Saturday, December 15, 2007

Finding a good travel agent

After initially beginning my research for a new trip on the Internet, I took the advice of friends, got in the car, and made the trip down to the mall. H’mm, which travel agent to choose? Where do I begin?

The first one I came across was Harvey World Travel. I used them to book two trips to Italy and one to Hawaii, many years ago. Well, has that travel agency changed! I had the oddest time! But now that I have calmed down - it was a hoot. It was a bizarre experience. I really should have checked for a hidden camera. Maybe it will end up on youtube.

The travel agent wasn't too keen to see us. Perhaps I should have worn the tiara instead of the blue jeans. She wasn't keen to offer us a seat. She started the conversation by telling us abruptly, twice, that she couldn't give us a written quote, only a verbal one. When I looked surprised she explained that she did a lot of work for a written quote, and then people went to the travel agent upstairs and got a cheaper quote with them. She rattled off a couple of figures for fares and grudgingly gave me a very small piece of paper, when I asked, to write them down on.

Then it got worse. She wasn't happy about getting up off her chair to get us a brochure on Dubai. And we weren’t allowed to take it away with us although it was not the last one in the stack. She couldn't get me any connecting domestic flights without making quite a fuss about it; telling me there weren’t any at all didn’t work. I just waited patiently until she tried again. She then tried to have me land in Dubai at 11.35 at night, and sit there for eleven hours. That's all there is, you don’t have an option - she said.

We couldn't be told how much the taxes for the flight were; she assured me twice that she simply didn't know. No, she couldn't look it up. It would be a few hundred dollars. And in case I hadn't heard her before - she couldn't give me a written quote.

When I inquired about hotel prices for an overnight in Dubai she said she couldn’t help me because the brochure didn’t have them and she didn’t have any information. Funny, Alessandro turned the page and there the prices were. While he was excitedly looking at them, I looked at her. She picked up a pamphlet on Surfers Paradise up at the Gold Coast and started studying it.

After taking all my ‘phone numbers, our name and address, and telling us she would get on with the booking of the flights and would call us back tomorrow, she hurried us off as a customer was due back and she said she hadn't done the work yet for him.

She never did call back. This was just as well. You see, she gave me the idea of trying “the place upstairs” that she had referred to earlier. The one all her clients go to after she has put in all her “hard work for them”.

After my unpleasant Harvey World Travel experience, I went home, got a cup of tea, picked up the phone and called Flight Centre. They of the high bar stools, in the centre of the mall. Hello, I'm Laura, said my sweet as pie and very helpful new travel agent. Yes, how ARE you? Oh, Italy - how exciting for you? Do you speak any Italian? Do you have some relatives there?

Yes, I can get you connecting flights, no problem. Dubai? Yes, I just stayed there. Did you want a stopover? Can I have your email address to do you a quote? I'll do it after work tonight. No, it's no trouble....

Well, my friends were right, with a good travel agent, traveling can be so much easier and more fun. It’s all in the customer service - how helpful and polite people are to you. Laura from Flight Centre can have my business anytime.


P.S. Exactly ten days after I approached the Harvey World Travel agent, she called the house and left a message that if I was still interested in some information about air fares to Italy, then I could call her back. Too little, too late I'm afraid.

No comments: