Difficult customers? Sarah recalls a lady who wanted a refund because she’d not been served…carrots.

Everyone has had demanding clients.

I’ve found, the key, as an agent, is striking that fine balance between meeting and managing their expectations. As part of our service, we may also make follow-up calls on their behalf, or even complain for them.

At Swords Travel, we always do the extra little things to make our clients feel special. For example, if they are booked to go to Crete, we will give them a book about Spinalonga [a fortress island off the coast of Crete]; it is a fantastic story.

We do the concierge for them before travel and always pre-book their seats and check them in.

Our clients know we always go the extra mile, which is why they keep coming back.

Nightmare booker

But there are some clients for whom, however hard you try to go above and beyond, it is never quite enough for them. I’m sure a lot of you will have similar stories to the one I’ve chosen to share with you now.

When I worked at Going Places, we had a wealthy client who had a personal catchphrase. “I am a world traveller,” she would say every time she came in. And, as soon as she did, everyone in the shop would dive around the back to try to avoid dealing with her.

This particular lady wore rubies and diamonds on every finger and expected to be treated like a queen.


On one occasion, she wanted to go to Kenya on safari. At that time, in the 1990s, Kenya and Mombasa was a very popular twin-centre holiday. It took ages to get the booking and, of course, nothing was right. Or, as usual, the price was too high for the luxury holiday she demanded. Every day for six months – yes six months – I either got a phone call or she would pop into the shop for hours on end to go
through every detail of the holiday.

The day of departure finally came and off she went on her safari to Kenya. I was expecting to hear from her while she was away, but I didn’t receive a single word for the whole two weeks.

Carrot chaos

But then in she came, with a face like thunder.

“I am a world traveller, and I want a full refund of my holiday,” she roared. It came to light, after a few hours, and after her taking apart the holiday bit by bit, that carrots had been on the menu at one of the restaurants – but no carrots arrived with her meal.

She was so upset by this that she wanted me to send a complaint letter to the tour operator and insist on a full refund. I thought she was joking…it soon became apparent that she clearly was not.

Reluctantly, I called the tour operator – and was laughed at down the phone. But, out of duty to my client, I still sent a letter in on her behalf. Needless to say, she didn’t get a refund.

Trends I’ve seen

Not all customers are so demanding. We’ve had a lot of interest in Hurghada, Egypt, of late and my friend – who didn’t book with me! – has just come back from there.

I recently booked a family of five, with three children under the age of four, for less than £1,600 for travel during this half-term. It’s the deal of a lifetime for the mum, who was desperate to get away. It’s an all-inclusive five-star hotel, in a junior suite with return transfers.

The popularity of Egypt has surprised me, because until recently it was considered a bit of a no-go. Price is a big factor in the interest in Hurghada – I could only find two-star hotels in Spanish resorts like Majorca and Lanzarote for the same price.