Wrong way to Tipperary
Is there no limit to the expectations of the holidaymaking public? It seems it is no longer enough merely to detail the accommodation, resort and transport to the client - now we've got to outline the precise nature of the entertainment on offer in the region too!
After much deliberation my client finally settled on a holiday in Tipperary which we went ahead and booked. Some time later she phoned me to ask what entertainment was provided in the pubs within walking distance of the holiday cottage she had chosen. I tried to explain in general terms the nature of pub entertainment, but she was not convinced.
"Just because I'm going at the end of the season doesn't mean that the quality will be any less good, does it?" She queried. After worrying that she was expecting a spectacle akin to Riverdance in the snug of some backstreet pub, I did my best to lower her expectations without disillusioning her completely.
"Well, it won't be Michael Flatley, but it might be a whistle blower, someone on a squeeze box or a couple of fiddlers. Something authentically Irish," I added in a bid to sound convincing.
The conversation took me back to a time when I'd been caught out years before when I'd booked a couple to a holiday home in rural Essex. The 'entertainment provided' turned out to be one old boy shaking two Domestos bottles filled with dried peas to the tune of Knees Up Mother Brown. So vivid was the memory that I assured my current client that I'd phone Irish Country Cottages and find out for sure.
An unfazed Tracey in ICC reservations said she'd check for me and ring back. When I apologised for putting her to such pains, she assured me that more obscure requests are put to her and that this was a mild one! In the past she had been instructed to find out the colour of the duvets in the cottage so that the children of the couple who had booked could visualise the room!
Tracey rang back a little later with the details which included the possibility of 'themed evenings'. I relayed this to the client.
"What's the theme?" She asked immediately. "Could you find out?"
I nearly choked as she laughed, "I'm making you earn your money, aren't I!"
Do you feel plucky, punk?
Chicken pox is an unpleasant, itchy, miserable childhood complaint and seems always to occur in the school holidays. I should know, we once had to cancel three weeks in Portugal when our two went down with it one July.
The same was pretty much the case for the family who had booked their first holiday to Minorca months in advance with an inheritance from a deceased grandparent.
The mother rang to explain that they had visited the doctor and that it looked as though the child did have the dreaded disease. The doctor had asked her to bring the ailing offspring back in three days' time when he would make the decision as to whether or not the holiday should be cancelled.
I commiserated with her and was about to offer some advice when she went on to describe in hideous, graphic detail the appearance and location of the spots. I couldn't put the phone down quickly enough and spent the rest of the afternoon feeling decidedly itchy myself.
Chickens seemed destined to punctuate our day when a client rang up later to request 'The Chicken Hotel' in Vienna.
Jules was momentarily stumped until she remembered that I had read the description of the Roter Hahn Hotel from the Hotel Guide for the client in question when he'd called in earlier.
The hotel displays a red hen sign and the theme of the establishment is chickens. There are chicken shaped nick-nacks around and bread baskets shaped like hens in the restaurant. Which just goes to prove that you need to remember all sorts of inconsequential things in this job.
You also need a sense of humour and an ability to control it. Jules found this out when she was approached by another client wanting 'something cheap but no cockroaches'. She just managed to stop short of advising him that cockroaches come as extras.
The price of friendship
The saying 'the more you do, the more you might' came to mind when an old gentleman complained to me that although I had saved him money, I had caused him to fall out with a lady.
He had come in not so long ago to ask for two single rooms in Jersey for himself and his female relative. As we all know only too well, single rooms for Jersey in August are as common as hen's teeth and I had sighed a sigh of despair.
That was until Reg at Travelsmith came to the rescue, going out of his way to secure two twins for sole use. The pair were happy at the price and duly booked.
A friend of the gentleman called in at a later date and asked if he could add himself to the booking, the other two travellers having agreed that he could join them. With no more rooms left, Reg suggested that he be accommodated in the twin room with the first gentleman and adjusted the price accordingly.
However, the old lady was distinctly unhappy. She couldn't understand why she was paying more for a twin with just her in it whilst the other two were paying less.
So obsessed did she become about the apparent iniquity of the situation that it was the only topic of her conversation. The old chap, tired of her griping and praying for something new to discuss, finally gave her the cash difference between the cost of the two rooms.
As he told me this I couldn't help but feel we'd missed an opportunity; if we had charged all three the same price there would have been no argument!
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