Mystery Shopper: Stockton-on-Tees travel agents sell a river cruise

Mystery Shopper: Stockton-on-Tees travel agents sell a river cruise

Location: Stockton on Tees, Cleveland
Shopping for: A European river cruise for a solo traveller

The agencies

Thomas Cook
33 High Street

Score: 47%

After five minutes in store I was still not acknowledged and ended up sitting in the waiting area. Eventually a consultant offered to help me.

She was not very welcoming when I explained my cruise request, saying “Oh, they’re very expensive.”

She gave me a brochure and started to bid me farewell, so I asked about prices. She referred me to the brochure and again started to say goodbye, so I asked about availability. She half-heartedly said she could ring the cruise line.

After getting an engaged tone on the fourth attempt, she said she would ring me back later with some information, but did not.

Dawson and Sanderson, 109 High StreetDawson and Sanderson
109 High Street

Score: 65%

This shop was well presented. The consultant immediately approached me and after I explained what I was looking for, she narrowed down my search.

She asked lots of questions about the type of cruise I was looking for, offering personal experience and recommendations.

She suggested P&O Cruises’ Ventura, costing £1,069. Other prices were quoted and she said rates were available in the brochures. She did not check availability.

She suggested I take the brochures home to digest the information and gave me her business card, but did not take my details. She was helpful and enthusiastic and her personal experience was invaluable.  

Thomson, 42 High StreetThomson
42 High Street

Score: 87%

The agent who served me was very thorough in her questions. She confessed she was not sure which was the best brochure, and went to find out.

She returned and showed me some river cruises in different brochures and suggested she ring to ask about availability. Quotes included the Rhine Moselle cruise costing £966.

She encouraged me to book soon saying there wasn’t much availability. She gave me a travel planner with three quotes.

Overall I thought she had put in a lot of effort and researc. she was friendly and asked lots of questions, but lost marks by not presenting the holidays to me in an enthusiastic manner.

The winner

Hays Travel, 80 High StreetHays Travel
80 High Street

Score: 91%

I had an exceptionally friendly welcome and there was a good atmosphere in the store.

The consultant researched three brochures but didn’t find anything she thought was suitable. She rang a colleague for more information and then suggested a Thomson cruise from Harwich after doing some research.

She spoke enthusiastically about the Thomson cruises, saying her dad often goes on them. She explained the entertainment and said I would be well looked after and the activities integrate single travellers with other travellers.

She quoted £1,779 for a 14-night Cities of the Baltic cruise. It was presented in a folder together with the brochure. She offered to discount by giving me free transfers to Harwich on a Leger coach. She was very friendly and helpful.

  • For an inside look at this and previous Mystery Shopper features, see Emily Ashwell’s Community Editor Blog

Selling tips

Tip 1: Agents could have researched promotions on single supplements to help make the sale.

Tip 2: Mystery Shopper was looking for reassurance there will be other single people on the boat or at least other couples of a similar age – well done to the Hays consultant for providing this.

Tip 3: When selling cruises to singles, explaining the dining arrangements – whether it’s a free for all, or you are sat with the same people every night as the customer will probably have a preference.

Tip 4: A solo traveller on a cruise is more likely to do excursions rather than go off on their own, but might not want to pay the extra or might not realise the cost. It’s important to explain how they work.

Tip 5: River cruises go to, the cruise arm of visit

Mystery Shopper prizes

Elite Island ResortsEach month’s highest scoring travel agent gets the chance to drive a Porsche Boxster S courtesy of Elite Island Resorts. More at

Mystery Shopper scoring system

  • 60% Advice and product knowledge
  • 12% Customer service
  • 8% External/internal appearance
  • 7% Welcome
  • 7% Farewell
  • 6% Staff presentation


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