Married to the job
When it comes to living life to the full, we all know that travel agents and operators are leagues ahead of the general population; the flip side is that nobody packs more into a working day. A fine example of the industriousness of our breed is Jo, assistant supervisor at Jetlife Holidays.
After a frustrating time trying to make contact with Jetlife reservations by telephone, I eventually reached Becky in operations. She explained the company was extremely busy - the penalty of popularity. In order to cope with the demand from agents, Jetlife is recruiting more staff. But in the interim she assured us that someone would call us back with replies to faxes.
True to her word, Jo rang back; she and others at Jetlife have been working until 8.30pm every evening to meet the call for US holidays. When I expressed my admiration she went on to tell me that on top of her long working day she has been organising her wedding which takes place in the next couple of weeks.
Life has been quite stressful as the house she and her fiance had started to buy had fallen through and they have had to embark on a whole new round of house-hunting. I can only hope the happy couple have booked a long and relaxing honeymoon to aid their recovery. Good luck and best wishes, Jo!
My job description is fairly full, but, as yet, the role of referee has not been added. Still, that's what I have become - a piggy-in-the-middle of two feuding old ladies.
They were friendly enough when they booked their holiday to Cyprus together, but relations have become strained of late.
Each one deals separately with me, in spite of the fact that they will be sharing a room together. They live miles apart and, when times were better, relied on the telephone for contact. Now they rely on me to pass messages.
The high cost of cancellation charges has prevented them from calling off the holiday altogether, and likewise the added cost of single room supplements has put them off requesting new accommodation. Each blames the other for the souring of the relationship and the lack of communication; each is waiting for the other to heal the rift.
In the meantime, I have become the sounding board, offering sympathy to both and issuing platitudes along the lines of 'life's too short to argue' and so forth. Goodness, the lengths we go to to avoid a cancellation!
Round two will commence when the tickets arrive. I think I'll throw the gloves into the ring with them and stand back to watch.
Instrument of torture
Telephones can be hateful things - that insistent ring, the accusing tone it adopts if you haven't picked up within seconds of its announcing itself and the misery of eons of the William Tell Overture when you're put on hold - we all have a love-hate relationship with the instrument.
My former colleague in Southend, Barbara, phoned to tell me of a recent experience in Phone Hell.
Having rung a company to book a holiday for clients travelling to Malta, Barbara waited for the receiver to be picked up. Eventually it was, and a human voice advised her that all reservations staff were busy and could she please ring back later?
Barbara said that she would rather hold, knowing that a call to the company later on would only result in the same response. She was placed back in the queue and waited for the call to be answered. Once again she was put through to the same human voice, though somewhat testier, suggesting she called back later.
By now Barbara was irritated and said: "If you'd stop interrupting and just let it ring, it might well get answered!"
"Oh, I can't just let it ring - it drives them crazy!" Came the response.
Doesn't that have the 'ring' of truth about it?! And now you know why so many companies simply cut you off!
The sorts of finickety points that clients come up with never cease to amaze me. One client, recently returned from Gozo, called in to say that she had had a wonderful holiday - but there had been one moment which hadn't been as wonderful as all the others.
As a vegetarian, she had been very upset when, in a popular restaurant on the island, diners on a nearby table had been served with rabbit just as Bright Eyes was playing in the background. I did my best to look suitably offended.
Hot on the heels of this, another client awaiting tickets for a summer holiday in the Med phoned to ask if the bed would be a standard double or a king size. Also, would duvets be provided?
I felt like suggesting that whatever he wanted to do in a king size he should think about condensing into a double, and wondered if, given the night-time temperatures of that part of the world at this time of year a duvet was a necessity, but I smiled and said I'd find out.
It has been said many times that this job can drive you to drink. In the event that this is true for you, Dawn in groups at Futura Airlines can offer some great cocktail recipes.
I discovered this snippet of information whilst organising a stag weekend in Majorca for a 20 or so young blades.
Over the weeks names have been changed and passengers added or subtracted until our heads were spinning. My parting words after yet another telephone conversation with Dawn were, 'I owe you a large drink, what's your tipple?' To which Dawn replied that she makes up her own cocktails and proceeded to list a few which sounded delicious and alcoholically adventurousÉ Bottoms Up!
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