Mystery Shopper

Mystery Shopper

Mystery Shopper fancied a break away later this summer and was wondering about the possibility of taking a champagne-tasting holiday in France. Mystery Shopper was not sure how to go about booking one and called on agents in Southampton for advice. The American Express consultant impressed with her thorough approach and enthusiasm for finding the right information.


Each week, Mystery Shopper will be calling on agents in different areas. Stars are awarded to agents which score for:

* Agency appearance

* Product knowledge

* Staff attitude

* Brochure racking

* Sales technique

The top-scoring agency each week receives a Travel Weekly certificate of commendation

Please note that no additional information will be given about Mystery Shopper's visits

American Express, 99 Above Bar, Southampton

**** Winner

THIS agency was large and spacious with an extensive bureau de change facility at the back.

There were two consultants on duty. On hearing my enquiry the consultant immediately collected the Magic of France, Cresta France and French Life brochures.

She flicked through them but didn't find anything so she consulted an OAG Travel Directory, but found only references to wine tasting in New Zealand or South Africa.

She then found the specialist-interest section at the back of the Magic brochure, but it referred to a four day/five night wine-tasting tour in Bordeaux area.

She then checked the Cresta brochure and found a description of the wine route in the Champagne region, and suggested staying at Lassiette Champenoise.

She phoned the operator to check it was possible to organise one's own tours of the champagne houses. Offered to give me the tourist office number for more information.

She gave me a business card and told me to call back. An excellent service from a very helpful consultant.

* Agency appearance

* Product knowledge

* Staff attitude

* Sales technique

Going Places, 42 Hanover Buildings, Southampton


There were five consultants on duty. I was served immediately by a friendly consultant who said she did not know where champagne tasting was available, but hazarded a guess that the Champagne region was so named for a reason.

Referred to the Gites brochure from Brittany Ferries and called them to explain the reference to the champagne route.

She referred to an OAG for French Tourist Office numbers and must have called at least five numbers before finally getting through to the information section. She ordered me a copy of the map featuring the champagne route and gave me a card and said to call back to collect the map.

A helpful approach from a very engaging consultant.

* Agency appearance

* Staff attitude

* Sales technique

Lunn Poly, 20 Above Bar, Southampton


This busy agency had five consultants on duty. The racks looked very empty but two consultants were restocking them from piles of brochures loaded into a supermarket trolley.

I was served after a five-minute wait.

On hearing the question whether the agency had any information on champagne-tasting weekends in France the consultant said: "No, not really."

Fortunately, she did not leave it there and on seeing my surprised look, she went to brochure racks and picked out Thomson Breakaway Short Breaks and in the France introduction found reference to wine-tasting opportunities at local caves.

She said that was about all they did. Very off-hand service.

* Agency appearance

* Brochure racking

Thomas Cook, 15 Above Bar, Southampton


There were five consultants on duty in this busy shop which was tidy and neatly laid out. The brochure racks were half empty.

Behind the counter there was an impressive industrial size Kenco coffee machine, but it was not working.

The first consultant checked with her colleague and was recommended what sounded like Crystal, but returned from the back office with a Cresta brochure. She said the brochure appeared to be the best bet.

I asked if they gave details on tours and she did refer me to the relevant page, and added that if I had any other queries, it would be best to call the operator direct.

An indifferent performance from a very uninterested consultant.

* Agency appearance


Top tips for agents

Tip 1: Why an all-singing, all-dancing coffee machine if it's not in operation?

Tip 2: Calling the national tourist office for a relevant map is a very nice touch, it shows great attention to detail

Tip 3: Don't assume that if the tour is specialist, it won't be featured on your racks. Even the mainstream operators usually give a selection of specialist tour options in their brochures.


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