I’m writing this, knowing, no, I’ve not made a post in over 2 months. I apologize for that. But, I’m also writing this because I’m perturbed. Very perturbed. As to the why… the why has never happened to me before.
I’ve been a travel agent for a few years, now. Helping people get their vacay on: be it an island getaway, a honeymoon to Europe, airline tix to Denver and especially Disney vacations. I was hired because I am a Disney expert. I guess technically I can’t say that I’m a Disney specialist, so I won’t. I know, especially Walt Disney World in Florida, just about everything a client, or potential client could ask or want to know about WDW. I answer questions about park hoppers, is Cirque du Soleil: La Nouba worth the money, why is Disney changing the name of Downtown Disney changing its name to Disney Springs, and which dining plan is best for my family? I do this with excitement because a mere conversation about WDW makes me giddy like a pink-dressed elementary school girl getting a new Barbie with matching townhouse play set. I do it at least once a week and I do it with passion.
I am also a member of a networking group, I’ll leave out the name of it, as it’s not really relevant, and I received a referral for someone who was having trouble nailing down the right Disney vacation for his family from one of my fellow members. Excellent! That’s what I do. I get the number and I make the call.
I have a great conversation with the gentleman. He wants to take his young, 4-year old grandson, along with his fiance, his own son and daughter-in-law to Disney in October. There is a long story about setting a precedence with an older grandchild and wanting to make this memorable for his 4-year old grandchild. Cool, I get this all the time. I start by getting where they’re thinking, what dining plan, if any, they want, how many days they’re wanting hopper passes for, do they want to fly or drive, and the dates of travel. Great! Sounds like it will be a great, fun trip. They’d been having trouble with all the deluge that pours from the internet to nail what they really want to do. I help them sort this out. I do some magic, come up with a price quote to give him. As a back up (and I’m giving away some trade secrets now), I go to another vendor that I use to see if they can beat the price. Up front, they cannot. So I give the quote to the customer.
He says he’ll have to discuss it with the fam. I get it, that’s par for the course, it happens. A few days pass and as is customary for me, I give a complimentary “check in” call. I explain that I’m not pushing, just making sure they don’t need any more info and his contact stuffs are up-to-date. He informs me that he believes his son and daughter-in-law are not going to go, give him a few more days. Not a problem. I acquiesce the request. Flash-forward… I email first and then call to check in and he asks if I’ll do it with just 2 adults and the one child. Okay (this is already quote #2; #3 if you count the initial change of ideas).
Time for a rant: you don’t go into a general contractor’s office and get more than 3 quotes about your kitchen upgrade without expecting to pay something; we’re giving you a deal if we do this. Some contractors (especially electricians and plumbers, etc) won’t even come out without a deposit. They know you need them. For travel agents, we’re a convenience – and quite worth it. This is especially true when you factor in the fact that we give the advice and do the work that saves you time and headache, for you.
I go through the channels, plan out an itinerary for the updated request. Get the quote. Call the second vendor. They can beat the price. Great! Call the client (and email the quote) to discuss. I’m told, he’s going to run it by the fiance and the parents of the grandchild. Okay, again, nothing unusual. Calls me back immediately and asks if I can give a quote with just the driving and leave off the air. Alright (quote #3). I do the quote. The vendor, again, beats it. Again, can we take one day off the park hoppers because they only want to go to the parks 4 days (quote #4). The price difference, through the vendor, is $33. I explain the advantage to having that hopper the extra day. And for you dear readers, the advantage is that you have access to a plethora of dining options because the dining plan is “length-of-stay” and he’s paying for meals that can’t be redeemed at their resort (they’re staying at “value” resorts which only offer counter-service; they would pay for some table service). Okay, he understands that. He also, thanked me for my help in sorting all this out. I’m invaluable I’m told. I love doing it; it’s what I do.
A week or so goes by before I hear back from him, via an email (now on week #3). Can I put all the stuff: difference between the air and non-air options, can I explain the advantages of the extra hopper day, can I do this, can I do that, all in one email so he can show a comparison and have it ready to go (quote #5, I had to recheck the air)? Then this morning I get a voicemail that he has a cousin that works for an ABC affiliate (they’re owned by Disney) and that he had some complimentary hopper passes that he wants to “throw into the mix.” Okay, so I call him. Explain the benefits and detriments of using those complimentary passes.
