acting as your advocate. I've had clients travel in the last few months and it takes a considerable amount of added effort to go through all the requirements for states & countries. We didn't really know what crossing our t's and .(dotting) our i's meant before COVID! So much can go wrong in the world of travel planning and when you're traveling. Unfortunately, I can’t always make it right…but you can bet I will go down swinging!
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