What’s in a name?

Sometimes it’s hard not to name drop. At a drinks party over the festive period I was lumbered with the evening’s crashing bore who couldn’t help but drop the names of several Z-list ‘celebrities’. I feigned interest before dropping a name myself.

“Gary Barlow gave me a book for Christmas,” I said with a note of triumph before strutting off in pursuit of the mulled wine.

Well, it wasn’t completely untrue. Gary Barlow had given me a book. Just not the Gary Barlow (slightly porky lead singer of Take That), but the more than slightly perky rep of the same name from Sands Beach Resort in Lanzarote.

He’d popped in to the office before Christmas, playing on his famous name by dropping off copies of the other Gary’s book to all those who had been especially good throughout the year.

I told him I was looking forward to an evening in the bath with Mark Jason, Robbie and Howard. Gary moved the conversation on. Clearly the image of an old bird like me with those boys does not have the same impact as one featuring an old bird like Lulu

We discussed the pros and cons of having the same name as a well known person. Gary told me that every time he gets his credit card out, he gets a funny comment. ‘Back for good?’ must be a question he gets asked a lot these days, while any transaction ‘only takes a minute’. It must be quite wearing.

I just wonder how many people in our business have famous names? I wonder if I’ve spoken to the other Victoria Wood in a call centre, or Kate Moss in reservations?

Grave situation

On the subject of name related confusion, Rob Kenton of Triangle Travel, Reading, called me to tell me of a problem that had arisen for clients of his.

“They say agents would take money from clients be they alive or dead,” laughed Rob, “and this just proves it’s true!”

Rob had booked a Mr and Mrs Coffin (yes folks, you’d better believe it) their dream holiday to Papua New Guinea and while they had no problems with the outbound flight or accommodation, check-in for the return flight from Port Moresby proved troublesome.

The couple were told by check-in staff that they were not on the flight manifest and therefore not booked to fly home. Much distress ensued and a supervisor was called. After a certain amount of detective work the error was dead obvious.

There were two coffins booked to travel in the cargo. Not Mr and Mrs Coffin, two living, breathing human beings in need of an aisle seat and a gin and tonic, but two wooden boxes for the decidedly non-living. I’m sure by the time he touched down, Mr Coffin was already planning his dinner party anecdote. You’d love it – it’s dead funny.

Any which way, but loos

Recent reports suggest the average UK consumer’s expectation of customer service has risen dramatically over the past 20 years. Tell me about it! Many of my clients would like me to be on call 24/7 and be able to answer any travel-related question from ‘how long will I have to queue for my new passport’ to ‘who will look after the cockatiel while we’re away?’. I’m surprised no one has asked me to be their ‘phone a friend’ on Who Wants to be a Millionaire? given they’re all convinced I have the answer to everything.

Rick’s client just added to our feeling that we’re here for everybody’s convenience. An elderly lady called in for information on a coach trip, but, she said firmly, she had ‘reservations’ based on what a friend of hers had reported about her own trip.

“I won’t be able to book until you’ve checked the toilet situation,” the old lady said. “My friend said the loos weren’t suitable for old ladies, the stop wasn’t long enough and the toilets weren’t clean and were not stocked with adequate supplies of toilet tissue.”

She left the shop informing Rick that she’d be back to hear how he’d got on. Rick though, was still open mouthed, trying to get to grips with what she’d said.

“What do you think she means by ‘weren’t suitable for old ladies?” He asked anxiously. “Is their plumbing different and nobody’s told me?”

We suggested he don a blue jumpsuit and go undercover as a toilet cleaner to win the booking.

Maureen Hill works at Wessex World Travel, Gillingham, Dorset