An eggsellent gesture

We are fortunate here in the West Country to benefit from the services of small, independent coach operators offering a personal service, and our clients certainly appreciate the extra mile they go to enhance the holiday experience. One such company popular with our clientele is Unicorn Coach Holidays.

Managing director Colin sees the clients off in person, with a cheery wave and a small gift for each passenger – a generous touch you’d think would be universally appreciated. But as we all know, the great British public are born clutching an A level in complaining and can sniff out a reason to moan with the skill of pigs snuffling for truffles.

The Christmas before last, Colin gave all the ladies on the coach a box of quality toiletries. You’d think they’d be only too thrilled to be showering in delicious scents or fending off the seven signs of ageing with posh creams, which, according to the packaging, don’t include leaving soup to boil dry, depositing goods in other people’s trolleys, wearing trousers with waistbands above the navel, watching Countdown because Des Lynam makes your heart beat faster, shouting at the television, wondering if Anne Robinson’s cosmetic surgeon is affordable and no longer rushing to get to the top deck on the bus, all of which are, in my view, much more reliable signs of ageing. But no, the bubbles in the bath were burst…

Upon her return, one old dear complained she had been forced to leave her goody bag behind as she had no room in her suitcase for it. Colin listened and learned. Clearly, the presents had to be either smaller or more disposable. This Christmas, all clients on the festive trip received a pen.

For the Easter departure, Colin thought a chocolate egg was perfect as it could be eaten (surely the best kind of disposal) and therefore there were no issues about finding luggage space for it.

Of course, there’s always the customer that proves the exception to the rule.

Greeting returning clients, Colin asked if there was any element of the trip he could improve. At the time, there was a pleasing chorus of ‘no’, but the following day, he received a call from one of the Easter breakers with a suggestion. Perhaps next year, he could offer a different kind of Easter gift as she’d packed hers in her suitcase, forgotten it was there and sat on her suitcase. When she’d unpacked, it was a case of Humpty Dumpty all over again. Which was a shame, as she’d hoped to give it to her neighbour as a gift (another sign of ageing – recycling presents, with no shame.)

Colin thanked her for her suggestion and said he’d see if he could find a flat pack egg for next year. In the meantime, I wonder if she’s considered a chocolate omelette?

Welshing on a deal?

Most of our clients understandably prefer to fly from local airports and, for us, that means Exeter, Bournemouth, Southampton and Bristol. However, flights from these airports do have drawbacks in as much as they may have to stop en route.

Clients do not take kindly to flight changes and it’s never easy delivering the news when you anticipate a negative or aggressive response, so when a lady called in waving an invoice showing her flight from Exeter to Heraklion would now be touching down in Cardiff, we held our breath. Fortunately, ours is a positive office and someone is always guaranteed to find the best possible spin on an unpromising situation.

This bright spark nipped the confrontation in the bud by saying: “Oh yes, you’re the lady with the two-centre holiday – Wales and Crete.”

She laughed and accepted the change with a smile.

April showers

An e-mail from Abigail Silver, trade relations manager at the Tourism Authority of Thailand, reminded me I had missed the great splash aroundthat marks Thai new year – Songkran.

Abi tells me the Thais really know how to celebrate and that between April 13 and 15, the holiday season was spent partying and making merry, as well as undertaking the religious rites that go along with the festival.

On the first day of the festival every year, there are spectacular parades with images of Buddha on floats and musicians and participants in fancy dress – a sort of Bridgewater Carnival without the rain. The throwing of water is symbolic and much of the fun revolves around getting well and truly soaked, well worth planning a trip around (mental note to self – remember pack-a-mac for next year.)

In addition, people tie lucky strings around one another’s wrists as a new year blessing, which sure beats offering your neighbour a piece of coal. Although with gas and electricity prices the way they are, we might come to appreciate this gesture rather more.

Happily, I will be able to wish Abbi a happy Songkran when she and I meet at their offices in Jermyn Street this week, though if she’s going to be chucking water around, I’d like it to be accompanied by a little wine.

Pop or pay up

Gordon Brown is finding ever more ingenious ways to make money.

Up until now, consulates abroad have not been charging for the help they give to Brits in trouble and stag-party casualties have had free advice. That’s all set to change with the possible introduction of an £84 per hour consultation for those arrested for drunken misdemeanours.

It’s going to be a tricky choice for some of our young men and women out and about on holiday: legal aid or lemonade.