Burning desires

Ever stopped to consider the special burden borne by the coach companies? No? Neither had I – until I chatted with Colin, managing director of Unicorn Holidays and Tours. But he insisted that sometimes they can’t be sure whether they’re coming or going – and it’s not the fault of the satnav.

Beyond the usual problems of whether or not to cancel tours because of poor numbers or adverse weather conditions (which will always enrage clients) the job of organising coach trips is one which requires multiple skills. The majority of coach trippers are of a certain age and need to be handled with compassion and sensitivity, which Colin has in abundance.

On his return from a recent trip, he told me that his company had liaised with one of the hoteliers they were using to ensure his elderly holidaymakers were as safe as possible. To this end, the hotelier had labelled the bath taps pointing out that the hot water was extremely hot (we’re talking McDonald’s coffee-hot here).

One old lady approached Colin on the second morning to inform him that she would be suing the hotel as she had scalded herself.

“Did you not see the sticker on the taps warning you that the water was dangerously hot?” asked Colin.

“Yes,” replied the old lady, “but that was on the bath taps, not the taps over the wash basin.”

Colin felt there would be little point in trying to explain that the same water flowed through both sets of taps and instead made a mental note to add more stickers.

Another problem arose that could not possibly have been foreseen. After all, when did you ever see ‘hosiery’ itemised in any customer care manual?

It was brought to Colin’s attention that one of his party, an elderly gentleman travelling alone, had been asking the ladies if he could borrow a pair of their tights.

Some of the old women, who were travelling unaccompanied, became quite anxious as to the nature of his requests and turned to Colin for help.

Colin sought out the old boy and asked, as delicately as he could, what he needed the tights for, as the ladies were upset by what they considered a rather unsavoury request.

The old chap was mortified. He explained that he wanted the tights so he could dress up as Robin Hood for the fancy dress party at the end of the tour and emphasised that he was not a cross dresser, nor did he have a pantyhose fetish.

Colin felt so sorry for him that he took him into a shop in the town where a sales girl found him exactly what he was looking for in Lincoln green -and even gave a discount.

I can’t help but think they should have been grateful he stopped at Robin Hood – he could easily have wanted to show off his Little John.

And one can only imagine the problems if wanted to dress up as Batman and needed a pair of knickers to wear outside.

Holy coach trip, Colin!

Chocs away

Speaking of heroes, Nigel took a tip from Colin when he escorted our mystery coach tour this week and swapped the usual tin of Quality Street for a box of Cadbury’s Heroes. It has been known for denture wearers to accept a toffee centre and then to sue for subsequent damage to their false teeth.

We’re taking no chances

Brown mark

Oh dear. I predicted that the APD was going to be A Pig’s Dinner of a tax and so it has proved. This grey area is giving both agents and operators the blues.

Clients flying out of Heathrow this week with certain airlines were being charged the £80 APD even though they had already paid it to the operator via their travel agent. When they made this point, they were told to claim it back on their return.

In the meantime though, it’s earning somebody else a nice rate of interest and I’ll bet many passengers will not bother to claim the money back at all once a week or two of sun and sangria has worked its magic.

As it stands, we’ve been working diligently collecting taxes for Gordon Brown but as yet none of us has claimed a civil servant’s salary for so doing. Perhaps we should present a bill to the Chancellor on behalf of us all and see whether that raises his interest.

Maureen Hill works at Wessex World Travel, Gillingham, Dorset