I feel the need to explain something else here. As is my personal business policy, I try not to up-sell many travel items. Yes, I need to make money and I work, technically, for the vendors that I sell for, but, I also dedicate myself to the needs of my clients and do my dangedest to get them the most bang-for-their-(hard-earned) bucks. If I save them some money, now, then they’ll come back to me and recommend me to their friends and associates. I’m about quality, not quantity.
In this I was standing to lose money. I was willing to advise him to use the passes and scale back his hopper days to help him out; save some bucks. Also, he wanted to add a seasonal ticket item called “Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party” to his itinerary (quote #6). He then starts saying that his fiance had looked this up last night and that she had a price (with flights and the Halloween party) that was $xxxx.xx . I rechecked all my numbers. I was $103 more than what he was coming up with. ONE HUNDRED THREE DOLLARS!
Another break, and another inside enlightening moment: If you book through Disney or you book Disney through me, it will be the same price. Disney would rather pay a commission instead of wages and benefits to employees. It’s smart business. On top of that, my third-party vendor can often beat those prices. Okay, back to the story…
I told him that air must have changed (that can happen at the drop of a hat). He said, well she found it for this (again). I rechecked the numbers again. I said, I don’t know how he’s getting that figure. This is where the whole thing took a turn for the surreal and absurd…
He said, “Scorp (no he didn’t call me Scorp), I’m thinking I may have to take this deal.” I thought, okay, he did what most people would do. This person put his time and effort into it and deserves the sale. He added, “how bad would you think me if I went with the price that Disney is giving me online?” I thought it was a joke and replied, “well, sir, I would think it was a matter of how bad you’d think of yourself if you did that. I really don’t think you can get it for that price.” He then clicked the checkout button and “tested” his theory. “Well,” says he, “it took my payment. I just felt like I needed to take it in this direction, instead.”
I sat, disbelieving. “Do you think bad of me, Scorp?” I didn’t answer. “I appreciate you working so hard on this for me; I’d hate for you not to get anything for it. Do you think it would be alright if I sent you $50-75 for your work and effort?” I told him that I wasn’t going to ask nor recommend that; that it was up to him to do what he felt would be the right thing to do.” What I was thinking was, do what makes you feel better about yourself. Would I like $50-75? Well, sure, but I was going to make close to $225 on this!
Again, if I’ve ever put someone through the ringer to do all my work for me, if the cost of using them is anywhere within reason – I believe $100 in a near-$4000 package is within reason – I’m going to use them; feed their family. Trust me, your $4k isn’t really doing Disney any favors. I have had clients that used me even when my price was $200 over the internet’s price because I did do the work for them, handled the logistics and am a real person, not an internet robot. It’s common sense, heck, common courtesy. COURTESY!
The part that gets me the most is: first he asked me how much a schmuck I’d think him to be if he did it and, second, did it with me on the phone with him! I doubt I’ll ever see that $50-75. If I do, I’ll be danged surprised. That takes gall, it takes tenacity, it takes a soulless person, in my opinion. Yes, I’m complaining about $103. So the statement I want to say, “$103 must mean a whole lot to him,” may play like saying, “hello, kettle, you’re black.” However, this is how I make my living and it would be like asking someone who lost their job and has a family to feed, to clean your windows and do it for the fun of it (i.e free).
Travel is a frivolous business. I knew that going in. I do not believe that travel agents are a dying breed. They are needed, now, more than ever. The internet offers so much information (dubious at that) and only what is available, not logistics or extra offerings. Travelocity can book you a room, a flight, a rental car. They’re not going to answer questions about these things. They’re not going to offer excursions or tell you this isn’t worth your time or this hotel is in the seediest part of town. And what happens when your reservation is overbooked or you get walked? Travelocity isn’t going to make it easy; who’s going to answer that 1-800-number you have to dial? Peggy? TripAdvisor may give you insight, but most people play that like a game. They want credit for writing or just want to get through a review. Travel agents have access to real information to help you make cognizant and smart decisions about the money that you spend so much of your valuable time making. We ask that we are compensated for the job we do in taking care of that money for you. We want, and need to eat, too.
Don’t do this to others. That’s all…
Until next time, same blog channel at SOME blog time…