It can be hard persuading some customers that booking online might end in tears, says Kim Kent.

Offering a full, professional service to all our customers is something we pride ourselves on. We pay particular attention to the fine detail as this is vital in order to get everything coordinated.

And we always do our best with the cost but, like any business, we can’t work for nothing

So it’s always a little soul-destroying when a customer tells you “it’s cheaper to book online”. You know that is not strictly true, but no matter what you say, some people like to shoot you down in flames and insist that online is the best and cheapest way to book travel. (Why they feel they have to come in and tell us is beyond me!)

Miami advice

Not so long ago, I had a gentleman call me asking about flights to Florida. He was a new customer and was very upfront. He said he didn’t use travel agents, but one of his friends had recommended us, so he thought he would give us a try.

He said it was always cheaper to book online and didn’t really think I would be of any use to him. Of course, I was polite, took down all the details and advised I would have a look and get back to him.

His request was for a flight from Birmingham to Miami direct, which he said he had seen on the internet. I was a little baffled by this as there isn’t a direct service between these cities. And when I tried to explain, he was very patronising and said I should have a look.

Doubting myself, I checked again and confirmed there was no direct flight to Miami from Birmingham. I called him back, explained the situation and quoted him some really good fares with one change. He was not happy and said he thought “travel agents should know better”. He was almost arguing with me but in the end said he would get back to me.

A couple of days passed and he called again, asking the same questions – and getting the same answers from me. He sounded very fed up and said he would book it on the internet. By this time, I was conscious of how much time I’d spent on him and was rather losing the will to live. Frankly, I just wanted to get shot of him, so left him to it.

A fool and his money…

I didn’t hear anything for weeks. Then one day there was a message for me to call him, which I did, only for him to tell me he had booked online and got his direct flight.

I was intrigued as to how this could be, so I asked him some questions. And that’s when it all became clear. The direct flight he had booked to Miami turned out to be from Birmingham – in Alabama!

What’s more, he had paid in full with no changes and no refunds allowed. I really wanted to say “I told you so”, but resisted.

He even had the audacity to ask me to help him get his money back. I don’t think so!

I hope this experience will make him trust travel agents in the future.


This week’s best booking

A new client wanted a trip to Canada for four adults. It was a fairly straightforward itinerary with flights, transfers, hotels, the Rocky Mountaineer train and a cruise. We talked about the various options and upgrades on all the elements and, to my surprise, she agreed to them all. By this stage, the cost had almost doubled. She then said ‘I think my sister would like this trip’, gave her a call and decided to add another three passengers to the booking. Boom! The total cost was now in excess of £55,000. Can I go home now please?