Mystery Shopper: Middleton, Manchester

Travel Weekly's Mystery Shopper - in association with Gazetteers Plus - calls on travel agents across the UK each week to check agency appearance, brochure racking, product knowledge, sales technique and staff attitudeTravel Weekly’s Mystery Shopper calls on travel agents across the UK each week to check agency appearance, brochure racking, product knowledge, sales technique and staff attitude

Travel Weekly’s Mystery Shopper in association with Gazetteers Plus.     

Middleton, Manchester A family half-term holiday within four hours’ flying time

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.

Thomson, The Arndale Centre, ManchesterThomson
The Arndale Centre

The first thing I noticed on entering was the sparsely stocked brochure racks. Pity the same couldn’t be said for the floor, which was littered with brochures and papers. A consultant served me quickly, writing down my request. A quick viewdata search later and I was offered one location and hotel, in Salou. Not to miss a trick, she gave me details and prices for the Port Aventura theme park nearby. Helpfully, all the details were written down and I was given a brochure. Although I was encouraged to book soon, there was no attempt to get me to return to do it.


Travelcare, Colmar House, Middleton Gardens, ManchesterTravelcare
Colmar House, Middleton Gardens

Two of the sales consultants were eating crisps and had cans of drink on their desks. Presumably they were planning to fill up the brochure rack after lunch. I approached one agent and she asked if she could help. She didn’t ask many questions about my needs and seemed satisfied to just gave me a general family package with Thomas Cook. After her search she gave me details on a holiday in Ibiza, also from Thomas Cook and gave me the brochure with the accommodation in. I wasn’t impressed by the customer service, or the lack of interaction.


Going Places, The Arndale Centre, ManchesterGoing Places
The Arndale Centre

The shop was clean and tidy and well laid out. I looked at a couple of brochures on the shelves and was greeted by one of the agents. She took down all my details and found two holidays, with Airtours and Panorama, that matched my needs – self-catering apartments in Majorca and Ibiza. I was also given information on in-flight meals that I could prebook and also details of their family insurance policy. She advised me to book as soon as possible as the prices tended to fluctuate on late deals. A good performance, though there was no effort to close the sale.


Harvey World Travel, 21 Kirkway, Alkrington, ManchesterHarvey World Travel
21 Kirkway, Alkrington

I entered this little agency to find everything well-positioned and fully stocked with brochures. The consultant greeted me with a big smile, and then asked me how she could help. She made sure she found out as much as possible about the holiday I was looking for before searching. She asked me about holidays I had been on before, what kind of holidays I preferred and what I liked doing on holiday. This helped her narrow down her search for me as she knew which resorts would suit me best. She offered me three packages, one of which sounded perfect. This was for Majorca in a self-catering apartment with Thomas Cook; the cost was £1,817 including insurance. She gave me all the details and the brochures with the accommodation in, saying I could call her if I needed anymore information. The service was excellent and she was very helpful and professional – I even received a follow-up call the next day to see if I had made a decision about the holidays she hadoffered me.



Tip 1:Availability during the school holidays is limited, so try to get the customer to book there and then.

Tip 2:Some late deals haveaccommodation allocated on arrival, which may not be suitable for some families with specific requirements.

Tip 3:Salou on Spain’s Costa Dorada has a good selection of hotels and apartments for families, and is also home to the giant PortAventura theme park.

Tip 4:The Algarve is a good choice for warm sunshine in late October, and has many family-friendly resorts, particularly Albufeira and Praia da Rocha.

Tip 5:Many operators allow one child to travel free whensharing a room with two adults; however these offers are likely to sell out early.


This week’s request was fairly straightforward and something agents have been asked quite a lot recently. The holidays found for Mystery Shopper all matched the criteria and were well within the specified budget. Some of the agents really took the time to get to know what type of holiday Mystery Shopper liked and wanted. The destinations offered ranged from the Balearic Islands to mainland Spain in self-catering or hotel accommodation. Some agents offered a better service than others offering more choice of holidays along with additional services such as insurance, car parking and theme park information. All this kind of information helps the customer and also helps to raise commission levels for the agent. On the whole Mystery Shopper received adequate information. But some stores need a bit of tidying!


Logo: DG&G GazeteersAbout Gazetteers Plus

Gazetteers Plus, from DG&G Travel Information gives you a single website that means you need never fear being mystery shopped again! Gazetteers Plus combines all our unique and unbiased data – destination/resort guides, hotel reviews, tour operator details, passport and visa – and sorts it the way you want it. With superb search functionality and additional hi-tech features such as online brochures, photos and interactive maps, you’ll find it hard to believe that travel agents ever managed without it. Gazetteers Plus provides agents with all the product knowledge you need to meet and exceed customer expectations. Log on at

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