From tights to pineapples, gifts from clients can be unusual or even educational, says Colin.

Tights? Four pairs of American tan tights? What on Earth? Why would you even do that? They’re not even my shade! I’m more of a honey kind of guy.

This was my reaction to a thank you gift I once received from a grateful customer when I worked for a tour operator called Ellerman Sunflight (anyone remember them) back in the ‘80s. We had to answer the phone, so I’d say: “this is Colin, how may I help you”. The gift, when it was delivered, was neatly wrapped in tissue paper and the tag said: “To Mrs Colin, thank you for your help”. It was an easy mistake to make, I suppose, and luckily my mother did wear that particular shade so I was all sorted for Christmas, birthday and Mother’s Day presents that year.

Present laughter

I’m sure you will all receive gifts from customers from time to time and I’d imagine many of them will have been more appropriate and useful than my tights. You know the sort of stuff, ashtrays from Tenerife, magnets from Majorca and key rings from Crete. All meant in good faith.

Christmas is a great time for more appropriate gifts for my lot. Chocolates, biscuits and of course the odd bottle of wine are always well received. However, we do have one regular customer, an elderly gent who obviously cares about our health and wellbeing as he comes in every Monday with strawberries and grapes. “There you go girls, I’ll look after you”, he’ll say as he goes off with a whistle and a wave. He’s done this every Monday for more than 20 years and makes a bee line to Julia to hand them over. For more than 20 years she has kept a secret from him though… she has a severe allergy to strawberries. It’s one of those instances where in the beginning she was just too shy to tell him – now she daren’t tell him in case he gets upset at over 20 years’ worth of deceit.

Pineapple perplexity

Anyway, the reason I’ve brought odd gifts that travel agents receive up this week is because our Talia received an unusual gift of her own the other day.  Her customer had just returned from his Caribbean holiday and had called in to say how fantastic it had been. The food was singled out for extra praise – especially the fresh pineapples.

“Fresh pineapples?”, asked Talia. “What are they?” We all tried to explain what they were and where they come from, but she wasn’t convinced. “Hmmm, don’t pineapples just come in chunks, in tins?” she asked, thinking we were winding her up.

Once the customer stopped laughing, he went to the supermarket and came back with a fresh pineapple for her. Still not convinced it was real she went out the back of the shop, cut the top off the fruit and had a smell of it. “Ah, wow! It smells like pineapple,” she exclaimed.

“That’s because it’s a pineapple, Talia.”

“Eeeh, well I never would’ve thought” she said. But she had another question. “You know how you can get pineapple in chunks, in tins as well as real ones?… is there such a thing as a fresh tuna?”

It’s just as well she’s good at selling holidays!


Caribbean cruise causes customer kerfuffle

Booking a Caribbean cruise caused the team some stress last week. Hays Travel has an exclusive deal with direct flights from Newcastle for February 2020 and, in true ‘waiting for a bus’ style, we had three couples come in to book it at the same time, by pure coincidence.

Elli got the first couple booked, but when Nicole and Kirsty tried to book the other two it was full. Elli had taken the last two seats, so there followed a bit of a squabble between the customers over who had come into the shop first, which the girls managed with great tact.

Still, all’s well that ends well. After finding out who was the most flexible, we are now working on the other two couples to get them an alternative date for their trips. Move along the bus please.