It’s the end of the month, and for us in the retail travel industry, it means a lot of fussing around, reconciling accounts and auditing figures. It’s more fun than your average trip to the proctologist, let me tell you.
Today started out with a real cracker though. A lady of Asian descent approached me not long after we had opened, and asked me “Where is the snow, and where can I find ski hire”. This was followed by her husband requesting accommodation for “Lovely Ski chalet, with many happy, snow playing events”.
Now, if you look at the map, the man of the manor and I live on the Gold Coast, in the state of Queensland, in Australia. The last time there was any snow here, was possibly when Tyrannosaurus Rex had his own high rise cavern in Surfers Paradise. If it ever does start snowing in this part of the world, one can safely assume that those who rubbish the idea of Global warming, will be sending Al Gore a Hallmark card saying “Ooops …Our Bad”.
What my two Japanese friends were looking for was actually “Queenstown”.
A simple mistake to make for sure, and easily rectified by jumping on a plane and flying four hours south to the South Island of New Zealand.
Kudos to their Travel Agent!
Everyone has probably heard of the story about a travel agent who picked up a call from a woman trying to make a domestic flight in the US.
“I want to go from Chicago to Hippopotamus, New York” she said.
The agent was at a loss for words. Finally, the agent: “Are you sure that’s the name of the town?”
“Yes, what flights do you have?” replied the customer.
After some searching, the agent came back with, “I’m sorry, ma’am, I’ve looked up every airport code in the country and can’t find a Hippopotamus anywhere.” The customer retorted, “Oh don’t be silly. Everyone knows where it is. Check your map!” The agent
scoured a map of the state of New York and finally offered, “You don’t mean Buffalo, do you?” The woman paused, and then exclaimed happily “That’s it! I knew it was a big animal!”
You may think this is quite absurd, but the sheer volume of similar stories which have made their way to my ears from colleagues, is scary, to say the least. I have encountered a surprisingly large amount of unusual (read: Sorry but are you on crack?) queries myself.
I have been working in travel in one capacity or another, for quite a few years now, and it is quite a rewarding career. The opportunities for personal travel are terrific, as long as you don’t mind turning prematurely gray in the process.
Over the years, I have had clients from Brisbane ask me innocently whether they require a visa for Hobart, or what exciting Australian sights they might see on their walk from Alice Springs to Darwin (The obvious answer being: A lot of bones from previous tourists who had the same bright idea!).
Now, I do realise, that some people may be very new to the whole travel thing, and patience must be exercised with those who are just a little nervy about taking the first steps to seeing the world outside of the Rooty Hill RSL.
It is, however, a little difficult to keep a straight face when the first question out of a client’s mouth is “Does Social Security have its own airline for people on the dole?” (The appropriate answer to this is: Yes, but be prepared to wear your sturdiest runners, as that tarmac can get a little hot on the soles during that run-up.)
To be fair, it is not just clients that are eligible for the all-hallowed ‘D’OH” award.
A few years ago, one of my esteemed colleagues, who will remain nameless, greeted a most distressed women who stumbled into the store in tears, needing to get to a funeral, in Panama City.
We get ‘compassionate’ flight requests all the time, and they are never pleasant, so my colleague jumped on the system, found the lady flights, booked and sent the tickets straight to the airport, to try and make the arrangements as smooth as possible for the grieving woman.
Fast Forward to 24 hours later….
I received a phone call from the same lady who advised me that ,whilst my associate had been most prompt and sensitive in her service, she was currently in Panama City…Panama.
The funeral was in Panama City….Florida/US.
She noted that, even though the airport facilities were somewhat clean, and the dozens or roaming militia men carrying Tommy guns were not hassling her at present, she really needed to be at least another 10,000 miles away to attend the service.
I think I can safely speak for the rest of my workmates, that our collective and immediate response was a loud and panicked expletive (Think: Duck…one consonant replaced)
Even I have managed to stuff up my own travel arrangements (You know how it is – mechanics have the worst cars, plumbers always have a dripping tap…dentists with breath that could kill a man at ten paces).
On a recent trip to Singapore, I thought I would be a bit of a smarty-pants and book my own accommodation online (Even though the internet is a travel consultant’s mortal enemy). I found a great hotel, smack bang in the middle of China Town called the “Royal Peacock”…elegant looking suites, cheap rate and breakfast included. Giddy Up!
After an 8-hour flight and arriving at 05:45 in the morning, those lush looking suites and hot breakfast was about all I could think about.
When our cab driver dropped us off, I thought perhaps he had made a mistake.
No, there was the sign “Royal Peacock”, slightly obscured by boards covering two of the main windows.
It wasn’t until we had checked in and put our bags in a room with no sheets on the beds, and a smell that really, could only be urine (no matter what positive spin you put on it, urine is urine) that I thought perhaps, my choice might have less than inspired.
Eager to keep our distance from the large, unidentifiable green stain on the curtains, we decided that we would grab the freebie breakfast and then maybe look for another hotel.
My friend who was traveling with me at the time, is not a bad looking bloke, but even he was rather surprised to find several women hanging onto his shoulder and offering their hotel “turn down” services over cold rice porridge and crackers.
And when I say turn-down services, I am not talking about a little chocolate on your pillow.
Only a travel agent could book herself into a brothel!
Considering this, I kindly explained the “Queenstown/Queensland” situation to my new-found friends and re-routed their ticket to Christchurch, free of charge.
Lord only knows, I may possibly need some similar treatment down the track if/when I send an unsuspecting thick-accented American to Auckland , and not…Oakland.
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