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THE TARGET ? WANTED ?
Andover, Hampshire Summer ski trip

RULES
Each week, Mystery Shopper calls on agents across the UK. Shops are judged on five criteria:


Agency appearance (15%)
Brochure racking (10%)
Product knowledge (25%)
Sales technique (25%)
Staff attitude (25%)


The top-scoring agency receives a Travel Weekly certificate of commendation. Agencies must score a minimum of 60% to qualify. Any agency that scores under 30% will be named and shamed as this week’s Shop of Horrors. Please note, no additional information will be given about Mystery Shopper’s visits.

mystery shopper 020306 - thomsonTHOMSON
52A Chantry Centre

This is a small agency and I was served straight away (I was the only customer). The consultant said the only place to ski in the summer was Chile but didn’t offer any brochures that featured Chile, even though there was a Crystal Ski brochure on the racks. I queried her answer so she checked with a colleague, who agreed that the agency didn’t sell any destinations for summer skiing. She suggested I try an independent agency. She should do more research before sending clients to the competition.


Score: 31%

mystery shopper 020306 - first choiceFIRST CHOICE
48 Chantry Way

The first consultant shook her head, saying she’d had a similar request and hadn’t been able to find anywhere. She asked a colleague who answered vaguely that some of the higher resorts in the Alps offer glacier skiing in the summer. Another colleague got involved and, following a suggestion from a fourth, she checked the Crystal brochure and found it offered skiing in Chile and also summer skiing in some resorts in Austria and France. She said I should call back to check availability. Great team effort.


Score: 58%

COMMENDED ?
mystery shopper 020306 - toucanTOUCAN TRAVEL
32 Chantry Way

One of two consultants served me immediately. After checking on her screen she said Crystal and Ski All America offered summer skiing in Chile and Argentina. She only had a file copy of the Crystal Ski brochure and she showed me that it featured a couple of pages on Chile. She suggested that I went in June, rather than later in the summer, as the prices went up to more than £2,000 for a week during the school holidays. She offered to order me a copy of the Ski All America brochure.


Score: 60%

COMMENDED ?
mystery shopper 020306 - going placesGOING PLACES
65 High Street

The consultant immediately went to the brochure racks and picked up the Crystal Ski brochure. Opening it, she said Chile was the only place for summer skiing and showed me what she described as a well-established resort with a pretty extensive ski area. She read out the list of runs and lifts and, still reading from the brochure, said it was good for advanced and intermediate skiers. She added that there were plenty of places to hire equipment. When I observed that the prices were steep, at more than £2,000 for some weeks, she said that lift passes were included. She invited me to call her if I needed to check prices and availability and gave me her business card. The consultant appeared knowledgeable, although she should have checked whether there were other destinations offering summer skiing. The service was efficient and the consultant managed to answer all the immediate queries, remembering to provide her business card in case of a follow up.


Score: 70%

TOP FIVE TIPS

Tip 1: The Chilean resorts of Portillo and Valle Nevado are both well-equipped, have easy, moderate and difficult runs and good snow from June to October. Both are featured by Crystal and Ski All America.


Tip 2: Ski All America features the Argentinian resorts of Las Lenas and Bariloche, which have challenging runs and a season from June to October.


Tip 3: Crystal’s Lakes and Mountains brochure offers holidays in several Austrian resorts for glacier skiing from May to September, as well as in Tignes in France from June to August.


Tip 4: Esprit Holidays offers summer skiing in Saas Fee in Switzerland, plus Neustift and Kaprun in Austria.


Tip 5: Summer skiing holidays can be found on gazetteers plus under the special interest category ‘skiing in summer’.

SUMMARY

Mystery Shopper was unable to go skiing this winter and she was desperate to get some time on the slopes before winter 2006/07, so she was hoping agents in Andover would be able to recommend a destination where she could ski from June to September. She didn’t mind how far she had to go to find snow in the summer, but she wanted to make sure that if she was travelling a long distance it was to a fully-fledged ski resort with facilities at least as good as those in Europe. As an experienced skier, she was looking for a varied ski terrain with some challenging runs. She also wanted to be able to hire equipment locally. Three out of four of the agents visited did admirably well in finding somewhere for Mystery Shopper to ski. The Thomson agency didn’t even try and suggested that she go to a competitor.



Logo: DG&G GazeteersAbout Gazetteers Plus


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