9 ways to avoid being a travel agent’s “Client from Hell”

I found this article online (by Janice Hough). I thought it would be good to pass along to my clients and perspective clients.

Sometimes a lot of these things can be frustrating, especially when we work very hard to put together packages and quotes just to be told a client is booking elsewhere. We put a lot of time, effort, and hard work into what we do and then don't get paid even a penny when a client does that. Imagine if you worked an 8 hour day and didn't get paid for it...

9 ways to avoid being a travel agent’s “Client from Hell”

If you’re reading this, then you probably don’t want to have your travel agent cringe every time he or she hears that it’s you, with a question, on the phone, or spies an email with your return email address.

So, here are nine tips about how to avoid that dubious distinction.

1. Travel agents know changes happen, but please have your dates right when you have an agent start planning. It’s incredibly frustrating to get a trip together, especially if it involves additional work by a tour operator to check availability, and then be told “Oh, I forgot to ask my spouse, we can’t go that week.”

2. Let your agent know what is and isn’t negotiable, re: dates, hotels, nonstop versus connections etc. Few things elicit more in-office swearing than a client who has insisted that they HAD to travel on specific dates or a specific airline, and then after receiving a quote calls back and says, “Oh, I found this cheaper price by just leaving on Tuesday.”

I had one recently where the cheapest return flight I found involved a 6:35 a.m. flight out of Rome, Italy. The client stated that there was no way they wanted to be at the airport before about 9 a.m., and asked for the next cheapest option. Then a few days later she sent an email saying their husband had found that exact same fare with the 6:35 a.m. flight and they just decided to book it.

3. If you have a budget, that’s okay, just be up front about it. If an agent hears “I HAVE to stay at such and such hotel, so I’ll pay whatever it takes,” a good agent will probably check a few different options to try to find the lowest price.

But when that same agent has put together a really discounted package, one that impresses others in the office, and then hears “Oh, I didn’t realize it would be that much, what else is there?” Given a rough number, a good agent can tell you upfront or in short order if it’s possible, or may be able to tell you the closest available alternative.

4. If you have a quote already, especially if it’s some deal because your brother-in-law works for an airline, or you have some friends who might rent you their timeshare, or a special student rate, let your agent know up front. Again, a good agent will be either able to say, “Let me see what I can do,” or, “There’s simply no way I can match that.”

5. If your agent sends you an itinerary to read and approve, please read it before you approve it. No one is perfect, it’s easy to mis-hear, mis-read, or just flat out make a mistake with spelling or a date. But days or weeks after a trip is paid or a ticket is issued is too usually too late to fix things.

6. If plans change and you decide not to go, or you booked something else, let your agent know. Most agents will try to hold space for a client as long as possible, even asking for extensions from tour operators and cruises lines. Ditto, agents often keep the research note. It’s just courteous to say, “Sorry, no thanks.” And if you feel embarrassed, email makes it easy to avoid a personal conversation. We’d rather know than not.

7. If an agent finds a great little hotel you had never heard of, and in looking at that hotel website you then see that there is a 10 percent discount for booking online, please don’t do it. That 10 percent is our commission. If you’ve found the site on your own and we can’t match the price, then we will tell you to go ahead and book.

8. If you think an overall price sounds high it’s understandable to check around, especially if you are working with a new agent, but do respect the time an agent puts into something

And if you find something that’s a lot cheaper, especially if you have a relationship with a travel agent, let them know. Sometimes there might be an incredible deal out there agents can’t touch. Recently, some resorts have been giving great deals when a time-share presentation is involved, but many suppliers will price match with any legitimate quote available to the public.

Sometimes, too, an agent can figure out before you book that a special is completely nonrefundable and nonchangeable. Or that you might not be booking what you think you are booking.

Many airline sites, for example, do not include tax in their rate quotes. And recently one traveler who was a relative of a V.I.P. client liked a last-minute seven-night Kauai package I had put together, but came back insisting that Expedia was cheaper by about $200.

I worked with my tour operator for over an hour trying to figure out a way to match, and finally asked him to email me what he had found. One little detail, no car rental. He said he just assumed that all packages had cars included.

9. Finally, the easiest one. If trip planning has been difficult, or time-consuming, or your agent had to spend a lot of time after hours working on it, just remember to call or email with a “Thank You.” It’s a crazy business these days. A little appreciation goes a very long way.

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