How NOT To Ask a Travel Agent to Assist You
As we move forward with 2013, we are opening the door to partnering with other travel & lifestyle businesses through product and location reviews, interviews, giveaways and other marketing opportunities. These new ventures will give us more information to educate our clients on travel destinations, products, activities and more. We are hoping all of this information will arm our clientele with valuable tools to curtail some of the ‘time freebies’ many would-be travelers request of our vacation planners.
What are ‘time freebies’ you ask?
A ‘time freebie’ is asking any professional to perform work on your behalf without due compensation. Most importantly, it is not only requesting the professional to give you free professional advice and time, but feeling entitled to such information without having to compensate for it.
Can you give us an example?
Sure. Let’s take a common request we receive:
Would-be Traveler: “Hey <travel agent), can you quote me a 4 or 5 day Hawaiian cruise around 03/16-3/24?”
Vacation Planner Response: “Sure. I would love to quote you. Would you mind completing our trip request to get started in the planning process? Here is the link: <link>”
Would-be Traveler: “No problem.”
Would-be traveler happily clicks the link to complete our Getting Started form which explicitly states we will NOT provide any quotes without our Plan to Go fee, etc. and of course, the would-be traveler (in our experience) clicks our terms and conditions agreeing to such.
We proceed with our complimentary consultation to gather details, give some insights on the prospective vacation and determine whether or not to proceed with actual researching and quoting the would-be traveler’s trip. We end with reviewing our service levels and insuring they read our terms & conditions.
Would-be Traveler: “Thank you. I hadn’t considered the timing of flights, possibly staying in LA a night to enjoy sunny California and the fact our cruise duration may be too short for Hawaii. You’ve given us a lot of valuable information already, can you give me a quote and maybe a few other options?”
Vacation Planner Response: “Of course! Would you like for us to quote you on the basic vacation planning of getting there, where to stay and getting around or would you like our bespoke planning service which includes basic vacation planning plus your daily itinerary with activities, dining and much more?”
Would-be Traveler: “Um, we just want to wing it once we are there, so just the basic vacation planning service is just fine.”
Vacation Planner Response: “Sounds great. Ok. For our vacation planning service we just need to collect our $25 plan to go fee which we will apply to your final balance when you book through us. Would you like to cover the non-refundable deposit on your AMEX today?” (We would direct client to take 60 seconds to complete our client agreement also)
Would-be Traveler: “Oh. Um. Well, bummer. Since hubby is still in military the March trip is still maybe because his leave may not get approved. Doesn’t make sense to pay if March is still a maybe.”
Hmmm! Do you detect a problem with this scenario? And trust me, we get these types of requests all day, every day.
Let Us Break This Down
Clarification – for the vacation planning service, we request a modest plan to go fee… a whopping $25 for up to 4 travelers… which is just a non-refundable deposit. It is not an extra expense. We apply it to your final balance. So, guess what that means? It means, the would-be traveler is NOT paying us. They are just placing a deposit.
Now let’s flip the script. Let’s take your profession. Let’s say you are a doctor, lawyer, plumber, accountant, hair stylist… anything.
When you meet with most professionals, you will receive a complimentary consultation… but not all. A plumber may charge a trip charge just to come out. Regardless, you usually receive a consultation – at no charge. Beyond the consultation, how many professionals would you expect to do any further work for free? Honestly, think about it. You expect to pay for their professional expertise, knowledge, time and materials after you have consulted with them and chosen to proceed. Correct?
A travel agent should not be the exception to the rule. We need food, clothing and shelter just like everyone else. Right?
A Comparable Scenario
You are new to a city and you need a new hair stylist. You receive some recommendations from co-workers and start setting appointments. The hair stylist will want to consult with you to determine the health of your hair and understand your needs as a client. You schedule your consultation with the hair stylist. It is customary this consultation usually turns into an appointment unless you just don’t like the vibe you are getting from the stylist.
So you mosey over to the hair stylist. You take a seat in her chair. She ask you to complete her client profile while she examines the state of your hair all the while asking you qualifying questions (a bit of conversation). You want a color and new cut for a new look. The hair stylist is happy you have decided to proceed with the appointment and gives you the price for the color and cut you want. And then you halt the process… “what I have to pay? I mean after all, I can do my own hair. Just give me a bottle of your color (for free), a video demo of how to do the cut myself (no I am not paying for the equipment, time it takes to film or your professional expertise teaching me the cut) and I will be on my merry way.”
The Bottom Line
That is the equivalent of what you are saying to a travel agent when you halt the process at deposit/fee time to be able to quote you. The travel agent takes the time to research your trip, possibly reaching out to general managers of resorts to give you extra service, devising an itinerary for you and calling in favors from partners in the industry to give you extra special service. Depending on the complexities of your trip request, it can take considerable time to put the details in place for you. Of course, you can do this on your own just the same as doing your own hair, cutting your own grass, selling your own house, doing your own taxes and much more. However, when you seek out professional service you should expect to compensate the professional for their time. Pretend it’s you…
Respect and value the work of travel professionals. We value our clients immensely and thus would rather not spend our days working for free for those who do not value our time. We would love to quote you that trip… would you like to cover your deposit with your AMEX?
This message brought to you by Abundant Journeys Editor-in-Chief, Shonda Gibson.